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5 Ways to Make Sure Your Sales Team is Ready for Inbound Leads

This post is also available in: French

After years of cold-calling and prospecting, your sales team is now (or soon to be) receiving inbound leads for the first time. The question is, are they ready? In our experience, most sales teams are not; they ignore the key differences between inbound (warm) leads and traditional (cold) leads – and in doing so, squander countless opportunities. Read on to finds tips to help you and your sales team avoid these mistakes.

So how can you prepare your sales team for an inbound influx? Here are a few pointers, in no particular order.

Tip #1: Adjust the sales pitch. When making cold-calls, the sales person has a lot of ground to cover. They’ve got to make it through the “survival stage” – introduce themselves, the company, its products & services; they have to understand the prospect’s pain points and gauge their level of interest – ideally, before they hang up the phone (or delete the email). With inbound leads, this conversation has already taken place by the time you contact them.  If done effectively, the inbound leads will already know the basics about your company. They will know about your services and products.  More importantly, you will already have a good idea of their level of interest, depending on their conversion point(s).   So, the focus of the conversation (or email thread) should be on providing additional information; to answer their remaining questions and to move toward closing the business.  The sales person will be able to quickly position themselves as a trusted advisor, based on the useful content that has already been seen by the downloader.

Tip #2: Know the offers. Most sales teams are more than happy to receive an influx of inbound leads, but if they don’t know where the leads are coming from – and what the prospects are interested in – the conversations will be shallow, short and unproductive.  If you’re generating leads from whitepapers, eBooks and webinars, then your sales team must also be familiar with these materials.  Often, the marketing team will create a new piece of content and simply distribute it internally, via email as a “heads up.”  We suggest administering a short quiz on the contents – and then letting the sales person follow up on these leads after they’ve passed the quiz. Tough love, but it will ensure the salesperson can have an intelligent conversation with the prospect.

Tip #3: Know their behavior. If your company is leveraging inbound marketing, there’s a very good chance that you’re collecting and analyzing data on user behavior. So before your sales team reaches out to an inbound lead, make sure they can answer some basic questions. What were the steps that the prospect went through as they converted to a lead?  What offer did they convert on? What other pages were viewed on your website and for how long? How should I approach this conversation? Have a tip ready to give to a prospect based on the information they are downloading.  A little research upfront on the part of the sales team will save them a great deal of time down the road, which brings us to our next pointer…

Tip #4: Prioritize. Not all inbound leads are created equal. A lone whitepaper download will be lower on the inbound totem pole than, say, a “request a demo” conversion, which shows more legitimacy of a prospect. While your sales team should be following up with all leads, it goes without saying that they should spend more of their time on the leads who have expressed more interest in the product or service.  Inbound leads are not “beggars” anymore, they are “choosers”.

Tip #5: Give it time. With traditional (outbound) leads, a typical sales team will hit the ground running, calling and contacting leads, almost immediately. With inbound leads, however, they need to take their time (in more ways than one). For example, when a prospect downloads a whitepaper, don’t call them right away – they probably haven’t even opened the document yet! Instead, set a reminder to contact them, depending on the nature of the lead. A pricing inquiry, for example, should get an immediate response. For a whitepaper or case study download, give them at least a day. Don’t be too eager.

These are just a few quick tips on enabling your sales team to excel in an inbound marketing environment. For a more in-depth look at how you can get your sales team ready for inbound business, be sure to contact the business management consultants at Blue Sage Consulting.



2 Comments for this Post
  • Jeff Whitney
    January 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Great subject. Aligning sales and marketing on the type of leads that sales should get and how to process them is key. A prospect filling out a “Please Contact” form should be contacted immediately and certainly within a business day – imagine when you want to interact with a company and reach out to them – if they don’t get back to you fast, what message does that give to you. On the other hand the post is absolutely right – a request to download a white paper isn’t a signal that the prospect wants to talk to someone. A follow up call is appropriate, but not to engage in a hard sales pitch, but to determine what interested the person in downloading the paper and how you can best help them. Likely they will be in the education stage of the buying process and directing them to additional great content might be the best possible next step. This gives the sales person the opportunity to engage early and provide value. Research by Sirius Decisions and other sales/marketing thought leaders show that by engaging early in a buying process opportunities close at a higher percentage – but not necessarily faster. Yes, they aren’t yet at the BANT (budget, authority, need, timeframe) stage yet, but if you wait until marketing can give you BANT leads the competition will likely already be engaged with your prospect.
    So leap on the “please contact” leads; nurture the others. You’ll have more prospects and more business at the end of the year.

  • Pam Campagna
    January 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Jeff. Some good points here.

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