I read a lot about marketing tactics when starting my first software business — most advice centers around creating a winning product and then ways of letting people know about said product.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I was missing a critical part of the customer journey: inbound sales. And for some reason, no one is talking about it.
If marketing is the equivalent of the fishing line, inbound sales is the reel. They have to work in tandem to bring in the prize.
So, when your marketing is working, inbound sales can take the lead. It’s the lifeblood of any business, yet so few chart out their inbound sales process. I certainly didn’t. As embarrassing as it is to admit now, I thought marketing and sales were largely interchangeable.
But what makes an effective sales process after your marketing has “done its job”? Simplicity, connection, and intention — and it all starts with the right message.
Messaging is the bridge connecting your business with your prospective consumers. In today’s digital marketplace, sending out blanket messages just won’t cut it. You need authenticity and resonance, not sheer volume. Yet, with the inundation of information, standing out requires a special touch.
Personalized messages are a testament to the company’s level of care and dedication to its consumers. They’re a reflection of an invested business that’s willing to take the extra step to foster a bond. Such messages show a client they aren’t just another name in a database but (on some level) a valued individual.
By understanding your audience’s needs and segmenting based on behaviors and purchase history, a deeper connection emerges. Your messages hold even more weight when you can anticipate their needs or curiosities. But it doesn’t end there:
- Use this strategy with storytelling. Share anecdotes that clients can relate to that evoke emotion and mirror their own experiences.
- Illustrate scenarios where your services or products transformed challenges into victories.
- Showcase testimonials that provide real-life examples of the efficacy of your offerings. This level of storytelling serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it acts as a testament to your brand’s credibility. Secondly, it humanizes your business, making it more than a faceless entity.
The goal here is to craft and communicate relatable and aspirational narratives. Encourage dialogue, foster trust, and ensure that potential customers see a journey — one where the road to their goals has your brand as a guide, leading the way.
One way that I did this was by targeting visitors based on the page they were reading. If the page was about a certain feature, I would present them with an email opt-in form related to what they were reading about. They were then placed into the sales messaging (via emails and prompts) specific to their needs. The result was that the customers felt our business understood them, which built trust.
When done right, messaging is a powerful tool in your arsenal, ready to attract, engage, and convert. Without consistent and relatable messaging, you’ll struggle to achieve meaningful growth.
Zoom calls offer more than just face-to-face interactions — they provide a holistic, sensory experience that bridges the virtual gap that we just discussed. Through Zoom (or similar platforms), you can bring a level of intimacy and direct engagement that’s hard to achieve through emails or messages.
Before hopping onto a call, share an agenda or key discussion points. This preparation sets the stage and shows you value the other person’s time. It sets expectations, streamlines the conversation, and ensures it is meaningful and productive.
If you sell a product, consider offering virtual “walkthroughs” where you use video calls to guide customers through your solutions in real time.
Step-by-step demonstrations can simplify complex procedures, offer clarity, and ensure that the person feels supported before they even become a paying customer. These initiatives convey dedication, readiness, and hands-on assistance, giving the customer confidence in the solution and your brand.
I currently use Zoom calls for my coaching, where I deliver an hour-long one-on-one coaching call. It’s not a sales call, but I get to know the individual and their needs. We laugh and brainstorm, they share their screen, and they walk away with actual value. This builds trust. I’m happy to do this, even if they don’t become a client, because that is how you start to leverage positive word of mouth.
Don’t Just Treat It as a One-Way Street
Another way to build trust is to encourage screen-sharing — not just from your end but also from the client’s side. This mutual exchange allows for a more dynamic conversation. By allowing them to share, discuss, and even troubleshoot in real time, you’re not only making the process more interactive but also demonstrating trust. This fosters a sense of trust and mutual respect, promotes active collaboration, and facilitates effective problem-solving.
When used strategically, Zoom calls can be a formidable tool in the sales process. They can convert potential leads into long-term partnerships by bringing a sense of tangibility and personal touch to the digital realm.
For many years, webinars have stood out as the ultimate tool of interactive knowledge-sharing. Done right, they’re not just presentations but immersive sessions that can foster community.
Regularly scheduled webinars convey a commitment to continuous learning. Occasionally inviting industry experts or influencers to co-host allows you to diversify content and potentially tap into their audience pool. However, the engagement shouldn’t cease post-webinar.
Consider sending recap emails, perhaps even with short, bite-sized video snippets highlighting key takeaways. This reinforces the content and provides those who missed out with another touchpoint.
Another dimension to explore is hosting workshop-style webinars. These involve participants more directly, perhaps through brainstorming sessions or collaborative projects. Such engagement ensures your brand remains top-of-mind, associating it with proactive learning and growth.
I used webinars quite extensively when running my software company. Topics would range from “how-to” to Q&A sessions. The biggest impact was not the webinar itself (though it was always well received); it was the opportunity to share it on social media and through emails. It demonstrated our commitment to the community of customers.
Sales is about intuition and timing. Recognizing and acting upon that perfect moment when a potential lead evolves into a ready customer can mean the difference between a successful sale and a missed opportunity. But how do you navigate this transition without appearing overly eager or pushy?
First, understand that every customer is on a journey. From the moment they interact with your brand — whether it’s stumbling upon your website, receiving a recommendation, or engaging with your content — they’re collecting information, forming opinions, and inching closer to making a decision. Your job is to guide them along this journey, providing insights, addressing concerns, and building trust along the way.
Active listening is an effective method to ensure you’re not jumping the gun. By truly listening to the customer’s needs, wants, and concerns, you’ll better discern the appropriate time to propose the sale. If they’re voicing uncertainties, address them. If they’re asking about specific benefits or showing interest in particular features, tailor your pitch to emphasize those elements.
I had my sales reps do this whenever they were fielding pre-sales questions. They would answer all the questions but never finish their message without nudging the individual for the sale (assuming, of course, we felt they could benefit from our product). Including a small link to purchase to decrease the work on the potential customer’s part is a nice touch to help drive conversions from the conversations.
Next, the language you use can make a world of difference. Phrases like “Would you like to move forward?” or “How does this solution sound to you?” are non-confrontational and leave the door open for discussion. They’re invitational rather than forceful, suggesting a collaborative decision-making process.
Active listening is not always in person. When I first launched my software company, I worked in sales & support. I would talk (email) with customers about their needs often. I secured the sale by being thorough and addressing any questions or concerns. So, in the online world, active listening can also be interpreted as “reading to understand”.
When it comes to inbound sales, always emphasize benefits over features. Be it in automated emails or personal conversations prospective customers have with your sales team.
While features are tangible and can be easily listed, benefits evoke emotion. They tell the story of how a product or service can positively impact a customer’s life, work, or business. By painting a vivid picture of this transformation, you’re not just selling an item or service — you’re offering a solution, an experience, or a pathway to betterment.
Asking for the sale, especially in inbound processes, is a dance. It requires finesse, understanding, and an empathetic touch. Be attuned to your customers, address their needs, and present the sale as a mutually beneficial step forward.
The terrain of inbound sales, marked by genuine relationships and individualized solutions, is where the future growth of your business lies. With these strategies in your arsenal, you’re positioned to not only elevate sales but also create enduring connections.