Inbound Leads: How Should They Be Handled?

BY Jessica Helinski
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Inbound leads can leave salespeople confused about how to handle them. Unlike outbound leads, these leads arrive on their own. How should they be handled? Are tactics you use with leads that you uncover on your own effective? Reps need to adopt a clear strategy so they don’t miss any opportunity. Dani Buckley, in an article for LeadG2, discusses what makes inbound leads unique and how reps should approach their outreach when one comes their way. 

Inbound leads: A definition

To be clear, Buckley begins her discussion by clearing up the difference between inbound and outbound leads:

A lead is someone interested in your products or services. Classifying them as an inbound lead or outbound lead depends on how they connected with you and how much they know about your business. Salespeople approach outbound leads who are unfamiliar with your company and who have undefined needs. An inbound lead approaches you because they know the company, and they've conducted enough research to find that you offer a solution to a need they have.”

Reps, before attending to either lead, must first have a clear understanding of how leads differ. This understanding will help them reach out in a way that will be the most effective for each type. 

The approach

Buckley points out that in her experience, reps tend to do the wrong thing when faced with an inbound lead. Because the lead comes to them, many assume that it’s “hot;” the prospect is ready to buy right now. Often, they send out a flurry of outreaches in an effort to close the deal ASAP. But, she explains, it’s a mistake to assume that all inbound leads are immediately ready to buy. 

Instead of racing to close, reps must first try to sell, even if the lead comes to them first. There is no way to know their needs, challenges, goals, etc. The first step is to uncover where they are at in their buyer journey. Yes, they’ve responded to a marketing email or signed up for a demo; that doesn’t mean they are ready to close. It does mean that they have an interest, presenting an opportunity for reps to dig deeper and play off that interest. 

But, she does recommend that you don’t hesitate with an inbound lead! Reach out as soon as possible, but don’t overwhelm the prospect with loads of information. Treat them as you would any other lead: take time to research, ask probing questions, engage in active listening, etc. “The next step is that of the salesperson who continues and nurtures that relationship, as much as is needed, in order to get closer to the sale,” she explains.

The takeaway

Just because a prospect finds you first, it doesn’t always mean that you should treat them as if they’re ready to close. Reps must nurture inbound leads just as much as outbound leads. “You must use content, valid business reasons, and a variety of touch points, again, just like you do with any other prospect, in order to move them along,” Buckley explains. “Understanding these things and acting appropriately will help ensure you close more business and that your marketing leads aren’t going to waste.”