Inbound marketing software powerhouse HubSpot just released it's 2016 State of Inbound report and the findings offer valuable guidance for B2B sellers. HubSpot surveyed over 4,500 respondents from all over the world to paint a picture of how modern buyers and sellers are interacting. I highly recommend downloading the full report, but this blog post will detail 4 powerful statistics that will help you improve your inbound marketing and sales strategy and sell more.
1. Sales is still not aligned with the C-Suite's communication preferences
HubSpot asked C-Suite executives how they preferred to communicate for business purposes. Here are the top 3 responses from the C-Suite:
Face to Face 66%
HubSpot then asked sellers "What has been the most successful channel for your sales representatives to connect with a prospect?" The responses were different than how the C-Suite preferred to communicate.
There are a few possible interpretations of this data, but what's not up for interpretation is that sellers aren't communicating effectively with buyers. While old-fashioned dialing for dollars may occasionally produce an effective sales conversation, you're most likely either annoying potential buyers or being ignored. In the modern sales paradigm, telephone communications (or increasingly videoconferencing meetings like Skype) are more appropriate once a purpose for the conversation has been established.
In an inbound sales methodology, a phone call is appropriate to follow up with a prospect after they've indicated an interest in your solution by downloading content, registering for a webinar or accessing appropriate pages on your website. A phone outreach should be something soft like, "I'm calling to see if there was something specific you wanted to learn about subject x or if you just wanted to get some background information." If the prospect wants more information, they will let you know by telling you in the call or responding to your voicemail. What they don't like are manipulative tactics that aren't designed to further their interests.
Another observation about this statistic is that the C-Suite overwhelmingly prefers email communications. As with phone conversations, email outreach should be designed to help and educate, not sell. A helpful approach to your email prospecting will lead to more face-to-face or phone/Skype conversations with your C-Suite buyers.
Your C-Suite buyers get tons of email outreaches. Try these tactics to get better responses to your email prospecting.
- Write compelling subject lines to get your emails read. Your subject lines should be short and to the point. You have 5 or 6 words to convince the buyer to read your email. Make it about them and show them you're sharing helpful information on one of their pain points. If you don't, your email will be delete before it's even read.
- Keep your emails short and sweet. Keep your emails under 200 words - about what would fit on the screen of a smartphone. C-Suite buyers don't have time to read long emails.
- Include a call-to-action in your email. The call-to-action shouldn't always be a meeting! If you touch on a pain point in 200 words, ask the reader to click through to a blog post that addresses the topic in more detail. You don't always have to swing for the fences. Establishing trusted advisor status is an important part of B2B sales.
- Measure the effectiveness of your emails and optimize your approach. Use business email software like HubSpot Sales to track open and click rates to get feedback on what's working and what isn't.
2. B2B sellers are making content marketing a staff responsibility
One of the interesting findings of the report for me was the increasing tendency for organizations to use internal staff to create content like blog posts and eBooks. In the 2016 State of Inbound Report. When asked, "Who produces your content?", 71% responded that their staff did, up from 41% in 2015.
This conforms with what I see with my customers - content creation is increasingly becoming a job responsibility for consultants and operational people in selling organizations. On one hand, this approach has an advantage - no one knows more about the subject matter or the common questions that customers have than the people on the front line. On the other hand, not all operational people are great writers or understand how to create content that will be read on the web.
The role that our inbound marketing firm is increasingly playing with our customers is that of an editor, taking the raw content operational people produce and editing and formatting it to optimize content marketing results. Whether it's an outsourced function or performed internally, it's very important to assign editorial responsibility to an individual who assumes overall responsibility for content marketing. Here are some tips for content marketing editors.
- Understand the role keywords play in content marketing and format your content accordingly. Keywords are the phrases your buyers use when they talk about your industry or the problems you solve. Use them naturally in your content to help Google point the right people to your content.
- Titles play an important role in content marketing. The title of your content is what convinces your audience to take the next step and go deeper. This blog post from HubSpot shares some great tactical advice on how to write compelling titles for your content.
- Structure your content visually to reflect how people read content on the web. Web buyers scan content looking for snippets of information that reflects the intent of their searches. If they see a snippet of information that meets their needs, then they will go back and read the entire piece of content. Structure your content to be scanned - use bulleted lists, images, charts and headers to break up your content into bite-size pieces of information.
- Analyze content performance to optimize results. Figure out what subjects and what content formats your audience prefers. Analyze data to see which content is getting the most views and which are generating the most leads.
- Speaking of leads, make sure to include lead generation opportunities in your content. With the advent of free lead generation software like LeadIn, you don't need expensive marketing automation software to generate leads. Here's a graphical depiction of the lead generation process.
3. Sales and marketing don't agree on which leads are best
There's a disconnect between sales and marketing on where the good leads are coming from. When marketers were asked which sources produced the best leads for the sales team, here's what they had to say.
Inbound leads 59%
Sales generated leads 24%
Outbound leads 17%
Not surprisingly, sales professionals saw things a little bit differently. When asked which were the top sources of leads for their organizations, sales people responded thusly.
Sales generated leads 38%
Leads from marketing 17%
This discrepancy is one of perception, not one based on objective information. With that said, here's my take on things.
First of all, referrals are almost invariably the best leads. They originate from a trusted friend or colleague of the potential buyers - quite often one of your customers. That's a huge jumpstart on developing a relationship based on trust. For my money, I will take a referral lead over any other source any day of the week. The best thing you can do to encourage referrals is to give an exceptional experience to your customers. Going the extra mile will pay off in the long run.
But we know that today's B2B buyers are doing their buying research with search engine queries and visits to seller's websites. These are by definition inbound leads. Inbound leads require a different sales approach than sales generated leads.
- Inbound leads are generally further along in their buying process than outbound leads. They have likely begun educating themselves on how to solve a problem and may be in an active buying process. An inbound sales process educates and challenges buyers rather than "sells" them.
- You should have a good deal of intelligence on inbound leads. If you're using inbound marketing software like HubSpot, you know what blog posts your lead has read, which pages they have visited, which emails they have opened and what premium content they've accessed. You can also learn a lot about your leads by visiting their websites and viewing their LinkedIn profiles.
If you're practicing inbound marketing, you must adopt an inbound sales process. I highly recommend this free course on inbound selling from HubSpot. If sales professionals start using these inbound sales tactics, they just might change their view on which are the best sales leads.
4. 40% of businesses still aren't using a CRM in their sales processes!
This fact is truly mind-boggling to me. When asked, "What tool or system does your organization use to store its lead and customer data?", 45% of respondents said they used a CRM. Fully 40% answered, "Informal means such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook."
With free CRM software like the HubSpot CRM available, there is just no reason not to be taking advantage of sales technology to drive a modern sales process. The HubSpot CRM combined with free LeadIn marketing software offers a free sales and marketing technology solution that will definitely improve your sales results.
Rapidan Inbound is offering affordable outsourced sales and marketing packages using the HubSpot's CRM and LeadIn tools. Schedule a consultation with us if you'd like to see how you can implement modern sales technology at your company.
I highly recommend you download the full 2016 State of Inbound Report for a full picture of the modern sales and marketing process. We've concentrated on a small portion of the findings to illustrate how you can quickly improve your inbound sales and marketing strategy. If you want to learn how to improve your inbound marketing strategy, schedule a free consultation with us.