Outbound Strategy
3 min read

Inbound vs Outbound Sales: What’s the Difference, and Which Strategy Should You Use?

A detailed comparison of inbound and outbound sales. Learn how each one works, and when to use each strategy.
Kevin Warner
Founder & CEO
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In today's world, generating sales and revenue is more complex than ever before. Your sales team may have to be familiar with a wide range of tools and techniques, from CRM platforms to email marketing to SEO. 

Fortunately, most sales activities fall into one of two basic categories: inbound or outbound sales. What's the difference between these two approaches? What does each one involve? Which one would work better for your business? Let's discuss the answers to these questions in the information below.

What's the difference between inbound and outbound sales?

At the end of the day, there are only two ways to acquire new customers: go to them, or make them come to you. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between inbound and outbound sales. The outbound sales process begins when one of your sales reps initiates contact with a prospect; the inbound process starts when a prospect initiates contact with your company.

Here are some examples of what we're talking about:

During the outbound sales process, a sales rep might...

  • Cold call, cold email, or even cold text a prospect to offer them a product or service
  • Give a short "elevator pitch" to the prospect
  • Attempt to contact as many prospects as possible within a short time frame

During the inbound sales process, a prospect might...

  • Perform an online search for a particular product or service
  • Visit a company's website or social media account for more information
  • Sign up for a newsletter, an eBook, or a free trial offer

While there are clearly major differences in terms of approach, both inbound and outbound sales have their place in a winning marketing plan. That being said, let's dig a little deeper into both of these strategies.

What does the inbound sales process look like?

The inbound sales process will look different from one business to the next. However, there are some basic steps that most companies follow when implementing an inbound sales strategy. These include the following stages:

  • Identifying your target audience. If you want your inbound sales process to be successful, you really need to "get inside the head" of your ideal customer. What are their interests, needs, and pain points? What solution would your product provide for them? Many companies develop a "buyer persona" (or semi-fictional profile of their ideal customer) to help them understand what type of content would be most appealing to their targeted demographics.
  • Connecting with your target audience. Not only do you have to create content that resonates with your consumers - you must also publish it on sites and channels that they frequently use. These will often include your website, social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, and other mediums that are popular with your audience.
  • Providing value for your target audience. The inbound process is emphatically not about pushing the sale. Your goal is to position yourself as a helpful advisor who provides education and practical help for your readers and viewers. Of course, you want to encourage consumers to explore your solution to the problem they're facing; but you also want to build trust by giving them useful information as they conduct their research. Once trust has been established, your prospect will be more willing to do business with your brand.

When is inbound sales the right choice for you?

You may want to focus your efforts on inbound sales if one or more of the following situations apply to your business:

  • You don't have a whole lot of money to invest in a sales team
  • You offer a product or service that a lot of consumers search for online
  • Your content creation team has an advantage over the competition (e.g., you can make videos with higher production values, or write more professional, in-depth articles than your competitors can)
  • Your customers generally make their purchase decisions quickly (the more time it takes to nurture a lead and turn them into a paying customer, the more likely you'll need to implement some form of outbound sales to keep the interest alive)

What does the outbound sales process look like?

The outbound sales process, like the inbound, depends to some extent on identifying potentially interested prospects and understanding their interests, needs, and concerns. However, the outbound strategy is typically more about quantity than quality. The more people your sales team reaches out to, the more likely they'll find an interested prospect whom they can convert into a paying customer.

Here are some basic steps in the outbound process:

  • Prospecting. Before you can start reaching out to prospects, you need to know who they are. A big part of prospecting is compiling a list of prospective customers, either through your own research or via a third-party vendor.
  • Reaching out to your prospects. Once you have your list in hand, it's time to start reaching out to people via phone calls, emails, text messages, ads, and so forth. At this point, your sales reps are like fishermen - they're "casting a reel" and waiting for someone to bite.
  • Qualifying your leads. When one of your prospects does bite, you need to determine if they're a good fit for your product or service. In other words: Can they benefit from what you're selling? And would your company benefit from acquiring them as a customer? If they're not a high-quality lead, then it may be best to "throw them back in the sea." Otherwise, you can move on to the next step.
  • Pitching and overcoming objections. This is where you paint a picture for your prospect - a picture of how much better their life will be after they have your product or service. Of course, your leads may have concerns about buying from you, which is why you'll need to not only anticipate possible objections, but have the hard data on hand to prove the value of your product.
  • Closing the sale. Last but not least, you need to close the deal. In other words, you need to convince your lead to commit to a purchase, and process the transaction. You shouldn't feel any hesitation about asking for the sale at this point - and even if the answer is "No," odds are the prospect really means "Not now," and you can revisit your conversation at a later date.

When is outbound sales the right choice for you?

It seems like inbound sales is all the rage nowadays, especially since the rise of SEO and Google Search. However, you may want to make outbound sales a priority for your business if you can relate to one or more of the following scenarios:

  • You have a high-end product designed for large corporations
  • You have an innovative new solution to a problem (meaning the vast majority of your target audience won't search for your product online, since they don't know it exists)
  • You have the budget to reward your sales reps with a large commission
  • Your target audience isn't averse to cold-calling (e.g., if you're targeting business owners with an industry-specific product they need)
  • Your product or service has a long sales cycle
  • You want (or need) to reach an extremely niche audience (meaning you can't necessarily rely on inbound sales to bring the right prospects to you)

Can you combine inbound and outbound sales into one marketing plan?

Absolutely you can! In fact, many of the most successful companies today use a mixture of inbound and outbound methods to identify high-value prospects, nurture leads, and ultimately convert them into customers. 

For example, think of how inbound and outbound sales work together in the following situations:

  • A company generates content designed to attract a specific demographic to their website (inbound sales). Once there, some of the visitors submit their contact info in exchange for a free eBook. The company can then follow up with those visitors via their preferred contact method, and promote a specific product or service the prospects may benefit from (outbound sales).
  • Sales reps may cold call residents of a certain city, and mention their company's official website if the prospect wants to learn more (outbound sales). If a prospect is interested, they may follow up by visiting the website a few days later, and ultimately purchase a product from the brand (inbound sales).

As you can tell, combining the best aspects of inbound and outbound sales into one unified approach is an excellent way to drive business and win support for your brand.

Granted, implementing inbound or outbound sales processes is easier said than done. However, the rewards of doing so far exceed the investment required. And the good news is, expert help is available to you from our team of sales and marketing professionals at Leadium. We can perform a comprehensive audit of your current sales process, identify key areas of opportunity, and help you to deploy effective inbound and outbound sales tactics that align with your business objectives.

If you'd like to learn more about the many benefits that we can offer, reach out to our friendly team of experts today to start the conversation.

When one of your prospects does bite, you need to determine if they're a good fit for your product or service. In other words: Can they benefit from what you're selling? And would your company benefit from acquiring them as a customer?"

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