Inbound marketing and inbound sales have a lot in common, but perhaps the most significant commonality is that they both require a refined process – one that's followed religiously and adjusted over time based on performance data to drive actual results.
One without the other leads to diminished returns, less-than-desirable results and only a modest improvement in revenue for your business. Time and time again, I’ve had clients ask me how to respond to leads coming into their organizations. What we were told about their sales process was clearly unknown or overstated.
Here’s how to create an inbound sales process that closes business faster and for higher average revenue per client.
Look at the process from their perspective.
It’s hard to see your business from the perspective of your prospect or client. This takes a concerted effort, but it’s important to take those steps so that you identify your blind spots, your weak points and the parts of your sales process that might need an upgrade. Check in with prospects who will tell you what could have been better and then work to make those improvements, even if it’s only one per week for 12 weeks. Those 12 small improvements could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Map out the existing and new processes.
To create a new process, you have to understand your current one. While most of our clients tell us that they have an existing sales process, the majority of those are incomplete and almost never documented. We work with all of our clients to map out their existing sales process so it’s easier to see what needs to be upgraded, where the holes are and how content can be better applied to a new process.
Then, we create a new map for our recommended process. When people are able to compare the old and the new side by side, it helps them see the differences. The new map also comes in handy when you’re training your sales people or onboarding new ones. It should be a mandatory process map for all companies.
Weave content into the experience.
When you’re working with prospects to help them make a safe purchase decision, nothing works better than providing educational information that’s in perfect context to where they are in the sales cycle. If they’re learning about your industry, send them awareness content. If they’re looking at different options for providers, they need consideration content. If they’re down to just a few choices and trying to make their final selection, it's time to give them decision content.
Here's a great example: Everyone asks for references, but it’s a hassle for essentially everyone. The prospect has to make calls or send emails. You have to bother your clients first with the request, then with the call to your prospect. Finally, you have to work to collect all that info, check with the client, get it over to the prospect and monitor their progress. This could (and often does) take weeks. But, what if you simply sent over a Reference Reel with a video of the same people talking about what it's like to work with your company, what results you got them and how happy they are? Mission accomplished: Sales cycle shortened, and everyone's happy.
Hold their hand, but drive the process.
You don’t want your prospects driving your process. After all, what do they know about choosing a company like yours? How many times have they done it? Once, twice maybe? You, on the other hand, do it day in and day out. You want a process that allows you to hold their hand, show them how it's done and prove that you know how to help them make a safe choice. You want to be in charge. Any prospect that says “no” to your sales process is going to be the wrong kind of customer.
Use it to screen for potentially bad clients.
Your sales process has to repel the wrong kind of customer, just like I mentioned above. When we tell our prospects that we want them to come to our office and they say, "Nope," we say, “We’re looking for clients who view us as a strategic partner. Don’t you want to meet your team, see where we work, kick the tires?” If they don’t want to invest that time, they’re looking for a vendor, not a partner. So, we pass. You need to set your process up to deliver the perfect client or customer.
Track each step in the process.
You’ve heard this from me before. You have to measure and track everything. Look at the percentage of people who get proposals versus those who become clients. What is that number and how do we improve it? Look at the percentage of people who get your introductory qualification call and then move to the next phase. What is that number and does it need to be improved? Funnel analytics and sales process analytics need to be staples in today’s sales management arsenal. What gets measured gets done.
Inbound sales shares a lot of the properties of inbound marketing. For instance, we’ve always had a goal for the last stage of our inbound sales process, the Design Meeting. Our goal is to have prospects leave that meeting saying to themselves, “We have to hire this company.” Until we get that reaction to this meeting, we’re constantly tweaking what we do and how we do it. Apply the same thinking to your processes.
Start Today Tip – Moving from traditional sales to inbound sales is probably going to be harder than the same migration on the marketing side. Why? You have more people involved – more who have been practicing the old-school tactics for much longer and more who are likely to rail against the changes. Don’t let this slow you down or deter you from starting. One way to deal with this is to start small. Pick one sales person and arm that individual with everything he or she needs to practice inbound and be successful. Once that person starts closing deals – faster, for more money and with a smile – the rest of the team is going to line up to be part of your inbound program.
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