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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Apr 16, 2015 8 min read

Inbound Sales Teaches You To Know What Your Prospects Want

Inbound Sales StrategyOne of the most famous quotes in marketing comes from Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole.”

I think this applies to inbound marketing and, by extension, inbound sales as well. More importantly, this concept should be affecting how you teach your clients about inbound.

Here are a couple of practical examples. Then, we’ll illustrate how your marketing and sales approaches might have to be shifted accordingly.

Our prospects don’t really want to buy an inbound marketing engagement. They want to buy more leads. The inbound engagement is simply what we tell them they need in order to get the leads they want. It makes sense. It’s rational. So, they move forward. When it comes to inbound sales, this works in a similar way. They want more customers, and they know that learning inbound sales is a means to this end, so off we go.

Here are a couple of other examples ...

You're selling global compliance software. Prospective clients want to ensure that they are compliant, that they don’t get fined and that the board doesn’t get into trouble for missing some little known compliance regulation in their Singapore operation. They don’t really want the software, but they understand that the software makes their desire to be compliant attainable.

You offer children’s books on a subscription model. Prospective customers want to have a steady stream of new books delivered to their door so that they can spend more time reading to their children instead of running around purchasing books at the bookstore or even wading through Amazon’s extensive library to pick out the perfect book. They don’t really care about the details of the subscription or the company providing the books. Just send me great books each month.

So, how should this realization impact our sales and marketing activities?

It’s About Them, NOT About You

One of the reasons we insist on strategy before tactics in both marketing and sales engagements is because most of the marketing is simply misaligned, meaning that most of what people are talking about is themselves – their products, their experience, their people, their services. The reality is that your prospects don’t really care about that. They care about their own issues, challenges, pains and agendas.

The real challenge here is that it’s super easy to talk about ourselves. In fact, it’s what we know best. It’s extremely hard to talk about your prospects because until you ask them, you don’t really know what their issues and challenges are. The reason why marketing and sales strategies need to be reset before we jump into tactics is because, most of the time, the message isn’t targeted at prospects pains.

Look at some of your own marketing. Run the red/blue test on your own website. Take a look at your home page and circle all of the references to your company (like your name, "us," "we," "our" or other similar words) in red ink. Then, go through and circle all of the references to clients and customers (like "you" and "your") in blue ink. You should have many, many more blue circles. Yet, most companies have many, many, many more reds. You can apply this test to almost anything within your marketing or sales process: emails, letters, etc. Try it.  

Telling The Right Stories

If your stories are all about you, your software, your people or your experience, your prospects are going to tune them out. It’s similar to when you go to a party and meet someone who just wants to tell you how great they are. How long do you stay to chat with that individual? Exactly. But, when you meet someone who asks you questions about youself and there’s a more even exchange, you feel more connected and want to keep talking.

Your stories need to be about the other people (like them) that you’ve helped and how they’ve benefited from your help. What result where they able to attain? How long did it take them to get there? What were their challenges, and how did you help them get over those hurdles? Human beings are wired to internalize stories, to connect with stories, to remember stories and to share stories. So, a list of cool features – well, we’re not remembering them no matter how cool they are.

Making The Prospect The Hero

Stories are great, and the right stories are better, but you have to make the prospect the hero. They have to see themselves in the story. They have to see themselves saving the day. Most marketing and sales efforts focus on the company or the product or service as the hero. If you’re selling software, the hero can’t be the software. It has to be the person at the prospect’s business who made the decision to license the software because of all the benefits it delivered. Get it?

Marketing and sales has changed so dramatically that you might not recognize it. Today, you can’t buy your way into people’s offices with big ad budgets and aggressive sales people. This means the playing field is level for companies that are dynamic and insightful enough to see the changes and adapt accordingly.

Start helping and stop selling, and you’ll see more leads and more prospects turning into clients, which is all you want anyway, right?

Start Today Tip – It’s probably time to look more objectively at your sales process. How do you work with prospects? What experience are you giving them, and is it aligned with today’s buyer behavior? Does your marketing match your sales effort? If you’re educating them during the marketing phase but selling them during the sales part of the process, that’s a recipe for low close rates and a lot of lost deals. Make sure you’re starting to track the key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with your sales process. You might think that things are running along swimmingly, but if your close rate is less than 80%, there’s a problem.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.