Carole Mahoney is speaking at this year's Inbound Conference in Boston. This post describing here session originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse and is republished here with Carole's permission.
This year at Inbound15 in Boston, I am boiling down the rules, or laws, that my partner and I use to coach entrepreneurs and sales people on how to engage, nurture, and close inbound leads.
A common problem with inbound leads is that they are usually not sales qualified. They aren't the decision maker, they are "just researching" and not ready or able to buy, and they have serious walls up to introduce a sales person to their boss. (Sales is such a dirty word.)
So some ignore the influencer completely, or sell to them too much. How and when is the right way and time to get to the decision maker?
The short answer is the sooner you can get to the decision maker the better. But there is still a process to getting there. As I have heard Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group say, "You still have to sell with Inbound."
The Inbound Sales Challenge for Small Business
If you are a small business owner who sells, or if you are a sales person in a small to mid-sized company, you don't likely have a lot of sales help in the way of development reps to qualify and nurture for you. You have to be as effective and as efficient as possible with your time, and spending a lot of time with every prospect isn't a viable option.
My most popular posts on LinkedIn to date are Sales Mindsets: You Had Me at Goodbye and 5 Signs You Need to Fire a Prospect or Client. The common theme between the two is the inbound sales process is about finding the right fit, and rather than a process of sales qualification, it is really a process of disqualification. This is especially important if you rely on delighted clients and referrals to grow. (And you should.)
You have a sales process, a checklist of questions that you need to answer in order to be able to work with someone. They also have a checklist of questions before they feel comfortable and confident making a decision.
Whether you have one person or five that is involved in the buying process, the following questions that my partner writes about here apply to both checklists.
- Does this person have a problem that I can fix?
The problem that the CEO, the VP, the manager, or the end user have might not all be the same thing. Regardless, you need to know if your solution can solves each of their individual problems.
- Do they know it? Do they believe that they have a problem?
- Do they want it fixed? Maybe it isn't as big a problem for them as something else is.
- Can they tell me to fix it? They might have to ask their boss if they can fix it.
- Do they believe that I understand their world?
Do you understand their business and the landscape of their industry? Can you empathize with the role that they are in and the challenges that they face?
- Do they believe that I have the expertise to help them?
Have you established trusted adviser status? Do they turn to you for insight and advice as to how they should proceed?
- Do they want my help? Do you have buy in at every relevant level?
- Can they pay me? Is there budget, or can budget be found?
How do you get to those questions? This is by far not a complete list, so if you have any to add, please comment below.
- Buyers: Know who you are talking to and how to respond like them. The person who is "just researching" is doing it for someone. Who? Get the lay of the land from your contact and gain an understanding of who does what, and what is important to them. Don't just qualify the contact, but the company.
- Helpful: It’s not about you. Be the thought leader, not the sales person. If you have a library of go to content that helps further answer buyer's questions, you aren't selling, you are helping. Asking tough questions about them that make them think about things differently and following that up with relevant content is a sure way to differentiate.
- Research: Find 3 things in 3 minutes to get you started. People buy from people. Ask about their education, how they got where they are, why they are in this job, how they decided to start their company. Find some common ground.
- Goal setting: Getting to the why behind the numbers. If it is your influencer, why are they putting in the extra work on this project? Are they up for a promotion soon? Is the VP trying to make a name for themselves in the organization? Is the CEO hoping to leave behind a legacy?
- Disqualification: Why might this not work, how to fix it. What are the pitfalls that might prevent their results and success? What have you seen others struggle with in the past that has derailed them? What must be done about it?
- Buying: Help them buy the right thing, in the right way. Be transparent about how you work, price, and compare to the competition. If you aren't the right fit for what they need, refer them to someone else.
- Accelerate: The sale and their results. Don't propose marriage at the outset. Find a way to start with something small so that you can get to know one another and then decide if a long term relationship is going to work. Identify some quick wins to prove the concept.
Check out the post on my site "Cross Examination Rules for Inbound Sales" to see how you can start a conversation with inbound leads that creates the kind of engagements that get you to decision makers as trusted advisers.
To learn more about HubSpot's Inbound Conference click below: