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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Mar 10, 2015 8 min read

Inbound Sales Vs. Traditional Sales: What’s The Real Difference?

Inbound Sales Vs.Traditional SalesInbound sales sounds like one of those typical buzz words that go along with the sales process du jour. Solutions selling, SPIN selling, conceptual selling, SNAP selling, challenger sales and customer-centric selling are all types of sales methodologies you might have heard about over the past few years. There’s even an article that talks about each one, if you’re interested.

When you read each of the write-ups, you should see something in common. They all appear to teach a sales strategy that “gets the prospect” to do something. But, in reality, science tells us that it’s almost impossible to get anyone to do anything they don’t want to do or on a time frame that’s different from their own internal time frame. In short, people only buy when their pain becomes acute. This means you have no control over when they purchase.

Science also tells us that people buy ONLY when they feel safe. So, a great sales person may be as convincing as possible, but it doesn't matter unless the prospect feels safe – unless he or she knows, likes and trusts that individual. Even the best sales person is going to struggle to close the deal if the prospect is anxious about even the smallest detail.

Enter inbound sales. Inbound accepts both of the concepts above: People only buy when they’re ready, and they only buy when they feel safe. It creates a process that nurtures your prospects so that when their pain becomes acute, you’re there for them. It creates an experience that gets them feeling safe much sooner than your current process or any of the traditional sales process methodologies.

Here’s how inbound sales does both for your prospects:

Content Helps Prospects Feel Safe

You can argue if you want, but the same part of the brain that controls fight and flight also triggers the buy button. So, you need to make your prospects feel safe, as fast as possible, and then work hard to keep them safe throughout your process. Content marketing helps accomplish this. If you’re giving prospects educational material that makes them smarter, helps them look good in their organization and allows them to make a solid purchase decision, you’re going to have an advantage over your competition.

A Designed Sales Process Helps Prospects Feel Safe

People also feel safe when you look like you know what you’re doing. If you have a solid, well-thought-out sales process designed to help them make a safe decision, they’re going to follow right along. Those who don’t want to follow are probably not great prospects anyway. Remember, your process shouldn’t be designed to produce any clients; it should be designed to produce great clients.

Co-Creating Binds Prospects To Your Solution

When you go away and create the offer, package or solution for your prospects, they get nervous. They wonder, "How can he or she know what’s right for me without asking me any questions?" They want to be involved, and you need to get them involved. One of the best arguments for getting them to co-create the perfect set of recommendations with you is that doing so means they won’t want to go through a similar effort with your competitor. If you do it right, they should close much more quickly because it’s exactly what they wanted anyway. How can they say “no” to what they specifically asked for?

You Have To Choose Your Words Wisely

If the goal is to keep prospects feeling safe, your vocabulary might be hurting you. Do you have a contract? Contracts are scary, as they require legal review and make people nervous to sign. This slows down the sales cycle, forces them to bring a lawyer or procurement into the situation and detracts from the experience you're trying to create.

You Have To Nurture Your Leads In A Way That Helps Rather Than Sells

You have to accept that you’re never going to know what actually causes them to say “yes.” It might have been them getting yelled at by their boss to “get this fixed today.” It might be a change in leadership and them feeling like the time is right to “slip this project through.” Who knows? What you do know is that you have to make sure your sales process is excellent at nurturing every lead so that when their pain does become acute, they don’t start looking for companies like you. Instead, they just turn to you and say, “I’ve been listening to your company for a while, and I’m ready to talk about doing business together.”

Just like inbound marketing requires you to have an all-in approach, inbound sales does, too. If you think you can be “kinda pregnant” or make some of these changes but not others, you're going to run into major issues with consistency and brand experience, and your sales team is going to get mixed messages that will hold you back from attaining real progress on shortening your sales cycle and getting prospects to spend more with your company.

Inbound requires you to accept that today’s buyers buy differently than they did even five or six years ago. Once you accept that reality, inbound becomes the obvious approach to helping your prospects with their business challenges.

Start Today Tip – If you want to do a quick evaluation on whether or not your company or industry is ready for inbound, consider these data points: Do you take cold calls? How do you feel when you get a cold call in the office? How do you feel when you think someone is trying to sell to you? Why do you think your prospects feel any different? Take a good, long look at how your company works with prospects. If there is any hint of selling, it’s likely that you’ve been disappointed with your results over the past few months or even longer. It’s not that your sales team has bad people; it’s just that they have an outdated process. Start looking into inbound sales.

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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.