Obtaining a ton of qualified inbound leads can be a blessing for your sales team – provided they are enabled and opportunistic enough to take advantage of them.
Sales leaders serve as the generals and field commanders. Marketing provides the heavy artillery and air cover. Sales are the infantry looking to capture valuable turf. Each plays a critical role in the success of the overall mission.
In this follow-up to our Organic B2B Inbound Marketing Playbook, I teamed up with Outbound View owner Blake Johnston to break down the best practices for coordinating marketing and sales to convert your sales qualified leads to warm opportunities (and eventually deals).
Hire, Organize and Segment Your B2B Sales Team
You can’t storm beaches without people. And in this day and age of cutthroat competition, the War for Talent, and fast-evolving B2B sales and marketing environments, you need the best B2B sales and marketing professionals serving on your behalf.
Hiring for Your B2B Sales Team
Finding the right people on your team to handle inbound leads is critical, regardless of whether it be your outside sales team, inside sales team, sales engineers, or some hybrid role.
The best place to start looking for new hires? Your current top performers. A-players want to work with other A-players. Ask for recommendations for good new fits in each of your roles.
Organizing Your B2B Sales Team
Create a system of responsibility and accountability for owning inbound leads.
Decide whether you are going to delegate leads round-robin, by geography, by company size, by industry, or by some other data point.
Pro-Tip: Let your most qualified people handle dead-to-rights, highly qualified inbound leads, instead of handing them to new hires or less proven inside sales team members. The more complex the solution, the more your experienced people need to be handling these calls.
Segmenting Your B2B Sales Team
Sales Hacker has excellent resources for segmenting your sales team. Jacco van der Kooj’s sales organization and segmentation model being a great starting point.
Pro-Tip: Do not over-segment your sales team. Too many startups try to over-engineer this process. If you aren’t getting a lot of inbound leads, simplify the process and make it easier.
Define Your Standard Operating Process
Create a detailed standard operating procedure so reps know how and when to respond, when to qualify as an opportunity, and when/if to hand off to Account Executives.
Defining terms of engagement for inbound leads means denoting when, how, and where a rep should respond to an inbound lead.
Technology provides multiple potential channels for response:
- Website chat
- Social Media
Ideally, most if not all of these channels will be used to engage an inbound prospect. Moreover, multiple team members will engage the prospect.
For example, let’s say that a prospect inbounds via webform. Here are potential engagements your team can make.
- Marketing shoots an automated follow-up email with more information about the product.
- Sales Development Rep follows up with a manual email to set time for a demo.
- Sales Development Rep connects with the prospect on LinkedIn.
- Sales Development Rep reaches out by phone (if phone number is available).
- Sales Development Rep scouts mutual connections on LinkedIn for potential referrals.
Tools like Outreach offer great ways to craft templated emails you can quickly customize and fire off when a fresh lead inbounds.
Maintaining strict qualification standards assures that your reps’ time is not wasted talking to low-quality inbound leads. When a lead inbounds, it’s important to collect as much as insight as possible about the prospect so your reps can start pre-qualifying them immediately.
There are multiple ways to take command of the lead qualification process. A great tool to help you on this front is Drift, a conversational marketing platform that is built for SDRs and provides both the response speed and data insights that reps need to hold effective conversations that move prospects down the sales funnel.
Whether it’s by form, by conversation, or both, it’s important to start qualifying inbound prospects rigorously and early. Creating inbound SDRs (or MDRs, in some circles) who specialize in rapid inbound lead response and qualification are a great way to segment your sales team accordingly.
Once a lead has been qualified, it’s important to create guidelines for handing off the prospect to the proper Account Executive. A popular approach is to have an SDR handle the initial follow-up call or email, pre-qualify the prospect, information gather, and set a time for an introductory demo with the proper Account Executive.
The POD structure popularized by Jacco van der Kooj and executed to perfection by companies such as Outreach is a great organizational setup for smooth, consistent handoffs. However you structure them, you should map out clear instructions for your SDRs and AEs in a shared, comprehensive document and provide clear guidance and training for new reps during onboarding.
Create Instant Buyer Insights
Effective follow-up to a qualified inbound lead starts with a behavioral and demographic data map – an instant snapshot of who the prospect is, how well they match the ideal client profile, and why they inbounded.
Here’s the key thing to know: the more comprehensive and accessible your buyer insights, the better your engagement, qualification, and handoffs.
To do so, we advise creating a checklist of everything you need to know about a prospect before reaching back out. Speed is critical, but being prepared is as critical.
Here are the three types of data insights valuable to your inbound lead conversion process.
Contact data is the foundation upon which all your buyer insights rely. The more points of access you have to a prospect (or an account), the more likely you are to hold a conversation, stay top of mind, and win battles versus competitors. Contact data can include:
- Email Address
- Office Address
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn Profile URL
- Twitter Profile URL
- Facebook Profile URL
The point about contact data is that you should engage your buyer where they prefer to chat. Some may be inclined towards email. Others may insist on phone conversations. Others may be most responsive to LinkedIn messages. A solid inbound program will equip sales reps with the ability to quickly reach out to buyers via these various communication channels at a moment’s notice.
Demographic data is a critical insight about both the person and the account inbounding to you. Personal demographic data points of note may include:
- Job Title
- Job Level
- Shared LinkedIn Connections
Account-level data points may include:
- Company HQ City
- Company HQ State
- Company Size
- Technology Used
- Funding Raised
- Recent New Hires
- Department Budget
- Competitor(s) Used
These are just some of the data points that could be relevant to your buyer qualification and their decision-making process.
The idea is to key in on the specific ones indicative of good fit for your product or service and helpful to your sales reps during their crucial initial conversations with the prospects.
Behavioral data attests to the main points-of-interest that drove the buyer to inbound.
Perhaps he or she:
- Read numerous blog posts covering a specific pain point.
- Downloaded a white paper discussing a key value proposition you offer.
- Googled a specific search term leading to your website.
- Checked out reviews from similarly-situated clients in the same role and industry.
These would all be relevant behavioral data points for your reps to have at their disposal during their initial conversation with the prospect. Using these insights, a rep could start purposefully guiding the conversation to a positive outcome, drill deeper into certain pain points, or reference social proof that would resonate strongly with the buyer.
Knowledge is power. And the beauty of modern inbound marketing is that both sides – buyers and reps alike – have more information about each other to hold meaningful conversations that efficiently move deals through the sales cycle.
Arm Reps with Content
Warm inbound leads can invariably be further nurtured with great content.
It’s important to remember that – with more decision makers than ever participating in B2B deals – content can be the great equalizer that replaces additional conversations a rep might need to have that would slow down the sales cycle and open the door for competitors and other intervening obstacles to emerge.
To that end, we advise creating a content hub that gives reps instant access to relevant case studies, videos, and other collateral to send to the prospect.
The most critical component of having a useful content library is making content easy for reps to access. If reps can’t reach it in 30 seconds or less, it may as well not exist.
To help support your inside sales team, we advise investing in a content management solution early in building your inbound sales team. At Ambition, Jeremy switched from a massive, unwieldy Google Sheet to Guru with great results – especially since his sales team lived in Slack and Salesforce. Airtable is another great option that offers seamless access to your content library.
Organizing your content library for rapid consumption goes hand-in-hand with making it accessible.
We broke down Guru into multiple sections for case studies, videos, product visuals, blog posts, reviews, press, and so forth. We also tagged individual pieces of content with references to industry, use case, role, and so forth so that reps could quickly find direct matches that fit their buyers’ situations.
This saves a ton of time for reps (and for marketing managers besieged with requests to source relevant content for a particular opportunity).
In addition to individual pieces of content, other sales-relevant content such as follow-up email templates, social post templates, battlecards, and so forth make for critical additions to any inbound content library.
It’s also helpful to create “Cliff’s notes” bullet-pointing the key takeaways, ROI stats, and such from each piece of content, so reps can get to know them without having to dig into the piece itself. A great reference point on how to do this is ClozeLoop’s Cory Bray, who is a wizard at creating knowledge bases for sales.
Create a Transparent System of Record
Once you have delineated a clear inbound sales process, it’s imperative to create a transparent system of record to show how reps are performing and assess the overall quality of your process.
The starting point for creating a transparent system of record is your Customer-Relationship Management software, or CRM.
The benefit of previously-mentioned tools like Outreach and Drift is that they auto-log activity and engagement inside your CRM. They capture every call, email, social touch, meeting, and stage update and ensure that you have 100% accurate data inside Salesforce, HubSpot, or an alternative CRM you use.
Establishing a transparent system of record starts with tracking the most pivotal metrics to your business, i.e., the ones directly tied to revenue creation.
These can include (but are not limited to) qualified inbound leads generated, calls, emails, conversations, LinkedIn messages, meetings set, meetings held, opportunities created, meeting-to-opportunity conversion rate, and so forth.
Both marketing and sales should be held accountable to metrics corresponding to inbound leads generated, worked, and converted. Key performance indicators (or KPIs) are a great way to give reps S.M.A.R.T. goals and set clear benchmarks to hit. Tools like Ambition are a great way to track sales metrics and KPIs for your sales team publically, meaningfully, and in real-time.
We also believe in adhering to former HubSpot CRO Mark Roberge’s approach to incentivizing mutual accountability, namely by creating commission structures and quotas for marketing (based on qualified inbound lead generation and eventual revenue) and shared commission plans for sales.
Your inbound lead pipeline should be measured against outbound lead pipeline to assess where dollars and time investment should be spent.
If inbound leads dramatically outperform outbound leads in terms of close rate, deal size, and sales cycle length, then it’s time to pour gasoline on the inbound marketing fire. If there is little to no difference, or, if marketing is lagging behind sales on all 3 of these metrics, then it’s time to evaluate where there’s room for improvement in your marketing funnel and how you execute inbound lead conversion.
More Resources for Enabling Your B2B Sales Team
As we stated in the beginning, this guide goes hand-in-hand with our B2B Inbound Marketing Playbook, a great read for CMOs and CROs. We also highly recommend checking out the Aligned Course on Sales Hacker University, which contains 50 presentations on aligning B2B sales and marketing for maximum impact and is keynoted by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Also published on Medium.