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Inbound vs. Outbound Sales: The Steps to Acquire Customers Consistently

sales process steps

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If you’re looking to learn the sales process steps for inbound and outbound sales, you’re in the right place. Here’ll we’ll discussing the similarities and differences.

The internet has shifted how businesses do sales. Previously, outbound sales was the primary method for many businesses to acquire leads, and convert prospects into buyers. When you talk to the baby boomers and generations before them, they’ll tell you about salesmen who went door-to-door because this was a more widespread means for meeting potential customers and getting sales, but the internet has given more alternatives that change the traditional sales cycles.

sales process stepsInbound Sales Process

With the growth of the internet as a machine for commerce, more and more people look for solutions to their problems online. Rather than getting in their cars, going to the store or library to learn about how to solve a problem, many people simply grab a computer or phone and use Google to answer their questions.

As a result, sales process steps are changing as well, and inbound sales has become a more widespread concept than it was before the internet.  Now, the buyer is empowered, and businesses that are not tailoring their sales process steps to the new buyer’s journey are shutting down.

The Entrepreneurs’s Process

Inbound sales is the process of converting a prospect into a buyer when they initiate the contact. Nowadays, with the internet, buyers are initiating the search for solutions. Rather than the salesman bringing the solution, they’re surfing the web to find it. With inbound sales, you’re responding to customers who are looking for a solution, but are shopping to find which is the best for them. The inbound sales model typically requires you to put content out so people can engage with the content, and come in to learn more about your company, product, and services.

Identify

First, you have to identify your target audience: demographics and psychographics.  You want to understand their frustrations, pain points, needs, and wants.  Then, you can tailor your messages more and more as you engage with the same target audience over time.  In the beginning, you identify your target audience and do the necessary research to empathize with them and build content that provides solutions to them.

sales process stepsConnect and Build Rapport

Connecting can occur thru paid advertising, social media marketing, SEO, or otherwise.  Then, you go further to build rapport by allowing people to subscribe, continuing to deliver content, and getting to know your customers better by tracking open rates, conversion rates, “thank you” notes, etc.

Unfortunately, when you’re first starting out, all of these processes may seem slow.  You have to experiment for awhile to see which process will give you the most traction and results.  The goal of the connection is to engage with the buyer to help them decide whether to prioritize the need or not.

Explore

For the prospects who have decided to prioritize the need, you want to explore their goals and challenges to decide whether your offer is a good fit for them.  This can be done by phone or face to face, but nowadays, more businesses are using email marketing and other technology to help automate the exploration process.  If you’ve explored the need and you see it’s a good fit, then the qualified lead becomes an opportunity.

Advise

Think about the doctor’s visit.  When you don’t feel well, you:

1. Find a doctor that specializes in your problem: Family doctor, pediatrician, Chiropractor, etc. (Identify)

2. Schedule a doctor’s appointment (Connect)

3. The doctor will ask you questions like “what’s going on?”, “what are your symptoms?” (Explore)

4. Once he’s asked enough questions to pinpoint a potential diagnosis and solution, he prescribes it to you (Advise)

5. He writes the prescription and you pick it up (Close)

Many people appreciate and trust the general process of scheduling a doctor’s appointment and exploring solutions.  You want your inbound sales process to be a trusted process similar to the doctor’s appointment.

The Buyer’s Journey

sales process steps

(Source: SMBAdvisors)

From the buyer’s perspective, the inbound sales process looks like this…

Awareness

The customer has a goal they want to achieve in life (maybe starting a business, growing a business, transitioning from a job, etc.), and they find a potential solution (you) to help them move forward towards their goal.  They engage with your content and start building trust with you.

Consideration

They begin considering the solutions you’re offering, comparison shopping, trying to rule out that your competitors are a better option.  In this stage providing sufficient education material helps make a conclusive decision.

Decision

The customer decides that making the purchase is the best option to help them meet their goals.

Outbound Sales Process

In comparison to inbound sales, outbound sales is when you go out and find prospects, and bring them into your sales funnel.

(Source: Sellscope)

As I said earlier, inbound sales is more voluntary on the part of the customer, but outbound sales is where you initiate contact. If you put in work and make the contacts, you’ll get results.

Prior to the internet, outbound sales was the prominent sales process.  Today, many businesses have converted from outbound sales over to inbound sales, however, having a mix of the two is also a sweet spot many businesses find.

Prospect

Whether inbound sales or outbound sales, the first step is to identify prospects.  In the outbound sales model, you’d prospect by:

  • Attending networking events and taking names and numbers
  • Finding email addresses or social media accounts of ideal customers
  • Using phone or email directories
  • Engaging in forums or groups
  • and, being friendly everywhere you go

Initiate Contact

After identifying prospects, you want to email or call to make contact with the person.  The first contact is simply to ask permission to engage further in most instances.  The goal of the first contact could be to…

  • Schedule an appointment
  • Send over information
  • Book a webinar or seminar attendee

sales process stepsQualify

As a result of the contact, there will be a follow-up contact.  During the next contact, you want to see if the product or service could be a solution for the customer.  Sometimes qualifying the customer includes questions about budget, schedule, needs, wants, requirements, and other things that would give the clue that your product or service would be a good fit for the customer.

 

Present Offer

Once you think your product or solution could be a good fit for the customer, you want to present an offer.  This could be a quote, proposal, or simply “For $_____, I can offer________”.

Overcome Objections

It’s common that when you present the offer, the customer may have reservations.

For example, with a vehicle salesman, the objections may be related to the features of the vehicle, the warranty, the mileage, etc.  For a doctor, the objections may be the length of time before the ailment is gone, the patient may not like taking pills, or the patient could have religious beliefs that impact their medical care.

In most sales scenarios, there are going to be objections.  As the salesperson, you have to be prepared to overcome objections, to remind the customer of their goals and how the solution solves their problem, and to answer additional questions the customer may have.

sales process stepsClose Sale

Taking payment information, ensuring the shopping cart is operational, and creating smooth processes for customers to pay and money to be exchanged is all a part of closing the sale.

Generate Referrals

Satisfied customers are the best advocates!  Once the sale is closed, you should ask if the customer knows others who might be interested in your product or service.

Integrating Inbound and Outbound Sales

To operate your lead generation system optimally, you may want to combine inbound sales techniques with outbound sales techniques to get more traction in your business.  Due to the growing use of the internet, inbound sales is a huge focus point because it drives the majority leads in most businesses.

With this in mind, many businesses who incorporate outbound sales stick out much more because very few people are making the one-on-one outreach connections that are acquired thru meeting face-to-face, coordinating one-on-one, or addressing custom concerns thru conversation.  In addition to inbound sales techniques like:

  • Direct mail
  • Content marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Paid Advertising

sales process stepsYou may also want to integrate outbound sales techniques like:

  • Cold emailing
  • Cold calling
  • Forum Engagement
  • Live Event Attendance
  • Mastermind Networking
  • or, others…

Organization Structure

Most bootstrappers start out with one person: the entrepreneur.  When it’s one person, you have to juggle attracting, converting, and closing.  Your daily to-do list may include some inbound sales and outbound sales along with client fulfillment.

When the money starts rolling in, you can consider a structure more like what Hubspot recommends:

sales process steps

The people hired for “attraction” can use inbound sales techniques, and those that convert and close use a traditional sales model.  Alternatively, you can use a Sales Team Structure like Close.io recommends.

The Island

The Island is where the Entrepreneur is the direct supervisor of several salespeople who are in charge of the complete sales process.  The Island is used by real estate agencies and many others who mostly abdicate the sales process.  They provide initial instruction and let each rep take off and get as much sales as they can.

sales process stepsThe Assembly Line

The assembly line splits the sales process into specialties: outbound sales, inbound sales, closers, and customer success.  With the assembly line, you’d have sales reps attending events, cold emailing, cold calling, connecting with leads on social media, and making face-to-face contact.  You’d also have reps doing advertising, content marketing, social media marketing, PR, scheduling guest posts and interviews, etc.

The leads that are attracted would be turned over to the conversion reps who could include the email marketing specialist, the webinar specialist, and the phone appointment specialist.

After the attraction and conversion, the final reps would close the deal: handle objections and take payment.

The Pod

The Pod would split the sales organization into several assembly lines: each competing against one another.

Choose the Structure that Works for You

Regardless of your entrepreneurial situation, sales is important.  No sales = no business.  Any of the organizational structures can work, but it’s dependant on which you feel is best for your business.

Final Words on Sales Process Steps

The goal of this article was to show sales process steps that can take the ceiling off of your sales and income. When you combine inbound techniques with outbound techniques, it gives you so much power!  Your business is no longer reliant on search engine algorithms or social media shares to get sales.

If you want to start or grow a business. check out my free e-course. It’s a framework to grow a business: from idea to full-time income, and from full-time income to enterprise. Check out my free e-course here.

If you have questions or concerns about this, don’t hesistate to leave them in the comments section.  I’d love to help you out!

Now, it’s Your Turn…

What are your sales process steps?  Do you do inbound and outbound sales techniques?  Why or why not?  How would you advise someone whose concerned about whether or not their sales process steps are working?

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