It’s Time for Inbound Sales Teams to Evolve

Justin Lambert

Written by Justin Lambert on Tue, Feb 07, 2017

I know that there’s about a 50/50 split between readers who really dig this kind of metaphoric marketing mindmeld and those who are already rolling their eyes, so I’m going to start with a really quick summary of the point I’m trying to get to. (If you’re in the half that enjoys a good story, SPOILER ALERT!)

The Summary

One of the key challenges that continues to plague companies, even years into the modern inbound-focused digital marketing age we’re in right now, is the disconnect between the Sales and Marketing departments. Specifically, the fact that - more often than not - Marketing has fully adopted an inbound marketing strategy (or at least is making strides in that direction) while Sales is resisting the change.

The end result is a huge number of missed opportunities in the form of qualified leads falling through the cracks, prospective customers being rejected by Sales when, in fact, they’re just not ready right now to pull the trigger, and generally far too few easily collected leads making it all the way through to the closing stage.

To fix this problem, I submit that Sales teams need to “evolve”: Get off the fence about inbound sales, stop whining about “the way we’ve always done it” and start taking advantage of the potentially endless stream of qualified leads your inbound marketing-focused colleagues are sending you.

Get off the fence about inbound sales, stop whining about “the way we’ve always done it” and start taking advantage of the potentially endless stream of qualified leads your inbound marketing-focused colleagues are sending you. CLICK TO TWEET intents@1x.png

If you do, you’ll find greater success, higher conversion rates, and lower cost-per-customer on the other side of what really is a simple transition.

There, Speedy McHurry, now just scroll to the bottom to find out how to make it happen.

Read our comprehensive e-book, What Gets Measured, Gets Improved, to determine your content and inbound marketing return on investment.

The Plight of Prehistoric Man

Before there was such a thing as “civilization”, the human family consisted of separate nomadic groups of individuals who subsisted on what we customarily call “hunting-gathering.” That means that they were constantly on the move, always seeking out opportunities to hunt down prey that could serve as food, and along the way, they’d also collect whatever easily accessible food and other supplies they found, like nuts, berries, bones, etc.

And it worked.

In fact, while there are about as many theories being batted around as there are scientists to propose them, anthropologists all agree that humans subsisted on hunting-gathering for far longer than they’ve been using other methods of obtaining food and necessities of life.

But, even though it was sufficient to keep people alive and fuel the growth of the human family, hunting-gathering had some definite limitations:

Labor-intensive

As a group of hunter-gatherers, early humans often walked dozens of miles in a day, sniffing the ground, looking for footprints and scat, and otherwise trying to figure out where the nearest mammoth or aurochs was at. In fact, many scientists believe that man’s natural endurance - his ability to just keep doggedly moving with little or no rest - is what made it possible for him to succeed in bringing down prey so much larger and stronger than he was.

After walking God knows how far tracking down the prey, they had whatever sort of fierce battle the animal had left in it, and I’m sure our ancestors came away banged up or worse from these encounters.

Then, of course, they had to use primitive stone tools and their bare hands to butcher whatever bits they could carry back to where the rest of the group was hanging out (presumably looking for some cranberries to dress up the dino-turkey they were hunting), and they had to physically lug that meat back however many miles they’d come to get it.

That’s just a ton of work. And calorie-for-calorie, it’s pretty inefficient.

Time-consuming

Practically speaking, the whole process described above would take at least the bulk of the day every day. And, at various times during the year or in certain areas, it probably took even longer than that.

In other words, the time it took to just obtain the necessary food for the group left little or no time for any other productive work. Once a hunter finished their 18-hour marathon of grueling physical labor, then managed to fill their belly with a portion of what they brought home, how long do you think it was before they fell asleep next to the fire? And without refrigeration, they couldn’t exactly count on a tasty plate of leftovers the next day.

That was prehistoric man’s daily grind.

Could get messy

Without getting unnecessarily detailed here, let’s just say that killing, butchering, and lugging around slabs of mammoth meat is dirty business.

Likewise, the smell of half a dozen successful hunters coming home after 12 hours in the summer heat was none too pleasant. Tack on the smell of whatever they’re carrying with them, and you get the picture.

Enough said.

Sales has been a hunting-gathering process for too long now

You might have thought I’d gotten so far off the topic by now, there was no coming back. But hold on because we’re circling around now.

Like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, sales professionals have subsisted for years on “hunting” and “gathering” activities which we call prospecting and networking. Of course, over the years the tools and methods have changed with the times. It’s probably pretty rare these days to find a salesperson thumbing through their Rolodex with a beige desk phone lodged between their shoulder and their ear. But whether you’re looking at an actual drawer full of business cards, or a LinkedIn Contacts list that’s just as disorganized, it comes to the same thing.

And these sales skills have been successful, no doubt about it. In fact, they still can be in certain circumstances and for particularly skilled salespeople.

But, like the hunting-gathering efforts described above, traditional sales skills have always had some inherent limitations:

  • Labor-intensive: Old-school prospecting - whether you’re talking about opening the yellow pages to a random page and cold calling the day away or any modern technological equivalent - takes a lot of time. It’s a numbers game, and the numbers are extremely high if you’re relying solely on rented lists, hastily compiled databases, or desk drawers full of business cards.
  • Time-consuming: Note the phrase used above, “cold calling the day away.” Multiply that by weeks and months in many cases, and that’s how old-school salespeople are spending far too much of their time.
  • Could get messy: Frankly, the modern customer has little to no patience for a lot of the old-school sales tactics, so their success is drying up. Combine that with all the technological means at the customer’s disposal to ignore or avoid a pitch, and you’re left with an even scarier numbers game.

So the question sales pros need to consider now is, what did our hunter-gatherer ancestors do to overcome these limitations?

The Development of Agriculture

What they did - just a few thousand years ago, in fact - was finally figure out that collecting food and other necessities of life didn’t always require the messy, time-consuming, and labor-intensive effort they’d been putting into it.

They discovered that, with a little ingenuity, some basic tools, and the help of Mother Nature, they could plant a seed in the ground and a few weeks or months later, they’d have a meal magically appear in front of them. They could capture a few animals (instead of killing one at a time) and keep them healthy until they reproduced, and they’d magically have an endless supply of meat that wouldn’t run away or fight back.

In other words, humans discovered agriculture. And that was the key that allowed them to stop traveling around so much and to start settling down into what quickly became a fair approximation of “civilization” as we know it today.

This practice not only provided a more predictable supply of food for far less time and effort, but it allowed mankind to focus on other cool things before collapsing next to the fire at night. Things like mathematics, art, astronomy, and sarcasm.

Agriculture is what made it possible for prehistoric man to become… us.

Sales Teams Need to Evolve Too

What would happen if a hunter-gatherer salesperson chose to “evolve” by focusing more on farming?

Quite simply, it would reduce the amount of wasted time and effort they’re currently investing in traditional prospecting and networking efforts that are only yielding occasional positive results and are much more likely to make a mess in one way or another.

But what is the sales equivalent of discovering agriculture?

It’s embracing inbound sales.

Inbound sales is the modern sales methodology that effectively maps to how today’s customer actually makes purchasing decisions. It relies heavily on leads supplied by an active inbound marketing program and works hand-in-hand with marketers to continually optimize the customer’s experience at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Like working the ground or raising livestock, the process of strategically attracting and educating prospects, identifying qualified leads, nurturing and advising them until they’re ready to buy, and then delighting customers, offers companies a far more predictable stream of revenue that’s both trackable and scalable. It also means that sales teams can stop “moving around” so much, desperately searching for the next opportunity, because the opportunities will be coming to them.

And finally, embracing inbound sales leaves a company with more time and resources to explore other beneficial pursuits that could even spur further evolution down the road.

If you can tell at this point that some, if not all, of your sales team is still stuck in hunter-gatherer mode when they should really be reaping the benefits of agriculture, SPROUT Content can help. While inbound marketing is our bread and butter, sales enablement is increasingly our most valuable consultative service.

Let our inbound sales pros help your sales pros embrace inbound. After all, evolution is all about constant improvement.

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