How to do inbound sales

 1. Need leads

Get a steady flow of potential customers signing up to try your software. These are inbound leads.

 2. Send a personal hello

When a person shows an interest in your software, reach out with an email or call. Start a conversation about their requirements and find out if they are a qualified lead (person who will find the software valuable).

I do this with a personalised email within an hour of someone signing up:

Hi {{first name}},

Great to hear you’re trying out {{software}}. {{something personal about their business}}.

{{#if not_qualified_yet}}
I see that you didn’t yet {{perform qualifying action}}. {{ask why not}}.
{{else}}
I see that you {{performed qualifying action}}, that’s great!
{/if}}

{{#if qualified_and_bigger_lead}}
It might be worth having a call to discuss your use case. Let me know if you’d like to schedule a demo.
{{else}}
Please let me know if you have any questions about {{software}}, I’m happy to help.
{{/if}}

Thanks,
Bill

The subject line should be the value proposition of your product and sometimes I’ll include their company name.

I use a template for my emails, but it’s always necessary to personalise them. Don’t mistake inbound sales emails for drip onboarding emails.

If they reply, great. Find out more about their needs. Ask questions about their requirements, ask if there’s anything missing that they would find useful. Don’t be a git and try to push them into entering their credit card details. It’s very bad manners to hector your potential customers in this way. You’re not in Glengarry Glen Ross. If they don’t respond (most won’t), then follow up…

 3. Follow up

I use close.io for a CRM. Follow ups are easily the most useful feature for me.

If the first contact doesn’t get a response, follow up within a few days. I usually don’t follow up with potentially small leads or medium sized but unqualified leads.

The follow up looks like this:

Hi {{first name}},

Just following up, did you receive my previous email?

{{#if not_qualified_yet}}
Looks like you had trouble {{performing qualifying action}}. Want to have a call to get set up?
{{else}}
How are things going with your {{software}} trial? Would you like to have a call this week to discuss your requirements?
{/if}}

Best regards,
Bill

Previous message here

If they did respond to the previous message, just continue talking about what you already discussed. Even though these are templates they’re still tailored to the company I work for, so it might not be a good idea to reproduce them verbatim.

Don’t do follow ups on a Friday, usually waiting until Monday is the better option.

Work in their timezone. I’m based in Oxford, England, but work US Eastern time so I can talk with the majority of our customers when they’re at work.

Usually if they don’t reply to this one they’re either busy or don’t want to use the software. If they haven’t responded yet I’ll leave them alone until after their trial ends. I understand that some salespeople might send followups daily until told to stop, but the company I work for also has automated onboarding emails and automated notification emails. Sending more unsolicited follow ups would add to the noise.

If the lead’s trial ends and they didn’t buy the software, follow up…

 4. Feedback request

The purpose of this follow up isn’t to prompt someone to buy the software, it’s finding out why they didn’t buy.

We won’t change the product if we lose a couple small leads because we don’t have a feature, but if something is doable and worth doing we’ll add it to our feature backlog.

If a whole bunch of people said they didn’t buy because we don’t have X feature, and if the cost of building X is lower than the amount that we would gain then we would certainly consider it.

There’s also no immediacy to adding features to the product to win a lead, you can always add the feature later and follow up with any lost leads who wanted it when you have it.

Here’s the post-trial email I send out:

Hi {{first name}},

Just thought I’d followup and get your feedback following your trial of {{software}}…was there something you wanted to see that you couldn’t get from {{software}}?

Best regards,
Bill

Be polite if someone doesn’t find your software useful, gather feedback and if necessary improve the product.

Make a note of why someone doesn’t need the product, or if they’re waiting for a specific feature. When you add that feature follow up with them.

You’ll notice that at no point do I tell them to buy the software, or list features. As we’ve found that a majority of leads become customers if they perform one or two qualifying actions there’s no requirement for a hard sell. We’re able to focus on helping leads achieve those actions and finding out more about their requirements. You could say this is more customer success than sales, but if a salesperson isn’t interested in my needs then I’m not likely to buy from them.

 5 Sealing the deal

 5.1 The break up

If you get this point, and you still haven’t received a response, send a final email:

Hi {{first name}}

I was hoping to help you {{key achievement}}, but I haven’t heard back from you. That means this will be my last email to you. If you change your mind and would like to {{reworded key achievement}}, please let me know and I’ll help you get set up.

Thanks,
Bill

Don’t email them again unless they say they want you to follow up when you meet their requirements (e.g. a feature they wanted is built).

 5.2 The close

If you’ve formed a relationship with someone and their needs are met by the software the final part is simply persistence and pricing.

Pricing. Know what you want them to pay. Nobody wants confusing or convoluted pricing, make it transparent so they can find out the price easily without speaking to you. My colleague, Ed, has a good post on SaaS pricing pages. If someone wants a discount make sure you have a process for determining a fair deal.

Checkout should be self-service. Salespeople should effectively be unnecessary if the customer wants to buy. Occasionally you’ll be on the phone with a lead when they enter their credit card details. Sometimes people will require a written invoice or want to do a wire transfer.

If they forget to pay then remind them. A trial ending is a good incentive, if the software is truly valuable to them and the price is right they’ll purchase with an automated ‘trial ended’ email.

Once a customer buys, make sure to let them know you appreciate their business. I appreciate you taking the time to read this post.

 
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