For much of the last half-decade, it felt like outbound sales (“traditional” sales) was dying and inbound sales (content-driven) was replacing it. At the end of 2015, people were writing articles about how inbound killed the cold call — the cold call is a staple of outbound sales — and others were saying the whole “outbound vs. inbound” issue was creating a new “death of a salesman” era.
After many years getting hit in the mouth by inbound, though, it’s now possible that outbound sales is sexy again. How did we get here?
Why outbound sales is better: A fatal flaw with inbound sales
In general, inbound sales methodology requires you to produce a lot of content. This content then becomes “lead generation” items — meaning you offer it directly to potential customers in exchange for their information — or it becomes content that your sales team can use. There are problems with both approaches.
First: the problem with offering content directly to your customers. Let’s start with a chart.
This is for WordPress, which is the most popular blogging/inbound content generating program on the market. In May 2015, 58 million — million — posts were published. There are 31 days in May. That means about 1.8M new posts go up per day. The number is only getting bigger.
But then we come to this problem:
According to Paul Hewerdine of B2B marketing agency Earnest (via Forrester’s 2014 report on building the case for content marketing), the problem is that “the supply of content is growing, but demand is static.” In other words, the people on the receiving end of all this content are only going to consume so much. Their demand isn’t growing with the supply.
So, here’s where we stand:
- For inbound sales to work, you need content
- As a result, the supply of content is increasing
- But the demand for that content is not increasing
The problem: a lot of content you create and offer to potential customers will go nowhere. It will be lost in the vast sea of the Internet. That’s Strike 1 for inbound sales.
Strike 2: when you try to use it internally as a guide for your sales team?
Well, here’s the problem: marketing usually produces the content. Marketing, though, has different bosses than sales do. The departments are judged on different metrics.
Sales needs to sell things. Marketing doesn’t, in most companies.
“Sales enablement” — a fancy term for making sure marketing and sales work together well — isn’t getting better. You know how this ends. Sales says “We don’t have the content we need to sell!” Marketing says: “You’re not using our great content right!” Sales says: “These leads are old and cold!” Marketing says: “You’re not defining prospects right!”
Lots of arguments. It’s Strike 2 for inbound sales.
And now you begin to see how outbound sales is becoming sexy again, yes?
Outbound sales is about relationships
Inbound sales should be about relationships. It should be about educating prospects and leads and getting into conversations.
The problem is, it’s often about tricks. “Give me your email address and I promise 29,992% growth in six months!” You give your e-mail address. You get a 500-word article that says “You need senior leadership buy-in.” You say, “What? This will lead to 30,000% growth?”
Of course it won’t. The way many approach inbound sales is tricks. Games. Ways to “beat a system.”
Outbound sales has flaws, yes. But outbound sales is about getting in direct contact with decision-makers, understanding their pain points, having conversations with them, and offering solutions.
Some cold calls are very “sales-y,” for sure. I am not arguing outbound sales is perfect. BTW: In the past years outbound sales changed and improved. It’s no longer about cold calling, meeting, negotiating and closing. It’s about value adding relationships.
But I’m saying that everything operates along a continuum. When you go too far in one direction — everyone publishing blog posts and sending social media blasts and designing apps — then people get tired of that and want the pendulum to swing back.
Inbound sales was so hot. But now outbound sales is sexy again. It goes complementary to inbound sales. You don’t want to wait until your top 100 prospects read your blog and engage with you. You want to engage them. How? You need outbound sales.
What do you think?