How Contextual Selling Is Changing B2B Inbound Lead Follow Up

Written by Fes Askari

Dec 14 2016

Contextual Selling

Sales is evolving. As customers change the way they buy, sales and marketing teams need to adapt the way they go to market - particularly for complex B2B sales.

You may already be aware of the importance of Inbound sales enablement in the modern sales landscape; with sales and marketing alignment, enabled sales teams work to help (and build trust) with quality leads from early on in the sales cycle - a result of having access to marketing lead intelligence, and having input on marketing collateral aligned with buyer pain.


It’s increasingly important that salespeople stay involved and have visability on lead engagement and conversations* through every stage of the buyer journey - or else risk losing opportunities to competitors who are engaging with the same prospects at an earlier stage (or even pre-sales).

To truly succeed, Sales involvement and lead follow-up throughout the buyer's journey must also be relevant - and must completely align with the buyer’s context.

However to truly succeed, sales team involvement and lead follow-up throughout the buyer's journey must also be relevant and must completely align with the buyer’s context for conversations to be successful, timely, and helpful. Otherwise, no matter how well you think you know your lead, without understanding the context and buyer’s perspective, your interactions won't postively imapct the journey. 

Understanding Contextual Sales

Increasingly, advances in technology, new content platforms and better integrations, are enabling a better contextual understanding of each lead. Essentially, we are becoming better able to recognise the unique pains, preferences and needs of each contact, so we can be more accurate and relevant in how we engage. Treatings contacts as people rather than simply 'leads'.


Why is context important? Because your leads are individuals. Not all of them will want you to follow up with a call to answer their questions. Instead they want answers on social media, in live chat, in forums - and they want answers at the exact moment they’re experiencing that buyer pain, not in a call 'next Tuesday at 2pm'.

Salespeople must consider how they can evolve the follow-up process to be more contextually relevant, shifting focus to the right channels, for the right leads.

So today, salespeople must do more than just make the switch to an inbound mindset. They must also consider how they can evolve the follow-up process to be more contextually relevant, shifting from a focus on calls and emails alone, to being available on the right channels, for the right buyers, at the right time (using tools such as in-content chat, website chat or social channels). Derek Wyszynski’s recent post: ‘Stop Giving Millennials “Sales Advice” highlights this well; exploring why now is the time to stop giving advice to audiences based on how we like to sell. Instead, it’s time to take advice on how they like to buy.

But what does context mean? What factors are involved in understanding a lead’s context?

Contextual marketing identifies the buying context of a lead (their history with your organisation, buying stage, known challenges, the platform they are using etc.), before displaying content that is uniquely relevant to them. Site copy, content offerings, CTAs and more can be adapted to help leads through their purchase journey.

Similarly, contextual sales and follow-up works as an evolution of inbound sales practices, ensuring Sales teams work to ‘always be relevant’ as well as ‘always be helping’ throughout the buyer’s journey.

If we think of contextual sales as an equation, it may look like this:

Contextual Sales Follow-up = lead data + timeliness & message + channel relevancy

In this equation:

Lead data = taking the lead’s history / position in the buyer’s journey into account

Timeliness & Message = Understanding the buyer’s pain in that moment, and following up at the right, most relevant time, and with a relevant message. For example, you should be available to respond when the lead is on your site/ reading your content (and only if they have triggered a request for engagement, e.g. ‘where can I find more content on this topic?’)

Channel Relevancy = Identifying the channels your leads are communicating through (such as social, chat apps, calls and more) and meeting them there on their terms.

What Will Contextual Selling Mean For the Evolution of Inbound Sales?

Contextual sales should be thought of as one branch of a wider inbound sales and marketing strategy. When it comes to considering contextual selling, this means;

Sales Execs must be involved at every stage of the B2B funnel

Sales roles are changing. Where once Sales teams only became involved towards the bottom of the funnel, now sales roles are almost a hybrid of Marketing and Sales. To follow up successfully, SDRs must now be involved from the start, working alongside marketing to gain the best insight into a lead’s context.

Sales/ Marketing alignment remains crucial

For sales staff to be involved at every stage of the funnel, a defined alliance with marketing is essential. Then together both sides can ensure that all touchpoints (such as LinkedIn profiles) are properly optimised, and that sales teams have centralised access to relevant marketing data, metrics and content. Additionally, alignment is needed to determine correct tracking and reporting of activities, such as content downloaded. Only then can a clear view on Cost of Customer Acquisition and ROI be achieved.

Follow up may take place across any channel your leads use

Technology has changed the way brands go to market, allowing us to reach buyers across more diverse channels than ever. Modern salespeople must recognise this growing channel availability in relation to their buyer personas to be active in the right spaces.

You are almost 5 times more likely to schedule a first meeting if you have a personal LinkedIn connection - Sales Benchmark Series

Chat is an increasingly important channel for Sales and Marketing alike

According to the State of Inbound 2016 20% of marketers are considering incorporating messenger apps into their 2017 strategies. Considering chat’s potential as a real-time nurture tool, chat apps (on site, in content, as well as in apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp) are increasingly valuable, allowing sales teams to engage with buyers at the right moment, and via the right channel to offer true contextual value.

AI and chatbots are on the rise. This technology should be seen as a compliment to sales teams who will be able to free up time to focus on qulaity converstations with engaged leads, rather that acting as the filter. *Tools such as Drift chat are proving effective in driving automated convertsations through dynamic content and questioning, which can then be taken over by a team member when the time is right. 

It's important for SDRs to start considering contextual sales strategy right now

To avoid being left behind, or being stuck within an inefficient sales process, it’s wise to consider the impact of inbound and contextual sales now. 91% of the time, cold calling doesn’t yield any result at all (Harvard Business Review). It’s time to move towards more contextual, buyer relevant options.

“In 2006 the website augmented the sales rep. In 2016, the sales rep augments the website.” - Brian Halligan

Regardless of technological and channel advances, truly successful contextual follow-up is about assessing how to best align your sales process with the buyer’s journey; identifying where each buyer is in the sales cycle, and being in the right space to help them when they need you.


B2B Marketing Zone