3 Ways Generative AI Will Help Marketers Connect With Customers
3 min read
As a sales executive, I was disheartened to hear that nearly seven out of 10 sales professionals say their jobs are harder now, according to the State of Sales report. Yet nearly the same number of sales leaders admit their teams are taking fewer risks to change their situation. If your organization is facing the same challenges, consider a different approach: inbound sales.
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Often confused with inbound marketing, inbound sales come from customers who reach out — usually because of content marketing, SEO, social media, events, or referrals. Not every inbound sales lead comes from a marketing activity, though. Some inbound sales leads may come from someone doing natural search queries, reading an article about your company, or speaking to a colleague who suggested your organization. In all of these examples, what makes them inbound leads is that the prospect is the one who reached out to your organization and not the other way around.
Inbound sales are customer-driven. Prospects initiate contact through an online form or similar avenue.
Think of it like a Girl Scout cookie booth. When people come to a Scout booth in search of cookies, that’s inbound sales. Outbound sales are when Scouts go door to door selling snacks.
Generally, inbound sales produces higher-quality leads who are actively looking to purchase or engage with a service because they’ve prequalified themselves by coming to you. They’ve raised their hand and said they were interested in your product or service. Inbound sales leads are also better informed because they’ve already done their research.
The main benefit of inbound sales is that you don’t have to do the legwork to find the prospect. With a lead-management platform and lead routing, they’re delivered right to you. You receive the lead and all their information — contact email, a phone number, and details about where the prospect is in the sales process. An inbound lead is warmer and has already done a lot of their own education about your product, making it easier to close a deal.
An inbound lead might also sing your praises at their own organization. If they’ve requested a demo or additional information, their interest is already piqued and they’re likely telling colleagues or friends at other companies about you. This recently happened to me. I sent an inbound lead a personalized video message, and that person took a screen shot of what I sent them. They posted it on LinkedIn, tagged me, and commented, “This is how outreach should be done.” The best part: They became one of my customers — a win all around.
Although inbound sales can produce high-quality leads, the strategy does have its drawbacks:
The steps of inbound sales mirror those of a standard sales process. There are three key ones: attracting leads, nurturing leads, and closing.
Content marketing is a great way to attract leads. Every piece of content you make helps build a lead’s interest in your product. Start by identifying the types of content that fit your audience, company, and product, then create a content journey taking the buyer from top of the funnel (typically “what is X?” content) to the bottom of the funnel (“What are the specifics of this product and how much will it cost me?”).
Here are common content types that fit in this journey:
Creating content may look easy. Almost everyone can use AI to write blog posts and introductory emails or hire a content mill to handle this work. However, creating content that converts is much more involved and time-consuming than many organizations think. In fact, a Content Marketing Institute study found that the biggest challenge among 57% of marketers is creating the right content for their audience.
Aligning content with the buyer’s journey is equally as challenging, according to about half of the respondents in the same study. This challenge isn’t going away anytime soon, one survey respondent predicted: “As the internet gets noisier and AI makes it incredibly easy to create listicles and content that copies each other, there will be a need for companies to stand out.”
This process starts with knowing your audience to a T: their goals, needs, and challenges. Once you have that, planning your content around the sales funnel and each stage of the buyer’s journey — awareness, consideration, and decision — is key. For example, with the help of Fortune Brand Studio, Salesforce created content that won the Content Marketing Project of the Year. Why? It was topical, interesting, and unique — and it didn’t focus on the company or its offerings. Instead, it spoke to prospects’ interests and elevated the Salesforce brand.
Keep in mind it’s often not possible to know everything about your audience in advance. I don’t know every single pain point for each of the prospects I’m nurturing because that’s not scalable. But it’s certainly doable to spend some time on their LinkedIn page, look at their company’s website, and do a quick search to see what kind of news has been written about them lately. There are also plenty of services out there that can, using AI, give you a better picture of a lead.
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Once an inbound sales lead is put into the sales platform, it’s up to you to engage that person and close the deal. This starts with personalized content that addresses any concerns or questions they may have. A timely follow-up with sales sheets, case studies, documentation, and even customer referrals emailed or delivered in person is key.
This is also a perfect time to reach out with white papers or video — live or recorded — to help the lead make a decision and educate other decision-makers within their organization. The cadence and timing of these touchpoints are important. You don’t want to overwhelm your lead, but you also want to make sure your product or service is top-of-mind. Marketing automation can help. It targets prospects across multiple platforms so they encounter your messaging wherever they are — via email, online, and on social channels.
Also, make sure you’re sending content based on the prospect’s persona. You should never send a generic pitch or explanation of what your organization does. For example, there was a company I was trying to make progress with for a while. After we connected on LinkedIn, I sent my contact an email referencing our connection. The person was a VP of customer experience, so I included material in that email that was targeted to their persona and industry. Soon after, I got a reply that said, “This is very interesting. I’d like to learn more.” This is the type of response you should get if you’re nurturing leads correctly.
To build trust and lasting relationships with customers, you have to provide the right information and data at the right time in the process — including the moment when it’s time to close. With AI-powered Einstein Conversation Insights, you can identify and act on key signals like pricing and urgency that help you take that final step and seal the deal. They also help you personalize your final communications so you can accelerate time-to-close.
Inbound sales may seem cut and dry, but there are a lot of things sales teams miss. Here are some best practices from my time selling:
Inbound sales make sense for everyone in your organization. By nurturing a prequalified lead, you can close deals quickly and create champions for you and your product. Understanding your customers, providing the right materials and information at the right time, and creating real relationships can deliver big benefits in the long run.
See how Einstein Conversation Insights assists you in sales calls — with intel into what customers are saying.
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