What's the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Sales?

Published on Aug 18, 2017 by Sarah Malone | 7 min(s) read time

Inbound and Outbound Sales are different approaches which should be understood by companies of all sizes.


The buying habits of clients are changing as shown by numerous statistics:


92% of buyers say they delete emails or voicemail messages when they come from someone that they do not know - A Sales Guy 

On average decision makers consume 5 pieces of content before speaking to a sales rep - CMO Council

Only 29% of people want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product, while 62% will consult a search engine - HubSpot 


Crazy figures, right? Traditional sales tactics are not as effective as they used to be and companies face a difficult decision; Adapt to inbound selling techniques or stick with outbound sales? Let’s therefore take a closer look at what these two terms actually entail.


Outbound Sales


Outbound is centred on the seller. It thrives on static pitches and depends heavily on cold-calling, bulk emails to purchased lists, commercials, printed advertisements and hard-selling to close deals, attempting to hold power over the entire buyer-seller process. Very popular back in the day but do these techniques still work? Did they ever actually work? Let’s take a look:


Pros  Cons

It’s much more difficult to interpret buying signals.

It’s more expensive. .....................................................

A more direct method of contact with potential clients.

It’s much more difficult to interpret buying signals.
Greater reach for your sales material

More ways to block or filter content means that many prospects will never even see or hear your sales pitch.

Initially less time-consuming Intrusive and interruptive style reduces customer success and satisfaction.
Wider reach can result in more leads Less effective for gaining longstanding quality leads that will grow into reliable and satisfied long-term customers.
  Unable to predict stages. Potentially lose leads simply because they were caught at the “wrong time” in the buyer's journey.


Inbound Sales


Inbound is centered on the buyer. Research and valuable information is the key to inbound sales because, as Mark Roberge from HubSpot puts it, “it is much more about listening, diagnosing and prescribing” a potential client, than about “interrupting, pitching and closing” them. Leads are generated and sustained through educating potential clients with informative, useful and credible information, trying to understand buyer personas’ problems through their buyer's journey and working in conjunction with the marketing department through smarketing in order to evolve with changing consumer habits and needs.

You thus start the selling process with people who are already interested in your product or services.

Sounds great, right? But let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons before making any final decisions.




It's very cost effective. Initially more time consuming to create content, build up and generate good quality leads.
Quality leads are attracted through interesting and informative content that is tailored to the buyer's situation. Producing good quality content requires a diverse workforce with different skill sets.
Leads are already interested in what you’re selling…if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have read your blog or attended your free consultation! Your content may get lost before reaching your leads as you are relying on them to find it through your targeted approach
Less intrusive selling methods increase client success and ensure a more human touch to sales. Without assessing web analytics effectively, which takes time and training to master, it is difficult to measure ROI.

 Trust and rapport are built with clients so they are more likely to be loyal and use your products or services again in the future. Long-term relationships are key!

Research, buyer personas and keywords are key to building rapport and trust and ensuring content reaches lead but takes time and  perseverance.

 Loyal customers become the gateway to new leads! A happy client shares their experiences and positively promotes your company to others.



So now we know the difference between the two. How do we decide which is the most effective? How does this information relate to your company? Do we need to choose one or the other?


One thing is certainly clear. In order to achieve customer success in sales, there has to be cohesion and unity in your workforce.

79% of marketing leads never convert to sales, citing lack of nurturing for poor performance - Marketo


Communication between the sales and marketing teams must be implemented and maintained in order to achieve success. After all, nurtured leads make larger purchases by a staggering 47%. If buyers feel they have been listened to and helped from the word go, things become much easier for the sales rep to close the deal with a happy client who feels they have been given the solution to their problem and been guided throughout the entirety of their buyer’s journey.


72.6% of salespeople who use social selling as part of their sales process outperform their sales peers, and exceed quotas 23% more often - A Sales Guy


Execute Inbound But Don’t Abandon Outbound


So it seems that inbound sales techniques promote integrity and overall well-being for your company and your clients. Using the foundations of inbound marketing and sales within your company is undoubtedly fundamental to success in the forever changing buyer process. But that’s not to say that outbound sales is redundant either. A phone call to someone who has engaged with your content but not yet replied to a follow up email could be considered both outbound and inbound for example.


Ideally, mixing the two together in order to reach widespread recognition, whilst guiding and helping your clients through research and useful, valuable content, will inevitably lead you to the most success. What you do not want to do however is cold call someone without any research and context. Building rapport and trust takes time and energy. But it’s energy well worth investing!


Learn how to Launch an Inbound Sales Team for Ultimate Sales Success

Topics: sales