Inbound sales: It’s not about you

Casual meeting close up

Kula’s Director of Business Development, Jesse, and I were on a call with a prospect the other day.

Before the call began, we were joking around about how some relationships are symbiotic and how others are parasitic. Just like we learned in junior high biology class, symbiotic relationships are those in which both parties benefit equally, whereas parasitic relationships have one party gaining all or most of the advantage in the relationship, ending in a place where one party wins and the other loses. It seems like most agency sales people still think that in order for them to win, the customer has to lose, which isn’t a symbiotic relationship at all.

Throughout this call (and every other sales call we’ve ever done), we spent our time delving into our prospect’s needs. We want to know more about how they work, what their goals were and what challenges we could anticipate in the project. We ask probing, potentially difficult questions about real business metrics. We know where to start because before we ever get on the phone, we’ve spent time doing research about the client. The best clients for us are the companies that have a good grasp on their data and a sense of where they want to be. They’re not afraid to share the cost of a lead, the life time value of a customer and how many leads they get in the run of a month.

At the end of our call, the potential client thanked us for being so interested in their business and for taking the time to ask lots of questions. As we’ve heard time and again, very few salespeople take the time to learn about their prospects, and instead see the very first opportunity to connect as a time to spout off about why their offering is the best solution.

I have a hint for traditional salespeople: it’s not about you.

If you want to engage in a symbiotic relationship with your customers, you have to ensure that it’s beneficial for both parties. It can’t just be about making the sale. The client needs to see serious ROI for their spend. They don’t want to hear about your past successes so early in the process, and if they do, they’ll ask. This is not the time to present the contract in triplicate and ask them to press hard, three copies.

This consultative selling methodology has culminated in a new certification from HubSpot. The Inbound Sales Certification enshrines a process we’ve always believed in here at Kula. As we’ve oft heard, the buyer is more informed than ever. They’ve done their research about you, shouldn’t you return the favour and go into the call armed with a bank of questions? Of course, not in a way that is so rigid that the conversation can’t flow organically. It’s only once you understand the buyer that you can offer a solution that is tailored to their needs. When you know what their challenges and goals are you are much better equipped to help the buyer deal with them and you can provide guidance that is best suited to the buyer’s context.

The Inbound Sales Certification is about learning to sell in a way that you would want to be sold to. It shows that you’re willing to take the duty of care to Identify the prospects who are a good fit for your business, and not simply chase down every buyer with a pulse. It means that when you initially Connect with the buyer that you’ll spend your time providing value to the prospect. When you do take the time to Explore the client’s needs, you’ll do so with an eye understanding their goals, challenges and potential problems. And finally, when you Advise the buyer on how your solution helps them reach their goals, within their timeline and budget, it will be presented in a way that recognizes that closing this client positively or negatively are both valid outcomes for you.

As someone who came to sales out of necessity, and not by choice, I’ve developed a personal style of selling that has always tried to focus on the buyers of our services, and not so much around how ‘great’ we are. The HubSpot Inbound Sales certification helps to put a structure around something I’ve always felt was how salespeople should act.

If you do a good job solving your client’s biggest problems, they’ll come to the realization that buying from you was the right decision all along. Since it’s not about you, that’s about the biggest compliment you can get. Stop being a parasitic salesperson, start helping.

The Inbound Sales Certification is an excellent place to start.


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