Why You Should Be Helping to Buy, Not Hoping to Sell [Inbound Sales Explained]

Legacy salespeople often use a traditional selling style to lead a prospect to the solution they want to sell. Other times, these old-schoolers will send a proposal without having first asked any questions. But neither approach is appreciated by today's buyers.

According to HubSpot, today nearly 70 percent of the buyer’s journey has already been made before someone actually reaches out to a salesperson. The buyer might not always be right in what they perceive to be the product or solution for them, but when it comes to their challenge or pain point, no one knows their purchasing needs better. Underneath their enquiry, they’re not looking for a product or feature; they want help. And as salespeople coming in midway through this process, your team doesn’t have the right to tell them they’re wrong.

Nearly 70 percent of the buyer’s journey has already been made before someone actually reaches out to a salesperson

'Your reps need to listen to the prospect to diagnose what challenge they’re facing and how their business can help', says Eric Murphy, our co-founder and Head of Revenue. 'The good news is that if you can identify when and how your prospects need help, you can turn your sales function around.'

Implementing such an approach into your deal strategy can significantly improve sales performance in the long run and ensure your pipeline is always healthy.

The inbound sales methodologyBecky Murphy and Chris Grant of BabelQuest discussing inbound sales methodology

The inbound marketing methodology concerns itself with strategies that answer the buyer’s questions at the research stage, informing or educating them. In doing so, it builds trust and the start of a relationship between the reader and a business.

Sales can apply the inbound methodology to the way they sell, reasserting the salesperson’s role in the buyer’s journey. Informed prospects don’t want to be sold to, but they are receptive to being helped, particularly if this will lead to a product or service that is a better match for them and their requirements.

In this light, sales should be focused on ‘helping’ the prospect, rather than ‘selling’ to them, thereby meeting them earlier in the decision-making process to help them make the right purchasing decision.

Moving from hoping to sell to helping to buy

It’s not in your interest to sell to people you can’t help or to push people into decisions they aren't comfortable with. Just as you know you can deliver great results for your target customers, it’s important to remember that you might not be best placed to sell to those customers who aren’t a great fit.

If there's no business to be done, you don't want to waste your time making calls and you don’t want to waste the buyer’s time deleting voicemail or emails

If it sounds like there might be a business opportunity in the future, trust workflow automation to keep the prospect informed and interested until they are ready to buy.

You should also be open to your prospects qualifying you out early on in the conversation if they don’t feel like you can help. If the buyer ends up making a purchase, you want to be certain there’s a good fit between your company and them and that you can help them get to where they want to be in a way that works for both of you.

How to adopt an inbound sales process using 'the three-sale sale'

One of the biggest hurdles you face when adopting an inbound sales approach can be knowing where to start. Using ‘the three-sale sale’ framework breaks down the task of framing — and starting — this task into three key areas.

The three-sale sale approach is a simple yet effective way of diagnosing a wide range of business challenges, your customers’ challenges included. In short, the framework asks you to look at three key questions:

  1. Why change?
  2. To what?
  3. How and with whom?

Using the three questions as a framework, take the customer back to the root cause of the issue they're facing and lead them through a process that helps them understand what the real problem is.

For example, the customer thinks their website is not generating enough leads so they hire an agency to generate more leads — but nothing changes. The actual problem could be that they are the wrong sort of leads, or that the sales team is weak at closing, or a myriad of other reasons that hiring an agency alone wouldn’t solve.

Learning to ask the right questions

Questions make the world go round. They’re the building blocks of stories and the cues from which rapport grows. They’re a quest for information and they also provide it, in the form of answers. (We don’t need to highlight the commercial value of those.)

The questions you will probably want to answer together will go something along the lines of:

  • Do you both think there is a way you could help the prospect?
  • How urgent is this?

The way we see it, sales needs to earn the right to be involved. This means designing a sales process that ensures you can work with your prospect to understand their business challenges and help them to solve them using the tools and knowledge at your disposal.

Equipped with renewed patience and understanding, sales reps will still win deals and close business. But they'll do so by building strong relationships between the buyer and the business. To do this, they need the skills and confidence to take the buyer back a step in their journey and make sure they are buying the right thing.

Want to improve sales productivity and close more leads? Click the image below to learn how to increase your sales team's performance and sell more.

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Chris Grant
About the Author
Chris is the Sales Enablement Consultant at BabelQuest. Working as part of the Expert Practices team, he helps sales teams get better.