Inbound B2B Sales Calls: 12 Experts Share their Best Tips

Inbound B2B Sales Calls: 12 Experts Share their Best Tips

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Here’s a fact…

Inbound Sales Calls are a very different ball game from outbound calls. The good thing about inbound calls is that the leads are already warmed up. They are looking to make a purchase and they have already heard about you.

However, inbound B2B calls have their own challenges. In an outbound call you would have done a ton of research about your prospect. But in inbound calls you know nothing about the prospect:

  • How ready are they to buy?
  • Where are they in the buyer’s journey?
  • Who are the decision makers?

You have to ask intelligent questions to figure out the answers to the above.

Besides, it’s certain that they are also calling other companies like yours. How do you do your best to ensure that they buy from you rather than from your competitors?

Inbound Sales Tips from 12 Experts

To find out the best practices in inbound sales, we decided to ask a few experts – CEOs, Sales VPs, Authors – who have had extensive experience in handling inbound sales calls. They shared a number of excellent tips for cracking the inbound sales code. Here’s what they shared with us.

(All quotes have been exclusively shared with the Knowlarity Blog)

steavbenson.

Steven Benson

CEO, Badger Maps

Steve has worked in Sales/ Sales management at IBM and HP and the enterprise sales group at Google. He was Google Enterprise’s Top Sales Executive in 2009. Badger Maps is an app which helps Field Sales People be more successful.

“An inbound sales call is, in my opinion, the most difficult call types to handle. The reason for this is that the rep that is taking inbound calls must be versed in everything from the basics to the most complex questions that can come from a prospect or a customer. A rep taking inbound calls has to be willing to help a confused customer reset their password, but also has to be able to overcome objections and re-win a customer that is about to churn.

To combat this complexity and still be efficient, one of the keys to setting up your inbound team for success is the concept of triage.

Triage in a hospital emergency room is where a nurse determines who the doctors will work on first based on need and importance – come in with a head wound, you skip to the front of the line. Similarly, you can have a less experienced rep that can only handle 80% of the calls answer the phone, and ask what the question is so that they can ‘transfer the customer to the right department’. Then when the customer says what they need, that rep can step in and help them on the spot, and if the question is too advanced, they can transfer to a more senior rep.

Inbound calls like this are completely different than outbound calls. Outbound calls are all about sales – communicating what your company does, and understanding the customer to the degree that you can determine if what you do is a good fit. You are qualifying them and they are qualifying you for the next step, but it rarely gets that ‘deep.’

An inbound call, by contrast, can be deep right off the bat – and it is all about what the customer or prospect needs right then and getting them taken care of as efficiently as possible. The goal of an inbound call is not usually ‘sales’ but more ‘customer service’ or ‘customer success’. “Would you be interested?” is a very different conversation from “How can I help you?”

One key to building a successful inbound team is to train them on the many questions that come in. It may feel like an infinite number of questions when you first think about it, but have your reps that are currently answering the questions write them all down as they come in. My guess is that 80% of them are probably the same 25 questions. Train new reps well on these, and train them how to pass the call. Then build out their skills so that they can help a customer or prospect in any situation that may arise over time.

Another good tip is to make it easy for the inbound rep to bring up all the accounts information in the CRM, and have the Linkedin information for the caller available in the CRM at the rep’s fingertips – I’ve found that can help the rep connect with the caller.”

 

jason parks media captain.

Jason Parks

President, Media Captain

The Media Captain is a digital marketing agency based in Columbus, Ohio. Jason has been featured in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Inc., Yahoo News, Search Engine Watch, The Columbus Dispatch and Entrepreneur.com. Jason has assisted in launching successful digital campaigns for Fortune 100 companies to medium and small sized businesses.

“First off, it is crucial that you have someone answering the phone that is extremely knowledgeable on your business. Even though you don’t have information prepared, like an outbound call, if you can answer all questions right when the person calls in, it will improve your chances of closing. I’ve had so many people tell me that our company was the second or third digital marketing agency they called. I was able to solidify the first meeting though because of my responsiveness and knowledge of the business.

Other key tips are jotting down all of the caller’s contact information. It is also important to qualify the prospect. Make sure to ask questions pertaining to a timeline and budget so you can deliver all of the necessary information.

2. What should you not do in an inbound sales call that you might do in an outbound call?

I don’t think you need to sell yourself as hard. Just sit back and listen so you can answer the prospects questions and provide him with all of the necessary information.

I don’t like hanging up with a prospect from an inbound call without answering all of his questions. That’s the difference between inbound and outbound. Typically, on an inbound call, they’ll be prepared with questions. Make sure you can answer them and you get back to them right away.”

 

jeff kear planning pod.

Jeff Kear

Founder, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Planing Pod

Planning Pod provides Web-based event management and registration software to event professionals, businesses and nonprofits. As the head of sales, Jess takes anywhere from 5-20 inbound sales calls per day.

Here are a few key tips I have found extremely effective in introducing someone to our company and offerings.

You should first learn about the prospect, their business and how they look to use your product or service. I have found that if I first ask a few open-ended questions about their organisation and general requirements, it does two valuable things. First, it establishes a rapport with the prospect and shows that we are interested in their broader needs and goals. Second, it allows me to quickly assess what level of service they will require and how large or small their needs may be.

You should then answer the prospect’s specific questions, looking for underlying trends or objections. Someone is usually calling because they have been to our website or been referred by a colleague, and they usually have a few questions about our product.

Answering a new prospect’s questions is usually quick and simple, but what I look for is an underlying theme or what is really motivating these questions so I can address those deeper needs. A simple example would be if someone asks about our pricing and then hums-and-haws or pauses for a long moment. From this hesitation, I know there’s a deeper root cause to this so I can further drill down to respond directly to any reservations they may have about cost or how we package and price our services.

However, finding this deep pain point may not be as simple or obvious, and you have to rely on your experience talking to past customers and how those conversations led from an innocent-seeming question to an “ah-ha” moment for the prospect.

For instance, I know for a fact that one thing that makes people pause in subscribing to our platform is the effort it will take to switch over from their current system or process and the time and effort involved in that changeover. I know this because many people have asked about it upfront and plainly, and it can also be a sticking point for people who don’t end up choosing us.

So when I take an inbound sales call and I get even a whiff of them using an existing platform or if they mention having their employees and clients needing to use the system or if they ask about training or onboarding, I know almost immediately that they may have an objection regarding changing over, and I know exactly how to respond to this to allay their fears and reassure them that we have measures in place to assist with this and it isn’t as difficult as they think.

In the end, it’s your job taking the inbound sales call to qualify them and move them to the next step in the funnel while giving them the confidence that what you offer will solve their challenges.

You should always suggest a “surprise” feature or benefit. After you have learned about their needs and answered their questions, you should point out one or more features or benefits that they may not realise about your product based on their needs. I follow this up by saying that we develop our software based on anticipating our customers’ needs and are always adding new features based on our industry research and forecasts. This often extends the conversation as to what other things our software can do for them based on their other needs, and by this time they are getting interested and likely to sign up for our free trial.

What should you not do in an inbound sales call that you might do in an outbound call?
One thing that you should NEVER do in an inbound sales call is to make assumptions about the prospect. With an outbound call, you have time to research the prospect and you usually have some direction as to their basic needs, and based on this you can direct the conversation based on a few educated guesses. You should never do this with an inbound call but instead, be asking questions and listening to the prospect’s needs and challenges.

Another thing you should never do on an inbound sales call is to pepper your responses with cliches or jargon. For starters, tired cliches and industry-speak are an easy way to turn off a prospect and make yourself sound like all your competitors. In addition, the prospect may not be familiar with the industry terms or jargon you throw out, which can make them feel insignificant and that your product is too technical for them or over-their-head.

 

Dan Posner

VP -Business Development, Big Leap

Big Leap is an internet marketing company based in Lehi, UT. Dan helped to start and grow Leadgenix, a digital marketing company which merged with  Big Leap in 2015.

“1) An important thing to remember about an inbound call is that they called you! They are looking for more information about how you can help solve their pain points. Shut up and listen!

2) Don’t assume that you know their issue right away. Don’t be so quick to recommend a solution until you have helped them vocalise why they have called and what they are looking for.

3) When you have identified the pain point – identify the correct solution that actually will bring the remedy needed.

4) If you don’t have the right remedy, be honest and help them find another solution. Many headaches are avoided by not trying to shove a size 13 foot into a size 7 shoe.

What should you not do in an inbound sales call that you might do in an outbound call?

On an outbound call, you are often trying to navigate gatekeepers with short statements. You are often trying to get the person on the other line to say “yes” as many times as possible as that psychologically helps to move them down the path to saying “yes” to an appointment or call with you or a closer.

On an inbound call, you need to remember that they called you looking for more information. They called you to see if you can solve their problems. Stop trying to “sell them” or “get to yes” and listen to the actual problem. Once you have done that, then you can correctly diagnose and prescribe a solution.”

 

robert_feifer.

Robert Feifer

EVP Sales, Chargeback

Chargeback provides of SaaS based, technology driven fraud prevention and recovery. Before joining Chargeback, Robert spent the last decade leading multiple sales teams, including the SMB Gateway and Merchant Account Services, as the Head of Sales and Business Development for Authorize.net, a Visa company.

First and foremost, you have to uncover their current situation. Before an outbound call, you’ve performed research about the individual and their company. But with an inbound call, you need to ask good questions that reveal their current situation and needs—and you need to do that pretty quick. For example, questions pertaining to their current situation, company, what they do, and what they sell need to be asked. Find out what specifically prompted them to call YOU. Why did they choose to call your company? Where did they find you online? What were they looking for?

Identifying the point of differentiation could reveal priceless insights. Establishing their timeframe is absolutely key on an inbound call. When do they want the problem fixed, the solution in place, or the product purchased? Inbound sales calls can be a wildcard: it could be a decision-maker in the late stages of the sales process, or an intern performing investigatory work for a purchase still far in the future.

One tip that applies to both inbound and outbound sales calls is to always close an additional action. The goal for every contact you have with a prospect is to get them to take another step.

What should you not do in an inbound sales call that you might do in an outbound call?
In an outbound call, the goal of the sales rep is to get the prospect to see the need fulfilled by your company. An inbound caller has already identified their need—that’s why they’re calling you. The sales rep doesn’t need to be as much as an evangelist on an inbound call versus an outbound call.

On an outbound sales call, you’ll likely need to do more explaining about your company. But on inbound calls, the prospect has a general idea of what the company does and your value proposition. From the sales standpoint, you don’t need to do as much biographical storytelling.

Personally, I wouldn’t be as ‘rushed’ on an inbound call as I would be on an outbound call. When you’re on an outbound call, you’re lucky if you caught the prospect on a free moment. Which means you’re trying to schedule a real meeting to talk shop. This allows you to go into much more detail on an initial inbound call.

 

Joy Rains

Author, Meditation Illuminated

Joy delivers sales seminars with an emphasis on mindfulness as a means to sales success

“Successful salespeople are generally goal-oriented. They achieve success by directing the selling process and closing sales. Yet when a prospect calls in, it’s important for salespeople to put their goals aside, and focus on being totally present to the prospect instead.

The prospect has already offered a buying signal: calling the company. The best way to uncover the prospect’s interest is to ask questions, listen closely, and paraphrase what the prospect says. Approaching prospects in this way will help build rapport and create understanding, and people like to buy from those that understand their needs.

Sometimes it can be a challenge for salespeople to shift the focus from their goals to their prospects’ goals. Using affirmations can help, such as silently repeating the phrase, “When prospects call in, my complete focus is on understanding their needs.” Once prospects’ needs are fully understood, then salespeople can shift to a more goal-oriented attitude to see if their company can fill those needs—and ultimately, close the sale.

 

Evan Harris

Co-founder & Director of Communications, SD Equity Partners

SD Equity Partners is a San Diego based real estate finance company.

“One of the biggest differences between inbound and outbound sales is that the call handler needs to be able to pull information out of a caller if he or she is not ready to make the sale over the phone. This type of exchange does not always happen with cold calls and if you don’t get the right information before the call is over on an inbound call you may completely lose the lead.

Part of this process is to quickly realise how far along the purchasing journey the caller is. A caller ready to make a purchase does not need a lecture or “more information” on the products. Not knowing the right information to provide the caller, based on funnel location, can result in missed sales.

Always use the phrase “What can I help you with today?” within the first two sentences of an interaction. Not only will this question prompt the caller to explain why he or she is calling (standard), but it will also shed light as to where the caller found your information, how much she knows, and if they are ready to purchase.

Provide value to the caller with additional inbound materials. Especially for inbound sales, there is often some article, advertisement, or other marketing material that prompted the call. The caller may even be looking at the material as they speak to you. Providing a caller with additional information that the employee can send over as he or she is on the phone will not only provide the caller with more targeted information, it will also be an excuse for the employee to obtain information like email and product interest that will secure the lead for future interactions.”

 

Benjamin K. Walker

Founder and CEO at Transcription Outsourcing, LLC

Transcription Outsourcing provides law enforcement, legal, academic, financial, and general transcription services to clients across the United States.

Our first priority is to answer every single call that rings during business hours. If we get a voicemail from someone it means we’ve failed. No one likes to talk with the robot or punch in a bunch of numbers before they get to speak with a person so we answer every call we possibly can.

Every employee, including myself, has to answer the phone at some point during the day. After that, we are polite and ask as few questions as possible while answering all of the questions the caller has for us. There is no magic formula other than to be polite and give them what they want. It’s that simple and works for us because our close rate is very high for inbound B2B calls.

 

Nick Kane

Managing Partner at Janek Performance Group

Janek Performance Group is award-winning sales performance company that conducts extensive research in the marketplace around various sales-related topics. Nick is Co-Author of Critical Selling: How Top Performers Accelerate the Sales Process and Close More Deals
Don’t Make Assumptions
Most inbound sales call have one thing in common: the prospect faces a problem and is looking for a solution in the form of your products and services. As an inbound sales professional, don’t make assumptions about your prospect and their request just because you think you’ve heard it all. Paying attention to the prospect means taking notes; confirming key data that you learn during the initial call, and gaining commitment to move forward towards follow-up steps in the sales process.

Inbound calls may get into your products or services but should be initially focused on the buyer and their problems and challenges.

Acknowledge the Customer’s Request and Tell Them What’s in it for Them
When a customer calls in, always take the time to listen closely to the reason they are calling and what they are looking for. Use confirming statements to let the customer know they’ve been heard. Before you transition into asking a question to learn more, be sure to let the customer know what’s in it for them to talk through these details and how the conversation will benefit them. High performing sales professionals understand the importance of clear benefit statements and how this impacts inbound calls.

Don’t Forget to Listen
Although this seems obvious, this is easily and often time overlooked by sales professionals that handle inbound calls. Pay close attention to what the customer is communicating and consider not only their words but also the meaning and feeling of what they are conveying. Clue your listening in on points where they become more excited or less, etc. And pay attention to “customer words”. These are the words they use to describe their situation. Make note of the exact words they are using and use them in your solution presentation. This will ensure they know you are paying close attention to them and their needs and ultimately help build trust quickly.

What should you not do in an inbound sales call that you might do in an outbound call?
With inbound calls, the main objective should be to help the prospect. With outbound B2B calls, the main objective is a bit more sales-focused, in particular by way of pitching “the first meeting.” Outbound calls need to be captivating and relevant to the prospect within a short amount of time – You need to be able to summarise what your company does, how you have helped similar companies, and what the benefit is for the customer in just a few, easy-to-follow sentences to pique their interest.

 

Jacob Ackerman

Chief Technology Officer at SkyLink Data Centers

Skylink is a premier colocation and hosting solutions provider based in Naples, Florida.

Unless requested, don’t offer to email them information – talk to them. By calling you they’ve indicated a preference for telephone communication. Respect it.

With an inbound call, you’re in a unique position because the caller wants to speak with you. Be respectful of their time but also take full advantage of the opportunity. Get to know the customer, their needs and level of knowledge. Then adjust the information you give accordingly.

The savvy customer can tell when you’re reading from a script, so unless you’re required by law to give certain disclaimers stay off the script and instead be more interactive.

Your team’s goal during the sales process should be to gather requirements, provide useful information and determine next steps. Do not waste the opportunity by just gathering name, address, email, etc. and then sending some generic email.

Remember, this is an incoming call in a day and age when phone calls are infrequent. Always classify unsolicited incoming calls as hot leads and give them your undivided attention. 9 out of 10 times they’ve already visited your website and have some idea of your offerings.

 

Josh Brown

Content & Community Manager at Fieldboom

Josh was formerly the head of the Northeast sales team for Computer Motion (merged with Intuitive Surgical)

“Whoever is answering the call should have access to CRM data and ideally the CRM data is tied into the business’ phone system. If there’s any information that can be pulled up, make sure to use it as this will allow you to better cater to the caller right off the bat.

Utilising an automated CRM with voice recognition/speech-to-text capabilities that have linked to a business’ phone system can help the inbound sales team in multiple ways:

The focus with an inbound call should be trying to figure out the caller’s pain point and successfully provide a solution. Some of the discovery questions needed to get to that point may already be answered with a CRM as it can provide information about who is calling and how they found you, allowing the agent to be more efficient and focus on the more granular details as well as respond with better-targeted responses.

The sales rep spends less time inputting data as certain words serve as triggers and will auto populate the fields accordingly. This means the ability to better concentrate on the phone call at hand. Additionally, if the team member answering the call isn’t qualified to answer, they can transfer to the appropriate person within the company. This new person doesn’t need to repeat the initial discovery process (which would be frustrating to the person on the phone) as they’ll have access to all the information that has been gathered.

A CRM linked to the phone system now gives the company another piece of information on the potential customer as the call gets appended as another piece of information which can be analysed and used for future interactions. It also allows managers to analyse the rep’s interactions to determine if there are areas of improvement which can help with future calls.

Next, you want to ask discovery questions to identify the prospect’s pain points because if you can then successfully provide a solution to that caller’s pain point, they are much more likely to get on board with you. Additionally, taking the time to discover the potential customer’s pain point will allow your business to craft content that better speaks to other potential customers going through the same issue.

This brings me to the next tip which is the importance of making sure that whoever is handling the inbound call has a complete understanding of the products or services your business offers which will allow the sales person to offer the appropriate solution and demonstrate that they actually listened to and understood the prospect and their issue.

Don’t be afraid to ask the prospect if in their opinion your service or product offering would solve their issue. If they answer ‘no’, it gives you time to adjust your approach and sell them (assuming that what you’re offering can actually really be a benefit).

What should you not do in an inbound sales call that you might do in an outbound call?

The sales team shouldn’t be working from a script as this will come off as insincere and you won’t be able to demonstrate a genuine understanding of the prospect’s problem or a desire to help them solve it. The conversation should be dynamic and the way it progresses should be built on previous responses.

Additionally, with inbound calls, you shouldn’t be focused on features, but instead on the benefits of your product and service which should tie into solving the customer’s pain point.

With outbound sales calls, a sales script is okay because you’re typically trying to qualify the lead and get them interested in seeing a presentation about your business’ product or service.”

 

 David Benedet

Client growth specialist, seoplus+

seoplus+ is a digital marketing agency based in Ottawa, Canada with clients across the globe.

Always qualify inbound leads as soon as you can during the call and have an ideal client persona in mind. With outbound, you should know that your prospect is a fit to work with your organisation. With an inbound call, it is crucial to qualify your prospects as soon as possible to avoid wasting either person’s time. Some things to keep in mind are the prospect’s budget, role in their organisation and if your product will, in fact, solve the other person’s problem.

Ideally, handling inbound leads starts before you pick up the phone. To pre-qualify using your website you should include pricing and have lead forms encouraging prospects to fill out a form on your website. Time is money – don’t waste your money on bad leads!

You shouldn’t try to push too hard for the business right away in an inbound call. With an outbound call, you may only get one chance to convince the prospect. When handling an inbound call, you already know the prospect has some level of interest in your product. You wouldn’t want to push them away by being too aggressive too early in the sales process.

 

What other tips do you have for inbound sales calls? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Peter Banerjea
Peter Banerjea
Peter is a Marketing Strategist at Knowlarity - a leading cloud communications company with more than 15,000 customers across the world. Peter's work has been featured in Fast Company, Lifehacker, Huffington Post, Problogger, SumoMe, and several other top blogs. To contribute a guest post to the Knowlarity blog .

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