Salespeople: Inbound Marketing Alone Won’t Save Your Ass

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At this point, it’s almost blasphemous to suggest that inbound marketing is anything but a B2B organization’s saving grace. After all, if it’s leveraged properly, inbound marketing can be an incredibly cost-effective way to drum up new sales leads and close new business.

But as Mike Weinberg explains, sales leaders and executives are also quickly realizing that inbound marketing is not the cure-all solution many seem to assume it is. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s simply given B2B salespeople another excuse to avoid an activity that they generally loathe: prospecting.

According to Weinberg, that mentality has to change.

Today, most B2B sales teams rely too heavily on inbound marketing as a prospecting or lead generation tool, Weinberg argues. Unfortunately, that dependence on inbound marketing has led to salespeople forgetting how to — or ignoring the need to — proactively self-generate leads.

“The truth is that inbound marketing is not a replacement for traditional prospecting activities. It’s a supplement to them,” says Weinberg.

Yes, inbound marketing can supply a surprisingly high volume of qualified leads for a relatively small investment. But if B2B salespeople are relying solely on inbound marketing as their lead source, they won’t succeed going forward. And their companies will begin to lose patience with them.

To be successful, salespeople must rediscover their prospecting abilities. Weinberg suggests they need to re-train themselves on the fundamentals of self-generating leads, and they need to once again embrace the power of traditional prospecting activities.

That starts with doing three key things in addition to following up on inbound marketing generated leads:

  1. Writing and executing against a personal business plan: As reps enter 2013, they should be able to draft a business plan that lays out their new business acquisition goals and the activities they’ll use to meet those goals.
  2. Developing a finite, strategic list of target accounts: This is prospecting 101, but having reps develop a finite, strategic list of accounts on their own will reinforce good prospecting habits. It will also force reps to proactively explore and engage your target market.
  3. Dedicating blocks of time to personal prospecting activity: Once reps understand that they’ll be held accountable for self-generating leads and developing a strategic list of target accounts, it’s critical that they consistently block out time for prospecting several times per week. Businesses can ill afford salespeople who don’t produce their own business.

The Good News

If salespeople commit to actually executing those relatively simple prospecting activities, Weinberg argues it won’t take them long to recognize the value of self-generating leads.

“When salespeople discover prospects on their own, it’s likely that they’ll be the first person to the party rather than just another body on the bandwagon. As a result, they’ll stand a better chance of defining a prospect’s criteria for purchase.”

And by showing up first, they can demonstrate unique value, challenge the process, build the relationship, and fulfill the need without having to fend off hoards of competitors.

When salespeople sit around and wait for leads, on the other hand, it’s likely they’ll encounter buyers who are already well down their path to purchase. And if salespeople are constantly in that reactive mode, their chances of consistently winning new business go down significantly.

The Bottom Line

Some fundamental sales skills or competencies never lose their relevance, and prospecting certainly qualifies as one of them. Weinberg agrees that growing B2B businesses should absolutely continue to use inbound marketing going forward, but he doesn’t believe they should use it in place of traditional sales prospecting.

“When companies are too reliant on inbound marketing, it’s becomes too easy for salespeople to point their fingers back at marketing for producing crummy leads,” he says. “The onus is — and always has been — on salespeople to create their own success, and it’s about time they (and they companies they work for) remembered that.”

We want to hear from you!

Do you agree with Mike that B2B salespeople shouldn’t rely too heavily on inbound marketing to provide them with leads?