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What is inbound sales?

the modern buyer has evolved

They are more knowledgeable than ever and have access to most of the information they need to make a decision online—all without your help. So how do you keep up? Adopt an inbound sales strategy.


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current chapter: Intro

the inbound methodology

There’s good news for companies that want that for their potential customers—it’s called the inbound methodology. With inbound, customers are at the center of the process, and go through the Marketing, Sales and Service phases. Each phase is meant to further inform your lead, turn them into a customer and then into a promoter. If you’re going to go all in on inbound, there’s one CRM, marketing and sales software we recommend: HubSpot.

inbound sales definition?

Inbound sales is a more personalized, helpful way of selling that focuses on individual buyers and their needs, frustrations, and goals. It’s a consultative, advisory style of approaching customers to ensure they aren’t getting content (and individual agendas) forced upon them, and instead are getting the necessary information to complete their buying decision.

inbound vs. outbound (legacy) sales

The one-size-fits-all approach of outbound sales won’t work with the modern buyer. Cold calls, content blasting, and convincing people who aren’t interested in buying your product to buy are, for the most part, wasted efforts. All buyers are unique depending on where they are in their buyers’ journey, and specializing your sales technique to reach those customers wherever they may be on this journey is the inbound sales methodology.


the buyer's journey

The buyer's journey is “the process that a buyer goes through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service.” Each customer has unique needs depending on their stage in the buyer’s journey. In inbound sales, it’s imperative to understand what that journey is, what your customer’s pain points are, and how you can reach them at each stage.

Buyers Journey Arrow graphic

  • Awareness The buyer realizes they are experiencing a problem and want to fix it.
  • Consideration The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
  • Decision The buyer choses a solution.


A big mistake we see a lot in inbound sales is sales people not understanding where their buyers are in their journey. If a customer comes to you and is ready to buy, but you’re sending them introductory blogs and additional information that they don’t need, you’re slowing down their decision and they may lose patience. During your exploratory call, take queues on specific verbiage your prospects are using so that you can understand where they are in the process before trying to provide value.

inbound sales methodology

Buyers aren’t dependent on a salesperson to make a buying decision anymore. There is so much marketing taking place on the internet, so much information available, that they are looking for a personalized experience from you and your brand. To incorporate an inbound sales process, follow the below steps:


At this stage, your prospective buyer is likely in the Awareness stage of their journey already. You want to prioritize active buyers instead of passive buyers —have they recently visited your website or opened one of your emails? If yes, they are a good fit customer and are ready to be engaged with further. Have they submitted their contact information via a form on your site? That makes them an inbound sales lead.


Now is the time to connect with your inbound sales leads. Is the problem the lead is facing something that want to pursue, or ignore? If they want to pursue it, they are a qualified lead. Engage them with personalized content in this stage, and define what their buyer persona is so that you can craft future content that will engage them further.


At the Explore stage, salespeople will dive deeper into finding out your qualified lead’s goals, challenges, and pain points to assess if your business’s offering is good for them. Focus on the challenges they’re facing, and connect their goals to these challenges. Discuss their budget, and share plans for how your solution can help them accomplish these goals - on their timeline.


Here is where the “selling,” as we typically think of it comes back in. Now is the time to advise your lead why your company's solution will address their problem. Provide a thorough recap of what you’ve learned about them, their goals, and their challenges. Show exactly how your product or service will benefit them, and confirm the budget, authority, and timeline one more time.

important pieces to your inbound sales strategy

Buyer Personas vs. Ideal Customer Profiles

Buyer personas and ideal customer profiles help you understand your customers on a generalized level, which in turn allows you to understand their journey through the buying process even better.

An Ideal Customer Profile is a description of the company, the industry, and the specific business vertical that your ideal customer is in. How many employees work there? What is the company’s annual revenue? Where are they located? From there, you can look into the diverse set of individuals that work within this company. This is where buyer personas come in.

A Buyer Persona is a semi-fictionalized representation of your ideal customer based on market research, interviews, and real data about your existing customers. A buyer persona includes demographics, behavior patterns, and goals your different customer types may have.


Customers begin their buying process online. Educating your customers on the problem they are exploring and the solution that you have for them makes them an even more qualified lead by the time they are at the decision stage.

Whitepapers, blogs, ebooks, and case studies not only educate your leads, they also help to differentiate your product or service from your competitor’s. FAQ pages, testimonials, and reviews are also immensely helpful for a consumer reaching the decision stage. You want your company to stand out, and you want your customer to be informed on their options, so they can confidently pick the solution that best suits their needs.

Lead Intelligence and Scoring

Lead scoring is “a methodology used to rank your prospects on a scale that represents the perceived value each lead represents to the organization.” Lead intelligence uses the behavior data captured from the way these leads use your website.

Lead scoring takes thought, collaboration, and a good lead management software to set up, but after you’ve accomplished this, it takes very little day-to-day management on your part.

First identify what makes a visitor to your site a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). These are people who have engaged with your content - but we aren’t sure how engaged they are yet.

Your lead intelligence software will then score how engaged these users are based on actions they’ve taken - maybe they visited 3 pages on your site and left, or they visited 50, requested an ebook, and tweeted about how amazing the user experience on your site was. The latter would be considered a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and is ready to become a qualified prospect.

Qualifying Leads

How do you qualify a prospect and move them to the buying stage? Ask them these questions:

  1. What’s the problem you’re seeking to fix with this offering?
  2. What’s prompting you to do something about it now?
  3. Do you have a budget for this?
  4. How does the budget sign off process work?
  5. What does the decision making process look like? What role do you have in this process?
  6. What hurdles could come up and derail this project?
  7. What other solutions are you evaluating?
  8. Do you currently have a solution in place? If so, what are your paint points?
  9. When do you need a solution in place by?
  10. What does solving this problem mean to you?


Qualifying leads is a crucial part of your sales process. It helps you determine if your offering will help your prospect, and if continuing is worth both side’s time. Customize these questions and carefully craft your company’s version of these - the results will be worth the effort!

sales enablement

Sales Enablement is all of the tech, processes, and content that empowers your sales team to sell efficiently and at a higher volume. Sales Enablement streamlines sales cycles with better, more relevant sales content and equips your team with the sales tools they need to be more informed and productive.

With a good sales enablement program, you can:

Standardize and Review Reporting

You have a high level understanding of what reports are relevant to your business—but do you have the technology to create these? Standardize common reports like leads generated, product demos delivered, and activities logged by salespeople.

Optimize Sales Content

After a thorough content audit to determine where and how much high quality sales content you have on your site, you can organize it in a content library so your team can easily access it. Create case studies pulled from data from your CRM, and create email templates to dramatically increase productivity.

Sales Automation

So many processes that used to be manual can be automated for the modern salesperson, enabling them to sell better and faster. Create email sequences to continuously engage with prospects, without sending dozens of follow up emails per day. Implement direct messaging with live chat to engage and close with contacts in real time, and add filter criteria to engage with only high quality leads so you aren’t wasting any time.

Sales enablement removes the roadblocks and makes the sales process as smooth and easy as possible. It’s hard enough to sell—sales enablement makes it easier.

inbound sales with hubspot

Hubspot has a robust set of tools that make looking at analytics and customer data easy. Combine any and all of these tools together for a well-rounded arsenal of customer satisfaction software.

Inbound Sales Software from Hubspot

Hubspot’s CRM

As salespeople, we know that organization is everything. Hubspot’s CRM has everything you need to track, organize, and build better relationships with your customers and your sales team. Oh, and it’s 100% free. Here’s our favorite features:

Pipeline management

A clean dashboard will show you deals won and lost, appointments scheduled, contracts sent, and track sales team performance against your quotas. Sort deals by company, contact name, business or industry to save time.

Track interactions

See all interactions with your leads in one place, including emails, calls, meetings, and notes, all uploaded automatically with email sync.

Sales activity is logged automatically

Stay organized with a clear dashboard, automated data upload, and all sales activity in one easy-to-read timeline. Never dig through an Excel Spreadsheet for sales data again!

Screenshot of HubSpot's CRM Deal Stages User Interface
Screenshot of HubSpot's Dashboard User Interface

Marketing Hub

Grow traffic, convert more site visitors, and run your inbound marketing campaigns in one place with the Marketing Hub. Landing pages, automation, and analytics are only a few of the things that Hubspot’s Marketing Hub can help you with. You can also...

Create and optimize all of your content

Blogs, emails, and social media, all in one place. Using the content strategy tool, you can create content based on what your customers are searching for, and the SEO tool will help you rank so that customers don’t have to dig for your content.

Screenshot of HubSpot's Pillar Content Tool

Automate everything

Track who’s signing up for more information from your easy to set up landing page forms, and automatically get these leads into a relevant email drip so that they can move into the next phase of their buying decision. Send the perfect follow up based on the type of content your lead interacted with, whether it be an email, links to additional assets like ebooks or case studies, a phone call, or a demo scheduling.

Screenshot of HubSpot's Workflows Interface

Reach customers where they are

With social media connectivity, you can monitor what customers are saying across their networks. Respond to questions or comments, find solutions for unhappy customers, and turn satisfied customers into advocates for your brand with quick responses.

Sales Hub

Add time to your day with all interactions logged automatically, organize your sales team activity in one place, and get notified instantly when leads reach out to you.

Schedule more meetings

Eliminate slow communication via email and schedule meetings in real time with integrated live chat. Set up a link and have leads pick a meeting time that works best for both parties, no back and forth necessary.

Follow up seamlessly

With a notification the second a lead opens an email or clicks a link, following up with your leads has never been easier. Hubspot places the most relevant notifications at the top of your feed in your dashboard, too—so you can reach out to the most qualified leads without sifting through your inbox.

Stop uploading data and start making deals

The time for manual data entry has passed. Free up your time for sales and utilize Hubspot’s upload of lead’s contact info, pages visited and other important customer information, all automatically. Add new deals, view where they’re piling up, and create and assign tasks to your team on your dashboard.

Screenshot of HubSpot's CRM Contacts User Interface
Screenshot of HubSpot's Contact Record Interface

Service Hub

Customer service is more important now than ever before. According to the 2018 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, 60% of customers will stop doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience. We keep saying it: buyers are more informed than ever, and if they don’t have a good experience with your brand, they’ll go somewhere else. The Service Hub offers modern customer service tools to cater to these new and empowered customers. Exceed their expectations.

Respond better

Access and manage all customer communications in one collaborative inbox that includes customer chats, emails, and more. Get access to customer data while you’re chatting—see their logged communication, customer history, and product details so you can drive the conversation and provide the best possible support.

Be more productive as a team

Turn incoming emails into tickets that can be automatically assigned and routed to the team member best suited to help that particular customer. Create email templates with the answers to your customer’s most common questions, and log them for future FAQ and other resource pages.

Turn customers into promoters

HubSpot’s tools send out surveys to proactively gather feedback and gauge customer happiness. Easily gather data and calculate your Net Promoter Score, and use the dashboard feature to keep an eye on ticket volume and average response time. Optimize data and customer feedback to see which content and assets your customers are interacting with and where you can improve.

Screenshot of HubSpot's ticketing system
Screenshot of HubSpot's Customer communication tool

the future of inbound sales

When you push off a sales call or email because you’re too busy, the modern buyer is going to move on. There is so much content readily at their fingertips that they’re only going to get more informed of someone else’s product if they can’t get the information they want from you. The future of Inbound Sales is going to get more and more automated because let’s face it— sometimes you are too busy.

Chatbots & Content Automation

When we want to buy something, we typically want it now. The Internet has accelerated this further—Amazon Prime, anyone? We want products delivered to our doors and we want it in 2 days...business days, thank you. We want things fast, and when the modern buyer wants to speak to someone, they don’t want to wait the average of 7 minutes before they’re connected to an agent that can help. This is where chatbots and other automated content come in—the future of inbound sales.

Chatbots are virtual robots. They never get tired, they don’t need vacation time, and they listen to your every command. The perfect employees, right? Chatbots can support and scale a team’s relationship with their customers by being available 24/7 with automated content to answer questions and guide them through the buyer’s journey. Chatbots are also always in a good mood, and will speak to customers in this way, too - leading to more customer satisfaction. They also speak almost every language, and really good chatbots are powered by artificial intelligence, so they can easily understand complex requests, pull customer information, and personalize responses.

Chatbots can help you save time with predetermined responses to frequently asked questions—you understand your brand, and the interactions you’re already typically having. Transferring that cadence to a bot allows you to step back and make room for other sales tasks. New automation technology can aid you and your sales team by saving you time while getting you more leads.

HubSpot calls their marketing automation software Workflows, which are “a set of actions that automatically execute in the software based on a starting condition and rules set by you, the user.” Typically, businesses use workflows to deliver emails and other content assets to their users based off of the data collected from how these users have interacted with their brand. Inbound companies can use this automation system for a variety of different goals to automate the work they do every day, and the most successful automation relies on triggering relevant and timely actions based on context. How contacts interact with a company’s content and their website matters—which is what makes inbound sales so meaningful.