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3 Key Differences Between Outbound and Inbound Sales

Steve Surdez

Inbound is no longer a shiny new toy. The inbound approach has become the new normal.

Companies that have strong brands, effective marketing, and strong sales programs recognize that all functions must work together seamlessly to deliver a consistently outstanding customer experience.

Any outlier to a holistic inbound approach can reduce its effectiveness. Sales is sometimes this outlier, operating outside or adjacent to an inbound philosophy. This occurs, in part, because the relationship of sales to inbound is murkier and somewhat less understood.

If we compare traditional outbound sales to a more modern inbound sales approach, what will we discover?

First, we’ll immediately recognize how much of an outlier outbound sales is when compared to inbound. That’s not to say that outbound sales tactics have zero merit — they do have merit, but only when they are deployed correctly within the overall inbound strategy.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the differences between the outbound and inbound sales approaches.

Outbound Calls Versus Inbound Calls

This one is pretty straightforward. Outbound calls are generally cold calls where the caller and the called have had no contact prior and therefore are total strangers to one another. Cold calling could not be anymore anti-inbound. And cold calling has been proven to be inefficient (it can take up to 8 calls to connect with an individual) and ineffective (only 1–3% of cold calls result in an appointment).

Inbound calls, on the other hand, are always “warm” calls. In this scenario, a prospect has already received content or interacted with the brand on social media. It’s possible they chatted with a sales rep, or maybe even exchanged messages via Twitter. Put simply, a connection of some kind has been made prior to a call being made, thus the prospect is “warm” and has been nurtured along the buyer's journey a bit.

Of course a true inbound call is where a lead calls the sales rep or company directly. The disparity between cold calling and warm calling is about as stark as it can get.

Scattershot Versus Sharpshooting

Sales representatives operating in a purely outbound sales ecosystem are not equipped to be sharpshooters. Instead, they are always closing, regardless of the potential buyer’s current needs or stage. Sales reps end up wasting a lot of time searching for marketing content, and even when they locate some material, it’s often not aligned to what the lead needs at that time. In other words, sales staff that take an outbound approach often shoot off content in mass — at the wrong time or not at all — making a targeted sales approach nearly impossible.

In sharp contrast, inbound sales leverages content marketing it has tailored for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Since sales and marketing are always tightly aligned in an inbound environment, locating the right content, matching it with the right lead, and sending it along at the right time is easier and repeatable.

Outbound sales force prospects to drink from a firehose. This means mass emails, big direct mail campaigns, and pushing demos when a prospect is just starting to research their pain points.

Inbound sales is surgically precise; it is connected to the buyer persona and crafted for a specific moment in the buying cycle; it is about nurturing and nudging a person through the sales pipeline and building trust along the way.

Single Versus Multi-Channel Sales

Last but not least, outbound sales tends to deploy a single channel approach (or maybe a few channels: think cold calls and outbound emails) whereas inbound executes a multi-channel sales platform.

Outbound sales, speaking broadly, is a less integrated sales approach with fewer customer touch points.

The inbound sales approach attempts to build critical brand mass across digital, print, video, email, and social media that generates stronger closing rates. This approach is inclusive of what’s called social selling.

Social selling is not just posting on social media. Rather, it’s a multi-channel sales approach that builds rapport, fosters trust, and nurtures prospects through the delivery of valuable content and meaningful sales rep-customer interactions.

Hootsuite describes the core of social selling this way: “Perhaps equally important to explaining what social selling means is to explain what social selling is not. It’s certainly not about bombarding strangers with unsolicited tweets and private messages ... social selling is not just about gaining access to contacts but about building relationships and listening for the right moment to join the conversation so you can present yourself as a solution to a problem. The aim is to address a pressing need to make your prospect’s life easier rather than becoming just another online irritant to ignore.”

And that gets to the heart of the difference between outbound and inbound sales. Outbound sales is intrusive, disconnected, and too brand centered. Inbound sales is about helpfulness, solving problems, and knowing what your prospect needs and when to deliver it.

At Illumine8 Marketing & PR, we work with companies to improve their sales processes. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you streamline your sales process and inspire your sales team to close more deals efficiently.

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