Sales is a tough job. In fact, many would argue sales has one of the highest turnovers within any organization precisely because it can be so tough. Frequent rejection, looming quotas and long/odd hours can take it's toll on anyone.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that buyers are controlling more of the sales process than ever before, with 70-90% of buyers reaching a decision before they ever contact a vendor (Forrester 2014).
The good news is that inbound marketing is perfectly designed to reinforce successful sales tactics (like these outlined by HubSpot Channel Account Rep, Pascal Landshoft). It's very methodology is geared toward helping sales teams close more deals using the same, if not less, effort. When done correctly, it can even aid in the unification of sales and marketing as a whole.
Inbound Makes Deposits in the "Favor Bank"
Any seasoned sales rep will tell you that you have to give in order to receive. It's similar to the concept of the "favor bank" Paulo Coelho presented in The Zahir back in 2005. The gist is that when we're given something, we're psychologically wired to feel as though the favor must be returned.
While most companies employ this age-old strategy in the form of discounts, free samples or even gifts, inbound marketing does this in the form of content. When great content (articles, ebooks, etc.) is given to prospects in a timely fashion by sales teams - offering free or lightly gated advice that's of high value - that psychological impulse to return the favor is triggered.
Now, am I saying that sales reps can send a prospect a blog and they'll immediately hand over a signed contract? Of course not. But it's an effective strategy that works well as part of a comprehensive inbound strategy.
Inbound Improves Consistency
Sales teams are often guilty of being inconsistent with follow ups. Actually, let me state that more accurately. Sales teams are often guilty for inconsistently tracking their follow ups.
Either way, inbound marketing provides two killer answers to this dilemma:
- Automation - Great inbound marketers and agencies will leverage marketing automation (HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua/Oracle Marketing Cloud, etc.) to automate much of the lead nurturing process.
- CRM Integration - Great inbound marketers and agencies will also integrate the sales team's CRM (SalesForce, SugarCRM, Insightly, etc.) with the automation software so that both marketing and sales platforms are up-to-date on each lead's progress through the sales/marketing cycle.
Perhaps most importantly, automation and integration ensure the activities are not only performed, but also tracked!
Inbound Strengthens Authority
If you want to become an authority in your industry, you have to consistently show thought leadership. And unless you want to tour the country, speaking at all the local county fairs, this thought leadership has to be exhibited online.
At the very core of successful inbound marketing, lies a strategy to help your company - and subsequently your sales team - establish authority using remarkable content. When online visitors continue to find useful and highly relevant content from your company, they begin to identify you as the authority for that subject...BEFORE your sales team has even spoken with them.
The end result is a higher conversion rate among your sales team because by the time the prospect has confirmed that sales meeting, they've already learned a great deal of information from (and about) your company.
Remember this concept: The company that educates the prospect the most often wins the deal. Why? Because your genuine altruism (along with other traits) is building trust and authority! Another perk is that you're also building rapport. Let's take a look at that below.
Inbound Builds Rapport
In order to be successful, your company and sales team have to be likable. This is without exception. Even when you consider that uber-trendy restaurant with the signature snobby service...patrons still like the experience itself.
With that said, great inbound marketing amplifies the voice of your brand in a personable and likable way. Fading are the days of stale, interuptive corporate messaging that intrudes upon the lives of prospects instead of improving them. We live in an age where personalization is (or should be) standard practice, creating wonderfully tailored experiences that help build relationships with potential customers.
Sales teams are thus buttressed by this amplified voice, seamlessly working in tandem with inbound marketing to build a stronger rapport with buyers. Again, serving to increase those conversion rates!
Inbound Fuels Social Proof
Throughout history, social proof has been one of the strongest factors in determining someone's willingness to buy. An example of social proof in it's most simple form is referrals. If our friends, family or colleagues tell us a product/service is great, we're much more likely to buy it. This is especially true if we feel a certain degree of uncertainty about the product/service because we lack the insight needed to make our own decisions. This is why good 'ole fashioned networking continues to be a go-to lead generator for many sales people.
So, while this concept is no different today than it was a hundred years ago, the mediums and tactics have most certainly changed. The world is more connected, information is more readily available and people are now just as likely to turn to the internet for answers (or reviews) as they would their colleagues.
By using case studies, well placed testimonials and strong social media marketing as fuel for social proof, Inbound increases the likelihood that sales teams can still be the referral of choice.