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Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Sales

by Joshua Feinberg on January 2, 2018

Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Sales

Today we’re going to compare inbound sales vs. outbound sales. We're going to look at how inbound sales is different than legacy, old-fashioned, traditional sales.

To start, let's do some level setting.

The Digital-First World and Your Mobile Device Addiction

Because we now live in a digital-first world, think about the last thing you're going to do before you go to bed this evening. What are you going to look at? If you're like most people, it’s your smartphone, right?

What's the first thing you look at when you get up in the morning? If you're like most people, again chances are it’s your smartphone.

Think about how many times each day you're going to check for email or text messages, or see what's new on social media. It’s an addiction.

And it’s a scary addiction. Think about all those distracted drivers out on the road, who are engrossed in their conversations, that we are putting their mobile device ahead of their own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.

Let's face it: the digital-first world has made us actually addicted to these technologies. And it’s good and not so good. There are definitely a lot of downsides, way beyond just the safety concerns of distracted drivers and people walking down the street, looking at their smartphones, so obsessed that they walk into and land in a fountain. Or walk into a telephone pole. It’s way beyond that. So the digital-first world and people's’ mobile device addictions hasn’t just created distracted drivers, but distracted walkers too!

Digital Media Consumption, the Modern Buyer’s Journey, and the End of Selfish Sales Pitches

The reality is: our world now is very much driven by consumption of media.

And a lot of times that media consumption starts with search engines and social media. But it’s anchored many times in our mobile devices. Because of this, over the past few years the way people research and make their purchase decisions today has changed drastically.

These changes were set in motion with the release of the original iPhone way back in 2007. Since then, people over time have gotten tired of getting interrupted by selfish, obnoxious,  marketing and sales pitches.

In fact, people have gotten so tired of getting interrupted that these consumer preferences for technology have fueled entirely new business models, where people are literally paying money every single month to block you out.

Think about caller ID, Netflix, Hulu, SiriusXM satellite radio, the DVR, Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Spotify are all scratching the same itch for selective consumption -- where people want to consume 100% of what they want, no more no less, at the exact moment, 100% on their terms.

And the modern buyer, in a digital-first world, is willing to pay a premium to not have to take the advertising crap along with the content.

The Shift in Power from Sellers to Buyers -- And What This Means to Sales Professionals

Buyers now use search engines, social media, and often their mobile devices to start their buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey is the active research process that somebody goes through in between when that person is first expressing the symptom of a struggle, a challenge, a problem, or a goal to achieve -- a very early stage type of issue -- and when that same person ultimately becomes a customer or client of a company like yours.

And the buyer’s journey used to be linear -- with a Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 for example. So sales managers and marketing managers could count on that. But in a digital-first world, the buyer’s journey is no longer linear.

People are multitasking like crazy. The competition for their intention attention is just insane. And at the same time that this is going on, there's been a huge shift in power away from sellers towards buyers. We now live in a buyer-centric world, when it used to be a seller-centric world.

Think about 10 years ago: when somebody was looking to purchase something, that person spoke with a salesperson pretty early on in the sales process, in the sales cycle, and in their buyer's journey. At the time, that person was maybe 10% to 20% of the way into their research and decision-making process. And that person got most of the information that he was looking for from that salesperson.

Today it's very different. Now, because of search engines and social media, buyers do a ton of research on their own -- so much research that in many cases 70% or more of that purchase decision, 70% or more of that decision-making, is happening before that salesperson even meets that prospect, before that prospect is even open to a conversation with somebody from your company.

This change in behavior is forcing traditional, career sales professionals, that have been in sales for decades, to reinvent themselves. It's kind of the end of the order taker. It's the end of the salesperson that’s a glorified explainer. And it's the beginning of a new era.

In order to stay relevant, sales professionals are re-positioning themselves as subject matter experts, thought leaders, consultants, and trusted advisors.

These are some of the big-picture trends, the big shifts in power, that are forcing this whole conversation of what we're talking about today -- this podcast episode comparing inbound sales to traditional outbound sales.

Inbound Sales: Personalize by Who They Are and Where They Are

Inbound sales is all about who the buyer is -- the buyer persona -- and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

Once we have that information, once we know the buyer persona and where they are in the buyer's journey, it's absolutely critical as an inbound sales professional that you personalize everything that you do going forward by the context of, again, who they are and where they are.

Just to review some basic terminology:

  • A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients based on actual research and some select, educated speculation.
  • The buyer's journey is the active research process that someone goes through in between when that person first expresses a symptom, an ache, a pain, a challenger, or a goal and when that person ultimately becomes a customer or client of a company like yours.

The more information an inbound sales professional has about who their prospect is and where that prospect is in the buyer’s journey, the more effective their inbound sales process can be.

Why Outbound Salespeople are Struggling to Remain Relevant

When it comes to contrasting inbound sales vs. outbound sales, we really are at the end of the era for “smile and dial.” It’s gone. It may in some select instances, some edge cases, still kind of, sort of work. But voicemail, caller ID, Gmail Priority Inbox, social media, artificial intelligence, search engines, and personal assistants on people's smartphones and smartwatches -- all of these technologies are spelling the end of an era for traditional, old-school, outbound sales.

Because let's face it: when it comes to prospecting, outbound, traditional sales may not deliver the lovable experience that your prospects living in a digital-first world really want.

Prospects are done with tolerating your cold emails, cold phone calls, and cold LinkedIn messages -- which for all intents and purposes are spam.

With outbound sales, you're literally begging for meetings.  It's all about you, what you care about. With the backdrop of the modern buyer’s journey, outbound sales is a very selfish approach.

Outbound sales calls center on trying to get somebody to consume your demo. Why would a stranger want to consume your demo? How does that approach help your prospects? What the heck?!?

And then you focus on closing hard. That’s all outbound sales.

In a digital-first world, in today's marketplace, outbound salespeople are struggling like crazy to survive. They are having a tremendously difficult time figuring out how to stay relevant because they're not adding value.

What ends up happening inevitably? Outbound sales people just basically end up repeating the content that buyers can find on their own through search engines and social media. This practice makes outbound sales people look silly, like idiots. Definitely not their finest moment!

The End of Paying Someone to Read Product Information to Prospects

Imagine you walked into a department store and had a question about a purchase you were about to make. Let’s say you were planning to purchase linens for a gift. And you read somewhere -- based on a question you asked a search engine or on social media, that thread count is important. So you're looking for a thread count of at least 600 threads. And you saw that something appealing was on sale, but you didn't see the thread count described anywhere.

So you look for a salesperson in the store for assistance. And the way this department store salesperson answers your question; he takes the package off the shelf and literally stands there in front of you reading the package to you. And this is the expert, working in the linen department of this upscale department store? What kind of value is this person adding?

In the digital-first world that we live in, in the context of the modern buyer’s journey, if a salesperson is not a subject matter expert, if that salesperson is not seen as a trusted advisor or as a consultant that solve problems, the traditional, legacy, outbound salesperson becomes at risk of becoming completely irrelevant and extinct.

The Contextually Clueless Outbound Saleshole

With outbound sales, there is no appreciation of buyer's journey stages. Outbound sales people talk to everyone the same way.

There's no appreciation for the differences between someone being in the

  • Awareness Stage -- where someone is just starting to articulate an early-stage problem, challenge, or struggle
  • Consideration Stage -- or when somebody progresses to the consideration stage, where their problem, challenge, or struggle -- and the potential solution -- now has a name and that person is considering or comparing their different options
  • Decision Stage -- or when somebody progresses to the decision stage

Do you know what happens by default?

The outbound salesperson thinks that every single person arrives in the decision stage. The outbound salesperson believes that every person that walks through the door is immediately ready for a pitch, a hard sell, and an aggressive closing sequence.

This scenario, truly bizarre and off-putting in a digital-first world, is no more realistic than a car salesperson who believes that every person that walks into the showroom or dealership must purchase or lease a car on that very first visit. Or that salesperson needs to kick that prospect to the curb and tell that prospect to never return to the dealership and “tell your friends what a bunch of selfish jerks we are.” That is not the experience that you want your buyers to have!

To succeed in today’s marketplace, you need to be able to customize that experience for who they are and where they are in the buyer's journey. Outbound sales teams tend to be kind of clueless about all of this.

But is this rigid, old-school way of selling really the impression that you want to be giving if your company is going to survive and thrive in that buyer's journey? Probably not!

Many times, outbound sales people are still prospecting based on gut feel, instincts, and intuition.

Outbound sales people have no way to prioritize active buyers over passive buyers. And because of that, outbound sales people treat all prospects the same way. That's a huge mistake.

Outbound Sales and the Demo-Begging Playbook

Outbound sales is all about cold emails and cold voicemails, with a static elevator pitch that’s begging for a meeting or demo opportunity.

Why? Because outbound sales people really believe that this is the only way that a lead will progress into a sales opportunity; to accept or submit to your demo. Twisting peoples’ arms, Cajoling. Doing whatever they have to book that demo.

We've even seen people going to ridiculous lengths of paying people to sit through a demo. I get at least a couple of cold pitches each month from software as a service (SaaS) sales people that are willing to give me a gift card for sitting through their sales pitch. What the heck?!? That is not adding value!

When you approach the sales process the right way, you're looking for buyers to show signs of interest. But with cold, traditional, outbound sales, you’re just

  • Putting a generic presentation in front of prospects
  • Repeating largely the same information that prospects already have access to
  • Running your meetings on autopilot like a robot
  • Showing prospects the same pitch, the same case studies, and the same brag-a-thon about how wonderful your company is, how wonderful your products and services are, and how great your people are
  • Wasting your buyers’ time

Outbound sales people lose credibility fast in the modern buyer’s journey.

Why Inbound Sales Starts From a Very Different Place

Now let’s talk about inbound sales and why it’s so very different.

With inbound sales, your sales process supports the buyer throughout their entire buyer’s journey. And that makes an enormous difference to perceived relevance and perceived value.

So your company has started out by taking the steps, assembling the building blocks, in the right way for developing buyer personas and mapping the buyer's journey. These steps are absolutely critical to inbound sales.

If you try to run an inbound sales process, and you don’t know who your buyer personas are, and you don’t understand their buyer's journey, you're not doing inbound sales.

With inbound sales, there is much better alignment between buyers and sales reps. Because inbound sales people focus on prospects’ interests, what's driving prospects nuts, their goals, and their problems, the conversations are personalized. So the conversations and relationships evolve more naturally, rather than the tense, adversarial exchanges that outbound sales people often have with their prospects.

Inbound sales teams personalize everything based on who prospects are and where prospects are in their buyer’s journey.

And inbound sales people prioritize active buyers over passive buyers, so they’re investing their time and resources in the right places -- which means inbound sales people are spending their time talking with people that actually want to speak with them, as opposed to begging the other 80% or 90% of people who could care less about talking with them or engaging them in meaningful conversations.

The Role of In-Depth Lead Research in Inbound Sales

Inbound sales teams use all available clues that they get from search engines, social media, and the CRM contact timeline for each of their prospects, looking at

  • Website visits
  • Titles of content viewed
  • Titles of offers converted on and re-converted on
  • Titles of videos watched
  • Titles  and dates of any webinars or offline events attended
  • Triggers
  • Behavioral emails

All of these data sources give additional insight and context into what a particular prospect cares most about.

Inbound sales people take the time to understand what kind of media content that their leads are consuming.:

  • What blogs their prospects read?
  • What social media influencers they follow, share, and interact with?
  • Are their prospects active on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook?
  • And if their prospects are active on a particular social media channel, what are they posting, sharing, and talking about on Facebook?

Inbound sales people invest the time to do in-depth lead research

Mastering the Inbound Sales Mindset

Along the same lines, inbound sales professionals also position themselves as thought leaders. This includes contributing to their own company blog, sharing their own helpful tips, hints, advice, and war stories that they've learned from working with different kinds of companies and clients over the years.

Inbound sales professionals completely personalize all of their voicemails and emails for the buyer context:

  • Who the prospect is?
  • Where the prospect is in the buyer’s journey?
  • What’s the trigger event prompting the outreach?

Then inbound sales people use this personalization to build trust. When inbound sales people get to these conversations, they’re showing genuine interest in helping.

Remember, inbound sales and the modern buyer's journey is all about them -- their problems, their struggles, their goals, and their plans. It's not about you. It’s about them.

And the sooner you can get your mind around that, the more successful you're going to be with using inbound sales to crush your quota.

Inbound sales is all about sharing helpful tips and advice and adding value rather than demanding value.

Outlining The Inbound Sales Process

When buyer’s show interest, inbound sales people don’t jump into a static elevator pitch.

  • Explore -- When buyer’s show interest, inbound sales people suggest an exploratory conversation to develop more trust and gain a better, deeper understanding of their goals, plans, and challenges. This will help personalize the recommendations, more like a prescription in a doctor-patient relationship.
  • Present -- An inbound sales presentation is very personalized based on the buyer context: again who they are, where they are, and their goals, plans and, challenges -- that you uncovered during your exploratory session. During these presentations, an inbound sales person only shows slides and information that aligns with their needs and that uses their language, their jargon. How do you know what that is? The buyer persona research uncovered that much earlier. An inbound sales presentation only shows case studies that are extremely relevant to their industry, role, and needs.
  • Demo -- If an inbound sales person resorts to doing a product demo, the demo only shows features that align with their needs -- features that we know that this person cares about. And the demo focuses on what's most important to them first. Why? Because an inbound sales professional values their buyer’s time and wants to add value, not demand value. When an inbound sales person talks about return on investment (ROI), the conversation is centered around their metrics and their needs.
  • Propose --  Finally, the inbound sales professional puts together a proposal agreement that’s all about the buyer’s goals, that clarifies scope, and identifies the success metrics that will be used to track and validate whether both parties are on the right track with achieving goals.

The Bottom Line on Comparing Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Sales

This episode has been all about the differences between inbound sales and outbound sales:

  • Why the digital-first world impacts everything -- how different buyer behaviors are in an environment where 70% or more of the research happens before prospects ever get to your sales team
  • How people have gotten tired of getting interrupted by selfish, obnoxious sales and marketing pitches
  • What outbound sales people do that rubs people the wrong way -- between cold emails, cold calls, and cold LinkedIn spam with no personalization
  • Why demo-begging and begging for a meeting is totally selfish and doesn’t add value
  • Why it's so critical to be aware of where prospects are in the buyer’s journey
  • Why positioning an educator, subject matter expert, and trusted advisor is preferred to being perceived as a sales professional
  • How inbound sales professionals support the buyer throughout the buyer's journey
  • Why you need to develop thorough buyer personas and understand the buyer's journey of your most important buyer personas
  • Why inbound sales much better aligns buyer’s interests with your interests, which builds up trust and gets rid of many tense, adversarial, toxic relationships that make it difficult for outbound sales people to succeed
  • The importance of prioritizing active buyers over passive buyers and using all of the available information that you can find from your lead research on search engines and social media,
  • The value of positioning sales professionals as thought leaders
  • Why personalization is so helpful for who they are and where they are in the buyer's journey
  • The importance of exploratory conversations, personalizing recommendations, and including only the points most relevant to their needs, their problems, their language, their metrics, and their goals
  • The value of focusing on goal attainment and metrics to keep buyers on track for their definition of success

That's what inbound sales is all about:

Adding value, being perceived as helpful, as a subject matter expert, as an educator, and a trusted advisor as you help your future clients begin to solve their problems.

We've been talking all about comparing inbound sales vs. outbound sales.

I’m so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the Inbound Sunshine Podcast.

I’m Joshua Feinberg. And we look forward to seeing you back again next time.

 

If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the Inbound Sunshine Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.

To get notified about upcoming episodes, be sure to visit www.sphomerun.com/inbound.

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