HubSpot introduced a new certification: the Inbound Sales Certification. The certification walks you through the inbound sales methodology and how to be an inbound salesperson. After watching the videos and passing the certification exam there are a few key takeaways I’d like to share with you. After all, as we build our websites for lead generation we also need to be aware of how we’re setting our salespeople up for success!
There are two philosophies that define inbound selling:
- The entire strategy is based on the buyer rather than the seller.
- Inbound salespeople personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context.
Being aware of these key philosophies of inbound selling will help us be better marketers, better web developers, better designers, and better salespeople. The way buyers research solutions has changed and our websites have to change to support this new buyer journey. With that in mind, here are my 5 key takeaways from the inbound sales certification.
1. Sellers Can Still Have Power
We all know that in recent years the power has shifted from sellers to buyers. Buyers have more information than ever before. They’re empowered, informed, and can even get references and reviews without ever contacting a salesperson. Because of this change, salespeople have to change too. The thing is, sellers are empowered too - just in a new way! You have this great new thing called context. Context is how you communicate to a potential buyer that you care enough to take the time to get to know them. Context can be made up of demographic information like the industry or location as well as interest data such as conversion events, content consumed, content produced, and more. You can use this context to tailor the message to your prospect’s unique needs.
“As an inbound salesperson, you serve as a translator between the generic messaging found on your company’s website and the unique needs of your buyer.” - Inbound Sales Certification
As designers, developers and marketers we need to set up our websites in a way that empowers salespeople. By setting up creating powerful lead generation forms that help us learn more about prospects, we can give our salespeople more to leverage when talking with a prospect. By setting up our sites to track the individual engagement and behavior of a lead as they move through our site we can help salespeople better understand how certain buyer personas research our solution.
2. Define Your Buyer’s Journey Before Your Sales Process
Before you can define a sales process you have to define your buyer’s journey. This is one of the many places where marketing and sales must work together. If you can outline the stages of your buyer’s journey that’s great. If not, conduct interviews with some of your clients and other members of your team to gain insight into how your potential buyers go about researching your solution. You’ll need to define what happens in the three main stages: awareness, consideration and decision. While they may be called something slightly different for you, the main questions of these stages need to be answered so the salesperson can add value that goes beyond what a buyer can find out on their own.
- What are their goals or challenges?
- How do they educate themselves?
- What are the consequences of inaction regarding these goals or challenges?
- What are some common misconceptions around this goal or challenge?
- What categories of solutions do your buyers investigate?
- How do they look at pros and cons of possible solutions?
- How do they educate themselves on these solution possibilities?
- What options do the buyers typically evaluate?
- What criteria do they use to evaluate available options?
- What differentiates your offering in the buyer’s eyes?
- Who needs to be involved in the decision? How does each stakeholder’s perspective on the decision differ?
Once this is completed, then and only then, you can begin to design your sales process. The sales process should support the buyer’s natural journey. What can your salesperson be doing at each stage to support the buyer and add value beyond what they can find by themselves?
3. Prioritize Active Buyers
One of the most important things inbound salespeople do is prioritize active buyers. By putting these active buyers first and only seeking out passive buyers after, you’ll connect with leads who are ready to get added value from you and learn more about your solution.
In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts. [Source: TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group]
Once you connect with the leads you’ll want to prioritize them based on what you learn. First and foremost, focus on active buyers who fit your ideal buyer profile. This means people who are in the buyer’s journey and, based on what you know from interest data and demographic information, fit your ideal buyer profile. To learn more about ideal buyer profiles take the Inbound Sales Certification training.
Once your lead is qualified you explore their goals or challenges before creating an opportunity. Ask questions, listen, and confirm with them what you’ve learned to make sure you’re on the same page. Once you have a solid understanding of their goals or challenges and the context of their situation, advise them as to how your solution is a good way to address their goal or challenge.
4. Personalization is Key
As I’ve mentioned before, context is vital to connecting with prospects in a meaningful way that provides added value to them beyond what they could simply find on your website. Use the contextual information you got from interest data and demographics to create personalized messaging that speaks to the lead in a way that makes sense to them. Speak their language, relate to their industry, address their concerns.
Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails. [Source: Jupiter Research]
It may help to say something like “I’ve helped many others with a goal similar to yours but I find that everyone is a little different too. I think it makes the most sense if I learn about your needs first.” This will be a welcomed change from the many salespeople who jump right into talking about why their solution is so great and rattling off fast facts about the solution that may or may not relate to the prospect’s situation. Take what you learn from this initial discovery call and use it to create a presentation, demo or proposal that addresses how your solution can help in this specific, unique situation. Nothing is worse than a long, generic demo that doesn’t add any value to the prospect and wastes their time. Instead, create something personalized and wow them with your ability to relate your solution to their unique needs.
After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories. Only 5% remember statistics. [Source: Dan & Chip Heath]
5. You Have to Want to Help More Than You Want to Sell
Last, but most certainly not least, I think the most important thing I took away from the inbound sales certification is that you have to want to help more than you want to sell. Yes, sales are important and we are running a business. But at the end of the day, we are helping people accomplish a goal or overcome a challenge. By showing a genuine interest in helping and having done your research develop trust with your buyers, you’ll be a much more successful salesperson.
“In an unaided, open text question asking respondents to describe sales, HubSpot Research found there is still a strong association with salespeople being overly pushy and aggressive.” (HubSpot report)
With all the information available to them, today’s buyers often struggle to connect the generic value proposition with their specific challenges. This is where salespeople are still incredibly important. They can help tailor the information to the buyer’s context so they can make the connection and see how a solution can work for them.