Inbound vs. outbound: Balancing your company’s sales strategies

It might sound like the lingo of air traffic controllers — inbound vs. outbound. But businesses of all types must grapple with these concepts and their associated challenges when developing sales strategies.

Inbound sales originate when someone contacts your company to inquire about buying a product or service, whereas outbound sales arise from members of your sales team reaching out to customers and prospects. Like many businesses, yours may not have the luxury of choosing one approach over the other. You probably have to find the right balance. Inbound sales: Marketing your brand Inbound sales are all about marketing your brand. Customers and prospects need to know who you are and what you offer, otherwise they won’t be in touch.

Thus, you’ll need to invest in a strong brand-based, content-driven marketing strategy that establishes and maintains your reputation as a “destination business” in your industry. Interested parties who encounter your marketing materials should wind up thinking, “I want to go there.” If you can accomplish that, you’ll need a well-trained, patient inside sales team who are experts on your products or services. The word “patient” is key.

One of the downsides to inbound sales is that they can take longer to close than outbound sales. They’re also less targeted. You have to deal with whoever contacts you. Some prospects might show up with unrealistic expectations or turn out to be difficult customers.

On the plus side, inbound sales are typically less labor-intensive and expensive because the buyer is coming to you and your customer base is generally more concentrated. What’s more, inside sales teams may incur less turnover because of lower rejection rates and a greater emphasis on technical know-how over a traditional “make your numbers or else” mindset. Outbound sales: Lots of work, big potential Outbound sales are largely based on intensive market research.

You need to know the demographics and other key data points of those most likely to buy from you — and then you’ve got to go out and get ’em. The downside to outbound sales is they tend to entail much more work (cold calls, follow-up, virtual and/or in-person meetings) and typically incur a higher rejection rate.

In addition, this approach is often more expensive. You’ll need to cast a much wider net in terms of marketing and advertising. Outside salespeople tend to work longer hours, and they may incur substantial travel expenses and have a higher turnover rate. You might need more of them to cover your sales territories, too. All that said, under the right circumstances and when properly executed, outbound sales can generate more revenue than inbound sales. You can target a large number of precisely the types of customers who will most likely buy from you, and sales are often quicker and easier to close.

Assess your position Has your company been running on autopilot when it comes to balancing inbound vs. outbound sales? Now’s a good time to address the issue as we head into the new year. If, for example, you’re waiting around for inbound sales that aren’t showing up, maybe it’s time to pivot to an outbound sales strategy. On the other hand, if you’ve emerged as a major player in your market, perhaps you can cut back on the outreach, beef up your brand and rely more on inbound sales.

Contact us for help evaluating your sales numbers, as well as identifying the costs and forecasting the potential revenue of both approaches. © 2022

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