The balance of power in business has shifted definitively from sellers to buyers. With copious information readily available online and the rise of subscription-based purchasing, caveat emptor no longer applies in sales—businesses themselves have to provide reassurance that a purchase from them is worthwhile.
As inbound has reshaped the playing field and aligned the obligations of marketing and sales, it’s only logical that the term “inbound sales” has emerged. This methodology for converting leads focuses on a few elements in particular:
- Identifying the correct types of leads for optimal conversion;
- Truly understanding the needs, pain points and goals of your ideal prospects; and
- Encouraging leads through the sales journey by providing pertinent knowledge and earnest conversation.
However, it’s all too common for B2B companies to either be stuck in the past or dismiss this as something more relevant for B2C businesses. The latter couldn’t be less true—inbound sales is vital in business-to-business sales in order to build real trust with prospects and stand out from the crowd. Here are three ways inbound sales works for B2B companies:
1. It’s focused on real needs and real results
Inbound-based concepts like the customer journey can make it seem as though it is an unfocused, vague process, when in fact the opposite is true. As inbound marketing gleans insights, you learn more about who your prospects are, why they have shown up on your radar and what solutions they need from you.
All that knowledge narrows down what a sales conversation should entail so that by the time a salesperson is talking to one or more decision-makers, the topics are focused and relevant. It’s a subtle adjustment, moving the conversation from talking about what your B2B company does well to anticipating what your prospect needs and how your own company can provide the solutions.
Inbound is tied to potent data, which gives sales the ability to talk to prospects with real numbers. Tangible quantities do so much more in B2B sales conversations than vague promises and using the insights you’ve gleaned from analyzing your past efforts will frame the sales process around real, deliverable results.
2. Trust builds enduring B2B partnerships
One of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C sales is the focus on quality over quantity. B2C knows that the purchase is the end of one customer journey and the moment the inbound marketing process starts again. But with B2B, the purchase is just the beginning of the larger relationship.
The inbound sales method emphasizes knowing where a prospect is in the sales journey, funnel, cycle or whatever term you prefer. If they’re already at the consideration stage and you’re reaching out to them as though they’ve only just entered into awareness, you erode the trust built up beforehand and, worse, could lose their interest entirely.
Meaningful B2B relationships rely on the prospect knowing your company will be helpful every step of the way. Focusing your email correspondence, offering relevant advice and anticipating future needs are the hallmarks of inbound sales and lay the groundwork for a long and fruitful partnership.
3. Dealing with multiple decision-makers requires flexibility
Personalization in inbound sales is not limited to solely focusing on each prospect. There is a deeper level specifically for B2B sales, specifying your correspondence to each decision-maker.
At the awareness stage, you may have only made meaningful contact with one person at a business. Your inbound marketing material has piqued their interest, but that material may not address all the concerns of the other members of the C-suite or management involved in the purchasing process.
The B2B sales process is longer and more complex because you have to demonstrate value and eliminate risk in the minds of each decision-maker since the contract sizes are so much larger than a consumer purchase. Thus, buyer personas take on greater importance in both marketing and sales. To win the hearts and minds of everyone involved in the buying process, you must take the time to share content and insights that have relevance for each person. Talk about cost-benefit analysis to reassure the CFO, prove your scalability to appeal to the CEO and so on.
If there’s one thing to keep in mind when committing to inbound sales, it’s specificity. The one-size-fits-all sales pitch is dead and in its place the Swiss Army knife of personalized inbound has arrived. Know your ideal prospects and cater to them in order to attract more reliable and enduring B2B customers. Inbound marketing will bring in the sales qualified leads, but inbound sales can feel a bit strange for traditional sales hunters.