How our inbound sales team does more than just ‘qualify’ opportunities

This blog post goes through how our inbound sales team at GoCardless does more than simply ‘qualify’ leads but guides them quickly through the buying process enabling us to close deals faster.

Whilst I was reading Salesloft’s excellent blog last week, one insight they made was that their inbound sales reps who spend less time on the phone, end up creating more opportunities. Their recommendation was that inbound reps should simply use any question to say ‘excellent, one of our account executives will be able to answer that and much more, how does tomorrow at 10am sound for a quick call?’

If the sole aim of inbound sales is to book calls for account executives, then this is an excellent question. But what happens if inbound can do more? What happens if inbound can not just book meetings, but help close deals faster?

What we do

If you have average reps, it is really easy to train them to ask that simple question and they will be able to book plenty of demos. Rather than simply acting as glorified appointment bookers, our inbound sales team help find out exactly what our prospects are looking for, see if we could be a potential fit and start advising on how we can help. By the end of most calls the customer either knows we are a good fit and wants to get started immediately or that we probably wouldn’t be able to help out. Instead of aiming to ‘book demos,’ our inbound team can jump into demos during a call. Rather than having to wait 3 days for when they next are free — within 15 minutes, callers can know exactly how the product works and whether it’s going to help them. This means that the account executive’s role is simply to advise the customer on best practices and help with adoption rather than try to ‘sell’ our solution.

Why we do this?

There are three basic reasons why we do this:

  • We want to be able to provide the best possible experience from the first moment someone speaks to us. Clients will never forget their first experience with you. Spending 5 minutes on the phone only to be told you need to speak to someone else isn’t fun. A potential client calling us wants answers straight away on that call, not in three days on a different one.
  • We want people to be able to use us as quickly as possible. A quicker sales cycle not only improves our bottom line, but also makes our customers happier. If someone wants to start using us, they generally want to get going as soon as possible
  • We have an awesome team. The final reason why we do this is because we can. We have a really high hiring bar at GoCardless and believe in putting in lots of time to training new reps. This means that they should be able to deal with any query that comes in and help align our solution to our clients’ needs. If the team weren’t so good, there is no way we could do this and we would have to compromise with a slower sales cycle and a slightly worse experience for our customers.

How we do this

The two most important prerequisites here are to hire great people and train them well.

Without these two, you can’t really do inbound sales like us. I’ve previously written about how we train sales people. So, once you have some smart, well trained people, what do you do next?

Be thorough. That’s the essential difference between us and other inbound sales teams.

If our inbound sales team think an opportunity should be qualified, they cannot get off the phone until they have a thorough understanding of the following:

  • Current process. Without a thorough understanding of how they are currently doing things, we cannot credibly advise whether or not we are better than what they are doing at the moment. We’d just be guessing. In addition, uncovering how they currently do things enables us to uncover problems they may not even know they had.
  • Pain. Mark Suster’s great post goes through the main reasons why people buy anything. In a nutshell, unless we find a compelling problem they have currently that we can solve, they are unlikely to go to the effort of switching. Instead of ‘we’ll save them time,’ we need ‘we’ll save them 8 hours/week, or £569/month.’
  • Decision making process. Likewise without a full understanding of how and when the company will be making a decision, we won’t be in the best position to close the sale. If the FD phones, but it is the CEO who is deciding, we need to find out about what the CEO cares about and make sure she is on the next call. Likewise, if they can’t move over to us for 9 months, we need to know this now so we don’t waste valuable time. Stelli Efti has probably written the best post on how to do this.
  • Next steps. We always agree on a time for a followup call whilst on the phone. Ideally within 24 hours. Arranging a time on the phone avoids long email threads and lets the client know we value their time. The longer you leave something, the more likely people are to forget about it.

What the effects have been

When I first joined GoCardless our average sales cycle was 90–120 days. Since I’ve started closing, our average deal length for comparable deals has been 42 days. One of the main factors behind this is the improvements we have made in inbound sales. In the past few weeks, I’ve had a number of clients who’ve returned signed contracts to me before I’ve even had a chance to speak to them!

During this time the number of opportunities has increased (as well as us having increased the threshold for what an opportunity is). That’s to say, our tactic seems to have not only reduced the sales cycle, but also increased the number of opportunities we create.

If you like the sound of this and would enjoy working alongside us, we’d love to hear from you. We welcome candidates from any background. Feel free to email me on benm@gocardless.com if you have any questions at all.

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