Modern potential buyers have incredible support and resources at their disposal. The buying journey leading to purchase decisions is paved with trusted reviews of your product, social media discussions, and competitor comparisons.
While this shift has made traditional selling harder, it’s also given the inbound sales process a far greater momentum.
Product-led growth (PLG) has led many companies to believe that simplistic self-serve models are the be-all and end-all of customer acquisition. The current selling rhetoric assumes that active buyers are so well-read on products that they need little hand-holding.
Then there’s the more traditional SaaS company that happily sticks to the old-school selling methods. Places where sales managers tap the passive-aggressive “ABC: Always Be Closing!” poster above their desks whenever asked about innovation.
Your sales team has a significant role to play, as do your marketing and CS teams. Inbound leads need guidance and help throughout the customer journey, especially large and often complex accounts.
We’re looking at tailored customer service that starts with attracting warm leads from your ideal buyer profile. You’ll summon them with your product’s glowing strengths and inbound marketing strategy.
It’s exciting to match with your preferred clientele, and it’s far easier selling to people and accounts that are already keen on you. However, your sales process must adapt continually to this customer-focused buying journey, from closing to ensuring customers’ long-term success with your product.
For this effort, inbound sales tactics are effective in meeting the modern buyer persona and your customers’ ever-changing needs.
So, are you in or out? Let’s compare both selling styles and know where you fit in.
What is inbound sales?
Inbound sales is a lead generation strategy that attracts prospects, which will convert when appropriately engaged. With inbound sales, potential customers reach out to you about your product rather than the other way around.
Given that inbound leads found enough worth in your content or product to initiate a relationship, they’re far hotter and deeper in the funnel than outbound leads.
Before your teams can begin converting these toasty leads, you’ll need a reliable way to attract them in the first place.
The quick inbound marketing fix
Your inbound marketing team must wield your ideal customer profile (ICP) to create tailored content for the most relevant lead sources.
Imagine you’re the new marketing lead of a B2B SaaS sales startup. In that case, you’ll likely create a company blog on your site and write value-driven thought leadership pieces.
You’ll immerse yourself in your ideal customer’s professional life. Your B2B buyers are probably high-level sales professionals, VPs, and C-suite members. So, you’ll want to write high-value, practical pieces that secure your high-powered reader’s attention and build trust and confidence.
Beyond general subjects of interest, you can zoom into your customers’ daily working lives. Find out what their current jobs to be done are and where your product fits into them.
You want to carry your value and message across your inbound marketing efforts. Post similar content to your blog on LinkedIn and your customers’ other preferred channels.
Indeed, social selling is a big part of SaaS inbound marketing!
It’s best to prove you’re concerned for your target market and their customer success.
Beyond blogging, your content marketing strategy will benefit significantly by steadily building an enriching variety of additional resources. Think of deep-dive eBooks, thorough guides on procedures related to your product, and hosting webinars with well-known and regarded experts in your industry.
You’ll become a reliable (and desirable) resource if you put in the time and effort; to the point that you understand and appreciate your ICP’s granular needs and desires.
Here’s how you do that.
Keep tabs on your ideal buyer persona’s activity
You know that marketing campaigns are vital for inbound sales, but remember your content needs to gel with your empowered buyers’ wealth of personal resources.
They will frequently:
- Seek out unbiased customer reviews through sites like G2 and Captera and discussions on social media.
- Read through competitor comparison pages, where your product will be stacked against other relevant products.
- Investigate your company’s surrounding content and information to better appreciate your culture, performance, and values.
- Consider the opinions and suggestions of personal friends and associates.
Regarding the first point, keep an eye out for negative posts about your company or product online.
If someone had an unhappy experience, reach out to them privately, apologize sincerely, and try your best to fix the issue.
Your traditional inbound marketing and sales tactics need fine-tuning with so many variables at play.
Like many sales processes, inbound sales approaches have received a digital makeover for the PLG era.
How the inbound sales methodology has changed
Inbound sales has been granted a new method to suit the modern buying journey. We’re leaving traditional sales processes behind and relying on customer data to do the heavy lifting for us.
Let’s unpack the three vital prerequisites for SaaS inbound sales.
Sync your sales team with the customer journey
The effectiveness of cold calls is a contested subject in the SaaS world, but the general opinion seems to be against.
According to Forbes, most cold calls are declined, as customers find them annoying, and 63% of reps agree cold calling is the sales equivalent of a root canal.
The latest sales trends advise against ambushing members of your target audience with unsolicited sales conversations. Instead, your inbound sales reps need to monitor every step in the buyer journey and know when a call will sway a buying decision.
Keep tabs on your user data, and establish which product events are most significant in the consideration stage of a free trial of freemium experience.
Breyta allows any customer-facing agent to track the customer journey, event to event. You’ll see the direct consequences of your inbound methodology at a granular level.
Track qualified prospects and leads throughout their decision phases and identify when CS can step in to build trust and move the decision-making process along.
Establish inter-departmental cohesion
Nothing halts sales productivity like disconnected and siloed teams. CS, marketing, and sales must communicate effectively if your inbound strategies have any hope of engaging promising leads, closing, and upselling.
Within your inbound sales framework, your marketing team needs to keep sales reps updated with the kind of content potential prospects engage with the most.
For example, if a lead was converted by a blog post you wrote on data enrichment, there’s a good chance that’s what they’re looking to get out of your product.
Zooming in on your nuts and bolts is advisable, but don’t get fixated on specific features.
A user needs a complete appreciation of your product to make an informed decision. You support the entire customer journey and need a feedback loop between inbound marketing methodology, CS, and the sales process.
Sales organizations must be streamlined units to ensure an efficient inbound selling strategy.
Ensure you’re scoring leads correctly
Building from our previous point, every department needs to be aligned.
Marketing can’t score, qualify, and send generic MQLs over to sales; they’re often irrelevant to a product-led sales model (but more on that in a bit).
You need inbound sales leads who have already tested your waters and might be charting their course.
For inbound sales experts, the golden rule is to focus on product-qualified leads (PQLs).
The automatically enriched goodness of PQLs
As inbound sales focus on leads that have already experienced enough value from your product to reach out, PQLs are your preferred clientele.
PQLs are leads that have displayed a functional understanding and appreciation of your product through its direct usage.
This level of interaction and dedication often isn’t present in MQLs and even SQLs.
MQLs vs. SQLs vs. PQLs
Most MQLs haven’t met the product usage benchmarks to warrant a resource-intensive inbound approach. Traditional marketing scoring definitions aren’t relevant to the practically-focused inbound method.
That said, MQLs that have engaged you after going through your inbound marketing content will understand what your product does for them, at least on paper.
Still, an intellectual or emotional commitment does not correspond with the buying intent of immersive product usage.
Transitioning MQLs into SQLs is often a months-long process. Even if it seems you’re ready to close with an SQL, they lack the potential CLV needed for CS to make the most out of high customer satisfaction.
Simply put, PQLs are far deeper in the sales funnel than MQLs and SQLs and are the ideal inbound sales target.
Set up your ideal PQL scoring framework
Sure, scoring PQLs correctly requires you to identify the product actions that signify conversions. But don’t forget about your ICP and the type of customer that works for your company best.
If your ICP mandates enterprise accounts, you shouldn’t sell to SMBs, regardless of their purchase intent.
Some common inbound sales pitfalls and how to avoid them
Let’s unpack some of SaaS inbound sales’ biggest no-nos.
It takes a discerning eye to spot the most lucrative inbound leads, quick response times to secure individual sales, and a wide capacity to manage separate CS packages.
Giving every lead the royal treatment
One of the biggest threats to your customer base and ARR is providing all inbound leads with the same level of engagement and CS work.
Customers may seem like the right customer fit on the surface, but without the proper investigation, they could eventually churn when they have no Success Potential.
Like many SaaS-related issues, you’ll struggle to prioritize inbound leads without enough customer data.
Inbound leads need to be appropriately evaluated, and Breyta helps you do so.
Our Customer Fit score filters an account’s firmographic details against your ICP.
You can ensure that leads fit your industry type, annual revenue, and employee base requirements.
Our one-click integrations with tools like Segment allow you to keep tabs on product event data. Our Stripe integration lets you know which accounts have the greatest revenue generation opportunities.
You’ll soon know which accounts need a high-touch level of support and which are happy to be left to their own devices with your self-serve resources.
Forgetting to measure customers beyond conversions
Measuring your conversion rate from leads to customers is foundational to understanding your inbound sales strategies’ effectiveness.
But you also need to analyze the overall customer journey, too.
Each customer has a latent average contract value (ACV) that your CS teams will try to awaken, often with mixed results.
Measuring the effectiveness of your CS team’s efforts shows you which tactics work best for closing extended contracts.
Don’t be discouraged when you fail to upsell to a customer. These instances provide excellent insights and help you rework your strategies.
Missing inbound lead requests
No one likes being blue-ticked.
Missing an outbound call request isn’t too significant a loss when you’ve got numerous lined up. Ignoring an inbound call, however, can be a huge loss when a warm lead expects immediate responses.
Remember that modern buyers have multiple tools available and have far less patience for waiting for your reply.
Users deep into your product might abandon the entire buying process if they meet roadblocks before even converting.
Lacking the capacity for tailored experiences
Large accounts are likely to have a lengthy list of demands, and your inability to meet them will be seen as a red flag.
You can’t implement a high-altitude inbound sales strategy while relying on a self-serve model.
Big accounts mean big tickets that can’t be resolved with a quick search engine guide. These requests often require custom categories of solutions, including product feature tweaks and specific legal permissions.
Ensure all your departments have the time and resources to cater to large accounts’ often stringent needs, especially CS. Crafting a tailored potential solution for inbound prospects builds additional trust and accelerates the consideration phase.
The middle ground between outbound and inbound sales
You’ve probably seen plenty of online arguments pitting outbound sales against inbound sales.
Rather than picking one or the other, why not focus on the strengths of each, and how they support each other?
The hybrid selling process: PLG meets sales-assist
These examples of inbound sales success recently ushered in beefy sales and CS teams to assist with customer acquisition and expansion.
Now, that doesn’t mean these SaaS icons reembraced the traditional outbound sales methodology and started pumping cold emails.
A generic presentation was the last thing they needed, and they still focused very much on producing relevant content to key customers.
Hence the new hybrid inbound sales representative role: sales-assist. You might’ve encountered Asana’s user operations, Airtable’s onboarding specialists, or Atlassian’s enterprise advocates.
Many titles for the same role: that of joining forces with PQLs to ensure their product usage is smooth (and they continue buying from you).
The beauty of a sales-assist rep is that they’re incredibly dynamic and wear several frontline hats throughout a sales cycle.
They can perform all the key functions of outbound sales teams, like:
- Outbound selling functions like helping large B2B companies navigate and activate complex products.
- Onboarding requirements like building trust as they resolve big tickets with personalized help.
And on the inbound side, sales-assist reps are invaluable for:
- Repackaging your product for individual customers
- Ensuring they get the most out of their existing and potential demand with inbound sales calls.
The Zapier case
Online automation powerhouse Zapier made millions based on a self-serve PLG system alone.
Today, the multi-level connection service has caught onto sales-assist’s value for high-level accounts. Specifically in helping customers get onto its top Company product for enterprise.
Zapier’s more complex customers weren't achieving their full CS potential, and self-serve wasn’t cutting it for them. Sales-assist reps then created tailored outreach services for large accounts.
These specialists honed in on their large accounts’ customer journeys, appreciated where sales fit in, and established outreach strategies based on ongoing customer needs.
Customer support was integral to handing sales the right type of big-ticket leads that sales could organically help with CS.
The place of inbound sales in modern SaaS operations
The reality of modern SaaS sales is that the average individual buyer is well-educated, opinionated, and, if you’re a PLG company, well-versed with your product.
Today's average sales opportunity is borne of a thorough understanding of your product.
The most valuable service your sales reps can provide both active and passive buyers is to be there for them and answer their questions.
Despite the autonomy of modern buyers, sales and CS teams still have a vital role in guiding leads and customer personas to a purchasing decision. They only make the most of their (hopefully long) time with your product with your help.
Inbound sales meets customers halfway, finding a measured and mutually beneficial relationship.