Inbound vs outbound sales
There’s no getting away from it – the ability to sell is the be-all and end-all of business. The breadth of business functions, from IT to administration to marketing, are all designed to ultimately achieve one thing – sell more stuff.
Nailing the right approach to sales, therefore, is crucial. There are two core schools of thought to consider – inbound sales and outbound sales. Each one requires different channels and methods, and has its own benefits and drawbacks.
What are they, which one is best for you, and can they be employed together?
An inbound sales strategy involves drawing prospects in through content. You grab their attention by publishing valuable content, and they then take their time to get to know your brand and educate themselves about your products and services.
A typical inbound sales strategy features a diverse mix of content types, and can include blogs, downloadable white papers and guides, case studies, pre-recorded video content, webinars, and events.
After soaking up your content, it’s up to your prospect to kick-off the sales process by contacting you via whatever means you make available to them. There’s no sales team cold-calling potential customers to convince them to buy from you.
An inbound sales approach relies on you having marketing content available that prospects can access in their own time, without having to arrange to meet a sales representative or go along to a store. It’s on their terms, and they choose when to make the move from general awareness to interest in making a purchase.
Nurturing your leads
An inbound sales strategy will usually involve some form of lead generation. Gather contact details in exchange for some high-quality content, such as a newsletter signup or white paper download.
Once you have a prospects details, you can run an email nurturing campaign, sending them relevant, valuable content that’s useful to them and builds a great image of your brand in their minds. You want to leave them with the feeling that you’re the kind of brand they want to be part of. How you position yourself depends on your target audience, but your content has to be relevant and valuable to them.
Benefits of inbound sales
An inbound sales strategy is hands-off and works well in an online-first world, where consumers like to take their time to get to know a brand.
Because you’re required to produce and promote high quality content, it’s great for brand-building.
Once content is published, it works for you over and over again. Over time it will increase your visibility, improve your reputation and attract a bigger audience than if you just relied on a sales team.
It drives engagement with your website. Prospects will spend time getting to know you, and you’ve got an opportunity to impress them and build trust before they contact you. It also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate to your prospects how you and your products or services can address their challenges and solve their problems.
And finally, it works well for smaller business that aren’t able to – or don’t want to – invest in a sales team.
An outbound sales strategy is a much more hands-on approach. You have a sales rep or a sales team actively searching for customers. Typically, they kick-off that first contact between a prospect and your brand.
Outbound sales includes approaches such as cold-calling, cold-emailing and other methods that involve reaching out directly to prospects.
An outbound sales strategy still requires an element of nurturing – it’s unlikely that a sale will be closed on that first call. But the nurturing is led by the salesperson, who checks in with the prospect, builds up a direct relationship with them and actively sells to them.
Benefits of outbound sales
Outbound sales doesn’t bring the brand-building benefits of inbound sales, but it’s still a valuable approach.
It’s highly targeted. Your sales team identify specific leads and nurture the most promising. If inbound sales involves casting a wide net and waiting, outbound sales is identifying the juiciest fish and going after it specifically.
You can personalise contact with individual prospects, and build a relationship with them. You’re not relying on general brand awareness; you’re talking directly to them.
It’s generally much quicker. You don’t need to wait for prospects to find out about you, browse your content for a while and then contact you. You can reach your market quickly and convert sales in less time.
You get instant feedback. If your prices are off, the product or service you’re offering is lacking features or your prospects prefer other brands, they’ll let your sales team know soon enough. You’ll then me able to iterate and adapt accordingly. It could take ages and extensive customer research to get that level of insight with a purely inbound sales strategy.
Between the two – a hybrid approach
The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the best of both worlds. You can employ a hybrid approach that involves both inbound and outbound tactics.
In fact, both approaches complement each other nicely. With your inbound hat on, you can create great online content, work on building your brand reputation and put in place an online lead generation system.
Provided you know your customer well, and provide them with useful, valuable content, your brand’s reputation will build up nicely. When your sales team engage in some outbound activity and reach out directly to prospects, they’ll have the weight of a well-liked and trusted brand behind them. It will make their jobs easier, increase their chances and improve ROI.
So, our advice – don’t fret about committing to one side of the fence. Instead, sit right on it, and embrace both.