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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Selling To Inbound Leads

Scott Barr | 15 September 2016


On the surface, there seem to be a few incongruencies in the whole inbound phenomenon. While marketing directors are touting it as the best thing since CMS, their sales teams are struggling to close these supposedly informed and sales-ready leads.

So, why the disconnect? The thing about inbound is that it is quite a complex machine, and its potential to produce better leads at a much higher ROI than other channels comes at a cost: adopters need a wide range of skills (some very specialised) to make an inbound campaign work.

So, yes, as claimed by its proponents, inbound leads close faster and at a higher rate than any other type of lead, but this is not an approach you can simply dabble in. You either go all in (in-house or outsourced) and optimise all marketing resources for your inbound sales funnel, or you stick with your tried and tested methods. For us at GCL, the decision was simple, and our commitment to inbound has paid off. Now, with that learning curve behind us, we can bring you our most valuable insights into the successful adoption of inbound marketing.

These 5 mistakes are the most common pitfalls when adopting an inbound strategy. Learn to avoid them, and you’ll put yourself on the path to both better ROI and a more impressive bottom line.

#1 Failing to get sales on board

Inbound leads are generated in your marketing department, but they are closed by your sales team. At some point (and you have to define this), the one side has to hand leads over to the other. And this is where things so often go awry. If sales expects leads who only have a vague understanding of your product (not often the case in inbound), they might waste their leads’ time and patience explaining it’s fine qualities a second time.

On the other hand, if your marketing department passes your sales team leads that sales know will never convert, it’s your team whose time is being wasted. Sales and marketing need to be on the same page so that marketing knows which leads to pass on to sales, and so that sales knows how to handle their already warm inbound leads.

#2 Failing to qualify leads

Lead scoring is essential to the working relationship between sales and marketing. Without a means of qualifying your leads, marketing has no way of knowing which leads are the best to pass on. Consider the following when choosing criteria for the qualification of inbound leads:

  • Position (what decision-making powers do they have)
  • Company size
  • Industry
  • Revenue
  • Challenges
  • Interest level
  • Knowledge of product or service

If a lead’s specifics match the first five criteria but not the last three, it would be best to put them on a drip campaign in which they are sent additional information to guide them down the sales funnel. As they neared the end of that workflow, you’d score them again to determine if they were sales-ready.

#3 Not researching a lead before you reach out

In B2B marketing, where every lead is gold, your sales team has to do further research on a prospect once they have been handed over from marketing. Message relevance is everything, and to make your message as relevant as possible, you need to learn what your prospects’ biggests challenges are. If you can hit these pain points early on, your leads will give you more of their attention, allowing you to explain how you can help them.

At the very least, you need to know who they work for, what department they work in, and what position they hold. Using this information with their online behaviour (emails opened and content read), you can practice a little extrapolation to determine these other specifics:

  • Their responsibilities
  • Their concerns
  • Their influence and decision-making power

#4 Not taking the time to nurture leads

Again, this comes down to the relationship between marketing and sales and the roles played by each. Both teams have to treat your leads like a precious resource while adapting the treatment of individual leads according to their interest level. If a lead fails to show enough interest despite meeting all the other criteria, your marketing team needs to put them on an appropriate email workflow – one in which they are sent material designed to raise their interest level (again, it helps if you know what their concerns are).

When these leads are eventually handed to sales, your team needs to understand that a hard sell won’t work. If your sales and marketing teams have communicated properly, you sales team will know that their lead’s interest level is only lukewarm and that their interest still needs to be piqued with verbal confirmation of exactly how your product or service can solve their problem. On that note, it’s essential that your team adopt a solution-based approach. Your prospects are not interested primarily in your product, but rather in the way that it can help them overcome their challenges.

#5 Not implementing a process for handling inbound leads

No amount of carefully-crafted strategy will help you if you don’t implement a process to ensure that your inbound leads are handled according to best practices. Many businesses simply give their teams access to the dashboard where anyone can pick up a new inbound lead. The usual problem with a system where everyone is responsible for inbound leads is that no-one is actually accountable.

In this kind of system, it’s inevitable that inbound leads are neglected. To ensure that your leads get the attention they deserve, you need to assign a team member (or members) to handle those leads. Whether this is performed by sales or marketing depends on your processes and lead scoring system. For many businesses, the best solution is to have marketing qualify and hand over leads to sales with instructions on how best to handle those leads.

Go all in

There’s little point to adopting inbound unless you are prepared to take the time needed to build a funnel that performs from top to bottom. At GCL, we know that inbound marketing has great potential – but only if you optimise the different elements of your inbound mix to meet your inbound goals. We also realise that this requires a certain level of strategic and digital know-how that many businesses don’t yet have. And so we give you this: our Inbound Marketing Guide. In it, you’ll find useful advice on how to develop and implement your own inbound marketing strategy. Download this valuable asset here.

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