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Lucas HamonJun 24, 2016 3:43:08 PM8 min read

4 Reasons Why You Stumble When Selling to Inbound Leads

4 Reasons Why You Stumble When Selling to Inbound Leads

You have leads coming in through inbound marketing - Now what?

I hate call quotas. I think they are 2-dimensional, don't apply in today's digital world, and signal obliviousness to what the internet is doing to the way people want to communicate and do business.

That's why, even before starting my agency, when I was still selling services in a b2b environment for my employers (at the chagrin of management), I would step away into my inbound world, spending hours and days scoping and connecting with prospects on my own. 

Despite the perception of those who didn't understand social selling, thinking it was distracting me from "important" quotas, like making 75 calls a day, I continued exploring and making valuable connections. I didn't care what my bosses thought, because I knew that if I delivered the revenue, they'd have to accept me anyway.

And I always made progress, finding prospects that none of our purchased lists had, and connecting with decision-makers that were impossible to navigate to with traditional gatekeepers in the way... actually finding the appropriate people, and creating real business opportunities.

Then management would step in and ruin everything

Treat them differently, please.

This article was prompted after reading this great post by Pamela Vaughan, Principle Marketing Manager at Hubspot, "5 Reasons Not to Give Inbound Leads to an Outbound Sales Team," which I think made some very good points about how to structure the sales process when using inbound as a source for lead generation.

At some point, it may make sense for you to hire a separate salesperson to handle all of your inbound prospects, but it depends on how much of that you're experiencing. As the article mentions, you can give these duties to outbound sales reps, but they must understand that they can't be handled the same way as cold leads, which are really nothing more than names, numbers, and titles.

Leads from inbound are a lot more informed, and we tend to know a lot more about them, so let me outline 4 big reasons why they should be treated differently.

1. The cold-pitch has been done to death

After 10 years of b2b and another 5 or so years of b2c sales, I found myself living a double life.

I spent most of that time cold-calling and fine-tuning a single, modular elevator pitch - one that we'd beat to death during our sales meetings with role-play session after role-play session - one that I would regurgitate to prospect after prospect, voicemail after voicemail... and a seemingly never-ending abyss of hang-ups and curse-words.

It was exhausting, and I'm sure your salespeople can relate. I have seen countless seasoned sales veterans crash and burn after decades of success - folks who were once at the top of their class - number 1 across the board (call quotas, qualified leads, and closed deals) - but were no longer relevant, because nobody likes to be cold-called, and the world found a way to get by without it.

With inbound, you don't need to cold pitch anyway. The prospect will know who you are, because they found you, even though they may not have requested a call or called you directly.

Remember, they gave you their contact information. They gave you permission to market to them, so instead of pitching, try exploring.

Ask them:

  • Why did you want to talk?
  • Why did you download XXXX?
  • What did you think of it? What appeals to you? Is there anything you disagree with?
  • What is the crux of the problem you're trying to solve?
  • What other resolutions are you reviewing?
  • Have you seen XXXX (content offer)? I think it could help answer some of these questions...

No pitch. No information slam. Just questions and exploratory guidance.

2. They're being proactive

Consumers found a better way to find answers to their problems than waiting for their phone to ring with your rep on the other end of it...

They're Googling everything. You. Your company. Your sales reps in contact with them. Your competitors. The services you offer.

More importantly, they're Googling their ailments, looking for everything ranging from prognosis to solutions - when they don't even know yet that your company exists.

It's your inbound marketing that brings them to you through, say, optimized blog posts (more HERE) shared on social media or found through simple Google search queries. With inbound, your blog posts are about discovery, not advertising, so you're helping visitors diagnose their problems as they get to know you.

Your content offers prompt them to give you their contact information, and your email nurturing helps find the right time to speak. And sometimes they reach out to you first. The key here is that they found you.

With inbound, there is NO NEED to guess about why they are there, because they told you by the pages they visited, the posts they read, and the content they downloaded.

This gives you a great opportunity to ask about their specific pain points, not just rattle off problems they might be experiencing based on the check boxes from a script.

Have you ever called a company, dialed all of your contact information into their automated system, only to have the person who finally picks up ask you ALL of the questions you already answered? Yeah - it's irritating, isn't it?

The same goes here! Show your prospects that you're in tune with their needs by not making them explain every inch of their problem to you when they've already given you the basics by their behaviors.

3. They want personalized communication

Back in the day, the norm was to use a cookie-cutter approach that could be used in any sales setting as long as the proper company name and pain points were being used. And that's all I would have in front of me when I was "dialin' for dollars," because you can't mess that up and recover. You just can't. But you can bullshit when you cold-call until hit a vein. That is the art of it all... 

I know I say this a lot, but that was a world I hated... one that punched at my soul and left me feeling like an imposition, a disruptor, and a general nuisance to the universe I lived in. Yeah, I made money, but I hated the way I felt 95% of the time when nobody was listening. And I certainly used to hated being cold called (still do, but used to too), so I had a hard time reconciling with myself.

This is why I retreated to LinkedIn and various chat rooms, and how the conversations I sparked felt so relevant to my prospects... because they were relevant.

Your inbound leads should already be used to feeling special - like your company knows them personally. This is because you blog constantly, so there's an article that just about every one of your customers can relate to. It's probably what drives most of your inbound leads!

Maybe you use software like Hubspot (more HERE), and have smart features turned on that show visitors different content and images based on their past interactions on your site, where in the world they are located, or how far down the buyer's journey they have traveled.

Your emails probably have personalization tokens engaged, so your company can refer to readers by their name or the content they downloaded in the past.

When your inbound prospect requests a call, or your rep reaches out on their own, they should be ready to provide the same custom experience your lead has been having since first coming across your website or blog post.

So, give it to them!

3. They shop at their own pace

This is where many fail. This is the sales valley of death to end all sales valleys of death... when we're selling to inbound leads, who discovered their problems and your company at their own pace (some fast, some slow, some in between), and they are forced into your sales reps' timelines to close, out of their own.

I get it. You have a business to run, and you need a steady flow of customers to continue thriving and growing. But you have to understand that your inbound folks are there because you gave them the respect to find you on their own terms, so you must respect them to get through the sales process at a pace that fits their world.

I'm not saying you shouldn't apply the heat when it needs to be applied, but we all know that timing is EVERYTHING, and they may kick the tires for 6 months before they are ready to engage, because their circumstances dictate it. 

Unlike outbound, when we make contact, and they're not ready to buy, we can keep them warm with email nurturing. We can send them more content, and keep watching for buying signals before reaching out to them again.


The big mistakes came from senior managers thinking that we should treat our networked, social media/inbound leads the same way as those found on our purchased lists... forcing outbound, high-pressure agendas that paid little to no respect to how they became leads to begin with.

Today, as an inbound marketing sales enablement specialist, I see this same mindset everywhere, which is causing management to sabotage their sales people working with leads generated through the inbound marketing methodology.

But they are different. VERY different. And they should be treated that way.

Are you thinking about turning the inbound sales process on, but would like to know more about inbound marketing and whether it's a viable option for increasing sales? Check out our Sales Enablement Services:

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Lucas Hamon

Over 10 years of B2B sales experience in staffing, software, consulting, & tax advisory. Today, as CEO, Lucas obsesses over inbound, helping businesses grow! Husband. Father. Beachgoer. Wearer of plunging v-necks.