When do you need outbound sales?

Wrote a post in September on outbound sales being “sexy” again — meow! — and I definitely still agree with that months later. Inbound has been high praised for a while, but outbound is making a comeback (or maybe it never left). But before we get too excited about outbound, I think we need to do a quick sanity check on when exactly you need outbound sales.

Here are the three main conditions, in my opinion:

You need outbound sales when … time is of the essence

If you can’t wait for inbound to succeed (it does take time), you need outbound sales. Here’s the basic deal: inbound sales methodology is rooted a lot in discovery, content, context, and relationship-building. All of those take time. Sometimes companies don’t have time, often because of internal pressures to grow or scale in a new market. If that’s your situation, you need outbound sales first and foremost. That gets you the relationships and connections you need without building it through a series of steps. All sales are ultimately about relationship-building, yes — but outbound gets to the goal quicker, if done right.

You need outbound sales when … the inbound quality just isn’t there yet

Inbound leads have a typically low quality (at first) and/or tend to be early stage in the buyer journey. (Read: potential tire kickers.) If you have both a sales team and a marketing team, this tends to be the greatest source of friction or conflict between them. Marketing thinks they are providing great content and nurturing leads, whereas sales thinks the leads are old, cold, or tire-kicking troglodytes. When sales and marketing start infighting, scalability is further and further away. Outbound sales leads will be better and more vetted from the start. It’s a time issue like the first paragraph was. If you can’t wait for lead quality to increase or you need people further along in the buyer journey, go with outbound sales.

You need outbound sales when …your ideal customer profile has a skewed ratio

Everyone wants to sell to their ideal customer profile (ICP), but oftentimes I’ve seen inbound leads be only 10% within ICP. That’s a huge chunk — 90%! — that you need to address in some other way. That other way is outbound sales.

Sure, there are several more reasons when you need outbound, like:

  • You need outbound “sniper” sales techniques when you have a very small target market (e.g. your potential customers are the few mobile network operators in Europe). Would you wait for an inbound call from them?
  • You have to educate a niche market that you can’t reach with content marketing.
  • Nobody would Google about a specific problem because they don’t expect a solution.
  • etc.

Yes, plenty more reasons for outbound sales … but I don’t want to overcomplicate here.

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The bottom line on outbound sales vs. inbound sales

Most companies that are successful with inbound sales approaches tend to be more established in a market and have a greater luxury of time. But, especially on entry into a market, that condition doesn’t usually exist. Instead, you need to prove quick growth through strong, further-along leads. If that’s your deal, you can do inbound to an extent — but your focus in the early going should be outbound sales.

 

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