Outbound Sales Isn't Dead: How to Breathe New Life Into It

Jesse Wisnewski

April 25, 2024

8 min

Table of Contents

Outbound sales have long been a staple of the sales game. 

How long, you may ask?

Think of that classic, mid-20th century image of the suit-wearing salesman trudging door to door, pushing his wares on unsuspecting homeowners—yeah, that's outbound sales.

Sixty-year-old stereotypes aside, outbound sales have always been the unremarkable side of the sales profession. In modern times, inbound sales have become the buzzworthy, go-to strategy for connecting with prospects and potential clients. In some cases it's led many to declare that outbound sales are not just on life-support, but dead and buried.

The demise of outbound sales, however, is terribly exaggerated. 

In fact, if a company is willing to update its outbound tactics as it has its inbound sales, the former remain a viable force for turning prospects into clients. In this post, we’ll show you how to rethink your outbound sales strategies and breathe new life into them.

What Is Outbound Sales?

First, a quick refresher. 

Outbound sales are the process of reaching out to prospective clients or leads and selling or "pitching" your brand's product or service to them. 

In other words, you're seeking out your leads instead of your leads seeking you.

When most people think about outbound sales, the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional cold call. Today, the cold call also includes modern communication techniques like email, SMS text messaging, and social media. 

Still, the image of sitting at a desk all day ringing up strangers is hard for some to shake—especially when compared with inbound sales.

What Is the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Sales?

So what makes inbound sales the “sales channel du jour” in the eyes of so many?

Inbound sales (not to be confused with inside sales) involve a prospect initiating the engagement with a brand versus the brand reaching out to the prospect. With inbound sales, a prospective client:

  • Seeks out information about a brand they believe will address a need or solve a problem via the brand's website, landing page, social media platforms, or other marketing channels
  • Engages with the brand by attending a webinar, reading blogs or infographics, taking surveys, signing up for online demos or free consultations, or listening to brand podcasts
  • Schedules a demo, starts a free trial, or submits their contact information in exchange for a free download such as an ebook or an infographic

This method is so attractive because the prospect is driving the bus, so to speak, in the sales engagement process. In the majority of cases, they come to the table already aware of the brand and what it offers, and choose to put themselves into the company's marketing or sales funnel.

An inbound sales rep might reach out to the prospect at some point during the process. However, by the time that first call is made or email is sent, the prospect is already deep into the brand's sales process. 

This leads to another favorite aspect of the inbound approach: speed.

From first contact to final sale, the overall engagement time frame can move quickly, especially once the prospect enters the sales funnel.

Outbound sales are the exact opposite.

In this scenario, the outbound salesperson does much of the legwork. They reach out to the prospect to discuss or gauge interest in a product or service. As we noted, this involves cold-calling, emailing, or messaging the prospect without their prior knowledge.

That final distinction is essential, as it  means the prospect has no or very little prior information about the brand. Thus, the prospect is less likely to engage openly early in the process. Instead of the prospect driving engagement, it's all on the sales rep to bring that prospect closer to the brand's orbit.

With outbound sales, reps are responsible for educating prospects about nearly every aspect of their solution with direct, hands-on learning. It makes the deal cycle and time to close considerably longer.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, should you close the sale, but it can prove cumbersome if your sales team doesn’t fulfill a prospect's expectations, especially if they spend a great deal of time nurturing the lead.

Why are Inbound Sales so Popular?

When examining both sales approaches side by side, it's easy to see why the inbound method often gets the nod over outbound. With inbound sales, you can automate practically every step of the process, which makes it simple to scale. 

Plus, the prospect is telling you what they need or want from your brand. Leads are far easier to work on when you have much of your preliminary data provided for you by the prospective client.

In this way, inbound sales successfully tap into habits of the modern-day consumer. People have access to far more data now than at any point in history. And they use their information-gathering tools (the internet, social media, or apps) to research, reference, and vet products and services long before actually engaging with them.

What are the Drawbacks of Inbound Sales?

Inbound sales, though, aren't perfect. The biggest drawback for inbound sales is that it can be a highly impersonal process thanks to automation. 

Certainly, automation is great, but is your brand building any meaningful connections if you're not talking with prospects until well into the sales process? Plus, you run the risk of losing qualified prospects to the vacuum of automation.

Another drawback to inbound sales is that they cast an extremely broad net over your prospect pool. You'll have to sift through a lot of unqualified leads, or those individuals who are window shopping or "kicking the tires." 

In addition, inbound sales are limited to those individuals who are actively searching in your space, and this may be a relatively small segment of the overall demographic you’re trying to reach.

Rethinking Outbound Sales

Given all of the above, you may be wondering why you’d want to waste time with an outbound sales strategy if inbound can keep the lead funnel flowing.

The answer is simple: because it still works. The outbound process is especially effective when it’s modernized for today's business climate.

Primarily, outbound sales fill in the gaps left by the automation and impersonality of do-it-yourself sales funnels. With outbound sales, you achieve:

  • More direct, highly specific engagement with prospects, who will receive direct service from an actual individual instead of getting their questions answered by A.I.
  • Instant feedback—you'll know right away if your sales pitch is on point or severely lacking and needs to be retooled
  • Greater control over the sales process instead of a prospect valve that remains open, with a steady stream of qualified and unqualified leads flowing through
  • A better chance for reaching the top decision-makers -- you won't necessarily know who's who if they're stuck in automation limbo
  • The opportunity to give your sales process a personal, customer-focused touch

If that all sounds a bit traditional, well, it is. But in our present-day world of machine learning, A.I., and automated everything, more and more individuals seek a personal touch from brands they're considering doing business with.

Use Technology Smartly

That said, successful outbound sales programs are not in the business of eschewing technology. In fact, the most effective outbound approaches take a cue from their inbound counterpart to ensure more effective sales calls.

For example, the cold calling of outbound sales shouldn't really be cold anymore. Coming across as spam or scam likely (which, let's be honest, is precisely what those cold calls of yesteryear were) is guaranteed to earn you the "no thank you, not interested" response, or a quick deletion and a ticket to the junk email folder.

Instead, in much the same manner prospects utilize digital tools to scope out a brand before jumping into its sales funnel, you can do the same to build a targeted list of prospects with the wide variety of sales tools available to you and your team.

You already know the solution your product or service provides. A quick web search can turn up a number of companies that stand to benefit from your brand. It also gives you an icebreaker with which to start the conversation and create a more authentic engagement experience.

If you're looking for other tactics to keep conversation flowing, check out our blog How to Make a Conversation Interesting: 8 Actionable Tips.

Take that a step further, and you can use A.I. to profile prospective buyers or even whole industries where your offering stands to make the most significant impact.

Pre-engage Prospects

Precede your outreach with pre-engagement emails that soften the prospect to your impending call. Provide an incentive—a link to an informative blog post or sales podcast, a free download, or an ebook—and track who opens the email and its attachment.

You can further cultivate your prospect list by adding those who engaged with elements of the message. The prospects who open both the email and the attachment are the ones to call first.

Do your Due Diligence

Ultimately, successful modern outbound sales come down to being prepared. 

Prospects now research and review and familiarize themselves with the brands that may provide a solution to a particular pain point. You must do the same. 

Research and review, and familiarize yourself with the companies or industries where your firm is sure to be most effective. Then acquaint yourself with each organization's primary decision-makers and target them specifically.

So are Outbound Sales Dead?

Not by a longshot. Outbound sales remain critical to your brand's sales goals. Actually, it's the perfect complement to your inbound sales initiatives.

When you require a more personal or direct approach, outbound strategies cut through the redundancy and arms-length aspects of automation. They give your brand an outlet for meaningful, one-on-one engagement.

For genuine success, it's crucial to look upon your outbound sales not as a relic of the past, but as a tool that’s relevant for today and the future. 

To be effective, outbound sales demand preparedness and a willingness to apply modern techniques in order to craft a list of prospects, and then reach out and engage with them.

Do it well, and not only will you breathe new life into your outbound sales, but into your brand's bottom line as well.

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