Early-stage startups must initially lean on outbound sales because they don’t have brand awareness. However, once you better understand your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and acquire initial customers, you can start inbound sales, making potential customers find you and buy your product.
Inbound sales may take some time to work because you need to increase brand awareness and set up multiple marketing channels that potential customers can engage. Once established, inbound sales can be much more effective than outbound sales in the long run. Also, depending on your team's situation, you can choose between inbound and outbound sales or do both together.
In this post, we'll discuss what you need to know when you first start inbound sales. Here's the agenda.
- How to generate inbound leads
- How to automate the inbound sales process
Part 1: How to generate inbound leads (prospects)
1. Create content that your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) will be interested in
Inbound sales is getting prospects to come to you. There are many ways to get your prospects to come to you, including word of mouth, referrals, conferences, etc. One of the most powerful and consistent ways to generate inbound leads is through content. The content should be that your ICP is interested in or that will help them do their jobs.
You should first talk to your prospects and customers to decide what topics to cover. As you talk to them, you can create content about the questions they ask repeatedly or their pain points.
You can also create content that gives convincing answers to your prospects' objections during the sales process. If you already have customers using your product, you can develop case studies of your loyal customers.
Here's an example of blog content the Relate team wrote about a common pain point or concern among customers they met.
As you start creating quality content consistently, it will compound and bring more potential customers. Also, great content helps build brand awareness and credibility.
2. Create different types of content
You can create different types of content. The most common types are blogs, product guides, playbooks that utilize your product, webinars/coffee chats, podcasts, and more. You can decide what content you will create based on your team’s resources and how your prospects consume content.
The advantage of utilizing different types of content is that you can reuse content you've already created elsewhere. For example, run a webinar on a specific topic and then write blog content to recap the webinar.
The Relate team utilizes various content, which you can see below.
3. Promote your content on multiple channels
Creating great content doesn't mean anything if there's no one to consume it. Here are some common channels to promote your content.
- Blog subscriptions: Make your team's blog available for subscription and automatically deliver new content in a newsletter format.
- Community: If you are running a community, that's great, but if not, leverage external communities.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is one of the best professional social media to promote your content.
You should find and leverage as many channels as possible to get your content to potential customers.
4. Use hyperlinks and calls-to-action (CTAs)
If you already have relevant content created by your team, you can add hyperlinks to the new content you're creating. This will encourage prospects to spend more time on your site and naturally make them more likely to be interested in your products.
Alternatively, we can gauge a prospect's interest by encouraging them to download a specific template, playbook, whitepaper, etc., but requiring them to leave their contact information.
Finally, you should lead highly interested prospects to the product's landing page, where they can connect with the sales team.
Currently, the Relate team uses the "Get Early Access" button in the top-right corner of the landing page or the Intercom messenger in the bottom-left corner.
Part 2: How to automate the inbound sales process
Getting prospects to come to you through great content doesn't mean you will be successful at selling your product. To be effective at inbound sales, you must ensure the prospects are interested in your product and get them to book a first meeting with your sales team quickly.
However, it's very difficult to respond quickly to all inbound inquiries, and doing this manually is almost impossible if there are many inquiries.
The simplest way to solve this problem is to use Zapier, a tool we use to automate repetitive tasks.
1. Collecting inbound lead information with Typeform
Typeform is a clean and interactive survey tool to capture customer information.
The following is the must-capture customer information:
- Company name
- Contact name
- Contact email address
You can also collect other important information for your sales team to qualify prospects, such as demographics, team size, business types, and industry.
2. Let your ICP set up a time seamlessly
One of the great things about Typeform is that you can offer different scenarios of questions and CTAs based on how people answer each question.
You can do a basic qualification based on their answers, and then, if they're qualified, you can provide them with a calendar link to schedule a meeting right away.
If you schedule meetings manually, there's a higher chance of losing them. The Relate team uses Calendly to automate scheduling meetings.
For inbound leads, responding quickly (within 5 minutes) is very important so you don't lose them. Allowing prospects to choose their convenient time to leave their information is the most effective way to convert inbound leads into paying customers.
3. Automatically add inbound lead information to Relate
Relate is a simple sales customer relationship management (CRM) solution. With Relate, you can easily manage your customer information, communications, contract-related information, and more.
Automatically adding inbound leads to your CRM is important because it reduces the manual work for your sales team and allows you to manage customer history.
With your customer information from Typeform, you can automatically add companies/organizations, reps, and deals within Relate.
If you've already scheduled an appointment, you can easily add meeting notes after the first meeting, go through onboarding, and more for future sales activities.
4. Send follow-up emails to prospects
You can automatically send follow-up emails to prospects who have left their information in Typeform. There are two main benefits to sending follow-up emails.
- Confirmation of their inquiry.
- Remind them if they didn't schedule a meeting right away.
Bonus: What about inbound leads that didn’t schedule a meeting?
In this case, the Relate team has a two-step process for managing inbound leads.
1. Email campaigns for inbound leads using Apollo.io
Not all inbound leads schedule a meeting right away. If they don’t schedule a meeting after a day or so, we add them to the email campaign using Apollo.io.
Emails will automatically go out until the prospect replies to the email or schedules a meeting. In our follow-up emails, we briefly explain how to effectively manage sales using Relate, interactive demos, and demo recordings.
2. Prospects who don't reply after multiple follow-ups
These prospects are managed within Relate CRM with a Prospect Status of Potential. Your sales team won’t engage with prospects in the Potential status until one of the following conditions is met.
- Your product is updated.
- A similar type of prospect converts to a customer.
- You run an event, conference, promotion, etc.
- The prospect's circumstances change, such as investment news, hiring news, etc.
Inbound sales may take time to work, but it can be very powerful
To make inbound sales successful, it may take some time. However, once set up, it can be very powerful and sometimes more effective than outbound sales.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, you will have to lean on outbound sales during the early days. After acquiring early customers, start creating high-quality content that your ICP will be interested in.
If you are successful at attracting prospects through content, automate inbound lead capturing and early sales process with CRM and other tools to increase the chance of sales.