B2B Marketing Blog

John Doe

Architect & Engineer

We love that guy

Freemium 2 Premium- Lessons on How to Upsell your B2B SaaS Product header

You’re hovering over the ‘Enter’ button after filling out your email address for a SaaS free trial. “You know they’re probably gonna blast you with emails,” says Mindy Kaling’s Inside Out voice in the back of your mind. For the past two months, I’ve managed to get Mindy out of my head by signing up to 100+ B2B SaaS free plans and trials. But why?

I signed up to a total of 100 trials. Those included some for some of the most recognizable tools (think Slack and Mailchimp) along with some up-and-coming SaaS products to study and understand some of the best practices when creating a marketing automation strategy to turn free users into paid customers. This process called upselling, is like inbound marketing on steroids, since technically these prospects are already in your court, using your technology. Their intent is clear and it’s now up to you to prove your product’s value and make sure they get the most out of it. Unlike investing time and energy into attracting new leads, free users are already enjoying your tool and hopefully also sharing it with their teams.

Funnily enough though, while upselling freemium to premium plans may seem like fishing in your backyard, marketers from companies big and small are still struggling with how they can best approach this unique group of users to get to them to buy paid plans. Through my research I found some interesting tactics I wanted to share with you that I hope will help you step up your ‘Freemium 2 Premium’ upselling strategy. Let’s get started.

The Research Methodology

I signed up for the Top 50 and most popular digital marketing tools, and another 50 lesser known tools and tracked their upselling strategy to document the total number of emails sent, verification/welcome email, retention email, and whether or not a sales member reached out via phone.

The results are spread out throughout this article to showcase how their strategies differ, but it’s interesting to note that the same upselling tactics were applied among all 100 tools. In fact, in many cases, the lesser known 50 companies are doing more than their more recognizable counterparts to turn freemium users into paying customers.

Pick a Plan (and be clear about it)

Before we even get into the upselling automation sequences, an important word about picking a freemium plan. Throughout my research, the most common free plans used by SaaS companies include “Free Forever”, 14-day trials, and 30-day trials.

common free plans used by SaaS companies

Free Forever proves to be the most popular across the board, which may be due to its ability to allow users to enjoy the product without the feeling they’ll lose their progress on the platform in a matter of weeks. On the company’s end, it’s also great since it allows your team to continuously nurture users into becoming paid members over time. Free forever plans also allow you to advertise and encourage members to scale their plan, as they scale their company. Kind of a win-win for everyone.

Trial plans offer a chance for users to get the full effect of your product, which can sometimes be missed with a bare-boned Free Forever plan. As mentioned above though, it can be tricky to have users fall in love with your tool, only to be forced to choose between eradicating their progress or paying up to use it on a monthly or years basis.

One last note. Far too often when I was signing up for free plans, websites had flashy CTA buttons like “Start for free” or “Create Free Account”. When I clicked to sign-up, the landing page gave no indication as to what kind of freemium plan I was getting myself into. Was this a Free Forever plan, a trial, a demo? Be sure to be clear with your new users. Bad communication from the get-go is no way to start a new relationship.


The Welcoming Committee

No matter what kind of freemium plan you’re running, be sure to send a welcome email. This might seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many SaaS companies just started sending me eBooks or guides on how to use their product. That being said, there are many ways to write a compelling welcome email. Here are a few.

  1. Offer a quick demo video – Getting started with a new tool can be daunting especially if you don’t have the time to play around with it. By including a quick demo (1-5 minutes) of your product, you can help your users get up and running in no time.
  2. Point out support centers – If you have a community page, a Slack channel, a knowledge base, or an FAQ page, be sure to add those links in this email. Customer success (and the desire to take users to the next paying level) is reliant on customer support. You can also offer one-on-one support using a call scheduling tool like Calendly or Book Like a Boss.
  3. Highlight benefits of your product – Everyone enjoys feeling like they made a good decision, so be sure to excite new members about all the ways using your product will change the way they do business. Highlight added benefits over features to show your new users how your product will meet (and maybe even exceed) their needs.

Surprisingly, the lesser known 50 companies sent more welcome/verification emails at 88% compared to the 86% coming from the Top 50.

By The Numbers

Surprisingly, the lesser known 50 companies sent more welcome/verification emails at 88% compared to the 86% coming from the Top 50.

On average, the Top 50 companies sent 6.18 total emails, and the lesser known 50 sent 4.32 emails throughout the cycle to try turn me into a premium customer.

Out of the 100 companies that I signed up for, only 8 total made the effort to pick up the phone and call me. You don’t need to be good at math to realize that’s only 8%. Phone calls can make all the difference in making a first impression and lasting connection. 

Some Notes on Nurturing

The goal of your Freemium 2 Premium sequences is to help, help, and then help some more. Yes, you want the free users to pick a paid plan, but the way to do it (as always in inbound) isn’t to harrassingly sell, but to offer value throughout their path to purchase. Here are some ways to offer support and encouragement during their test drive:

  1. Call them! Many of the freemium landing pages I filled out asked me for my phone number. If you can ask for this information and follow through with phone calls by your sales and/or customer success teams — do it! During my research, I even got a call from Salesforce saying they noticed I filled out that I worked in Tel Aviv, and invited me to go to a meetup of theirs that was scheduled to happen the following week. Offering a personalized experience on the phone is the best way to build a relationship and it’s not cold calling since they willingly gave you their info.Out of the 100 companies that I signed up for, only 8 total made the effort to pick up the phone and call me. You don’t need to be good at math to realize that’s only 8%. Phone calls can make all the difference in making a first impression and lasting connection.
  2. Webinars – 15% of my experimentees offered at least one webinar during their nurturing sequence. Some of them were product-centric (e.g. ‘Sell smarter and faster with X CRM’) while others were just helpful know-how (e.g. ‘The power of customer support data to drive executive product decisions’). Whether live or recorded, webinars can be an asset in educating users about your brand, tool, and expertise.
  3. Tips & Tricks – Your Freemium 2 Premium campaign is all about showing free users the inside scoop on how best to use your product. Here’s an example from Evernote that I loved.

  1. Short and to the point, Evernote shows you some special, lesser-known shortcuts to make sure you’re maximizing your time to get work done. These tidbits can get users reinspired to give your product another shot or take their current experience to the next level.
    • Personalization – When filling out the landing pages to sign up for free membership, I got asked endless questions about myself, my company, and my industry. I complied in hopes I’d see some killer personalization in the email drip; honing in on my details to offer me that tailormade email feeling. For the most part though, I didn’t see any of those personalization tokens other than my name and the occasional company name drop. Lesson to be learned: Be sure to do this right by creating automated workflows based on user information criteria. A little personalization goes a long way in helping you stand out.
    •  Trigger based emails – this is a very core aspect that can make or break the success of your nurturing campaigns. Make sure to map out typical user behavior on your SaaS and to send out triggered automated emails based on user behaviors or inactivity. This would be very different between each SaaS but here are some best practices to pay attention to and things to consider when strategizing this part:
      • Reaching any type of free user cap – you can email them to let them know they’re nearing their cap and once again once they’ve reached it
      • “Users who do this usually do this next” – make the user aware of things they can do next based on what they’ve done
      • Inactivity – reach out after a certain timeframe to remind them how your product can help them and why they’ve signed up in the first place
      • Congratulate them when taking certain actions for the first time

      By being aware and tracking user behavior you can also segment users based on different criteria and prioritize sales calls to users who are more engaged and seem to show a high potential of upgrading.

Of the 31 companies in the Top 50 group where a breakup email was relevant (i.e. not a Free Forever plan), only 13 sent emails (42%). Of the 26 companies in the lesser known 50 group where a breakup email was relevant, only 8 sent an email. That’s just 31%.

Not including Free Forever plans that wouldn’t need a breakup, the lack of breakup emails to me was staggering. Let’s think of this as a relationship (since relationship building is the center of this nurturing effort). You meet a girl and you decide there might be something here, so you both agree to give it a try. Unfortunately though, this new partner hasn’t been available recently. Does that mean you just let it fade away? Sure, two can play the ghosting game but wouldn’t the common courtesy be to either offer closure, say there’s maybe not a fit here, and part ways as friends or make a royal gesture to get her to commit to trying again? The same goes for trial breakups. If you value your free users, don’t let them slip away without at least a goodbye.

With less than 50% of both groupings of companies sending breakup emails, they are missing a large opportunity for key retention strategies.

Here are some of the best goodbye tactics I’ve seen:

  1. Upgrade in style – There’s obviously the standard “Your Free Trial Has Ended. Upgrade Now to Access Your Data” email subject line. But what if you offered a little something extra? Throw in a discount or coupon for rewarding your users for stepping up their ante.
  2. Point out support centers…again – If a user did in fact get invested in your software and now they don’t have a way to access it, good chance they’re feeling stuck. Offer those support lifelines again to ensure they find a solution that best suits their needs.
  3. Link that success story – Opening this breakup email, users may be thinking, “is the upgrade really worth it?” By offering case studies that show similar companies (winning chance to work that industry personalization token) who have growth or saved money using your product, you’ll have a good chance at proving your paid plans are valuable in the long run.
  4. Offer a trial extension – I’ve seen this done various ways. I’ve seen the breakup email turned into a surprise offering of an additional 14-30 days right off the bat. Other times, there’s an opt-in email that asked users to email them back if they’d like their trial extended. Both are interesting openings to keep users engaged and start up a conversation to better understand their needs. Try A/B testing both and see what works best for your SaaS.
  5. Asking for feedback – When it comes to inbound marketing, we usually avoid asking for favors. In general our goal is to offer relevant value constantly, instead of asking for it. One of the few exceptions to this is asking for feedback. Many of my guinea pig Freemium 2 Premium companies asked for users to disclose if they ever used the tool during the trial, why they didn’t think it was for them, and if they had general feedback to help the companies do better in the future. I highly recommend this! If ex-users offer you some insight to help you improve, awesome! If they ignore you, no hard no foul. It was worth a shot.Once again, the lesser known 50 group of companies did a better job at trying to improve their product, with 14% of them asking for feedback. On the other hand, of the Top 50 companies, only 12% asked for feedback.


Freemium 2 Premium upselling is a great way to get paid users from a pool of people who are already using your product. When done right, it can be a powerful method to turn free members into brand ambassadors through education and a helpful hand. In addition to getting you paying users of course.

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John Doe

Architect & Engineer

We love that guy

My Favorite Paradox: Inbound Sales for Cold Leads header

Hi John,

My company does awesome stuff. There’s a good chance you need us. Would you be free to speak Monday morning?


Before coming to Bold Digital, this was pretty much what my go-to cold outreach looked like. If your first touch sales emails look something like this (even if it’s the beginning of an automated drip), we’ve got a problem.

The problem is that the email I wrote out above is centered around one person: Y-O-U. Let’s break it down.

  1. Right off the bat, you’re talking about your company. This has nothing to do with the prospect. Who they are, their space in the market, their newest PR feature, their brilliance, their challenges. That’s what you should be talking about.
  2. Next, you’re a) assuming their needs, and b) exuding confidence that you’re the solution. Here you have to explain to them why you think there’s a mutual fit. Have you learned about a particular challenge of theirs? Does that challenge sit in good company with the challenges your clients faced before implementing your solution? What’s a tip you can offer that will help them today?
  3. Lastly, you’re suggesting a time that works for you. They’re interested in a call? Great! If you have HubSpot Sales or other scheduling software, this is an awesome opportunity to empower your prospects. By putting them in the driver’s seat, they can set the date/ time that works best for them. It also beats the ping pong match you’re all too familiar with, trying to find the right time over email.
  4. Bonus tip: Your sign off. Recent research has found that the top 3 response rates for sign offs included words of gratitude. A simple ‘thanks’ can go a long away.


So what is inbound sales?

By writing my pre-Bold email, you offer no personalization and no value or help in an area your prospect needs guidance. What you need is an inbound sales approach. With an inbound sales strategy, you can replace in your head “selling” with “helping”. By helping your prospects through supporting their dream, empathizing with their disadvantages, and offering advice and encouragement, you can build a solid relationship based off trust.

Where can you get started? In the world of inbound, the #1 rule of the game is, you guessed it, personalization. This is just as true for sales as it is for marketing. Whether you’re approaching a hot, inbound lead or you’re working on your cold outreach efforts, all communication should feel personalized.

But enough with the introductions. Let’s dive into the cold pool.

helping you navigate your startup to marketing stardom

Inbound sales for cold leads

From everything we’ve talked about this far, it seems like cold emailing is the antithesis of inbound. Yes and no. Inbound leads, literally speaking, are incoming leads that come to you out of their own volition. But the truth of the matter is, as a startup still working on creating brand awareness, there’s a good chance you can’t solely rely on inbound marketing to fulfill your total goal of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) you want to attract/ convert on a weekly, quarterly, or yearly basis. It’s time to begin finding new leads that fit your prospect fit matrix. From there, you can begin reaching out, adding value, and positioning yourself through emails to help them understand the relevance of your solution to their pain points.

So even if cold outreach is a necessity for your company, there’s still a personalized, inbound way to reach out to those who have never heard of you. It’s time to get to work.

  1.  This isn’t “coming from nowhere”. Cold outreach always feels like the moment you’re in the bar, club, or really any crowded social setting where you walk across the room to someone who caught your eye. Good chance, they’ll be sceptical. Who are you? Why me among the other potential suitors in the room? What’s your motive? The more you can show you’ve done your homework as to why you think there’s a potential shot for collaboration, the more you can show them you don’t just email anyone. They’re special.
  2. Get creative. Delighting shouldn’t be reserved for customers. Figure out the best way to delight and send the best first impression to your new leads. In a recent BizDev campaign we started at Bold Digital, we send videos to cold leads to help introduce us, our 2 cents on their website, and how we suggest they can step up their marketing efforts by offering them a tour of their own website through the eyes of an inbound marketer. The results? I’ll let them speak for themselves.


Our open, click, and reply rate for just the first email!

click and reply rate

(Stats courtesy of HubSpot Sales)

Bold Digital’s Hall of Fame of responses:

Prospect response #1

Prospect response #2

Prospect response #3


Prospect response #4

(I guess we really gotta start offering sales enablement?)

3. Follow up. Outreach should never be a one and done. What does that say about how much you’re interested if you only give it one try? If you don’t have HubSpot Sales or other sales automation that allows you to initiate a sequence of emails, set a reminder for yourself to send out follow up emails. Pro tip: be sure to leave a few days between emails, otherwise you’re spamming them. Not sure how to make one-sided conversation with a stranger? Here’s HubSpot’s 5 part outreach sequence schedule, but feel free to adjust it to meet your industry, target audience, and available resources. Remember: as opposed to selling, this lineup offers leads multiple opportunities to open, read, and click your emails, in addition to guiding and adding value throughout the buyer’s journey.

Email sequence

(Courtesy of HubSpot)

Bonus Feature! Inbound sales for hot leads

If you’re wondering how inbound sales works for…well hot inbound leads, I’m glad you stuck around.

Here are my top 3 tips to personalize your emails for your hot SQLs:

  1. Leverage their journey. They fell into your lap because your marketing team thinks they had some digitally significant interaction with your company. What was it? Does it suggest that they were looking for help/ to learn about something in particular? Use this information in your initial outreach to open up a conversation about what they may be interested in learning more about, and how you can educate them further on the topic.
  2. Build rapport. Part of being personable can sometimes be about…getting personal. Check out the lead on LinkedIn. Do you live in the same city? Do you have mutual connections, background, or interests? While your emails should be professional, being human goes a long way in a world of impersonal automation.
  3. Get into their shoes. Remember that itch we talked about in #1 of what you think the potential problem might be? See if you can verify that problem by checking out their website, seeing what technology they’re using (try Ghostery or SimilarTech), and any other resources you think can help you paint a broader picture of their efforts. Rope that into your opening statements and watch them be floored by how much you just get them.

Wrapping up

As we jumpstart 2018, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing more and more automation for marketing and sales. While that’s sure to free up our time for creativity and help us ensure our efforts (and our prospects’ behavior) don’t fall through the cracks, automation will become less impressive and more the norm. The best way to be ahead of the curve is to be personable, add value, and show that you care.

Here’s a stat to consider for 2018: “88% of missed opportunities were caused because sales couldn’t find or leverage internal resources.” – Qvidian 2014 Sales Execution Survey

So get to know your SQLs, both hot and cold, before you reach out to them. I promise, if your outreach is personalized and continuous, they’ll be excited to get to know you too.


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John Doe

Architect & Engineer

We love that guy

Haters gonna hate.png

If there is one thing that all entrepreneurs share in common, it has to be the false belief that all mankind just HAS to like the thing that they invented. Every person who looks like they’re not interested, or even – god forbid – say something negative about their product, company or service, is considered to be the root of evil, or – in the ever so polite corporate jargon – a crisis.

This usually comes from misunderstanding what “target audience” means. Politicians, by the way, understand this term better than anyone else, and usually wouldn’t care about a negative story about them, as long as it’s not published in a media that is read by their voters.

So what does “target audience” means? It means the audience which is highly likely to purchase whatever it is that you’re making, usually because it’s highly relevant to them (based on their location, occupation, habits, areas of interest etc.). I think we can agree that if this definition was to stop here, everyone would embrace it. The problem lies with the part less talked about – the one that deals with those who are NOT part of your target audience, and how they might react to your story. 


First of all, news flash – there isn’t even one thing in this world that EVERYBODY likes. Even babies or puppies are hated by some (those bastards!). Your product, your company, your story – are not going to be the one thing that changes that. It’s not “close to being impossible”, it is impossible. So some people are not going to like what you’re doing, that’s a given. And by the way, you are not going to find out about all of them, not now and not ever.

What to do about them? that’s what we’re going to solve today. I even prepared a checklist to make it easier on you. After all, dealing with haters is no pleasure cruise.

 1. Are they in your target audience? 

2. Are they in a position to influence your target audience? (say a reporter that writes about luxury cars, and hates yours. While he probably won’t buy one for himself, his readers are your exact target audience. This is also true for KOL – Key Opinion Leaders – and the likes of them).

 3. How loud are they? 

 4. Is their hate based on personal bias, or actual experience?

 5. (This is the most important one, probably) Do they make a fair point?

 6. Is there a possibility to change their mind?

 7. If the answer to 6 is yes, what will it take, and is it worth it?

helping you navigate your startup to marketing stardom


If they are in your target audience, jump immediately to Q4+5 (by the way, if the answer to 1+2 is no, leave it!). Do they make a fair point? if you’re too close to answer this yourself, ask someone you trust and doesn’t work for you to try and answer this. Try to avoid giving them your point of view before they answer, and ask only people who you trust enough to know that they will always be honest with you.

If the answer is yes, thank the hater and learn from it. Maybe even change accordingly. You have a chance at communicating directly with your audience here. Be humble.

If the answer is no, go back to Q2. If they are not in a position to influence others on a massive scale, leave it. No one reaches 100% of their target audience. If the answer is yes, check out Q6- can you change their mind? yes- go to Q7 (what will it take), and if it makes sense, do it. If no – leave it! It would be wiser and better to spend your time on winning others who like you, or are able to learn to like you, and create positive ambassadors there.

The only question I did not address is Q3, how loud are they. I didn’t address it because, to be honest, I don’t like it. In today’s world things can go viral for no apparent reason, and ignoring someone (especially if they do make a fair point) just because they have only 130 friends on Facebook and 43 Twitter followers can prove to be a big mistake. Huge.  But if you have to, add that to the mix in order to asses the risk – it also helps to understand the general loudness of the hater. Are they “professional haters”, the kind that hates everything and anyone? are they usually positive but have a thing with your company specifically?

 Professional haters (and we all know at least one of those) are usually taken by their surroundings with a grain of salt. Positive people who share negative opinion about something are usually trusted more. Which one is yours?

 To sum it up – if you go through the following Q&A with a rational mind, most of the time the answer would be “leave it”. That’s because we can’t win them all. And I’m not saying they should be treated with anything other than respect (not admiration, obviously, but respect for sure). I’m just saying they’re not worth it. Not your time, not your resources, and not the endless fight of trying to win them over, a fight that will never end because there will always be at least one hater you’re aware of, if you’re not lying to yourself.

Last note,

If you see that too many of your target audience are becoming haters, then the best thing to do would be to quote Ice Cube to yourself – “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”. Something is not working, either your story, your brand promise or the actual experience. Don’t wait until it’s too late – your target audience wants to love you, you invented something that is aimed at making their life easier. If they don’t, learn from it and react before it’s too late.

I’ll close with an example I like to give. There’s a website called “paypalsucks.com“. It’s been around for a while, and I’m sure PayPal HQ are aware of it. Why haven’t they declared war on it? Simply because with over 100M clients, they understand the simple truth I was talking about today:

Haters gonna hate. No worth spending your time and energy on them, when you can win loyal clients somewhere else instead.



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John Doe

Architect & Engineer

We love that guy

Initiating outreach to inbound leads.png"

Introduction to inbound leads

When implementing an Inbound Marketing strategy, a dilemma arises when to pick up the phone/keyboard and reach out to an Inbound lead.

A few rules of thumb:

  • Prioritize who you reach out to based on how relevant a prospect they seem (do they fall under any of your ideal buyer personas?), and the actions they took on your website/blog
  • If a prospect downloaded a content offer from your website, that means there’s something they need help with (absolutely regardless to whether or not they actually got around to reading the offer or just “plan to”)
  • Initiating a connect call in order to try and help a prospect based on what you know about the actions they took on your blog/website is always a good idea.

This post will walk you through the best practice of selling to Inbound leads.

Start by conducting a connect call

The goal of a connect call is to uncover your prospect’s pain and find out if your company could potentially be a good fit for curing that pain. Connect calls should take no longer than 10 minutes.

Each B2B company will be looking to uncover a different pain. Let’s take our agency as an example.  In the connect calls we conduct with prospects we try to uncover where in the funnel the prospect may have a problem. We make sure to include positioning statements and educate the prospect on the call.

Here are examples of different positioning statements we use in order to uncover problems on different stages of the funnel:

When trying to identify if the problem is at the top of the funnel i.e. attracting more visitors to the prospect’s website we would say something along the lines of:

“I notice you are doing a great job blogging with frequency. You should try including some keywords in your blog post titles, this will help your posts get properly indexed by search engines and you’ll start showing up in more searches. Is it important for your business to drive more website traffic? Are you driving the right kind of traffic today? Have you discussed trying to ramp up your content creation efforts? What has held you back? What impact would increased traffic have on your business?”

When trying to identify if the problem is at the middle of the funnel i.e.  converting visitors to leads we would say something along the lines of:

“You’re doing a great job blogging, but I’m going to venture a guess that your conversion rates aren’t as high as you’d like. I have a tip for that, you should include a call to action at the end of every blog article. I’m wondering, how are your conversion rates? What does your idea lead look like? Have you discussed some lead goals this year? How is it going?”

When trying to identify if the problem is at the bottom of the funnel i.e. converting leads to customers we would say something along the lines of:

“If you begin to convert more leads at an earlier point in their buying process and start to nurture them, you can shorten your sales cycle. Were you aware that nurturing leads can also encourage your sales team to become more educational and consultative in nature as they will encounter leads earlier in the buying process. How are you currently nurturing and segmenting leads? Tell me about your sales process? Are you happy with your connect and close rates? How do your reps currently handle Inbound leads?”

Evaluate what pains you need to uncover and create your own positioning statements that apply for different solutions that you provide. Make sure to add value and educate along the way.

Once the pain is uncovered, if you’re under the impression that there’s potential for your company to help, set up a 30 min exploration call and send the prospect more reading material that further educates them on the subject uncovered.

At each stage, make sure to always tie down and assure you are on alignment with the prospect. Always send a recap email with the main highlights you took away from the call.

How To Create An Effective Inbound Marketing Strategy Call to Action

Move onto the exploratory call

An exploratory call will typically have three goals:

  1. Explore the prospect’s current goals
  2. Evaluate if they need help to reach their goals
  3. Qualify for the good old BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

Start by exploring the company’s current status, goals and any other company background related questions.

In our case the questions we typically ask are:

  • How many customers do you have?
  • Who are your Biggest customers?
  • What’s your average sales price?
  • what is the lifetime value (LTV) of each customer?
  • What is your LTV goal?
  • What’s the current number of yearly sales/ customers?
  • What does success look like 3 mths/6mths etc?

Next, try to evaluate if they need help to reach their goals

Figure out:

  • What their current plans are
  • Identify outstanding gaps in their plans
  • Dig to find what challenges stand between them and their plans
  • Figure out what the current growth is driven by

In our case we ask questions such as:

  • What are you currently investing in?
  • How is it working/ what are your results?
  • How confident are you that your plans will get you where you need?
  • Do you have a list of contacts?
  • How do you currently find leads?
  • Do you know what your cost per lead is?
  • Do you know what your lead-to-conversion rate is?
  • What ROI have you seen on your current marketing efforts?
  • How much does it cost you to acquire a customer?
  • What are the steps in your sales process?
  • What are the common hesitations clients have?

Qualify for BANT

At this stage of the call qualify the prospect for budget, authority and timing (we’ve already uncovered the Need in BANT at the earlier stages of the call)

We typically ask questions such as:


  • “What were you planning on investing in marketing to meet your goals?”
  • “If we came up with a better way to help you reach your goals, would you be able to find the budget to do so?”


  • “Who else besides yourself needs to be involved in decisions on services such as ours?”


  • “In order to hit your target, what needs to happen in the next 12 months?, what about the next quarter?”
  • “If you like the plan we come up with, what happens next? Would you have us start the next day?”

Summing up and recommending a next step

If the prospect seems like a sales qualified lead, move forward to schedule a call/ meeting where you can discuss your services/products and how you can help them. If not, politely bail out.

Remember that when it comes to Inbound sales, it’s all about the prospect and how you can help them. By staying customer focused sales will become a very natural part of the relationship you nurture.

If you found this useful, and you’re curious to learn more and find out how to create a long lasting Inbound Marketing strategy, we invite you to download our How-To guide for creating an Inbound Marketing strategy.


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John Doe

Architect & Engineer

We love that guy

B2B sales - cracking the code to success header

Introduction to b2b sales

Selling services or products to another business can be frustrating. You need to deal with endless rejections, cold shoulders and being flat out ignored. Your target customers are busy doing their job and they don’t want to be interrupted. This post will help you recalculate your route to closing B2B sales.

1. Get your priorities straight

Who are you placing in the center of your sales process? Yourself or the customer? You might think you’re customer focused, yet chances are there’s a reason you’re getting blown off by prospects. To paraphrase JFK “ask not what your prospect can buy from you, ask how you can help your prospect“.

At the end of every business is a human being. That person actually has a life. They’re busy, don’t know your business, don’t trust you, and don’t want to be interrupted. Respect that. Figure out who they are, what their needs are and how you can help them and tackle your entire strategy from that angle. This goes way beyond clichés such as “listen 80% and of the time and speak 20% of the time”. This is about a shift in attitude, it’s about building relationships, educating, answering to needs and only cutting down to business when the timing is right – for your prospect’s business (not yours).

b2b sales meme

2. Understand the buyer’s journey

The buyer’s journey is the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase. This is especially crucial to understand from a B2B perspective. B2B sales cycles are long by nature and requires a high level of trust. Decisions are far from spontaneous. In fact, 47% of B2B buyers consume 3-5 pieces of content prior to engaging with a salesperson. This means that some of your prospects are consuming your content before you even know who they are. By understanding the typical journey a buyer goes through before you speak to them, you can carefully figure out the right time to sell. This will help you avoid time wasted on pitching to prospects who are not ready to buy from you, as well as to avoid ruining what could otherwise evolve to a long-term relationship.

There are three stages to the average buyer’s journey:

1. Awareness

2. Consideration

3. Decision

Buyer's Journey



Look how the buyer’s journey correlates with a typical conversion funnel:



Only 5-15% of leads are sales ready. Most lead require nurturing, relationship and trust building. It’s important to understand that and to only sell at the bottom of the funnel. In order to do so it’s important to qualify leads and pinpoint where they are in the funnel.

3. Qualify MQLs and SQLs

Make sure to set clear criterias of what qualifies a lead to be a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and further on, what qualifies them to be a sales qualified lead (SQL).

An MQL is a lead who’s relevant to your company as a potential customer, but who isn’t far enough down the buyer’s journey to be ready to buy. This is a lead that will potentially respond to being nurtured. For example, if your company is a SaaS company providing solutions for small businesses in the US, a marketing qualified lead would be a person who is a small business owner, a US resident, and who’s company is the relevant industry to your business. They will have expressed interest in your company but such that doesn’t reflect direct intention to buy.

You can qualify a lead as an MQL by doing a bit of intelligence work. Look them up on LinkedIn, visit their website, google them and use any relevant means at your disposal to eliminate and not waste time on irrelevant leads (if the lead was generated from paid media, the campaign would have ideally been targeted per demographics, location and other relevant qualification screening options). Then make sure to evaluate what you know about their specific buyer’s journey and behavior:

  • Did they express interest in your company?
  • Did they download an ebook or whitepaper? Was the content they downloaded awareness, consideration or decision stage type of content?
  • Did they view your pricing page?

When using marketing automation tools, you’ll be able to use forms, lead scoring and workflows in order to qualify a lead as an MQL. That being said, don’t let the lack of marketing automation stand between you and lead qualification.

An SQL is an MQL who is further down the buyer’s journey. These are leads that you can pick up the phone and call with an intent to sell to, as they are ready to speak with you. This would be a result of lead nurturing or a direct expression of intent to buy from you.

4. Align marketing and sales goals

When marketing and sales disagree on the differences between MQLs and SQLs, everyone loses. Both marketing and sales should focus on quality and not quantity. A typical complaint from sales is that the leads they’re getting are useless. A typical complaint from marketing is that the sales team can’t sell ice to eskimos.

This can be solved.

Setting clear criterias for MQLs and SQLs, and as a result a clear process of when a lead is handed over to sales, is a win-win situation. It’s tempting to pick up the phone and call an MQL, however they’re probably not ready to buy. They need to make some sales ready actions, or else you will be “jumping in” too soon.


The secret to B2B sales is to be customer centric. Understand who your target audience is, figure out their buyer’s journey, qualify your leads and only sell to them when they are ready.

If you found this useful, and you’re curious to learn more and find out how to step up your b2b sales, we invite you to download our 30 greatest lead generation tips, tricks and ideas.

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It’s not uncommon for a business to get excited about a new lead and to spend time on what will eventually turn out to be a waste of time and resources. Identifying the right B2B leads at an early stage of your sales funnel can skyrocket your entire company’s performance.

On the one hand, it is crucial not to waste time on clearly irrelevant B2B prospects, and on the other, it’s important not to fall in this trap of ignoring them – some leads may appear irrelevant because they are being approached wrongly.

In this post, we’ll cover the core actions you should take in order to boost the performance of your sales in order to attract the right leads for your business.

Define your ideal buyer profile

Inbound sales are buyer-centric. Instead of using outdated methods such as pitching and cold calling, you can attract potential customers with great content and interact with your prospects with context and personalization.

Newsflash – no matter who you are, not “all companies” are your ideal buyers. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to figure out who you are selling to and what their needs.

B2B Buyer Personas

Image source: RyanSetter.com

Here are some key elements to consider:

  • company verticals or industries
  • geographic locations
  • company size (no of employees, revenue, number of customers)
  • other attributes that describe your ideal buyer profile
  • buyer personas: who are the various roles involved in the buying decision at those companies

Monitor and be on the lookout for active buyers

  • be sure to respond in real time to social media for mentions of:
    • your company
    • your competitor’s company
    • keywords or hashtags aligned with your value proposition
  • Monitor press releases of relevant leads and prospects (i.e. earning results, change of offices, etc.)

Bonus pro tip: Be on the lookout for job offers published by your ideal customers. If those offers are relevant to your solution area, it could be worth suggesting that they reconsider their strategy and outsource some of their needs to you.

Leverage Linkedin

  • Join LinkedIn groups where your ideal buyers are active and engage in them
  • Use Linkedin search filters to search for the relevant attributes of your ideal buyer profiles
  • Be on the lookout for mutual contacts who can introduce you to prospects you identify (make sure to add the contact/ company to your CRM and make note to yourself re the mutual contact)

Ready to Step up your marketing?


Context and timing are crucial

Timing is key – configure your website so that you’re notified of inbound leads and they immediately appear in your CRM. Then make sure you do a bit of research on those leads, in order to not waste time on leads that do not match the profiles of your ideal buyers.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t ignore irrelevant leads – that would be unprofessional and impolite.  Simply keep your eyes on the target and remember that your time is limited so allocate it smartly discerning politeness from calculated efforts.

Once you have screened irrelevant leads, use the time you’ve saved to nurture relevant leads and to communicate with them in a productive and personalized way.

You can read more about how to nurture your leads in this post.


It’s easy to get carried away and focusing on the leads that are not a good fit for your business. As professionals, just because a business is taking an interest in working with you, does not mean that it’s a good idea to proceed. Be sure to know who your ideal buyer personas are and to focus your efforts on them. Long term win-win relationships will be what sets you apart from competitors who are unclear to themselves.

If you found this helpful, let’s pick up the pace, learn how to rectify your sales pipeline and grow your business in our FREE 14 B2B Marketing Best Practices that every CMO must know eBook!

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inbound sales


If your main sales processes are based on cold calling and generic pitches, you’re not alone. Yet I’m guessing sales have not been performing as well as they used to. The reason is that traditional sales have shifted from being seller centric to buyer centric.

Nowadays, 60% of a buyer’s purchase decisions are made before even talking to a sales rep.

It might be a good idea to keep up with your customer’s buying habits by adopting an inbound sales strategy. This post will teach you how.


What’s inbound sales?

Inbound sales are buyer centric. Instead of pitching and cold calling, you attract potential customers with content and interact with your prospects with context and personalization.

Your interactions with your prospects should be driven by their needs. Put yourself in your prospects shoes and understand the journey that they will go through when buying from you.

Buyers journey vs Lifecycle stages

(Image source: Hubspot)

With that in mind, let’s set off to make your sales process inbound by applying the following 4 guidelines:

1. Not all leads that you convert on your website should be passed onto sales!

Make sure you’re targeting the right people. If your business strategy is currently that you are targeting “everyone” I hate to break it to you but you are targeting “no one”.

Each product or service is relevant to certain groups of people and by overlooking that you are being lazy. Put yourself in your prospective customer’s shoes and try to understand who your ideal customers are (You can learn more about that in this post on how to do define your buyer personas).

Once you understand that you are not selling to “everyone”, it’s time to be selective on your end as well. Not all leads that convert are a good fit for your business and even if they’re a good fit – they are not automatically ready to buy from you.

Think how much time your sales team wastes on irrelevant calls. Be sure to filter leads before passing them onto sales. Make sure you understand where the lead is within the buyer’s journey and what their lifecycle stage is.

As well as the costs this will save, sales will appreciate this. A good relationship between sales and marketing can do wonders to your business.

How To Create An Effective Inbound Marketing Strategy Call to Action

2. Research your leads – try to find out as much as you can about them before picking up the phone. Focus on:

  • Company info (you can probably find most of these on the lead’s website and Linkedin):
    • Size
    • No of employees
    • Who are they working with
    • Where are they located
    • What do they sell and to whom?
    • Role of the lead in the company
    • Should any other key players be involved?
    • Case studies
  •  Industry info
    • Company news
    • Recent press releases
    • Industry terminology
    • Funding
    • Are they hiring
    • Upcoming events
  •  Social media –  73% of sales people using social media outperform colleagues who don’t!
    • Look up your prospects on Linkedin to find out:
      • their exact title
      • where they used to work
      • shared connections and groups
      • relevant specialties
      • recommendations
    • Check out the company and individual Twitter pages
  • Lead intelligence – how did the lead previously interact with your company:
    • If you offered them an eBook to download, did they?
    • Use free tools such as HubSpot’s email tracking tool to monitor whether or not they have read your emails.
    • If you are using marketing automation softwares, monitor what pages they looked at on your website and blog and find out what is resonating with them.

3. Personalize the way you communicate and engage. People buy from people.

  • Make your sales organization human
  • Build rapport
  • Know your audience
  • Listen 80% of the time. Speak 20% of the time
  • Be helpful and kind

4. Be perceived as a professional not a salesperson

  • Build your personal brand as a thought leader in your space
  • Listen and understand your prospect’s pains and challenges
  • Put yourself in the position to educate
  • Become a trusted advisor


A proper inbound sales strategy will make the sales process natural, and relevant. Applying these guidelines will save your company money and increase your sales. Be sure to try it out and let me know what worked for you and what didn’t. Good luck!

If your found this useful, and you’re curious to learn more and find out how to create a long lasting Inbound Marketing strategy, we invite you to download our How-To guide for creating an Inbound Marketing strategy.

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Introduction –  Sales And Marketing Collaboration

It is not a secret that getting sales and marketing collaboration around common goals is a big challenge for most organizations. The process of getting them to cooperate is called “smarketing”. It might be difficult but it’s worth it. In fact, companies with a strong collaboration between sales and marketing get 20% more annual revenue growth. In this post we will teach you how to set the stage for smarketing in order to improve your overall performance and wellbeing of your teams.


Why does this matter?

If your teams are fighting like two kindergarden kids in a playground sand box. Don’t feel bad. Research shows that sales and marketing teams use mostly negative terms to describe each other – 87% of the terms are negative to be exact.

You might find terms such as lazy, incompetent and simple minded, familiar with regard to how your marketing refers to your sales. On the other end sales tend to describe marketing as irrelevant, academic and arts and craftsy. Don’t feel bad. It happens in the best of families.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Somewhere along the way we forgot that sales and marketing are part of the same team. Here are some best practices to get your smarketing wheels going:

1. Both teams should be aligned around the same goals

Provide access to real time information. Get your teams to share info with each other and learn how they can benefit of each other’s experience. Sales can provide valuable information about your companies’ ideal customers’ needs and challenges. They can also educate marketing on common objections and guide them as to what prospects are most likely to turn into customers. Marketing can teach sales about the process the prospects go through before becoming a sales qualified lead. They can provide valuable insights as to what info the prospect has encountered before becoming a lead and what level of trust to aim to establish before transferring the lead over to sales. A holistic approach and a coherent understanding of the marketing promise that the sales have to follow up on, will result in higher quality leads and higher conversion rates from leads to customers.

Evaluate and set combined goals that each department should strive to achieve in order to reach your company’s business goals together.

2. Tie the marketing pipeline to the sales quotas

marketing and saled funnel


Generally speaking, marketing deals with the top of the funnel. They try to convert visitors to leads. Turning leads to marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads should be looked at as a joint goal both teams strive to achieve. Then once the leads are nurtured they can be smoothly transitioned to sales who will take the lead trying to convert them to customers.

It would help to have clear definitions of each stage of the funnel. What’s your company’s definition of a sales qualified lead? Most companies don’t have one. That’s a mistake.

Establish the number of quality leads required for sales to be able perform and the response speed and proper follow up process required to convert the leads to customers (follow up should be an integral part of your work procedures. Sales reps that follow up with leads are 60 times more likely to qualify them than sales reps who wait 25 hours or longer) for example:

Marketing should deliver 5 monthly leads per sales representative. Sales will make 1 attempt to engage in 6 business hours, with 4 attempts in 12 days.

3. Compensate teams based on shared goals

If your sales and marketing teams are rewarded differently based on different goals, you are essential generating rivals. Instead of a divide and conquer approach. Get your teams to work on the same goals and compensate them in accordance. A mutual interest can work wonders.

4. Evolve the conversation around your company personas

It’s important that both marketing and sales understand who your company’s target customers are. Make sure you have a clear understanding of who your buyer personas are, and make sure that everyone on board are crystal clear on this matter. Marketing might be surprised at the amount of info sales can provide regarding each persona. Conduct joint meetings in order to map out your buyer personas and then set off the reach them, together.

5. Communication is key

Make sure to have weekly smarketing meetings. Get teams to work together in an ongoing feedback loop between then. 2 Pitfalls to avoid:

  • Avoid a situation whereby your marketing team is sending leads to sales and never hear back with feedback. It’s always nice to know that a lead become a customer, and it’s crucial to know what went wrong if a lead did not convert. Was he irrelevant? How long did it take sales to get back to him? They are important issues to look into on an ongoing basis.
  • Don’t enable a habit whereby marketing sends leads to sales with basic contact information, but without intelligence about what they already know about the contact and their stage in the buyer’s journey.


Aligning marketing and sales can work wonders to your performance.
When done right, marketing can learn what works and what needs to be re-evaluated. This will lead to increase in marketing ROI. Sales will be able to prioritize leads, make warmer calls and increase closing rates and sales ROI. It is a win-win situation that all will benefit from. Good luck and happy smarketing.

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According Hubspot: lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with prospects with the goal of earning their business when they are ready.

As with any relationship, a relationship with your prospective clients requires building trust. Getting your sales team to cold call a stranger who has not yet been properly acquainted with your company and does not yet trust you, is a good way to ruin a potential sale. In fact, statistically speaking, 73% of B2B leads are not ready to be sold to when first encountering your company. In this post we will teach you how to reevaluate your sales approach using lead nurturing to improve B2B Sales.


Lead nurturing done right, the inbound way

Let’s first get one thing out of the way – lead nurturing does not mean that sales should never contact leads until they are sales qualified leads. It’s about taking a step back and creating a non interruptive funnel. Implementing a holistic inbound marketing approach will result in prospects finding you, and deciding to buy specifically from you.

Traditional marketing is all about cold calling, cold emailing, and interruptive ads. It’s marketer focused. Inbound marketing is customer focused. The idea is to all provide value and to understand that the nature of the communication with your prospects should always align with the stage of your prospect in the buyer’s journey:




If for example a prospect who has just become aware of your company, provides you their email in order to receive an offer such as an ebook, the natural next step should be to communicate with the prospect in the context of their stage of the journey and to provide added value in accordance (all with the aim of pushing them down the buyer’s journey to the next stage i.e the consideration stage).

However, if for example a prospect has submitted a form on your site requesting a free consultation, there’s no need to take 2 steps back and try to educated them about what they already know. In this case your communication should be aimed at qualifying the lead in order to understand whether or not your product or service is a good fit for them.

Ready to Step up your marketing?


Hard selling should only be done once the lead is qualified. And I’ll tell you a secret, it shouldn’t be hard selling by this point as it will be completely natural for both you and the prospect. It’s all about trust, authority, and win-win long term cooperation’s.

Here is a standard lead nurturing work flow:Capture-2.png

When context meets content

Here are some recommended offers to send to your leads in order to nurture them in accordance with their stage of the buyer’s journey:

Awarness stage:

Download an ebook/ onepager/ guide – once the lead submits a form to download the offer, make sure to contact them with a confirmation email.

Trigger emails – if a prospect has not viewed your blog in 90+ days, you can send them an email saying you miss them and inviting them to read your top featured blogs. Try to recommend content that you know the prospect is interested in.

Consideration stage:

Invite the prospect to attend a webinar – you can correllate this with your previous stage offer. Send them a personal email, refer to the ebook they have downloaded and invite them to attend a webinar on the subject in order to advance their knowledge on the subject.

Decision stage:

Invite the prospect to view a case study/ start a free trial/ request a free consultation


Remember this: Each communication with your prospects is an opportunity to learn more about them and conduct a relevant conversation with them.

Establishing a relationship with your prospects is a pro way of increasing your conversion rates and creating sustainable long lasting relationships. Once your leads become customers, do not stop nurturing them. Your current customers are your most important asset. Brining on a new client will always be more expensive than investing in your current clients. Delighting your customers is a sure way to make them your ambassadors and increase your business wisely. Good luck!

If you found this helpful, let’s pick up the pace, learn how to rectify your sales pipeline and grow your business in our FREE 14 B2B Marketing Best Practices that every CMO must know eBook!


Schedule a FREE consultation


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John Doe

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lead nurturing - what is it header

Introduction to lead nurturing

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is a progress, working together is success”Henry Ford.

Well said Henry, but what is lead nurturing?

Exactly that.

Lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship with your prospects at every stage of their buyer’s journey.





Remember this somewhat painful truth: Your prospective clients are not necessarily interested in buying your product or service at the moment.
In fact, according to Hubspot, about 90% of your inbound leads are not ready to make an immediate purchase.

By understanding this and by nurturing a healthy educating relationship with them, by the time they are ready to buy, you will stand a good chance of them choosing you.

How do you go about building a successful relationship?

Once a prospect willingly provides you with their contact details the magic begins. This could be a result of visiting a landing page you have published, filling out a form on your website or any other non spammy way.

It is now your job to be attentive to the needs of your prospects and to provide them with information regarding their challenges and need. Research who your buyer personas are. Learn what their most urging needs are and see how you can help them solve them. Educate them, provide relevant knowledge and elegantly move them down the sales funnel.

The idea is to provide relevant information, at the right time, to the right prospect.



For example, if you provide software development services. Your prospects may be Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) at SMBs. Researching websites such as Quora, and speaking with current clients, you learn that CTOs struggle with time management. A common mistake would be to publish a blog post about time management development tips and to end the post with a CTA inviting the prospect to schedule a sales call.

Think about it. Is this prospect necessarily interested in outsourcing a tech project at the moment? Probably not. They’re interested in learning more about a specific need related to your expertise. Hard selling at this early stage would be almost irrelevant. They don’t yet know you, they don’t trust you, and they might not even have a current project on the table.

The best way to approach this would indeed be to write a post with relevant content, yet instead of hard selling, end the post with a CTA inviting them to download an eBook with productivity tips for CTOs. Your prospect will happily provide you with their contact details in order to enjoy your free offer. Once they provide you with their details you are granted with a magical opportunity to begin what could be a successful relationship. Don’t rush a sale – this is your chance to begin nurturing this relationship up to a point where your prospect trusts you and is ready to consider working with you.

Lead Nurturing requires patience

It’s important to understand that not all relationships will end up in marriage. According to MarketingSherpa, almost 80% of new leads never become sales.

The good news is that according to Marketo – by implementing a smart lead nurturing strategy you can generate about 50% more sales qualified leads at costs that are 33% lower than regular top of the funnel costs.

Back to the software development company example, since we now understand that rushing a sales process would almost surely result in failure, the idea is to take a step back and start crafting remarkable content that correlates with the prospects stage of the buyers journey.

Once the prospect downloads an eBook, we can send him an email, inviting him to read more “awareness stage” blog posts with general educating content that would be of use to them. After sending your prospect several awareness stage posts to read, you can feel confident to gently push them down the sales funnel to the consideration stage. Send them an email inviting them to read content that is directly related to your services such as “how to know when it’s time to outsource a software development project”.

Ready to Step up your marketing?

Pro tip: Using marketing automation services such as Hubspot will help you learn more about your prospects stage in the buyers journey. You will be able to know exactly what content your prospect read, and when. Enabling you to optimize and asses your content strategy.  

Lastly, once your confident that your prospect is interested in what you have to say, and keeps coming back for more. Move down to the final stage of the buyers journey – the decision stage. Now would be the time to provide them with surveys, case studies, industry comparisons and any other info that you think would enable them to make an educated decision.

Only once you are under the impression that your prospect is ready to discuss business, you can transfer the lead to your sales department. Don’t do it a minute sooner.

This entire process can take between 2 weeks to 3 months. THAT’S OK! It’s better to have fewer leads that end up in a sale, than many irrelevant leads that will never buy from you.


Hard selling to a non-ready prospect who does not know you and does not trust you will statistically almost always fail.

Adapting a smart lead nurturing strategy requires patience but it’s worth it and can potentially double your sales and cut your marketing costs. Be attentive to the buyers journey and to your prospects needs and readiness. Don’t impose. Don’t interrupt.

Now that’s marketing people love.

If you’re interested in learning more and finding out how to create a long lasting inbound marketing strategy, we invite you to download our How-to guide for creating and inbound marketing strategy.

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