Outbound Sales vs. Inbound Sales: How to Win Big With Each Strategy

Any company involved in selling needs to decide where to center its efforts: outbound or inbound sales.

Balancing outbound selling and inbound selling will enable you to prep your sales team to deliver the right strategies at the right moment. Recognizing the difference between inbound and outbound sales is crucial to planning for the future. 

So, what are the inbound and outbound sales strategies that will deliver the best results? Below, we’ll delve into outbound sales vs. inbound sales and how to nail the best practices of each.

What are outbound sales?

Outbound selling is a technique that involves pushing your message directly to your prospects. It involves reaching out to your target audience with valuable messaging that raises awareness and encourages them to reciprocate and discover more.

In the outbound selling arena, your team will be making first contact with leads using prospecting tactics such as email marketing, social prospecting and cold calling.

Some say outbound sales are dead, but this is far from the case. In many circumstances, it remains a vital part of sales prospecting that can yield powerful results if done strategically.

What are inbound sales?

Inbound selling involves qualifying interested prospects. Typically, these prospects will discover you and be interested in learning more.

Your sales team has the job of pulling in these prospects, qualifying them and eventually selling to them. It is a customer-focused strategy involving adapting to the buyer’s unique journey.

Most sales teams today focus on inbound sales in the debate between inbound vs. outbound.

Outbound sales vs. inbound sales

Inbound vs. outbound sales have considerable differences in the techniques used. However, the primary difference between outbound and inbound sales for companies is where the lead originated.

An inbound sale begins with the prospect reaching out to your company. They want to know more information, connect with you on social media, or are already confident they are ready to make a purchase.

These buyers are typically more engaged and ready. An inbound-focused sales team will nearly always have a higher strike rate than one concentrating on outbound selling techniques.

An outbound sale involves your company reaching out to a potential buyer. It typically consists of a broader marketing approach and prioritizes quantity over quality.

The difference between outbound and inbound sales likely already has you settled on the inbound strategy because it’s less intrusive and allows you to find a balance between raising awareness and pushiness.

However, smart companies know the value of each. Developing inbound and outbound selling techniques is an intelligent way to increase your overall performance and develop a winning sales strategy.

How to nail your outbound and inbound sales strategy

Several best practices exist within sales that can apply to outbound and inbound selling options. Adopting both can make you a more agile sales team and ensure that you are maximizing your exposure to your target audience.

Here are the best practices that define inbound vs. outbound sales and can be implemented within your sales team now.

Outbound sales

With outbound selling, the main challenges are increasing success rates and avoiding spam. Advertising to everyone in sight is a poor strategy because it can lead to your brand losing its reputation and throwing away precious marketing dollars.

Research the right prospects

To avoid spamming and wasting your marketing budget, you need to invest countless hours researching your ideal audience and where to find them.

Building up an image of your perfect customer — your ideal customer profile — and adhering to it will ensure that the people you reach out to are likely to have an interest in what you have to offer.

This is an ongoing process, so assigning the role of researcher to a member of your team can help you constantly adapt to the changing needs of your target market.

Pique the prospect’s interest

Unlike inbound selling, you target someone who may or may not know your business or be in the market for a new product or service. You’re starting from ground zero; you need to actively work to pique the prospect’s interest.

Asking about the customer’s problems, offering a free product, or notifying them of an epic benefit are three ways you can start to generate that interest.

Humanizing with video

The downside of coming out of nowhere with an offer is many people automatically assume these communications are spam. It’s best to humanize your outreach efforts, meaning the potential prospect has to be able to put a face to a name.

Using video to communicate can help humanize email and other text-based communications. Offering to jump on a video call early is a small indicator that you are who you say you are.

Be persistent

The reality is most people will ignore your initial email. An email from an unknown sender usually ends up unopened, in a junk folder, or in a trash bin. This is where most sales personnel give up and move on to the next one.

Sending follow-up emails is a way to encourage people to reply to you. Of course, badgering someone for the next six months is always an error. However, following up on your email chain with two or three replies has a higher chance of getting a response than giving up after one message.

Inbound sales

Generating inbound sales is a matter of raising awareness and advertising across multiple marketing channels. Nailing an inbound selling strategy requires an entirely different perspective to outbound selling because much of the interest is already there. You get to skip a few steps as part of your selling strategy.

Qualify, qualify, qualify

Traditional wisdom says you should sell to anyone willing to give you their money. Modern sales stipulate that this is the wrong move because of the importance of online reputation. Selling to someone who cannot get total value from your product or service increases the likelihood of a negative review.

The key to inbound selling is to qualify the prospect. Are they your target audience? Teaching your sales colleagues to ask poignant questions about their needs and what they’re looking to solve with your solution will enable you to determine whether they’re the right fit.

Guide, don’t push

Too many salespeople try to close deals as quickly as possible to push their numbers up. Pushing is symptomatic of an outbound sale, but you don’t need to pique someone’s interest if they’ve already come to you.

Guide your prospects through the sales funnel instead of pushing them. Focus on forming meaningful connections and delivering all the relevant materials they need to make an informed decision.

Educating your leads and creating a personal, human connection increases the likelihood of closing a deal and getting repeat business.

Personalize the buying experience

Modern customers want to be treated like humans, not numbers. Sales scripts and a defined sales funnel are starting points for your operatives to close a deal, but you shouldn’t lean on them.

Encourage your team to break the mold and take the initiative to create a personalized buying experience.

Get interested in your prospect’s needs and wants. Consider the products and services that can help them accomplish their goals, even if it means recommending another product/service.

Personalizing the buying experience creates a relationship that can form the foundation of long-term business. Building trust with a prospect may take days and weeks, but it’s an endeavor well worth making.

Forget, “Always be closing.” Emphasize “Always be helping.”

Add value

See your team not as a sales team but as a team of experts. Inbound selling is all about value because the job of connecting with buyers and encouraging them to speak to you has already taken place.

Position yourselves as the experts. Give your team access to more resources and a higher level of training in delivering value.

Educate your prospects on the pros and cons of your products rather than focusing on time-limited offers and flash discounts.

Develop a winning sales strategy with Crunchbase

You can apply most of the above principles to outbound and inbound strategies. Today’s companies are seeing the value of combining inbound and outbound selling to increase their possible pool of buyers.

Prospecting is one of the most time-consuming functions of any sales team. Stop wasting time researching prospects, and let Crunchbase do the job for you. Efficiently discover growing companies and connect with decision-makers all in one platform with our sales prospecting tools.

  • Originally published November 17, 2022, updated May 31, 2023