Inbound Vs Outbound Sales: Which Approach Is Best for You?
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There are lots of subjects that end up being hot topics.
When it comes to sales, there’s always the debate over which is more important to a company’s success: inbound vs outbound.
It’s hard to know where the most budget should go.
No matter which side of the argument you’re on, don’t worry! Let’s break down everything there is to know about inbound and outbound sales. Including when to use which strategy, with advice from marketing and sales leaders.
What is inbound sales?
Inbound sales is a lead generation strategy used where the prospects seek out the sales rep. The prospects have engaged with your content and will likely convert into customers.
The lead generation associated with inbound sales comes from various marketing campaigns that create demand. In most inbound sales cases, the prospect is searching for a solution to a pain point.
Liam Bartholemew, Global Head of Demand Generation at Cognism outlines how to create demand without gated content in the clip below 🎬
There are two different types of inbound lead:
- A marketing qualified lead (MQL) who has engaged with a piece of your content, but they are undecided and not ready to talk to your sales team.
- A sales qualified lead (SQL) who has explicitly said that they’re interested in buying your product and is ready to talk to your sales team.
Effective inbound sales methods
There are various strategies to do inbound, often requiring sales to align closely with the marketing team. Read on for the most popular. 👇
Book a demo
One of the most common ways to gain inbound leads for sales is to offer up a form to book a demo on your company’s website. The idea is that a prospect who books a demo is likely to be interested and considering solutions such as yours. They could even be in the market to buy right now.
Account Executives need to ask discovery questions to anyone who books a demo. The lead still needs to be qualified.
But keep in mind not to overdo it. Jonathan Illet, Vice President of Global Sales at Cognism, suggests:
“Build rapport by asking engaging, open-ended questions throughout the discovery. Don’t frontload your questions, though; it will feel like you’re ticking boxes on a checklist.”
“Keep it informal; ask 10 questions max and give the prospect time to respond. Ask follow-up questions if you need to. Remember a demo isn’t an interrogation, it’s a conversation.”
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO will be led by marketing but part of doing inbound well is about being seen. You must ensure you’re at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). 🔝
Your marketing team will need to make sure they are using relevant keywords, creating meta-descriptions, and maintaining a well-structured website.
Don't be afraid to try different SEO practices.
Take, for example, the “money keywords” approach introduced by Gaetano DiNardi, Growth Advisor at Cognism.
This approach hones in on high-intent keywords that potential buyers use to find solutions.
Instead of just going for quantity, the idea is to attract the right audience that’s more likely to convert.
The strategy involves understanding your product, finding keywords that strike a balance between what buyers are searching for, the business potential, and optimizing your content to drive conversions.
Monika Kiselewska, SEO Content Manager at Cognism, talks about her experience with the money keywords approach:
“The hardest part of implementing this strategy is to learn and deeply understand your product and understand how it’s better or different to competitors. This knowledge helps you produce relevant content.”
“You need to understand what prospects might be looking for, the specific language they use when searching.”
“Equally tricky is to talk about Cognism and its competitors, positioning it as the right purchasing decision without making any statements that unintentionally bash our competitors or mislead prospective buyers.”
Use these platforms to share your content and engage your audience. Build a community around your brand by participating in conversations, responding to comments, and actively interacting with your followers. LinkedIn is your go-to channel here.
Consider the recently introduced LinkedIn company messaging inbox. Potential clients often have simple questions before deciding to sign up. By answering these questions quickly, you help them and start a relationship that could lead to conversions.
Consistent posting plays a significant role in generating demand as well. Your brand needs to be seen. When you regularly share valuable content, it shows your expertize and draws interest by creating a community around the common challenges of your ICP.
How to measure inbound sales
Measuring the effectiveness of your inbound sales efforts is crucial for understanding how well your strategy is resonating with your audience.
Luckily, you don’t need to over-complicated metrics.
Here are some ways to measure your inbound sales performance:
- Lead conversion rates. Monitor the percentage of leads that successfully convert into customers. A higher conversion rate indicates that your inbound approach is attracting and engaging the right audience.
- Website traffic analytics. Use tools like Google Analytics to track the number of visitors to your website. An increase in web traffic can signify the impact of your inbound efforts.
- Social media engagement. Keep an eye on your social media metrics, such as likes, shares, and comments. Higher engagement levels suggest that your content is resonating with your target audience.
- Email marketing metrics. Evaluate the performance of your email campaigns by analyzing open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. This data provides insights into how well your emails are driving action.
- Customer feedback and reviews. Actively seek and analyze customer feedback and reviews. Positive reviews and testimonials can indicate a strong connection between your inbound efforts and customer satisfaction.
- Sales funnel progression. Track the movement of leads through your sales funnel. Assess how effectively your inbound strategies are guiding prospects from awareness to conversion.
Top inbound sales tools
Having the right tools helps to track and analyze the effectiveness of inbound.
These are our top picks and their benefits. ⬇️
⭐ 4.4/5 on G2
HubSpot supports inbound sales by creating and managing engaging content.
It optimizes content for search engines and nurtures leads through the sales funnel using marketing automation tools.
- Content creation. Simplifies content creation and publishing for a consistent online presence.
- Lead nurturing. CRM capabilities help effectively track and tailor content based on customer behavior.
- Analytics. Provides insights into content and campaign performance for refined strategies.
⭐ 4.5/5 on G2
Google Analytics provides detailed insights into how users interact with your website.
- Performance tracking. Google Analytics allows tracking of website performance to understand audience preferences.
- Audience insight. Provides demographic and geographic data to refine content for the audience.
- Conversion tracking. Understands website conversion paths to improve the inbound strategy.
Mailchimp allows marketing teams to create, send, and track email campaigns. It provides tools for creating visually appealing emails, segmenting your audience, and analyzing the performance of your campaigns.
- Email campaigns. Mailchimp is an effective tool for sending personalized and targeted email campaigns, allowing you to nurture leads and keep your audience engaged.
- Automation. Offers features for setting up automated email sequences for timely communication.
- Analytics. Provides email campaign performance analytics for refining marketing strategy.
Pros and cons of inbound sales
Before you and your team start with an inbound sales strategy, consider these important pros and cons 🤔
Pro: Sometimes it's an easier sell
When a prospect reaches out to your sales rep, the need for your product or service might have been identified. This makes the job of your sales development representatives (SDRs) a bit easier since the time and energy to pinpoint this need is done on the prospect's side.
Pro: Educate your prospects before they buy
It gives the SDR a chance to help educate your prospects about your products (or services). You can also show why your products are the best way of fixing their pain points.
Con: Hard to know the lead quality
The quality of incoming leads can be hard to know from low-intent actions. A sales rep will always need to qualify these leads to find the best way forward.
Con: Remember, it’s not a done deal
Inbound sales don’t automatically mean the deal is done. Even if a prospect connects with a rep for more information, they could still pick a competitor. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security.
Con: A lot of resources are required
Inbound sales will only be a success if you can create great content. And lots of it. This takes a great B2B marketing media engine. It’s also important to remember that quality content doesn’t rank overnight. Building inbound sales out takes time.
What is outbound sales?
Where inbound sales is the prospect seeking out the SDR, outbound sales is the reverse. ⏮️
Outbound sales is the process of the SDR actively seeking and reaching out to prospects. The sales rep initiates the engagement with a prospect with the end goal being getting a meeting booked.
This approach takes persistence. Follow-up is needed, which is where sales cadences come in.
The best outbound sales cadence includes a variety of channels. SDRs use tactics like cold calls, cold emails, and LinkedIn to reach out to prospects.
Effective outbound sales methods
Good outbound strategies keep a steady stream of leads coming in and give sales teams the tools to build meaningful connections with potential clients.
The methods you choose have a direct impact on the end result -deciding whether a prospect stays uninterested or turns into a customer.
Here are some tips that will help improve your outbound sales efforts.
Address your cold calling fear
Let’s face it: picking up the phone feels awkward for most people. That’s why many opt for more comfortable digital channels; emails, InMails, maybe even WhatsApp messages. 🤷
But, according to Owen Richards, Founder and CEO at Air Marketing, the top performers are the ones who actually pick up the phone.
“What I recognize or what I see is that consistently, the top performers that I get to work with or see working almost always are people that embrace the phone. There are some random exceptions to that, but they’re incredibly good at something else.”
For sales managers, the goal is to help your SDRs reach their full potential and make cold calling their go-to outbound method.
So, what can you do?
Shabri Lakhani, Strategic Advisor at Kaspr, suggests two simple steps:
- Focus on enablement and training. If you have a determined SDR, sit down with them to analyze a cold call. The key is to invest time in onboarding and ongoing support for your reps.
- Consider data quality. Sometimes, a rep is eager to make cold calls but struggles to get through.
If this is the case, ensure your contact data is accurate and up-to-date (Kaspr can help you out here 😉).
Constantly facing gatekeepers or calling incorrect numbers can be demotivating, leading reps to give up on phone calls. As a manager, it's your responsibility to make sure your reps have access to the right resources for the most effective communication channel.
Write emails that get replies
“I hope you’re doing well”. 🤦
Seeing this in your inbox probably makes you want to skip the email altogether, right? Emails today are drowning in generic, automated messages like that.
So, how do you write emails that actually get responses?
Research, research, research.
Show that reaching out isn’t a shot in the dark. Kyle Coleman’s 5x5x5 approach is golden here:
- Spend five minutes on research.
- Extract five key insights.
- Dedicate five minutes to crafting your email.
Subject line and preview text best practices
Limit your subject line to just three words. Anything longer risks going unopened.
Morgan J Ingram, Creative Advisor at Cognism says:
“If your subject line isn’t engaging, your prospect is unlikely to read beyond it. A good example of a subject line that piques interest is: greater than less sign, your company name (e.g. Morgan <> Kaspr).”
“This works because it leads to an internal email that they would respond to, and they see the greater than less sign as a connector.”
Remember, your first line is going to massively impact your open rate, as this will show in the preview text.
This is where you use the research we mentioned earlier. Include this in the first line to show it’s relevant to them right away.
Keep it short
Keep the email nice and short. Focus on one key pain and keep it below 150 words.
Get to the point. Highlight the pain, how to fix it and then a simple CTA.
“Instead of asking for ‘30 minutes of their time’, ask if they’re open to learning more. People get defensive when you ask for their time. And so instead asking for interest creates less friction and will help increase the chance of “yes” being the response.”
💡 Check out “The Spark” series to get more tips on writing emails that get replies.
Prospect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great tool for discovering potential clients as part of your outbound sales strategy.
Start by searching for people or companies in your industry. Look for those who share common interests or may benefit from your products or services.
You can do this through LinkedIn search filters, “people also viewed” sidebar, skill endorsements, or job alerts.
Connect with them and engage in friendly conversations. This helps build relationships and opens the door for potential business opportunities.
Keep an eye out for updates on their profiles to stay informed about their needs and challenges.
After you’ve found your potential client, you need to get in touch with them.
This is where Kaspr comes in. With its Chrome Extension, you can get the contact and company information of your prospects in just one click.
How to measure outbound sales
Having solid reporting practices for revenue functions is key.
These involve important metrics (KPIs) that offer insights into the performance of outbound sales representatives.
Let’s take a closer look at each 👇
- Response rate. Measure how many of your outreach attempts result in a response from the prospect. A higher response rate indicates that your messaging is engaging and resonating with your target audience. If the response rate is low, it might be time to revisit and refine your communication strategy.
- Qualified leads in the funnel. Not all responses are created equal. Focus on identifying the number of leads that show genuine interest in your product or service. These are the prospects who are more likely to convert into paying customers.
- Conversion rate. Track the percentage of qualified leads that actually convert into sales. This metric provides a clear picture of your team's effectiveness in turning potential customers into paying clients. A rising conversion rate indicates that your sales strategies are working well.
- Average sales cycle length. Measure the average time it takes for a lead to move through the sales funnel from the initial outreach to closing the deal. A shorter sales cycle often means a more efficient and effective sales process.
Top outbound sales tools
These are our top picks for outbound sales tools and their benefits. 👇
⭐4.4/5 on G2
Kaspr is an all-in-one prospecting tool.
It helps sales teams to identify prospects, build lists and export the data to CRM tools.
With the Chrome Extension, you can get the contact and company information for your prospects directly from LinkedIn.
There are also automation features that are great for B2B data enrichment or automating parts of your outreach. You can enrich your contacts straight from the widget or by creating workflows in the dashboard.
- Easy-to-use LinkedIn Chrome Extension.
- Find prospects, collect contact data, and build lists.
- Manage your leads with lists, notes, and tasks to meet your sales goals.
- Build and automate LinkedIn messaging campaigns, from the initial connection request to the final follow-up messages.
- Automate LinkedIn messaging campaigns and make calls with integrations.
- Extensive integrations with popular sales tech stack tools.
- GDPR and CCPA aligned data.
⭐ 4.6/5 on G2
Cognism is a sales intelligence platform that automates lead generation and sales prospecting tasks.
Thanks to its extensive database and numerous filters, it can help you find high-quality leads who match your ICP.
Cognism also has a 98% cell phone number accuracy rate with their Diamond Data® feature. These numbers have been manually verified by Cognism’s data research team.
- Browser Extension.
- Diamond Data® (phone-verified cell numbers that 7x your response rate).
- 16-step email verification process.
- Sales triggers, technographics, and Bombora's intent data.
- International coverage (EMEA, NAM, APAC).
Pros and cons of outbound sales
If you’re building an outbound sales team, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of this type of strategy too.
Pro: More control
Outbound sales give your SDRs more control over leads since they are the ones reaching out. You can make sure you only speak to leads that match your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Justin Stephenson, Partner at the global sales management leadership organization, Sandler Training explains the importance of a methodology for outbound sales:
“We recommend trying to build a sales methodology that helps the salesperson to control and manage the sale. If they’re unable to do this they’ll default to ‘the buyer system’, where the buyer dictates the process. This can be less helpful for both parties, and is particularly common when cold calling.”
Pro: Great for longer sales cycles
It’s also great for longer sales cycles since reps follow up through sales cadences to book a meeting.
Pro: Close large deals
Outbound sales aren't easy and can take a lot of time and effort. But, they present the opportunity to close large deals. As well as maintaining relationships with customers, and building a sales pipeline for the long game.
Con: You need top SDRs
An outbound sales strategy is only as successful as your top-performing SDR. Hiring the best SDRs can be challenging and it costs commission.
Con: Can be difficult for startups
Outbound sales can be harder for startups to execute. A startup might not have the resources, technology, or a large sales team to make the kind of impact that will prove successful.
Considering the sales cycle
Another way these two differ is in the sales cycle. Outbound sales are better in the long term for businesses with longer sales cycles. But leaning into inbound sales is excellent for short sales cycles.
If your product or service requires a longer sales cycle, your sales rep and prospect will need more time. This puts more emphasis on following up and why it’s so important.
Sales cycles will always be longer when dealing with enterprise customers. Deals with large businesses take more time to go through the sales funnel 🤑
Inbound sales is the best approach when selling something that doesn’t take much time to decide on or doesn’t have a lot of red tape.
Inbound vs outbound sales: Why both is best
It’s time to lay the great debate between inbound and outbound sales to rest 🪦
A mixture of both is best.
Your team shouldn’t have to be set on one, as both have their own pros and cons. Granted, one will have more budget than the other, but when combined sales goals are more achievable.
We’ve summarized the indicators for which one you should spend more time in the infographic below 👇
Here are the key takeaways from this article:
- Inbound sales are when the prospect seeks out the sales SDR
- Outbound sales are when the sales SDR seeks out prospects
- Inbound sales focus on channels like content marketing, SEO, and social media
- Outbound sales focus on cold calling, cold emailing, and LinkedIn
- Inbound is best for short sales cycles, while outbound is best for longer cycles