HubSpot’s 2016  State of Inbound Report:  3 Reasons Why Your Company Needs to Embrace Inbound Sales

The State of the Union address usually takes place annually in January. This is the opportunity for the President of the United States to lay out their achievements and goals for the country before Congress. HubSpot does something similar every year. Around this time, they release the State of Inbound, which represents the results of inbound strategies within the marketing community. It provides insights on the health of inbound and the direction it’s headed. If we pretend for a second that HubSpot is the President of the United States, think of StringCan as a cabinet member.As a HubSpot partner we are dialed into the ever expanding practice of inbound sales and marketing. HubSpot has been putting more and more focus on connecting your sales practices to the inbound methodology, and earlier this year HubSpot launched an Inbound Sales Certification to teach sales teams how to apply the inbound methodology directly to sales. They are taking Smarketing (the alignment between sales and marketing) to a whole new level by fusing the two teams together around the same principals and provide the sales team a guide on how to begin implementing this through each stage of their company’s sales process.

Here at StringCan, we are going “all in” on Inbound Sales and Marketing and are incorporating it throughout our entire company. We are also applying it to the work we do for our clients by engaging their sales teams in our inbound marketing campaigns and strategies and finding new ways to bridge the gap, e.g. creating buyer personas that can be used for sales and marketing teams. We are certified in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales to make sure we embrace both methodologies.

We used the 2016 State of Inbound Report to do some self reflection and identify where we are succeeding and what needs improvement. We compared our results to other companies like us who participated in the 2016 State of Inbound Report. After reviewing the findings, we had a few key takeaways that helped our company identify three ways to better incorporate Inbound Sales into our overall inbound strategy. So whether you are a marketer, sales team member, or business owner, you need to start thinking about ways to incorporate inbound sales into your organization.

Think we’re crazy? 81% of the agencies that took the State of Inbound survey, 4,500 respondents around the world, stated that they primarily conduct inbound marketing. The data suggested Inbound organizations were 4 times as likely to highly rate their marketing strategy.  When asked which source provides the highest-quality leads for your sales team, 67% said Inbound practices. In this blog, I’ll walk you through our findings and show you how you can dive in deep to inbound at your company.


1. Add Value, Don’t Just Sell


Sound familiar? As the salesperson at StringCan, I always want to think I come off as helpful to our prospective clients. However, I am under no illusion that my prospects feel the same way. It’s not a perfect science but HubSpot’s inbound methods teach us to add value,  not sell.  

While it won’t always work, this method creates a roadmap to success when speaking to potential clients. Showing them that you are there to add value and consult with them generates far greater results than going for the throat with your sales pitch. Today the buyer has the control in the relationship with access to endless droves of information thanks to the evolution of the Internet, the salesperson has had to evolve with it and the key to success is through inbound strategies.

We don’t just recommend using inbound at agencies that offer similar services as StringCan. Instead, we highly recommend our clients adopt it as well so that they generate quality leads too.

How? We embrace inbound at every level. It’s in the way we identify our client’s personas, in the way we generate content, and even how our client’s sales teams reach out to their prospects. For one of our clients, our sales team is personally responsible for loading leads into their CRM, customizing their sales emails and scheduling them to be sent.

2. Align Sales and Marketing Teams By Creating an SLA

Many of our prospective clients express to us that alignment between their sales and marketing teams is a huge pain point. And this is true for many organizations across various agencies. We thought this deserved its own section as it is a giant issue. The handshake between Sales and Marketing tends to produce the most measurable results for a marketing team. At StringCan we have embraced this philosophy and have ensured that our sales and marketing teams are in lockstep. The trick is clear communication; so we recommend having a Sales and Marketing SLAs (Service Level Agreement), which is an agreement between the two teams to work together toward the common company goals. Every week our Sales and Marketing teams conduct a Smarketing meeting where we lay out our goals for the week. This ensures that everyone remains on the same page and items don’t fall through the cracks.

“Marketers in companies with SLAs also have more faith in their marketing strategy. Smarketing has been a core tenet of inbound for years — and our data shows how critical it is to Marketing’s success. Just 22% of our respondents has a formal SLA between Marketing and Sales, and a further 44% told us the the two organizations were generally aligned.”

  1. Make Prospecting More Efficient and Convert Your Leads

The part of the sales process salespeople are struggling with most is prospecting. In addition, 20% of respondents indicated that identifying the lead — a new option in this year’s survey — was the biggest challenge at their company. It’s clear that the beginning of the sales process is thorny for reps, more so than the middle or the end.


Here’s a scary statistic that should make all salespeople, and really anyone at your company, cringe: 29% of salespeople are spending an hour or more on data entry each and every day. And the more time sellers spend on data entry, the less time they have to sell. About a month ago, our sales team at StringCan was averaging 90 minutes a day on data entry. We have since cut that down to 45 minutes but will continue to seek improvements as we enter the end of the year.


The reality is prospecting is really hard, but we have been working to enhance the way we identify prospects and nurture them through the funnel to convert them into a lead and a sale. We use our buyer personas to help focus the sales team on who is right for us. Who should we go after, and who should we not go after? This clarity saves them time spinning their wheels and is a major piece of how we’ve cut down our data entry time – by not entering in prospects that don’t fit our buyer personas! We use the personas to think about what pain points the personas have and how they would like to be engaged.

We create personalized emails based on what we think the persona wants to hear from us and then automate this process through Sequences to make the process more efficient. We ask ourselves, why would this prospect want to hear from us? What we have found is that by customizing our outreach efforts early on in the process, we establish a stronger relationship with our prospects. When this happens the entire sales cycle runs much smoother and the prospect is more trusting and enthusiastic about coming aboard.  We also use any data we’ve found on them, including what they’ve looked at on our website, to further personalize these emails when that information is available. 


Another question we ask is, what helpful information could we provide to address one of their pain points? So what does that mean? To increase leads and cut through the noise, we have customized our emails and outreach efforts through videos and landing pages to catch their attention. 62% of buyers who have had a negative sales experience said they encountered sales representatives who did not listen to their needs, 44% said they did not try to be helpful, and 34% said they did not provide them value. We try to overcome these types of experiences by really thinking through how we could show them value. Besides providing them helpful content like a blog post, we try to make their experience with us unique, like creating a customized video or landing page specifically about their company so they know we are directly speaking to them, and not sending mass emails. This is a strategy I highly recommend for your sales team. Have them think outside the box and start coming up with different ways to reach your prospective clients. There is a lot of noise out there, blow through it by being different.

Another way to stay fresh is to have your sales and marketing teams interact with colleagues in your network. This allows you to bounce ideas off of people who are also trying to find the best practices in your profession and to share information about leads you may not have been aware of. Every quarter I have a meeting with other executives in sales at different companies. While my company offers strategy-focused digital marketing services, my sales friends offer services like strictly tactical online advertising, billboards, print, and video. Together we discuss which sales methods have been working and which ones stink. Additionally, we exchange contacts and connections that might help each other fill our CRMs and get more discovery calls. It’s a win-win situation and it keeps your mind fresh. Call your sales friends and schedule a meeting, you won’t regret it.

The Future of Inbound Sales:

Marketers are thinking hard about decentralized content. Many are experimenting with taking their content to new channels; this is a fairly new tactic that few have mastered, but many are working on. In the survey, marketers clearly are accounting for the rising popularity of video content among global online browsers, with 48% planning on using YouTube and 39% looking to use Facebook video. Podcasts are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and new channels like Instagram are in the marketer’s mix as well. But don’t let the Marketing teams have all the fun. Take some of this from their playbook and use it in your sales initiatives.

I mentioned the value of customization before. While it is a larger investment in time, the effort can mean the difference between a meeting with a prospect or another sales email deleted. In the same way we realized cold calling was a dying method, salespeople must be vigilant for the next trends in effective sales tactics. Already we are seeing direct mail becoming more effective again as it adds a personal touch that has become lost in the wave of emails. Continue to think about the next best thing, it will be here before you know it. In closing, the best way to make inbound work for you in your sales and marketing processes is to go the extra 1%. That’s our motto at StringCan where the State of Inbound is strong.


Source: HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound Report