Inbound Selling Versus Traditional Selling -- What's the Difference?

Inbound marketing is the new-school answer to the age of digital media and online business. It teaches us to use our fancy online tools to drive traffic to our websites.
05/02/2016 06:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Inbound marketing is the new-school answer to the age of digital media and online business. It teaches us to use our fancy online tools to drive traffic (and then leads, and then customers) to our websites. It only makes sense that inbound selling goes hand-in-hand with the marketing side.

By "inbound-ing" these processes, marketing and selling become much more streamlined, efficient, and pleasant than they once were using traditional methods. As far as selling is concerned, there are some pretty distinct differences between the old ways of doing things and the new.

WHAT IS INBOUND SELLING?

Inbound selling takes the buyer on a journey from awareness of your company, product, and/or service, to consideration, and finally to purchase decision. Obviously, the goal is to get the customer to buy what you're selling.

TIMELINESS

In general, people won't do anything they don't want to if they're not ready. This holds especially true when it comes to making a purchase.

Think about why you buy things when you do. In most cases, it's either because you need something right away or because you want something right away. Any other purchase can be, and often is, deferred.

Traditional

In traditional sales, cold-calling was a popular way to approach potential customers, although "popular" doesn't always equate with "effective" or "enjoyable." Actually, cold-calling is a pretty miserable experience for both parties involved. Sure, it's a numbers game, but how many people actually convert this way?

Inbound

If you're looking for a higher sales conversion rate, inbound selling is the way to go. It operates on the premise that people will only buy when they're ready to.

Your job is to make sure that when they finally decide to buy, they're buying from you.
This can be achieved by building and maintaining a relationship with your prospect throughout their journey. By targeting people with specific issues, you can introduce them to your product or service with content that's specific to their situation.

From that point, you can keep their interest piqued by pushing relevant content as they learn more about the solution you have to offer. Why not offer them an eBook with an in-depth look at why have the answer they've been searching for? Or how about a discount code to nudge them along their decision-making journey a little faster? Throughout this entire process, the customer is opting in to interacting with you.

With smart and intuitive landing pages and pop-ups built into your website, you can customize the content the customer is consuming based on different criteria, including various demographics, location, how they got to your site, etc. By building unique content for different groups of people, you stay relevant in their minds. Come purchase time, they already know and trust your company, so you're more likely to get that sale.

TRANSPARENCY

Why fight it? It's practically impossible to keep secrets from potential customers these days, so maybe it's time to embrace the age of readily-available information and make it work for you, not against you.

Traditional

Back in the day, it was easy to withhold information from customers. Think about the used car salesman's mantra: what you don't know can't hurt you. Anything to make a sale...
One reason salespeople tend to be stingy with the deets is because they're afraid their competitors will learn, and potentially steal, their trade secrets. They could even spawn some new competitors!

Inbound

Let's be real, though. Most people won't steal your secrets, or "do you" better than you.
As for competitors, if they're worthy, they already know as much as you do about your industry. Besides, it usually isn't industry knowledge that differentiates one company from its competitors.

Instead, by demonstrating expertise in a particular area, companies can build a strong reputation and earn the trust of consumers. By giving away industry knowledge, you're leveling with the customer and gifting them the luxury of making a truly informed decision.

Today's customers are already way more informed than ever before. If you choose not to tell them something, they can still find out. When they do, they won't like that you kept it from them. It could even cost you the sale!

To ensure transparency, make sure you're offering potential customers information that they would be looking for prior to purchasing your product or service. This could include case studies, testimonials, FAQs, demos or free trials, behind-the-scenes looks, or even a chat session.

PERSONALIZATION

If you're expecting people to buy something from you, you've got to show some appreciation for them as your customers.

Traditional

How likely do you think someone is to respond favorably to a canned sales pitch that clearly isn't for them? With a recycled script, you're not demonstrating that you understand the value of the customer, or that you understand the customer at all.

Inbound

Using inbound techniques, you can identify exactly what type of customer you're dealing with. Some things to consider:
  • What issues are they facing?
  • Where did they come from?
  • What's their ideal solution?
  • What's important to them?
  • Why haven't they purchased yet?

In the answers to all of these questions lie opportunities to personalize the customer's experience. By understanding the customer's goals, you can develop a content and outreach strategy that meets their needs while helping you reach your own sales and conversion goals.

The more specific you can be in your answers, the more targeted your content strategy can be. With better tracking and analytical data, you can create targeted workflows that are much more likely to convert visitors to customers.

When you're devising your personalization strategy, keep in mind the customer's roadmap through your website. Where do they begin, and where do they end up? Be sure to test drive the track a few times from start to finish, too. That way, you can check for any areas of confusion, misdirection, broken or ill-performing pop-ups, or even unpersuasive copy.

Read the full post on the Bonafide blog.