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One of the first jobs I ever had was following up with inbound sales leads, and to this day, I’m still convinced that inbound sales is often one of the most under-appreciated roles at a company. A great inbound sales team is one of the most valuable resources a company can have.
It didn’t take long for me to learn that to succeed in inbound sales you have to be lightning fast when responding to web leads. After all, according to one MIT study, waiting just ten minutes drops the odds of qualifying a lead 4 times!
However, if you follow up with a lead without adequately preparing for the call, it’s all too easy to blow those crucial first conversations. Because even though first meetings are often make-or-break, IDC research reveals that nearly 57% of B2B prospects feel that sales reps are not prepared for their very first meeting. After all, by the time a B2B lead reaches out to you, they’ve already identified their needs and are in the process of comparing vendors. They expect to talk to highly prepared salespeople who are well equipped to answer their questions.
So is it possible to respond to leads quickly while adequately preparing? Not only is it possible, but in today’s fast-paced sales environments, it’s necessary. In this post I’ll examine three ways that sales teams can quickly and adequately prepare for those crucial first calls with inbound leads.
Gather Basic Company Information
Everyone who has worked in B2B sales knows that for every lead that comes in from a Fortune 500 company, many come in from companies that aren’t exactly household names. But sometimes the best leads come from seemingly obscure companies. I’ve worked with companies that are wildly successful and publicly traded, but unless you were well-versed in their niche industry, you’d never have heard of them. That’s why the first thing to do when a new lead comes in is to find out exactly what their company does.
Try to quickly answer these five questions:
- What industry are they in?
- Who do they sell to (e.g. consumers, small businesses, enterprises)?
- How many employees do they have?
- What’s their yearly revenue?
- Is there any recent news relevant to their company (funding rounds, acquisitions, mergers, etc.)?
You can often gather this information really quickly from sites like LinkedIn, AngelList and Crunchbase. You could also use a tool like Datanyze to quickly gather a company’s funding details and other info. Knowing these basic details about a company can help prioritize leads. Sometimes you can even qualify leads out based on this information. Most importantly, it helps you to ask more targeted questions to ascertain whether your solution is right for their company.
Use Buyer Personas to Understand a Lead’s Role
When an inbound lead comes in, it’s crucial to figure out, as quickly as possible, what their role in their company is. At RingDNA, we train our sales team to use buyer personas to help categorize, prioritize and qualify inbound leads. Buyer personas reveal our ideal customers’ common role-based needs, challenges and success metrics. You can ask highly target qualification questions around specific roles. For example, a CIO will likely have different drivers, challenges and success metrics than a marketing manager. Tailor-fitting your messaging to a lead’s role not only helps you qualify that lead quicker, but also ensures that you sound well prepared for the call.
In order to take a role-based approach to selling, the first step is to ascertain what leads’ roles are. If your marketing team includes a job title field on forms, sales reps can deduce a lead’s role prior to a call. Then, reps can use persona cards to adjust their messaging based on a lead’s role. If you’re new to buyer personas, here’s a free B2B buyer persona template we created to help you get started.
View Historical Data
Denis Waitley, who authored the bestselling book The Psychology of Winning, wrote that “winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future.” His advice is highly applicable to inbound sales. One of the most important ways to prepare for a first call with an inbound lead is to do a quick audit of historical data. Here are some things to look for:
- Has the lead spoken to anyone at your company before?
- Has anyone at your company spoken to anyone at their company before?
- What content has the lead downloaded/engaged with so far?
- Has your marketing team emailed/reached out to this lead before?
Try to learn leverage any historical data to your benefit. As an example, say you sell hosting packages for apps and websites. If a lead attended a webinar called How to Get Your App Off the Ground before filling out a contact form, you’d have an idea that they might be interested in an app hosting package. Next, by looking in your CRM, you might see that someone else at their company had contacted your team about an app hosting package 6 months prior but didn’t have the budget. Then, a quick search on Crunchbase could reveal that they just closed a funding round. In just minutes, you could gain a powerful picture of why your inbound lead is calling, what problem they’re trying to solve and whether you are the company to solve it.
Think of yourself as a detective who has to work fast. Response time is crucial and you need to get back to leads quickly. But the more information you can gather prior to a call, the more successful that pivotal first call is going to be.
Jesse Davis is a sales and marketing strategist and Sr. Content Marketing Manager at RingDNA. Over the past decade, Davis honed his business communications skills working as an inside sales manager, business writer and agency marketer. He is a proponent of utilizing platform technology and evidence-based methodologies to optimize creative campaigns, marketing ROI and sales performance.