The inbound marketing funnel has changed how marketers gather information and build relationships with prospects. As this new method of marketing is adopted, a new sales process needs to be implemented to cater to leads that already have a familiarity with your product. This new process, called inbound sales, focuses on the a lead's pain points, personal needs and goals. In this process prospects are nurtured until they have identified that they are ready to be contacted by sales.
The following will examine four critical steps that your business needs to take to set your sales team up for success in an inbound sales model. Here are the essential fundamentals of any inbound sales operations strategy:
1. Develop your personas and understand the buyer's journey
The most important part of inbound sales is understanding who your buyer personas are and the steps their journey requires them to take before they purchase. The buyer’s journey contains information about where in the sales process a persona’s paint points are identified. Personas embody your ideal buyer's characteristics, which are important to understand before you start designing your sales process. Much of the design will be centered around the persona and alleviating his or her pain points.
2. Define your sales goals, KPIs and how you will measure them
The next important phase is determining what key performance metrics you will measure. Determining KPIs before designing your inbound process is vital; if you create the process before knowing what you will measure you risk creating a system that will not capture the information from which you will be determining success. KPIs in the sales process can range from those of the individual rep level (number of completed activities, conversion rates or percentage of monthly revenue) to the greater goals of the sales team or entire enterprise. Once your goals and KPIs are solidified you will have an understanding of what the outputs of the inbound sales process will be and how you will need to develop the system to report the metrics on which you will be reporting.
3. Determine who makes the jump from a lead to an SQL
With the implementation of inbound marketing we have a means to capture the information that gives us the ability to use inputs from leads to determine whether they are qualified to enter the sales cycle. At the highest point of the sales funnel we want to determine marketing-qualified criteria. Determining who becomes an MQL is often based on the marketing actions they take throughout the inbound funnel (filling out forms, viewing the blog and downloading content offers, to name a few). You want to base MQL criteria on activities that most leads take prior to entering the sales process. Once you have the inbound process implemented, you can use closed-loop analytics to alter MQL criteria and automate the hand-off to sales using an MQL workflow.
Next we have to determine who is sales-qualified. An SQL is different from an MQL because now the sales rep has had some type of engagement with the MQL to determine its fit within your sales process. Determining SQL criteria is a little more difficult because this process is usually something that is completed by the sales rep. Once lead becomes an MQL it enters the sales funnel, and it is important for the sales rep to determine whether this MQL is worth nurturing through to the end. Your organization should determine activities and events that both the rep and the lead must complete before they are shifted to an SQL. BANT (budget, authority, needs, timeline) or the slightly less well known GPC (goals, plans and challenges) are the two most common frameworks we see used in the B2B space. Following one of these sets of requirements will ensure that your sales reps work efficiently by only selling to leads that will actually be interested in signing a proposal. Thus this process can also be instrumental in making sure that your KPIs are not skewed.
4. Make it easy for your reps to know who they are speaking to and where in the funnel each lead is
Clarity is key in the inbound sales process. It is crucial that your reps are easily able to determine what stage in the sales cycle a lead or opportunity is in, and what actions the rep should take to continue nurturing it through the process. Having a defined sales process at each lifecycle and opportunity stage helps the reps know which path to take in their selling efforts and what has already been done. Planning this out prior to solidifying your inbound sales process will help you understand the technical requirements for determining where automation can be used and what parts of the process need a rep's touch.