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Inbound Sales 101 | Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Written by Lidia Vijga
Inbound Sales 101 Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Table of Contents

Inbound sales methodology is becoming a dominant sales strategy for many businesses seeking to reduce customer acquisition costs and create a sustainable sales pipeline. Inbound sales enable companies to reduce overhead costs while maintaining a great buying experience.

Inbound sales teams must have a deep understanding of inbound marketing best practices and be able to effectively communicate with the inbound marketing team. In many cases, the inbound sales team will work closely with the inbound marketing team to create content that resonates with the target market audience, landing pages, highly personalized social media content, social media and programmatic ads, and organize industry events that are designed to capture leads for the inbound sales team.

By working together, inbound sales and inbound marketing teams can create an effective sales funnel and powerful inbound sales machine.

Inbound sales team and inbound marketing team have to collaborate on the sales strategy

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about inbound sales, inbound sales reps responsibilities, and the sales skills you need to succeed as an inbound sales rep.

If you’re looking for an inbound sales strategy, sales tips and tactics, and a more comprehensive view of the inbound sales methodology, be sure to read our complete guide to inbound sales.

What are inbound sales?

Inbound sales meaning

Inbound sales is a sales methodology used by inbound sales teams to connect with potential clients who have shown interest in their offerings. Inbound sales teams work closely with marketing teams to generate pre-qualified leads via inbound marketing efforts. Inbound sales reps position themselves as trusted advisors.

What's the difference between Inbound vs Outbound Sales?

Inbound sales vs Outbound sales. What's the best sales strategy

Inbound and Outbound sales

Inbound sales teams focus on pre-qualifying and nurturing leads that come through inbound marketing channels, like ads, social media, blog posts, etc. These leads expressed some level of interest in the company’s offerings. Outbound sales teams approach prospects through cold outreach via email, phone, and async video.

To learn more about outbound sales be sure to read our Outbound Sales 101 article.

Are inbound or outbound sales better?

The inbound vs outbound sales tactics debate has been around for years, and there are pros and cons to both approaches.

Inbound sales methodology generally involve less cold outreach and more proactive sales and inbound marketing efforts to generate leads and nurture leads who are already interested in your product or service.

Outbound sales process, on the other hand, is more focused on making contact with potential buyers through cold outreach. Many modern sales engagement tools make the outbound sales process very efficient and scalable, not necessarily more effective. So your mileage will vary.

So which approach is best? The answer may depend on your industry and target market.

Some companies may feel like they have to pick between focusing on inbound sales or outbound sales, but neither one is necessarily a better choice.

A mix of both inbound and outbound sales often creates the most effective strategy. The amount of emphasis placed on either method may differ depending on the industry, company stage, product or service type, general brand awareness, average deal size, etc.

Like with any sales strategy, your sales team needs to experiment with both inbound and outbound sales to see which one works best for your company.

Inbound marketing teams and sales reps have to experiment to identify the right inbound sales strategy

With inbound sales, you’re more likely to build relationships with customers who are already interested in your product. However, you may miss out on potential buyers who don’t know about your company yet.

With outbound sales, you have the opportunity to reach a wider range of potential customers. However, if poorly executed, you may run the risk of coming across as pushy or intrusive.

The best way to find out which approach works better for your company is to try both methods and see what results you get.

You can also follow these general guidelines to determine which inbound or outbound sales are better for your company:

Inbound sales are preferred in the following instances:

  • For products or services that have high search volumes on Google or Bing.
  • For low-touch sale products that don’t require a lot of assistance.
  • For a startup that cannot afford to hire a full-time outbound sales team.
  • For companies that have a competitive advantage when it comes to creating unique content that resonates with their target audience.
  • If your target audience doesn’t respond well to outbound sales

Outbound sales are preferred in the following instances:

  • If you experience long sales cycles and it takes a sales rep to close a sale.
  • If your LTV (Life Time Value) or Average Deal Size to CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) ratio allows your company to hire a professional outbound sales team.
  • If your company is selling high ACV services or expensive products.
  • If the target audience is okay with cold outreach.
  • If you have identified your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)

Whichever method you choose, make sure you’re consistent and put in the effort to build strong relationships with your customers.

Why inbound sales are so effective?

Inbound sales methodology present many advantages compared to outbound sales, the most crucial being that potential buyers reach out to you instead of the other way around. This could be through online research, signing up for a newsletter, seeing an ad, or downloading an eBook.

Because inbound sales representatives are contacting potential clients who have already shown an interest in what they’re selling, they have a much higher success rate than outbound sales representatives, who are cold calling and cold emailing people who may not be interested in what they’re selling. Inbound sales at its core is a process of luring in SQLs (Sales-Qualified Leads) who are more likely to convert into actual paying customers.

The most successful inbound sales reps focus on assisting potential customers in solving their problems and understanding their pain points on a deeper level.

Generally, inbound sales are cost-effective and require fewer resources than traditional outbound sales methods. However, inbound sales require a comprehensive content marketing strategy that involves careful planning and execution to be effective. But when done right, it can be a very effective strategy for driving new business.

What does an inbound sales representative do?

What does an inbound sales representative do

Inbound sales representative responds to inbound inquiries from potential customers with the main goal to build relationships with them and sell products or services. Inbound sales reps work from an office or remotely from home. They use email, phone, video, and social media to connect with prospective customers.

Inbound sales representative has various responsibilities that go beyond simply converting a qualified lead into a paying customer. For example, it is also important to continue nurturing relationships with customers post-sale. This ensures great customer experience, opens the doors for future product or service upsells, and boosts customer loyalty.

How hard is an inbound sales job?

How hard is an inbound sales representative job

Anyone who is considering a career in inbound and outbound sales might be wondering just how hard the outbound sales job is. The truth is, it can be tough but it can also be extremely rewarding.

Inbound sales require a lot of hustle and grind, but the payoff is a chance to build relationships with many interesting and some cases influential people in your industry.

The most successful inbound salespeople are typically those who are the most passionate and driven. They are also usually very good at building relationships and connecting with people.

In inbound sales, you are working with potential customers who have already expressed interest in your product or service. They may have visited your website, signed up for your newsletter, or downloaded a white paper. Your job is to build on that initial interest and turn it into a sale. This can be a challenge, but it is also an immensely rewarding experience. When you succeed in an inbound sale, you know that you have truly earned the business of your customer.

There are many opportunities for career growth and development in this field, and the potential earnings are often very high. So if you’re up for a challenge, an inbound sales job may be just what you’re looking for.

What sales process is easier inbound or outbound?

Outbound sales process is more challenging because many customers are not actively seeking out your product, so salespeople have to reach out and put in extra effort to interest them and spark their curiosity.

Outbound selling is not only time-consuming, but it can be difficult to connect with many buyers.

Inbound sales process can be easier once your inbound marketing and inbound sales team has established a strong foundation. If your content marketing strategy is done right, you will be working with inbound leads that are at the later stages of the buyer’s journey. This usually leads to a shorter sales cycle and a more effective inbound sales strategy.

What skills do you need for inbound sales?

In inbound sales, the goal is to create relationships with potential customers by providing relevant content and engaging in conversation, rather than relying on cold emails or other forms of cold outreach.

Here’s a list of the Top 5 most important skills for an inbound sales representative:

1. Problem-solving skills.

The best way to sell a product or service is by understanding the potential customer pain points and offering a tailored solution. To be successful in sales, inbound sales reps need to be able to understand the problem from all angles and come up with the right solutions that fit the client’s specific needs. Sometimes, this means being creative and thinking outside of the box to come up with a sales pitch and solution that is unique and effective.

If you’re good at coming up with solutions to problems, a sales career could be the right fit for you!

2. Collaborative skills.

In inbound sales, a sales representative needs to be an excellent collaborator to be successful. To optimize the inbound sales process and the buying journey for both the sales team and the customer, an inbound sales representative needs to be able to effectively communicate and work with other team members.

In inbound sales, the goal is to attract potential customers through targeted content and then guide them through the sales funnel until they become paying customers.

Inbound sales process requires close collaboration between the sales team and the marketing team to ensure that the right content is being created, the right inbound leads are being pushed into the sales funnel, and that the sales team has the resources they need to close the deals.

Whereas outbound sales reps in many cases can work more or less independently, the inbound sales process requires tight collaboration between the sales team and the marketing team.

3. Relationship-building skills.

The main goal of inbound sales methodology is to build relationships with potential customers and turn them into long-term fans of your product or service.

This means that relationship-building skills are incredibly important for an inbound sales representative. The ability to establish rapport, build trust, and create a connection with potential buyers is essential for success in this field. Good relationship-building skills can help inbound sales representatives stand out from the competition, close more deals, and turn customers into product champions.

In many cases, an inbound sales representative is working with prospects who have expressed interest in their products or services but not necessarily are ready to buy. In situations like that, inbound sales reps need to avoid trying to force a sale but rather focus on building rapport and trust with the prospects.

B2B buyers want to know that you care about their success, not just making a quick buck or trying to hit your sales quotas or targets.

4. Tech skills.

Inbound sales representative needs to have the tech skills necessary to keep up with the latest inbound sales strategies, sales engagement, and sales enablement tools. Investing your time into learning these tools can greatly increase your efficiency and will make you significantly more effective as an inbound sales rep.

From video emails and CRMs to sales automation tools, a modern inbound sales representative needs to be tech-savvy to stay competitive.

5. Active listening skills.

As an inbound sales representative, one of the most important skills you can possess is active listening. Inbound sales reps need to be doing more than just hearing what a prospect has to say, they need to be actively listening.

Listening is not the same as hearing, inbound sales representatives need to be able to quickly understand and process the information, ask clarifying questions, and pick up on nonverbal cues.

This can be a challenge, especially when you’re trying to close a sale, but it’s important to remember that your goal is to build a rapport with the customer and find out what they’re looking for. Only then can you provide them with the best possible solution and close the sale. Not only that but you’ll also build trust with the paying customers that will last long after the sale is complete.

What are the four stages of the inbound sales process?

Inbound sales cycle has many different stages

The main stages of the inbound sales process are

  1. Attract the target audience.
  2. Identify sales qualified leads.
  3. Convert sales qualified leads into paying customers.
  4. Turn new customers into product champions.

1. Attract the target audience.

The inbound sales process usually starts with a stranger becoming aware of the company’s products or services through an ad, blog post, social media post, video, or other forms of inbound marketing. The inbound marketing team needs to focus on creating content that is valuable to their target audience.

The strangers then research the company’s products or services online to see if they can benefit from the offerings. If they see the value then they fill out a form on the company website or engage with the company employee on a social media channel, like LinkedIn, to become a lead.

2. Identify sales qualified leads.

An inbound sales representative will then do a quick research on the lead by checking their website, LinkedIn profile, etc. to pre-qualify the lead. Based on the company industry, size, location, and many other factors the lead is placed in an appropriate group in their CRM (Customer Relationship Management software).

After learning more about the lead, the inbound sales representative contacts them with a personalized message to either get additional information or schedule a discovery call or a product demo.

If the initial contact happened over a social media channel and the person has not directly expressed interest in the company’s products or services, the inbound sales rep engages the person to start building relationships with the lead.

Inbound sales reps need to remember that the B2B sales process is not linear and not all buyers are ready to buy right away. In many cases they will be at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. It is also important to remember that pre-qualifying the lead is one of the most important steps of the inbound sales process. Inbound sales teams that fail to properly pre-qualify the inbound leads risk wasting time chasing leads that have a very low chance of converting.

3. Convert sales qualified leads into paying customers.

Once a lead has been pre-qualified, it’s time for the inbound sales representative to work on converting the lead into a paying client.

Depending on the product or service being sold, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. In some cases, the sales cycle can even take a year or even longer. According to Gartner, the B2B buying journey is complex and typically involves 6 to 10 decision-makers.

B2B buying journey (Gartner)

Even though the lead is pre-qualified that doesn’t mean it is an easy win. In many cases, it is more beneficial to build transparent relationships and trust with the decision-makers, rather than attempting to force a sale. Trying to force a sale will not only damage this relationship but will also make it difficult to close the deal later on. Instead, inbound sales representatives should focus on educating the buyers, providing value, and demonstrating their desire to help them achieve their business goals.

By establishing themselves as trusted advisors, inbound sales reps will be in a much better position to secure a sale when the time is right. When it comes to B2B buys, there are many factors at play and they have no regard for the sales rep’s sales quotas and targets.

One of the most effective ways to share information with decision-makers is through video emails. Why? Because they’re highly effective. Video is a very powerful medium, can convey a lot of information in a short amount of time, and can be shared with all the decision-makers. Not only that but by sharing these asynchronous videos you can track engagement metrics (watch asynchronous video PDF examples).

Video engagement analytics enables an inbound sales representative to identify the most engaged prospects and clients, qualify leads, prioritize deals, and move them efficiently down the sales funnel. And, email is still one of the most commonly used communication tools. So, when you combine the two, you have a winning combination.

If you want to learn how to use video emails for sales, be sure to read our article.

4. Turn new customers into product champions.

A costly mistake sales teams make is discontinuing communication with new customers post-sale. One of the most important stages in the sales process of any inbound sales strategy is post-sale follow-ups.

However, all too often, sales teams make the mistake of discontinuing communication post-sale. They may feel that their job is done but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Maintaining relationships with the new customers post-sale is essential to ensure they remain satisfied with their purchase. By staying in touch with paying customers, sales teams can build loyalty, and create repeat customers and product champions.

If you do it right, building relationships with new customers post-sale will help to generate referrals and create sales opportunities.

Therefore, inbound sales representatives should avoid trying to force a sale and instead focus on building trust and relationships with the decision-makers.

Conclusion: Inbound and Outbound sales strategies which one is best for my sales team?

If you’re trying to decide whether inbound or outbound sales strategy is best for your team, it’s important to understand the key differences between the two.

The main goal of inbound selling is to generate leads that are sales qualified through content marketing like social media and SEO. An inbound selling strategy requires coordinated efforts between a sales team and a marketing team. The ramp-up time of the inbound sales processes can take a while. If you’re starting from scratch, the content marketing team will need anywhere from 6 to 12 months to start generating leads from organic traffic and social media. Depending on the buyer’s industry this process can take even longer.

If you have the resources, you can always accelerate the inbound sales processes by buying ads on Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook. However, those ads don’t come cheap so keep your LTV (Life Time Value) or Average Deal Size to CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) in mind when going the paid ads route.

Outbound sales strategies on the other hand can be implemented relatively quickly. Many modern outbound sales engagement and sales enablement tools enable an outbound sales team to get the ball rolling and generate leads relatively quickly. However, an outbound sales team does not come cheap so your company needs to consider that when going the outbound sales route. The outbound sales process may also not work for your potential buyers and target market.

In many cases, it is more effective to start with a small outbound sales team while your content marketing team is working on building the inbound sales flywheel. This will allow you to test both inbound and outbound sales techniques to see which one works best for your product or service, and your potential buyers.

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