Why is ‘outbound vs inbound sales’ even a question in 2021?

Outbound vs inbound sales is an age-old battle that shows no signs of fading away. Here are the pros and cons of each and why it shouldn’t even be a debate.

Why is ‘outbound vs inbound sales’ even a question in 2021?
Written by Raza Kazi
Inbound marketing, Sales  |   6 minute read

If the fierce battle between Thanos and the Avengers had you on the edge of your seat, then brace yourself for a clash that sends shivers down the spines of even the finest warriors - outbound vs inbound sales. With the internet at your prospects’ fingertips and minimal trust in salespeople, you need to choose the right sales approach in 2021 to close more deals.

Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of outbound and inbound sales - and why it shouldn’t really be a question in the first place.

Outbound sales

For many, this traditional method genuinely works when it comes to reaching out to prospective customers. So, it’s no real surprise why it has been around for a while and continues to pop up in debates. Some traditional methods include:

  • Trade shows
  • Cold calls
  • Cold emails
  • Outdoor advertising like hoarding and billboards
  • Social media advertising
  • Mass media like television, radio and newspapers


Pro: Reach a wider pool of prospects

Using traditional sales methods, sales teams can reach people who may be unaware of the product or service being offered. Although it can take the right person to answer the phone, outbound sales teams can see some success if they can engage the prospect enough to make a sale.

Sound like something that’ll work for you? Great. But picking up the phone and offering to help potential customers can also be a risk, although it depends on the type of business you are and how much success you’ve had. If this has worked perfectly for you and you’re reluctant to budge, then outbound sales is for you.

rikki using inbound sales in video

Pro: Easy to implement

Some non-traditional methods can be a bit labour-intensive (even though the rewards are worth the efforts), but if you have no time or resources then outbound is quite simple to implement. Drop a letter through a postbox, stick a banner in outdoor spaces and run ads in a newspaper - job done.

Pro: Instant(ish) results

Inbound activities can be time-consuming because of all the nurturing involved and all the different channels that are set up. Although helping sales teams find the right customers helps in the long run, some businesses don’t fancy playing a waiting game. People can walk past your ads and if your team gets through enough calls in a day, they might close a bunch of sales. Although it can be quicker, it can also be a bit of a gamble.

Con: You’ll irritate prospects

How many times do you get annoyed when you receive a cold call and the person on the other end is trying to sell you a product you don’t need? Your prospects feel the same. Customers are beginning to ignore these types of calls and block numbers they don’t recognise as they don’t want to waste time hearing a generic spiel for products they have zero interest in.

Con: It isn’t sustainable

Outbound sales involve your sales team calling hundreds of prospects a day - each. Who’s to say after these hundreds of calls you’ll find the right person anyway? There’s no guarantee a customer will respond positively or even show interest in what you’re offering.

Con: It can affect your reputation

If you continue to irritate prospective customers, it can damage your reputation. This can be a huge distraction for prospects too. They don’t want you to entice them into purchasing something and then those callers also become rude because of these aggressive tactics and they spread the word, ultimately affecting your reputation.

Con: Less success

Yes, outbound tactics can be quicker to implement and also easy to an extent, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be an overnight success. A prospect answering the phone or walking past an ad doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to buy. They’ve become wise to the pesky outbound sales tactics and as they have content available on the internet, they’re going to be looking for answers themselves.

Con: Difficult to educate

Explaining a product or service over a phone call isn’t going to work today. Prospects want visuals, body language and even emotional cues in person rather than false promises. Inbound can feature meeting in person, video calls and videos in emails - outbound involves blind trust.

Cons: Technology is leaving outbound behind

Outbound sales teams don’t have access to the latest technology. Alternative methods like inbound are steamrolling ahead with automation platforms, CRMs, content management systems and more. Prospects are also now technologically advanced and would relate to companies that are more digitally-driven too.

They’ve implemented caller ID, call blocking, spam filters and more. Outbound sales are far behind in terms of technology and it’s going to take a serious effort to ever catch up. Plus, communication is only one way and customers aren’t always ready to buy when the message is received, so it isn’t the most effective sales tactic for your team to adopt.

Inbound sales

Modern, educational and trustworthy. Inbound sales is all about acknowledging and leveraging the fact that today’s consumers have free access to plenty of information online. It’s about building a personal connection by offering relevant content the buyer is looking for and attracting interested consumers to convert them into leads. Channels inbound sales adopt include:

  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Video marketing
  • PPC
  • Growth-Driven Design

Pro: Higher levels of engagement

The most impactful sales tactic possible is a human, one-on-one interaction. Inbound lets you achieve this as you can personalise each piece of content. It allows inbound sales teams to engage with buyers and build a strong connection which lets them move down the buyer’s journey seamlessly through the right type of content.

Pro: Focus on better leads

Say it with me: Not every lead is a good lead. Outbound sales is all guesswork. Who knows when a prospect is in the mood to converse over the phone? With inbound, there’s technology available, such as HubSpot, where features like lead scoring can be used. This way, inbound sales teams will know exactly which leads are a good fit and which aren’t, allowing sales teams to close sales more efficiently by only focusing on the relevant ones.

Pro: Increase awareness and brand visibility

Buyers need to actually know your inbound sales team and the company they could be buying from or working with. By creating great content to share with prospects, they’re likely to be satisfied as their challenges have received suitable answers and in turn, they could end up sharing that on social media to raise further awareness.

On the flip side, a poor outbound sales experience can also find its way online which can damage a company’s reputation.

Pros: Build long-term relationships

Modern buyers are different now as the power has shifted massively. Inbound sales teams can adapt to keep prospects more informed and in the know. By helping them with their pain points, prospects and leads are more likely to keep you in mind.

And with this customer loyalty comes increased sales.

jack in digital 22 office

As good of an approach as inbound sales is, there are some drawbacks I should highlight:

  • Sales teams might not be able to close leads because of poor-quality content.
  • Sales and marketing teams are focusing on their own goals which can hinder progress.
  • Inbound sales teams might pursue leads at the wrong time and fail to secure them.

Although, there are ways around it. For example, having a shared goal and aligning both teams can play a big role in making inbound sales a success. By implementing technology, only the best leads are focused on and with no guesswork whatsoever, inbound sales teams manage to close more leads than those in outbound teams.

Plus, when you align your sales, marketing and service teams - the results only get better.

Outbound vs inbound sales: The stats


Inbound sales in action

Since we started working with a client who originally used the outbound approach, the inbound methodology saw their website views go from around 300 to 7,000 per month. Obviously, this wasn’t going to be enough and continued working to improve in every area possible.

Initially, there was reluctance from a traditional outbound sales team to embrace inbound and the use of a CRM. However, the change saw their sales and commission increase, while the client went from £3.8 million turnover to close to £5 million.

Through the introduction of HubSpot and sales automation, this level of insight and the freedom to work on other things saw the number of deals closed increase by 82% within the first six months, production was up, more people were hired and profits increased.

If you want a more in-depth look at how automation helped one of our clients grow rapidly - and they’re still growing to this day - head over to this blog to see the results for yourself.

Help your sales team close more deals with sales enablement

Now that you know how beneficial inbound sales are to closing leads, take the next step to helping your sales team close more leads with sales enablement by downloading our free eBook.

There’s a lot to consider. Sales trigger events, lead qualification processes and even sales collateral ideas that need to be taken into account. 

The eBook covers a range of topics, from how you can align your sales and marketing teams, tips on increasing sales productivity, how sales enablement actually works and so much more. To grab your free copy, hit the link below.

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