Even today, smart businesses recognise the telephone as an indispensable tool. It allows them to reach out to potential customers – and just as importantly, it allows potential customers to reach out to them. This is known as inbound sales.

But while inbound sales calls can be a gold mine, getting the most out of them requires a thorough understanding of the inbound sales process. Customers expect prompt and professional answers to their questions. How can businesses ensure this takes place?


What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategy that seeks to attract potential customers to a company via SEO-friendly online content (blogs, white papers etc.) and social media interactions. This results in inbound sales calls, which are calls to your business initiated by potential customers.

Prospects make inbound calls for a number of reasons: to request information about a product or service, to ask a general question about the company, or to express an interest in buying. Inbound calls are the opposite of outbound calls, which are calls your sales department places to prospects - generally with the aim of converting them to customers.

Outbound marketing can take the form of cold calls (unsolicited attempts to generate business) or warm calls (to leads with whom there has already been some degree of engagement). As a result, it has varying degrees of success.

In contrast, inbound marketing often serves as a top source of qualified leads for businesses, since prospects already have an active interest in what the company is offering. Each inbound call represents a real opportunity to make a sale, or at least to create a positive impression of your company in the caller’s mind. As such, it’s vital to fully exploit their potential.


Preparing for inbound sales calls and the role of CRM

When you make an outbound sales call, you’re assuming that the prospect might have a need for whatever product or service your company is offering. The beauty of inbound calls is that the customer has already given you that information.

As an inbound salesperson, your job is to focus on the needs, problems and goals of potential buyers – both, by knowing your buyer personas and by gathering information about existing contacts.

This is where CRM and marketing automation come in. By tracking the actions of your prospects, you’ll be able to tailor your approach to their interests, and proactively offer them the information they need to make a purchase.

As leads interact with content, they form what’s known as a digital profile: an aggregated list of ways in which they have engaged with your online offerings, including pages viewed, content interactions and personal information provided.

These digital profiles are crucial for your understanding of how a caller has reached their current point on your customer journey.


The inbound sales conversation: What should I say?

Thanks to your prospect engaging with your inbound marketing process, you’ll hopefully already have a wealth of information to help you solve their issue. But how should you go about this in practical terms?

  • Consider creating an inbound calls playbook with the most commonly asked questions. This is a great way to improve the productivity of new recruits. Add to it on an ongoing basis. You could also consider developing a basic inbound call script.

  • Include questions to determine how serious your prospect is and whether they are a good fit for your company. What has prompted you to seek a solution for problem X? Do you have budget in mind? Is there anything that could prevent you from making a decision in the near future?

  • Ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your product. This will enable you to command your lead’s attention with informative, concise product descriptions. Salespeople at all levels should be able to explain your products with equal confidence, avoiding ums and ahs or generic-sounding presentations.

  • Think of possible objections in advance and ways to overcome them. Empathise (“I understand how you feel”), clarify the problem, present a solution and obtain agreement (“Can you see why this would be a good solution for you?”)

  • Ask your lead for their email address as part of your introductory conversation, then add it to your CRM system to enable you to follow up later. This is a great way of ensuring that you remain in the lead’s consciousness.

  • Listen! Customers need to feel that you understand their needs. Jot down the customer’s points and respond with a statement that acknowledges your interest (“I understand how -x- can be challenging”, or “Could you explain more about why -x- is important?”). Keep your notes in your CRM in case you need to refer to them later, or for cross-selling ideas down the road.


Progressing inbound sales calls: when to sell, when to nurture further

Unfortunately, an inbound call does not automatically qualify a prospect as sales-ready. Typically, sales-ready leads should fulfil a number of criteria: their organisation will be of an appropriate type, size and location, while the individual themselves will have an appropriate title and authority to buy, and have expressed explicit interest in your solution.

There’s no one universal definition - other criteria will depend on your company or industry. That’s why it’s useful for your sales and marketing departments to agree profiles for MQL (marketing-qualified leads) and SQL (sales-qualified leads) based on information from your CRM and marketing automation systems.

Are one-time visitors to your website as likely to make a purchase as repeat visitors? Are leads from LinkedIn more likely to buy than others? You might want to consider consulting an expert to help you answer these questions.

Of course, some inbound callers won’t have any intention to buy whatsoever. Generally, the distinction between a genuine prospect and a time-waster is this: the former will have specific questions, while the latter will be reticent to divulge any information regarding how good a fit they are.

Listen to the caller’s words and tone. You might also try offering a follow-up call or email; a genuine prospect will welcome the opportunity, while a “suspect” will likely balk.


The takeaway of inbound sales calls

If a lead calls you, it likely means they’ve progressed through your funnel and have at least some level of interest in a purchase. How you manage the call will often be the deciding factor in whether they decide to take things further. Here, information is key: if you understand the pain that has driven them to approach your company, you’ll be better equipped to have a meaningful conversation. Harness the power of social insights for your next inbound call!

This post is part of our Navigating the Sales Cycle series. Download the e-book and discover the 7 steps to sales success