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Inbound sales vs. outbound sales

Chapter 1
Inbound sales vs. outbound sales

The internet has fundamentally changed nearly all aspects of our lives — chief among them is the way we buy. Today, consumers don’t bat an eye at buying furniture, cars, and even houses online.

Despite all of this change, many sales teams operate nearly the same way they did 40 years ago. Cold-call prospecting, aggressive sales pitches, and a get-the-deal-done approach are all too common at both B2B and B2C organizations.

Many sales teams are continuing to employ traditional “outbound” sales techniques that haven’t been updated to fit the way people buy today.

To understand why this is a problem, we first have to understand the difference.

What is outbound sales?

In traditional outbound sales, most sales reps spend their time reaching out to potential buyers and guiding those prospects to make a purchase. They reach out through cold calling, emailing, and other prospecting efforts with the hopes that they can find good-fit prospects they can sell to.

Some of these sales reps do “inside sales” — that is, over the phone, email, or video — while the majority do “outside sales” that involve meeting with prospects face to face. According to Spotio, outside sales represented more than 70% of all sales in the pre-pandemic United States, but that number has shifted during COVID and its aftermath.

The problem with outbound sales is that it is inefficient and pushy. LinkedIn reports that only 2% of cold calls resulted in a meeting booked. It’s no surprise that nearly two-thirds of sales reps report that cold calling is the worst part of their job.

Traditional sales processes value closing a deal above all else. Hence, the sales pitch. A good sales rep can talk someone into making a purchase, even if it’s not in their best interest. This “won’t take no for an answer” approach brings in revenue and helps the sales reps hit their quota, but it can result in unhappy buyers who make things difficult for customer service teams down the line.

What is inbound sales?

Although the goal of inbound sales is the same, the approach is very different.

The inbound sales process begins when a prospect converts on your company’s website. Doing so lets your sales team know that there is a potential customer interested in your products or services. Because prospects enter the sales process of their own accord, they are naturally more qualified than if they were just names on a call list.

When the prospect is ready, they can set up a meeting with a sales rep. Rather than a hard-sell approach, the inbound sales rep focuses on buyer education, providing learning materials and information to help the prospect make the best decision possible.

Good-fit, qualified prospects will move forward and make a purchase; bad-fit prospects will opt-out, saving wasted time and effort in the long term.

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