Inbound vs. Outbound Sales: What’s the Difference?

The internet has now become our arbiter of information. When we have a question — whether we’re trying to locate a long-lost recipe or determine the difference between a Class I and Class II medical device — many of us turn to search engines to help us find answers.

However, making a sale requires a human element that you just can’t get from the Google algorithm. If you’re in sales, you’re likely debating whether to invest your sales budget into inbound or outbound sales strategies.

Before you decide, here are some key factors that you should take into consideration when it comes to what will work best for you.

What Do “Inbound” and “Outbound” Mean?

The main difference between inbound and outbound sales strategies is how a salesperson establishes first contact with a prospect.

Inbound **sales **occur when the prospect, already aware of a service and/or product, reaches out to the company for more information.

**Outbound sales **occur when the sales team or company initiates contact with a prospect who may possess little to no knowledge of the service or product.

While most sales reps prefer one method to the other, neither is inherently better than the other. Depending on your company's needs and goals, one or the other may prove to be the best choice for now. But it is likely that you’ll need a combination of both to succeed.

What Are Outbound Sales?

Outbound sales strategies rely heavily on your sales team and their ability to seek out and convert prospects into customers.

Popular outbound sales strategies can include:

One of the trickiest elements in outbound sales is identifying your prospects. While you may not convert every prospect into a customer, choosing your prospects wisely can help you succeed.

Finding the right prospects is easy with sales software providers like AcuityMD. With AcuityMD’s software, medical device sales reps can easily identify the right healthcare providers (HCPs) and sites of care (SOC) to hit their sales goals. Plus, with access to AcuityMD’s industry-specific data model,, sales reps can say goodbye to researching HCPs, digging through static datasets, or data entry.

Are Outbound Sales Right for You?

But how do you know if outbound sales is the best strategy for you? Here are a few factors to consider when weighing your options.

How Novel Is Your Product?

If your product offers a solution to new or previously unrecognized challenges, it is unlikely that your prospects will know it exists. Because of this, they likely won’t be aware of your product or service.

Having an outbound sales team dedicated to locating the hottest prospects can help eliminate dead-ends and find the most interested buyers. Plus, it may be the only way to introduce potential leads to your new product or service.

How Specific Is Your Audience?

If your target audience isn’t aware of your product or service, they likely aren’t actively looking for it, either. When trying to facilitate a sales conversation with a specific audience, like a VP of Marketing, it is unlikely that they will reach out to you first. That’s where a persistent outbound sales team can prove invaluable.

Speaking directly to a high-profile prospect requires someone who believes there is room to change a “no” into a “yes.” It also requires someone who can guide the prospect through the buying process while handling objections.

Inbound sales often don’t allow that one-on-one opportunity to address specific concerns. In cases where you have a specific prospect in mind, not only is an outbound strategy likely to be your only option — it’s probably also your best option.

How Quickly Do You Want Results?

With inbound sales, you are waiting for prospects to come to you. By the time a prospect dials your number, they’ve likely answered most of their own questions, and likely won’t have any objections. In contrast, a dedicated outbound sales team will likely know the most common questions and objections, as well as how to address them in the moment.

This helps them adjust and finetune their strategies for future pitches, effectively developing a “formula” for success. These strategies may help provide faster results as the team learns how to successfully overcome objections.

How Comfortable Are You With Person-to-Person Sales?

While the internet has connected people like never before, there is still a distance between your prospect and your sales team. And while online content can generate interested leads, you’ll still need to wait for your prospect to engage before being able to address them directly.

On the contrary, an outbound sales rep will research specific targets with the goal of directly pitching the product or service. A personal connection between your sales rep and the prospect can lead to trust. Once that relationship is established, it is more likely that the prospect will convert to a long-term customer.

Can You Turn Leads Into Customers?

Hearing “no” multiple times a day every day is typical for those working in sales.

Whereas inbound sales can still be successful while taking a more passive role, it is absolutely essential that an outbound sales rep remains motivated and actively searches for, contacts, and follows up with potential customers.

What Are Inbound Sales?

Inbound sales involve implementing marketing tactics that provide inbound sales reps with hot leads. Because of this, inbound sales are closer to digital marketing than sales strategy.

Inbound sales reps create content directed at already interested prospects and place that content in places that prospects can easily and repeatedly access it.

Common forms of inbound sales content include:

Inbound sales work to provide a customizable and personalized buying experience to your prospects, with a sales rep working primarily as an advisor.

Are Inbound Sales Right for You?

How do inbound sales work, and is this the right strategy for you? Answer the following questions to determine if these scenarios mirror your goals.

How Much Are You Looking To Spend?

Perhaps you are just starting out and cannot invest in a large sales team. By using inbound sales, you can keep your team small while also creating content that may reach thousands of people.

This can also widen your scope and offer you more leads. However, you’ll want to make sure you have someone available to follow up with your leads.

How Important Is Your Online Presence?

Inbound sales can help you and your company create a presence and reputation online. If done correctly, your content can help you establish expertise and authority within your field and among prospects.

Your sales team can benefit from this as well since your prospects may consider your sales team more credible and trustworthy. This can potentially lead to fewer objections and more conversions.

How Independent Is Your Target Audience?

It’s simple. Some industry professionals respond well to cold calls, while others do not.

If you are working with an audience who prefers to work on their own, they may enjoy having the space to independently research as little or as much as they want before approaching you about buying.

When this is the case, you’ll need to draw more customers to your business — and the creation of engaging content with a call to action can help, especially when you have an inbound sales team available to answer any questions.

Are You Looking To Automate Sales?

If you represent a more established company, that can come with its own challenges. While having an extensive outbound sales team may help close more deals, this often requires extra time and money to hire, train, and support these reps. Inbound sales can allow you to be more hands-off and let your prospects meet you at the bottom of the sales funnel.

How Much Time Can You Commit?

Part of the appeal of online content, such as blogs, is that they are reusable. They can reach thousands of people — if you invest in a good content strategy upfront.

Why does this matter? If you want to invest in more inbound sales strategies, you will want to ensure that your sales automations are engaging, structured, and strategized before they go live.

The Bottom Line

While inbound and outbound sales may seem like competing strategies, they’re actually two effective tools that work best when used together. Marketing efforts and automated content can’t provide you with all of the leads you need, while cold-calling can’t sustain itself when you’re building and expanding your business.

The needs of a company will fluctuate over time, and so will the need for outbound vs. inbound sales techniques. It is not uncommon to shift strategies based on new data, the needs of a specific prospect, or the development of a new product.

Don’t be afraid to use both. If you’re in medical device sales, consider partnering with AcuityMD to get access to a database of potential prospects. Whatever your sales strategy is, we’re here to help you succeed.


4 Behaviors that Boost Inbound Sales | Harvard Business Review

Top Five Outbound Sales Strategies To Grow Your Business | Forbes

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy That Really Works |

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