Why It’s Time to Stop Selling and Start Helping: 3 Steps to Create an Inbound Strategy for Your Company

Dan Tyre and Todd Hockenberry

Times have changed. For most business owners, the good old days (think 2016) are a distant memory. Businesses need to be adaptable and prepared with the right strategy to engage the right customer to be successful.

Do you have a strategy to compete?

Over the last two years, as we have been doing research for our book, Inbound Organization (Wiley), we have been speaking with owners, senior executives and managers throughout the world, and we are constantly amazed at the number of companies that “wing it.”

We will ask about the company strategy, and smart people will respond, “We are not that kind of company. We are in business to make money.”

While that seems pretty straightforward, it is a lot harder to do in 2018 than ever before. Why?

1. Prospects and customers are more demanding than ever before. The level of expectation is so much higher starting from the first interaction. Prospects and customers expect everyone at your company to know who they are, where they are in the buying cycle, and what they need.

2. It’s no longer about your product – it’s about their customer experience. There is a pervasive idea that all products/services meet a minimum threshold of utility and professionalism.

3. Prospects and customers want an expert, not a generalist. When you have to go under the knife for a hip replacement, do you want a general practitioner or a hip specialist? Exactly. You want someone with deep understanding of your situation, your problem, and potential solutions who has done the procedure hundreds of times.

Helping Buyers Achieve Their Goals

If that sounds like the prospects and customers you deal with every day, then your company strategy needs to be supportive of this process.

A company strategy is the answer to the question “How are we going to succeed?” The ultimate goal of an inbound organization is to build great customer relationships by delivering an exceptional buying experience.

Inbound strategies are based on helping buyers achieve their goals. An inbound strategy is an attitude and mindset that centers on developing the best employee, partner, and buyer experience possible.

Here are three ways to create a company strategy using inbound principles:


  • Change from selling to helping
  • Build out your company target and buyer personas
  • Create a strategy that includes the buyer journey

Change from Selling to Helping

In all our interviews with inbound companies, the single biggest factor influencing success was the philosophy of helping people before you ask them to buy. Think about it: Isn’t that what you would like if you were in a pickle?

This means that your sales organization has to adopt an inbound approach—not qualifying to see if someone is a fit to buy, but asking, “What are you looking for help with?” It means that your sales organization is not going to treat everyone the same, but prioritize the good-fit prospects, who have spent more time researching the problem on your website or on a competitor’s website.

Build Out Your Company Target and Buyer Personas

We frequently refer to the phrase, “The riches are in the niches.” Before the recent increase in customer expectations, a company could sell to everyone without concern – the onus was on the buyer to find and buy the right product. Today, the tables are turned, and the seller has the responsibility to make sure that they are working with only good-fit customers. Creating a strategy around your buyer personas and ideal buyer is the second step for creating an inbound strategy.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data and educated speculation regarding customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivation, and goals. By digging into the data and analytics of who is buying and using your product and what features people use (or don’t use), you are able to get detailed information so that you can tailor the process to meet their needs.

Be Conscious of the Buyer Journey

The final step to leverage an inbound strategy is to understand that the customer journey is a differentiating factor—the helping philosophy starts the first time someone visits your website, calls a customer support line, or engages with a salesperson or technician. Creating an inbound strategy that defines each component of the buyer journey – AWARENESS, CONSIDERATION, DECISION, RELATIONSHIP – makes it easier to provide the right information at the right time.

Inbound organizations understand that organizations start building relationships sometimes years before a financial transaction takes place. Inbound organizations lean into the process around lead intelligence; lead notification; automating the low-content work; helping, not pushing; friendly advice; and support.

Creating an inbound strategy with these three steps can help you generate good-fit customers who will stay with you for the long term.

Dan Tyre and Todd Hockenberry are coauthors of Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles.

Sales & Marketing Management is the leading authority for executives in the sales and marketing field.

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