Inbound vs Outbound Sales [Company & Job Seeker Guide]
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The discourse around inbound sales and outbound sales has a long history and continues to eat up precious minutes during meetings across the world. Sales and marketing teams have invested much of their energy and resources trying to figure out answers to some tough questions, like: Inbound sales or outbound sales? Which of the two do you believe in more? Which strategies are the most effective for each approach? Is one of them superior to the other irrespective of your industry and immediate goals?
We’re going to take a look at what inbound and outbound sales really are, figure out how companies can use these approaches effectively, and see how job seekers can benefit from learning about them.
What’s the Difference Between Inbound vs. Outbound Sales?
Inbound and outbound sales are sales ideologies that draw a distinction based on how the sale of a product or service is initiated.
Outbound sales is what most of us think of as being the conventional sales process. It involves a company initiating a sale by having a sales representative reach out to a potential customer. If you’ve ever had an insurance company call you or received a mail asking if you’d like to subscribe to a magazine, then you’ve been part of an outbound sales process.
With inbound sales, it is the customer who initiates the sale. This usually happens because a customer has come across a piece of marketing material and wants to purchase a company’s product or service.
Now that we have an idea of the broad difference between the two, let’s try to understand each individual approach in more detail.
Related Read: What is Tech Sales? and 106 Sales Terms To Help You Close
What Is Inbound Sales?
Inbound sales is a modern approach to selling that emphasizes gaining a deep understanding of customers’ desires and pain points. Sales teams use what they know about customers to create marketing content that appeals to their target market and creates awareness of their company’s offering.
You can surmise from that description that inbound sales customers tend to be highly valuable to companies. These are individuals who have consumed marketing materials, connected with it, and reached out to find out how they can purchase a product or service. This makes them the kind of highly engaged customers who are easy to sell to and have a high lifetime value.
Inbound sales requires a mastery of branding and content in a way that outbound sales doesn’t. You have to be able to generate content—blog posts, social media posts, podcasts—that commands customers’ attention and spurs them into making a purchase of their own accord. Companies also need to create impactful brands in order for inbound sales methodologies to work.
What Is Outbound Sales?
Outbound sales requires companies to take it on themselves to reach out to new customers and sell them new products and services. For that reason, prospecting is a key element of the process. Companies that rely on outbound sales need to find ways to identify individuals in their target audience and channels to get in touch with them.
The most common way to do outbound sales is through phone calls. But it’s also common for companies to use other channels like email, direct mail, and LinkedIn. Sales representatives usually create lists of prospects and then get in touch with them using the best channel to reach each individual.
While it might seem like outbound sales necessitates reaching out to customers who have expressed no intent in buying your company’s product or service as yet, that’s not fully true. In certain cases, prospects have already filled out a form or made a phone call to your business and that’s how they’ve been identified as candidates for the outbound sales process.
Inbound vs. Outbound Sales Processes
As you’d imagine, the sales process looks very different depending on whether you’re employing an inbound or outbound approach. Let’s find out the specifics of each.
Inbound Sales Process
Inbound sales starts with identifying individuals or companies who are looking for a solution the kind of which you’re offering. You will identify these individuals based on the ideal customer profile that you’ve put together for your product. You can gather people who fit that profile by having them fill out a form, sign up for a course, interact with a chatbot, and so on.
You know who your customers are now so it’s time to let them know that your company exists. In order for this to work, you have to segment your target audience into personas and reach out to them in the right way for each group. For example, you might connect with some members of your ICP via email while a phone call might work better with others.
Once you’ve established contact with your leads, it’s time to gather information about the problems that they’re facing. The more you are aware of their pain points, the easier it will be to convert them into customers. This is also the stage when you find out what your leads are looking to achieve with your product. This will inform not just the next sales phase but can also be used to tweak the features of your product accordingly.
This is the stage where you use what you’ve learned about your leads to craft a personalized offer to them. This step might involve continuing to educate leads about your product and how exactly it solves their pain points. If they are convinced, then you can move on to talking about things like budgets, implementation times, and buying cycles.
Outbound Sales Process
Much like the inbound sales process, outbound sales starts with identifying leads. This is when you establish who you are selling to and how you can help them with your offering.
Prospecting is the process of generating leads and you can do it in a few different ways. Sales representatives could do it manually by attending conferences, trawling through websites, and searching for leads on sites like LinkedIn. Some companies might choose to buy databases that contain the contact information of individuals in their target market or hand the process off to a third party that will do the lead generation for them.
Once you’ve generated leads, you have to qualify them to make sure that they are likely to be interested in your product. You can do this by individually contacting each lead over a phone call or using more scalable means like having them fill out a questionnaire.
Sales Call and Closing the Deal
The sales call is when you reach out to a qualified lead and sell them on the benefits of your product. This doesn’t necessarily need to take the form of a phone call; you could also do it through means like a meeting or a software demo. If the sales process goes to plan, you can move on to closing the deal and hand customers off to the onboarding team.
Inbound vs Outbound Sales Strategies
Inbound Sales Strategies
Connect Over Context
Context is everything when it comes to inbound sales strategy. When you have inbound queries coming your way, communicating with your leads based on an understanding of their context can supercharge your sales efforts.
The way to establish a lead’s context is by placing them with your buyer personas and the buyer’s journey. For example, let’s say someone is in the awareness stage. In that case, pointing them to a webinar that describes what your product does in detail can help you convert them into a customer. You have to establish the context for each customer and then follow a course of action based on that context.
Explore and Educate Before You Sell
It can be tempting for sales representatives to make them hard sell when they have customers making inbound queries. But you have to resist the urge to do that and instead, explore customer pain points and educate them on your offering first.
The first thing you must do with any lead is to find out what their most pressing problems are, what that’s costing them, and what they’re willing to do to solve it. Thereon, you should move on to educating them about what your product does and why it is the best solution for the problems they face. Only then should you move on to making the hard sell.
Outbound Sales Strategies
Your target market is a lot more nuanced than you actually think. Within that market, there are segments based on geography, age, education, and so on. You have to identify those segments and place each of your leads into one of them before going further into the outbound sales process.
Without market segmentation, you’re going to end up with a spray and pray approach that has a low success rate. Once you do have your market segmented, then you can create plans for each of those groups, test your tactics, and improve them over time.
Another possibility that market segmentation opens up is tailored messaging. This is when you craft messages for different market segments in a way that is likely to appeal to them and speak to their pain points.
Tailored messages allow you to reach out to your leads in a way that’s relevant to them. It’s based on the understanding that your leads have different backgrounds and pain points. Customizing your communications with them means your sales process will have a much higher success rate than if you didn’t.
When To Use Inbound vs Outbound Sales
Most companies should try a combination of inbound and outbound sales before deciding how much of their resources to allocate to each. That said, there are ways to tell which one will work for you based on your industry and customer profile.
When To Use an Inbound Sales Approach
Inbound sales is an approach that requires your customers to reach out to you themselves. That means that you have to be able to create the desire for a product and create a high degree of intent before you establish contact with a potential customer. So use an inbound approach if:
- You sell a product that your customers feel comfortable buying after doing their own research primarily.
- Your products have a low enough ticket value that customers can make a purchase decision relatively quickly.
- Your customers are internet savvy and consume content like webinars, blogs, and podcasts. This is important because the most effective inbound sales approaches are digital-first.
When To Use an Outbound Sales Approach
In order to do outbound sales, you have to be able to generate leads at scale and be able to contact each lead. This makes economic sense only if your product is of a high ticket size or your customers have a high lifetime value. Consider an outbound sales approach if:
- Your company has a sales team that is highly effective at prospecting and outreach.
- You sell a product that is of a high ticket value.
- Your customers like to spend a lot of time pondering their purchase decision and like to get information from salespeople.
Consider real estate, for example. It’s unlikely that someone will see a blog post and be convinced that they need to buy a property. In that case, it helps to have an outbound sales team that can generate leads and talk prospective clients through their buying decision.
Inbound vs Outbound Sales Careers
Inbound Sales Rep
The modern inbound sales rep is someone who spends a large portion of their time responding to emails and following up with leads who have expressed interest in a company’s products in different ways. You need to possess product knowledge, communication skills, and be technologically savvy to be good at the role.
Consider working as an inside sales rep if you’re good at understanding how products work through and through and can talk to potential customers about why a product is what they’re looking for. The average base pay of an inbound sales rep is $36,845.
Outbound Sales Rep
The outbound sales rep role is perfect for someone who likes to engage with new people and make the hard sell. You will be tasked with generating leads and reaching out to qualified leads to turn them into customers. You need to be great at building rapport, using CRMs, and prospecting. The average base salary of an outbound sales rep is $37,668.
Related Read: Technical Sales Representative Job Description
Inbound vs Outbound Sales: Which Is Best for You?
You’re a Company
We’ve seen that inbound and outbound sales are both applicable in different situations. The outbound approach is best suited to companies that sell products with a high ticket value and whose buyers have a long decision-making process. Inbound sales works for companies that are well-established brands and whose customers make purchasing decisions relatively quickly.
You’re Interested in Sales
If you’re considering a career in sales, then it can be hard to pick between inbound and outbound sales. However, looking at the responsibilities that come with the role can help you make an informed decision.
When you work in inbound sales, your main job is to know the product you’re selling well. Leads come straight to you themselves, but you need to be able to educate them and convert them into customers. So consider a career in inbound sales if you’re good at product research and communicating about a product in ways that are easy for the layperson to understand.
Outbound sales needs you to be able to hold the attention of people who may not have even heard of the product that you’re selling. That means you have to be great at building a rapport and then a relationship with your customers. If that sounds like you, then you should definitely consider working in outbound sales.
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