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The Difference Between Outbound and Inbound Sales

Inbound and outbound refer to two different types of sales and marketing strategies.

What is inbound?

Inbound sales, is a strategy that focuses on attracting potential customers to a business through various tactics such as creating valuable content, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and email marketing. Inbound marketing aims to build trust and relationships with potential customers by providing them with helpful information and resources, making it more likely that they will choose to do business with the company.

Inbound motion explained

  • An Inbound Sales Development Representative (SDR) is responsible for qualifying inbound leads. These professionals take our marketing-qualified leads (MQL) into sales-qualified leads (SQL). Typically we describe SQL as the first stage of a sales opportunity. Therefore, the inbound SDR team should specialize in converting inbound leads (i.e., from web forms and the website) into qualified sales opportunities.

What is outbound?

On the other hand, outbound sales is a strategy that focuses on reaching out to potential customers through various tactics such as cold calling, email blasts, direct mail, and advertising. Outbound sales is to generate leads and sales by actively promoting a business’s products or services to potential customers through sales conversations.

In general, inbound marketing is more cost-effective and efficient than outbound marketing, as it allows businesses to reach potential customers in a more targeted and non-intrusive way. On the other hand, outbound marketing can be more effective for businesses with a specific target audience and a product or service in high demand.

Outbound motion explained:

  • An Outbound Sales Development Representative (SDR) is responsible for finding new prospects and creating curiosity to explore the next meeting with Elastic. For an outbound SDR to succeed, they need value-added interaction with prospects in our target market. We define an “interaction” as a call, email, voicemail, social media interaction, or anything else that allows the SDR to connect with our outbound leads. Those interactions need to lead to a “live connect.” Ultimately, the goal is for the Outbound SDR to qualify the outbound prospect, which means they end up on an exploratory call and, ultimately, a discovery call with an Account Executive. To get there, an outbound SDR must make several interactions before getting someone on the phone live. There are a lot of theories out there, but most put the optimal number of interactions between 7 and 13 touches. Those interactions must be valuable and incrementally relevant to the prospect over time. Our research at Elastic indicates that, on average, a lead that goes on to win takes nine touches (to turn the prospect into a lead that eventually ends up as a paying customer.)

How about a hybrid?

It is also worth noting that in recent years, many companies have adopted a hybrid approach that combines inbound and outbound tactics. This approach allows companies to benefit from the strengths of both strategies while minimizing their weaknesses.

The inbound and outbound motions are critical to your company’s sales growth strategy.

Both motions are usually mapped to your company’s sales strategy, target markets, and customer relationships. As defined by your sales strategy, these are like two “pistons” of your growth engine, and you must ensure you understand what it looks like at your organization. Each piston is critical and must work together. Your company must do them both well to drive top-line growth.

Sometimes this motion is handled with one sales role. Other times these motions are split into different roles. Even if your organization has split it into different roles, no matter what, each role is often the first human contact with your company – so every sales conversation matters.

Talk with your manager if you are unclear on these two roles and the value each is specifically asked to create.

Updated on June 27, 2023

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