So what’s better, inbound or outbound?

Outbound lets you pick who to go after.  At the right level in an organization.  Inbound?  You get who you get, at least at first, when they inbound.

But one big difference is that an inbound lead is more likely to be “in market” now, or close.  They are likely to be interested in buying now or reasonably soon.  Outbound?  That’s a crap shoot.

Because you’re lucky if even 10% of your potential, total customer base is “in market” right now.  It’s often much less, often 5% or less. 

With maybe another 5% doing some “shopping”.

Once you’ve been doing it for a while, it all makes sense, but most founders don’t get this at first, and many sales execs take quite a while to figure this out:

  • Many prospects are happy with their current vendor
  • Many prospects are “meh” on their current vendor, but would need a huge reason to change
  • Many prospects are locked into longer contracts already
  • Many prospects don’t have time to switch vendors, even if they wanted to
  • Many prospects don’t have any resources right now to switch vendors, even if they wanted to

The list goes on.  There are 100s of reasons “right now” is the wrong time for any given prospect, even if they let you scan their badge or downloaded a whitepaper.

And the best marketers know this cold.  See the conversation with me and the CMOs of HubSpot and Zapier above.  Marketers know part of their job is to keep a vendor top of mind until they are in market.  To keep moving folks down the funnel, even folks who may not buy for 1, 2, even 3+ years.

So what’s actionable?  A few thoughts here:

#1.  Make Sure Your Lead Scoring is Realistic.  A prospect that sounded interested but has no budget or time now probably should be handed over to marketing for nurturing, and then followed up with by sales each quarter following.

#2.  Ask if It’s Budgeted, Especially for $20k+ Deals.  Too many founders are scared to ask this, thinking it’s a smarmy sales question.  But it’s a critical one to ask.  “Is this budgeted for the current year / quarter?”  Just ask.  If it’s not, you may still get some money from a discretionary budget.  But if you hear it’s budgeted for say next year, you have a much better sense of timing.

#3.  Upgrade or Start Drip Marketing to Keep Them in the Fold.  Many startups aren’t even doing drip marketing to their prospects.  Many founders ignore what drip marketing there is.  Don’t.  This is one critical way to keep prospects in the loop until … they are ready to buy.

#4.  Do a Weekly Webinar Every Week.  We’ve been writing this again and again at SaaStr for over a decade, and it’s as true today as it was then.  Inviting all your prospects and everyone in your funnel every week to a new, live webinar is a great way to let them drop in when they are closer to being ready.

#5.  Create One Channel of Truly High Value Add Content.  A podcast, a blog, a YouTube channel, even on LinkedIn.  But do something every week you can push out to your prospects and database that adds a lot of value.  Not lame outsourced or GPT’d articles.  But something every week that makes your prospect’s work lives better.   Keep adding value until they are ready to buy.

#7.  Think About Buy-Out Contracts.  Zoom did them in the beginning, to get customers out of multi-year WebEx deals.  You should consider it, too.  Don’t wait until competitive contracts expire to close customers.  That’s a missed opportunity.   More here.

#8.  Do a Customer Conference And Invite All Your Key Prospects.  This just always works.  Your existing customers will sell your prospects on coming onboard.   This also works on a smaller scale with customer + prospect dinners.

#9.  Make Migration Much, Much Easier.  Almost no sales execs think about the true costs of migrating from one vendor to another, both soft and hard costs.  As founders and leaders, think more here.  How can you make it as close to one-click easy to switch as possible?

#10.  Don’t Force It.  I made this mistake as a first-time founder, you will too.  Too many sales reps do this every week.  Most deals can be pulled in a bit, but they can’t be forced.   Ban the break-up email.  Ban the threats.  Ban the end-of-quarter drama.  For sure, incentives properly done are fine.  But again, most prospects won’t be ready today just because you want to make the plan for the month, quarter, or year.

(image from here)

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