Inbound vs. outbound sales: Which is best for you?

Inbound vs. outbound sales: Which is best for you?

You’ve probably heard the terms inbound and outbound sales tossed around recently. They are two distinct approaches that sales reps take to engage leads and close deals. But how do we differentiate inbound vs. outbound sales? How do you know which one is right for your organization?

Below we’ll dig into both approaches, discuss some inbound vs. outbound sales strategies, and explain how each of the two can benefit you. We’ll begin with the basics.

Inbound vs. outbound sales: The basics

What is inbound sales?

Inbound sales should be the goal of your inbound marketing strategy. Inbound marketing involves pushing out valuable content to the market to build trust and brand awareness. The more helpful the content is, the more leads will come to you.

The idea is simple. Rather than reps spending their time cold calling leads and trying to get appointments, they rely on your marketing team to produce engaging content that brings leads to you. Inbound content often takes the form of blogs, social media posts, videos, etc. If the content solves common problems that leads face, demand for your brand will grow, and you’ll see leads coming your way.

Inbound sales generates higher quality leads so that reps can focus their attention on those that are the best fit for your product or service. This frees up their time and lets them focus more closely on each lead’s needs, challenges, pain points, etc. When they don’t have to weed through hundreds of cold leads, they can deliver a better, more personal experience to the leads they receive.

Here are a few tactics that increase the effectiveness of inbound sales:

Lead scoring

Lead scoring consists of creating a scoring model that awards leads points for behaviors and demographic data. You can award points for actions taken, such as opening an email, downloading content, visiting high-value web pages, and more.

You can also award points for the demographic/personal data leads provide you through web forms. For example, if someone completes a lead form and lists their job title as CEO, you may award them five points because it’s an indication they are a decision maker. If someone enters their title as assistant, you may award them one point as they’ll likely not be involved in the decision-making process to buy your product.

You set a lead scoring qualification threshold. Once a lead earns enough points to pass that threshold, they are considered to have displayed enough interest in your product for a sales rep to reach out.

All of this can be done automatically using lead scoring and automation features in your customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

Social selling

Social selling consists of making connections via social media by sharing helpful content, replying to your customers’ posts, engaging prospects in dialogue, following your prospects, and social listening. Social listening involves using social CRM software to receive alerts anytime someone mentions you or your brand on social media.

Reps make a name for themselves simply by being helpful to their audience. This builds trust and results in leads reaching out to reps with questions, thus starting a dialogue and a potential relationship.

The importance of social selling as an inbound sales tactic has never been so great. With so many people using social media multiple times daily, it’s an easy and nonintrusive way to reach your audience and show them that you truly care about and are inspired by the industry you work in.

To drive this point home, consider this: a whopping 64% of sales teams that incorporate social selling into their inbound sales strategy hit their sales quotas, while 49% of sales teams that don’t leverage social selling do not meet their quotas.

What is outbound sales?

As you might have guessed by now, outbound sales refers to more traditional forms of sales such as cold calling. As opposed to presenting your brand as a thought leader that leads look to for information so that they come knocking on your door, outbound sales goes out and does the knocking.

This is an important and marked difference to keep in mind when thinking of inbound vs. outbound sales. Reps often receive a list of cold leads and must go through them one by one, making cold calls in hopes that someone bites.

As painful as many see it, cold calling is still an important part of any sales strategy. And outbound sales isn’t limited to cold calling. It involves any tactic in which a rep reaches out to a cold lead to make first contact.

Here are three primary examples of outbound sales techniques:

Email outreach

Sending emails to cold leads isn’t as tedious as it sounds. With the use of a marketing automation (MA) solution, sales reps can automate the sending of hundreds of emails in one batch without having to send each one individually. And with personalization capabilities, you can personalize each email, so it doesn’t seem like you sent a blanket email blast to hundreds of people.

Plus, if you use an all-in-one CRM—such as Agile CRM—you get built-in marketing automation in your CRM, which means you can use email tracking to keep tabs on everyone who opens or clicks your outbound sales emails.

There are a variety of approaches reps can take with sending emails to cold leads. Here are a few sales email templates to provide you with ideas and help guide you through the process.

Cold calling

If you use an all-in-one CRM, you can integrate telephony apps with your core system to streamline and automate the cold calling process. You can use features like an auto dialer to make ten times as many calls in the same amount of time. You filter out a list of leads to call, and the auto dialer calls each one in sequence, without you having to dial each number manually.

You can also use pre-recorded voicemail drops to leave a pre-recorded voicemail with a single click of the mouse. When you get sent to voicemail, you click the recording you want to leave, and it is automatically left in the individual’s inbox while the auto dialer moves you on the to the next call.

Social media

You may not have immediately thought of social media as an outbound sales tactic, but it can be highly effective. If a rep identifies someone as being a good fit for their product, they can research their LinkedIn profile to learn more about them, their interests, etc.

Agile CRM even provides sales teams with a LinkedIn integration that allows them to pull leads and their contact data directly from LinkedIn into their CRM database. Having all that insight about each lead before reaching out dramatically increases rep’s ability to more quickly form a rapport with their lead and increases the chances of closing a deal.

Plus, because social media is fairly informal—with LinkedIn being the most formal social platform—you can even send direct messages to leads. Let them know you came across their profile, are impressed by what you saw, and would love to set up a call to learn more about what they are doing regarding X, Y, or Z. It’s a friendly, noninvasive to get your foot in the door and get that first appointment scheduled.

Inbound vs. outbound sales: Which is right for you?

The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Inbound sales is increasing in popularity, but you would be hard pressed to rely on inbound alone. There may be dead periods where no one is engaging with you. However, you still need to meet your quota. Plus, outbound sales and marketing remain effective approaches to converting prospects into customers.

The right approach is to combine a mix of inbound and outbound sales strategies and measure the results of each. Measuring results is easy with powerful CRM reporting. Identify tactics that are working well and those that are not producing results. You’ll quickly gain insight into the right mix for your business.

What works best for you and your organization will depend on the products you sell, the market you’re in, and your unique customer base’s needs.

Experiment with various balances of inbound and outbound sales tactic, and you’ll be able to zero in on the mix that works best for you and produces maximum results.


As mentioned above, you can’t rely on just inbound sales strategies to meet and exceed your sales quotas. Similarly, you can’t rely on just outbound sales these days as consumers are getting savvier and less patient when it comes to receiving cold emails and cold calls.

I suggest that you put in the time and effort needed to develop a robust inbound marketing program that feeds leads to your reps so they can apply their inbound sales strategies. Inbound marketing and sales will be the preferred sales methods in the future—in some industries they already are.

But don’t forget to mix in some outbound sales tactics in the process to help keep the boat afloat. Inbound and outbound sales need to be used in tandem, so they can complement each other. Over time, you’ll find the right formula for your unique business model and settle into a rhythm that produces the best results and maximum revenue growth for your business.


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Elaine E

about 5 years ago

Cold calling gains more traction with Ringless voicemail now I think.


Gabriel Swain

about 5 years ago

Agreed. With automated voicemail drops and auto dialer features, reps can make many more calls in far less time. As always, automating processes increases productivity :-). Thanks for your comment!


Kevin Wright

about 5 years ago

I stumbled on this blog when I was looking for social media marketing tools on Cuspera. They have an interesting list there. Your article is really helpful as it has clarified some of my questions. Can you suggest some latest social media marketing tools for my ecommerce business? Thanks in advance.


Gabriel Swain

about 5 years ago

There is a new product coming out soon that I would highly recommend. It's called HipSocial and should be available in the coming months. In the meantime, Buffer is a good choice and you can use it for free until HipSocial comes out. But once HipSocial is out I would recommend moving to that as I feel it will be a better choice. Cheers.



about 5 years ago

I stumbled on this blog when I was looking for inbound marketing tools on Cuspera. Your article is really helpful as it has clarified some of my questions. Can you suggest some latest inbound marketing tools for my ecommerce business ? Thanks in advance.


Gabriel Swain

about 5 years ago

Have you checked out Agile CRM and it's suite of inbound marketing tools? If not, I recommend taking a look. Plus you can get a free version so there's not a lot to lose. Check it out here >>


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