Inbound Sales: Everything You Ever Needed To Know

Will Schmidt

April 9, 2024

10 min

Table of Contents

Our lives are dominated by a peer-to-peer mindset. If you want to know the best restaurants, smartphones, or even laundromats, you hit up Yelp, popular tech blogs, or your friends and family. 

This directly affects your sales team: their prospects are equipped with more recommendations, research, and insights than ever before. As a result, these prospects often find your product before you find them. And that’s a good thing. 

But when these inbound prospects find your company, you need to be ready for them. The best way to do this is to invest resources in an inbound sales team that’s ready to reach out and capture these leads. 

Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know, like:

  • What inbound sales is
  • How inbound sales benefits your company
  • The four phases of the inbound sales methodology
  • Successful inbound sales strategies

Let’s get after it.

What Is Inbound Sales?

With outbound sales, sales development representatives (SDRs) and account executives (AEs) will reach out to prospects with cold calls, cold emails, or other forms of cold outreach. The operative word here is cold, meaning prospects may have zero prior knowledge of your company and product.

Inbound sales is a sales methodology that focuses on leads that are funneled to your sales team through inbound marketing. Typically, inbound prospects are more aware of your product and how it can help them—these are warm leads. 

Inbound prospects will perform their own research to solve a pain point, problem, or need they have. In fact, 41% of B2B buyers consume 3 to 5 pieces of a company’s content before engaging with sales reps.

During their search, prospects come across information about your product and company like:

  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Data reports
  • Paid media ads
  • Social media posts
  • Third-party listing or review site
  • Webinars
  • Demo requests
  • Videos

All these touchpoints, created by your marketing team, will typically capture lead information from a prospect like their name, company, and email address. From there, your inbound sales reps will be standing by, ready to reach out and work these leads. 

During their outreach, sales reps will ask about the specific challenges their prospects face and determine if their product will solve for those pain points. But therein lies the subtle art of inbound sales.

It focuses more on building lasting relationships to help customers succeed versus pushing for an immediate sale. 

The relationship is built on active listening and an authentic desire to help solve a prospect’s specific challenge. Not only can this help steward a prospect towards a sale, it can cement them as a lifelong brand champion who refers other inbound prospects to your team. 

Further, inbound sales is sometimes conflated with inside sales, but the two are very different. inside sales refers more to the way in which things are sold as opposed to how they’re sold (process vs. tactics).

The Relationship Between Outbound and Inbound Sales

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the words cold and warm to describe leads associated with outbound sales and inbound sales, respectively. Don’t do that. Even if one word may feel emotionally better or worse than the other, it isn’t.

Instead, realize that both of these sales methodologies work well together as powerful tools to improve your pipeline, close deals, and drive revenue. Case in point, you can use outbound sales teams and tactics to capitalize on inbound leads. 

Let’s say your company’s webinars capture inbound prospects’ emails and enter them into an automated sales email cadence. Your sales reps can cross-reference all prospects who have been entered into the cadence, but haven’t yet replied to an email. 

From there, reps can build a list of target inbound prospects to call and qualify as a lead worth pursuing or not. And with the help of the right sales tools, like a power dialer, this outreach could be completed in record time.

The Benefits of Inbound Sales

When your sales reps are well-positioned to engage with inbound prospects, your likelihood of closing the deal skyrockets. Check out some of these stats: 

  • 62% of B2B customers engage with salespeople who share content and insights relevant to them
  • 65% of B2B buyers say easy to consume and informational content influences into their buying decision

Beyond simply influencing prospects to buy, inbound sales offers benefits where the stability of a business, forecasting models, and quality of leads are concerned. 

Capitalize on Predictable Lead Flows

As your inbound sales engine is refined, or started up for the first time, your team will begin to notice patterns emerge across engagements with marketing collateral. 

For example, if your LinkedIn ads produce 50 inbound leads every month, your team can begin to depend on that consistency. This can help with your forecasting models and planning for the future.  

Generate More Qualified Leads

As your company’s marketing efforts drive more predictable numbers of inbound leads, it’s likely that the quality of these leads will also increase. That’s because people who actively seek you out and are aware that their challenges could be solved by your solution, want to talk with your reps.

Improved Engagement Rates

Inbound sales thrives on permission. That is, when someone gives you their information they’re also agreeing to let you contact them with more information about your product. 

Additionally, since it thrives on personalization and human connection as well, there’s a high chance your reps will hear back from prospects instead of getting cold-shouldered. 

Build Lasting Relationships 

The primary goal for your inbound sales reps is to build relationships with prospects and act as their trusted consultant. This ultimately leads to a sale. 

But it also lays the foundation for a lasting relationship between your brand and your customers. The more personalized, positive interactions they have can cement them as lifelong brand champions and advocates who send word-of-mouth referrals your way for years to come.

The Four Phases Of the Inbound Sales Methodology

There are four phases that guide almost all companies’ inbound sales models:

  1. Identify
  2. Connect
  3. Explore
  4. Advise

These phases also map directly to the classic buyer’s journey of awareness, consideration, and decision. Together, the two frameworks spark conversation between prospect and sales rep that delivers the right insights at just the right moment of the inbound sales process. 

Buyer’s Journey: Awareness

At this stage of the buyer’s journey, prospects realize they have a challenge that needs to be overcome. But before they head out and start searching for a solution, they often start by defining the specifics of their challenge and whether or not it’s a priority.

During this stage, the first two phases of the inbound sales methodology—identify and connect—come into play for your reps.

Inbound Sales Methodology Phase 1: Identify

Here, your inbound sales reps work to identify inbound prospects that are aware of a challenge and have a desire to overcome it. Often, these prospects have volunteered their information by attending a webinar, opening a sales email cadence, or downloading an eBook, for example.

One way your team can sift through the influx of inbound leads is to align potential sales with your ideal customer profile (ICP). From there, they can begin targeting prospects for the connect phase.  

Inbound Sales Methodology Phase 2: Connect

When it’s time to connect with identified leads, reps often reach out with personalized messages. For example, they may send an email that highlights a recent LinkedIn post written by the prospect that got a lot of engagement. 

After the point of connection is established, since your buyer is still in the awareness phase, your inbound sales rep may send over more information—webinar recordings, blogs, or case studies—that’s relevant to the prospect’s initial engagement touchpoint.

As they deepen their knowledge of your product and how you can help solve their challenge, your prospects will begin to enter the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey.

Buyer’s Journey: Consideration

At this point in their journey, your prospects are crystal clear in their challenges and are firm in their resolve to overcome the challenge. They’ll evaluate your product, and potentially other competitors as well, to see if it fits as a solution to what they’re looking for. 

During this stage, the third phase of the inbound sales methodology, explore, comes into play.

Inbound Sales Methodology Phase 3: Explore

In this phase, inbound sales reps should capitalize on the rapport they’ve built with prospects to establish a sense of trust. At the same time, reps can begin probing deeper into a prospect’s goals and challenges. 

In this way, they can begin to understand how their product fits a prospects needs, and identify sales opportunities. The key here is for inbound sales reps to show prospects a pathway to their product versus hard-selling a solution. 

Remember: the goal is to act as a trusted advisor to a prospect. When that’s finished, it’s time for the prospect to make a decision. 

Buyer’s Journey: Decision

In the decision stage of the buyer’s journey, you’ll find out if your prospect is ready to buy what you’re selling. This is where the final phase of the inbound sales methodology, to advise, begins. 

Inbound Sales Methodology Phase 4: Advise

This is the grand finale of the inbound sales methodology. Reps compile everything they’ve learned about their prospects, the challenges they face, and what solutions they want into a formal sales pitch. 

The crucial element here is that the entire pitch is tailored specifically to the prospect. Show them how the product will help, what it looks like to get up and running, and how this is the best solution available to them. 

Important: when a prospect signs the contract, don’t forget to pop some champagne, hit the gong, or celebrate however suits you best.

How To Succeed With Inbound Sales

Now that we’ve covered how inbound sales works, it’s time to look at some specific strategies you can use to excel.

Respond Quickly

When you receive an inbound lead, respond to it as quickly as possible while remaining thoughtful that you don’t sound like a robot. A quick response makes prospects feel like they’re important and you take them seriously, because they are and you do.

Your sales managers can look at the timestamps on inbound leads to see how long your time to first response is. From there they can adjust if necessary to ensure someone on their inbound sales team is always reaching out quickly. 

Prioritize High-Value Leads

Some leads are, in fact, better than others. If someone comes in requesting a demo you should absolutely prioritize that over someone who wants to download a top-funnel eBook. 

Ensure your sales teams are set up to effectively comb through incoming leads and route them to the reps who can prioritize them immediately. 

Target Decision Makers

Typically, low-level employees aren’t the ones who get to make the final say on purchasing decisions. If you get inbound leads associated with C-suite executives, vice presidents, or team leads, hop on that as quickly as possible. 

In cases where you’re not working with a decision maker, your inbound sales reps should ensure their contact can influence someone higher up with purchasing authority. That can be extremely important in many situations, like if you need to respond to a customer's request to reduce price.

Align with a Prospect’s Journey

It’s not always easy to be patient during the sales process, but you can’t push too hard, too fast when engaging your leads. Remember that every prospect is at a different point in the buyer’s journey. 

As such, your reps need to engage with them in ways that are relevant to their current goals and mindset. Someone who only wants more information is going to run for the hills if you come at them with a personalized sales pitch during an exploration call, and I wouldn’t blame them.

Power Your Inbound Sales like a Pro

As the world continues to change around us, your sales prospects are only going to become more savvy with their research, referral, and buying practices. Make sure your team is ready and motivated to capitalize on the influx of new leads 

And, along the way, don’t forget to keep your outbound sales engine running smoothly as well. Neither inbound sales nor outbound sales is inherently better than the other, and both are necessary for success. 

If you’d like to learn how PhoneBurner can help with all elements of your sales organization, sign up for a free account today.

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