In 1962, E.B. Weiss predicted that pre-selling, branding, and advertising would render the traditional salesman useless.
In his book, "The Vanishing Salesman," he wrote about the "new age of self-selection and self-service."
Half a century later, traditional sales-commonly referred to as outbound sales-is still alive, and works for some businesses, but sales strategies have dramatically changed with the age of the internet.
Today's buying practices largely rest in the hands of the customer-both businesses and consumers. Sales reps no longer invest in cold calling, especially when it can take eight attempts to reach a prospect. Businesses are turning from seller-centric to buyer-centric approaches.
Search engines and social media have revolutionized the marketplace outlook. According to DemandGen, 90 percent of business buyers say that when they're ready to buy, they'll find you.
This behavior has led more and more businesses to adopt the new sales methodology-inbound sales.
Inbound sales revolves around the buyer's needs and wants. Sales reps are not going after buyers with aggressive pitches. Instead, interested leads reach out to businesses, and decide how they want to be sold.
Here's an example: Kate is a designer looking for a video hosting platform for her business. She takes the following steps:
She does a Google search for "top video hosting companies."
She visits each company's website and blog to learn more about their product and pricing.
She shortlists her choice of three brands, and signs up for a free trial of the products.
With support from each company, she begins evaluating each product.
She settles for the one that best fits her business needs and addresses her specific challenges.
This is an inbound sale. The decision to buy the product started and ended with Kate.
The internet changed the way we shop. Buyers are empowered with information at their fingertips to make decisions. They don't rely on salespeople to take the first step, and no longer tolerate even the occasional cold call or email.
Even though it takes some personal effort to learn more about a product, 62 percent of buyers still prefer to use a search engine, while only 29 percent want to connect to a salesperson.
In order to adapt to these changes and keep up with buyer preferences, it's critical for businesses to adopt inbound selling strategies to compete and sustain in the market.
Gartner predicts that, "by 2020, buyers will manage 85 percent of their interaction with the enterprise without interacting with a human."
From small startups to large corporations, businesses are transforming their sales process to align with the needs of the buyer by learning and understanding who the buyer is and what they want.
Just as technology and the internet have transformed buying practices, businesses are also switching to newer methods of management to optimize sales processes and more effectively support customers.
A sales CRM system (customer relationship management) is the most common and valuable software tool that businesses of all sizes implement in order to provide structure to build their sales process.
Here are four ways a sales CRM can enhance inbound sales process:
In an analysis by Velocify of almost three millions leads from a sample of more than 600 sales organizations, it was found that automated lead distribution methods improve response time and lead conversion (87% improvement over manual distribution).
Whether your business is small or large, you must ensure that your inbound leads are captured, and also that sales reps aren't chasing the same new leads.
So, how do you capture inbound sales and divvy them up between your sales team sans manual work? With a sales CRM.
A sales CRM comes with capabilities to intelligently capture web forms and automatically create them as new leads. You can auto-assign leads to sales reps based on different criteria- by round-robin, geography, industry, etc. This set processes in place for managing the lead funnel, saves time, and lets your team connect with more prospects.
Some sales CRMs also notify owners to keep them in-the-know on assigned leads via real-time notifications and daily emails.
According to a lead generation effectiveness study by Lenskold and Pedowitz, 68 percent of B2B marketers picked lead scoring based on content and management to be their primary revenue contribution driver.
Sales CRMs help you track where your leads are in the funnel, and how close they are to converting . A few CRMs automatically enrich profiles with their social and publicly listed information, and also autopopulate the source of each inbound lead.
Lead activity on websites-pages visited, interactions, etc.-and also within your product are easily tracked in a sales CRM. A timeline view of real-time activity helps the sales team identify the interest level of each lead and improve customer experience.
With this technology, you measure every step of your inbound lead, and based on their tracked activity, each lead is assigned a lead score. Lead scoring is an integral feature in modern sales CRMs. It ranks inbound leads from hot to cold- most active to least-based on configured settings.
Organizing leads based on their likelihood to make a purchase through lead scoring assists sales reps in easily spotting the most qualified inbound leads to take action. This method saves time, increases productivity, and increases conversion rate.
A MarketingSherpa study found that 73 percent of marketing leads are not sales-ready, and the common cause of this is a lack of lead nurturing.
Inbound leads are the most valuable, and sales reps must immediately engage with hot leads in the right way.
Communication in inbound sales must be helpful and relevant to add value to the decision-making process. Follow up with inbound leads should be based on their activity and lead scores.
Sales CRMs provide personalized bulk email communications when sales reps are pressed for time but follow-up is crucial. Email integration feature lets you send emails directly from your CRM, and syncs them with your email account.
Depending on buyer context and lead scores, you can segment qualified inbound leads based on source, industry, role, etc., and send personalized welcome emails using templates in a CRM. Additionally, sales CRMs send real-time notifications on email analytics (opens and clicks). Use this to connect with leads at the right time.
Sales CRMs also have built-in phone functionality with one click to call, call recording, and automated call logs, and associates calls to respective lead records.
Sales calls managed in a CRM provide references-date, time, duration-so the rep knows when to call the lead again. You can also attach call notes.
Docurated's State of Sales Productivity shows that sales reps spend only one-third of their time selling, and two-thirds of their time is spent on non-selling activities.
A sales CRM should maximize selling time by cutting down on repetitive manual tasks. By improving the allocation of sales reps' efforts through automations in your CRM, you have more time to interact with prospects and bring in new business.
Workflow automations integrated in a sales CRM are ideal for businesses focused on achieving inbound success. They're a set of actions that are automatically executed based on set triggers.
For example, you can create workflows to automate sending out welcome emails to new leads using lead properties-owner, stage, campaign, source, country, etc. According to Insidesales, 35 to 50 percent of sales go to the vendor that responds first. By automating your emails to prospects, you lower the risk of losing potential business.
Some sales CRMs even trigger web hooks to send notifications to third-party apps that generate an invoice using your accounting tool as soon as the deal is closed or won.
Inbound is the new way of selling. Although outbound still has a place in sales, as buyer behavior evolves, businesses and sales teams must align their selling strategies to buyer preferences in order to stay in business and grow.
A good sales CRM allows sales reps to implement an effective inbound sales process by prioritizing leads according to buyer persona. Through lead intelligence, sales reps can structure conversations, add value, and prioritize buyer needs above their incentive to sell.
About the author: Rebecca Richard is a Product Marketer for Freshsales, a sales CRM for SMBs.