Trending This Week: Lessons Learned from HubSpot INBOUND 2017

Reflecting on key takeaways for sales pros from INBOUND 2017, a gathering of marketers and salespeople that serves as a barometer for both industries.

September 29, 2017

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Another HubSpot INBOUND conference is in the books. Thousands of professionals in sales, marketing, and beyond gathered in Boston this week for the annual business convention, which focuses on education, networking, and recognizing innovation.

This event always serves as an important barometer of where things stand and where they are headed. So now that it has wrapped up, we thought we would reflect on some trends and storylines from INBOUND 2017, with an eye on key takeaways for sales pros.

Aiming for Something Bigger

Once upon a time, INBOUND was simply a marketing conference. In recent years, it has grown into something more expansive and all-encompassing.

Self-described as “an event that celebrates the human, helpful side of business,” the INBOUND brand now represents much more than just inbound marketing. In fact, its scope has arguably widened beyond business, delving into social change and political activism tones. Among this year’s keynote speakers were John Cena -- a wrestler, actor, and noted philanthropist -- and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Of course, there were plenty of esteemed sales and marketing experts on the speaking docket as well, but it seems clear that HubSpot has higher aspirations for INBOUND, positioning the brand name as a movement in and of itself. That feels fitting in an environment where the dividing lines of commerce and community continue to blur.

Selling doesn’t need to become political, but today’s sales pros must be cognizant of larger societal undercurrents, and how they affect business operations and decision-making.

The Acceleration of Account-Based Marketing

The agenda for INBOUND 2017 made it glaringly obvious that ABM is becoming top-of-mind for organizations everywhere. A handful of sessions focused on this strategy directly, while many others incorporated the central concepts and themes stemming from an account-based mindset.

We talk about ABM a lot here at LinkedIn, because it’s an integral component of the broader discussions around sales and marketing alignment. This narrowed pursuit of target accounts brings the two sides together and requires collaboration for effective execution, combining outbound and inbound principles.

One particularly compelling sales-centric session on the topic came from Jamie Shanks of Sales for Life, whose enlightening presentation explained “How To Win High Value Deals With Social Tactics And Advanced Account Based Selling.” A pioneer of digital selling, Shanks understands the importance of building a culture around these practices, and he serves as a vocal evangelist for them. His presentation hammered home the value.

Social Selling is the New Norm (or Should Be, At Least)

In many ways, social selling epitomizes the infusion of inbound tactics for sales, encouraging reps to bolster their social profiles and become destinations for buyers as they research. The spotlight on this topic at INBOUND 2017 was warranted, as HubSpot’s own data suggests that only 29 percent of companies are prioritizing this strategy despite the majority of adopting organizations reporting positive returns.

You weren’t likely to hear the words “cold calling” uttered often at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Instead, the emphasis was on embracing new sales enablement tools and seizing opportunities with social platforms for more personalized outreach. On Wednesday, HubSpot’s Senior Inbound Professor Angela Hicks gave a great talk on using contextual marketing methodologies to develop highly personalized messaging that targets key personas.

A Common Destination

“Inbound” is defined as “travelling toward a particular place,” and this year’s conference reinforced that sales and marketing are both essentially heading toward the same spot: a customer-centric approach that engages prospects and leads across various digital channels throughout the funnel with customized, timely content and communications.

Many of the sessions that were ostensibly aimed at marketers (like the one from Hicks mentioned above) offered plenty of useful insights for sales professionals, and vice versa. Marcus Sheridan’s critique two years ago about a lack of “enough content and focus at the conference for Sales Pros” may have been valid at the time, but HubSpot has since made clear efforts to add more balance, making INBOUND 2017 an enriching experience for people from both areas.

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