The Core Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Sales

Inbound vs Outbound Sales

At its core, sales in and of itself is really quite simple. 

People, businesses, employees, and/or teams out there in the world have problems and need resolutions. 

If your product or service can be the resolution to that pain then you have yourself a sale. But, there is one core difference in the path at which people become aware of the value that your product or service provides — enter the world of inbound and outbound sales.

Inbound and outbound sales are simply two different strategies within the sales plan. They are step brothers. 

Both require the same core sales talents and have the same goal in mind. But, there is one core difference between inbound and outbound sales that you need to consider when building your team, strategy, and training plan.

core difference between inbound outbound-sales

The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Sales

To understand the difference, let’s reverse engineer the purchase of a product. 

People who have a problem that needs to be solved are either out there searching for it’s resolution or they are conveniently being reached out to by someone who is already aware that they likely have said problem. 

When you really slow down to understand this process and put yourself in the minds of your prospects you quickly begin to realize the core difference.

For the inbound and outbound sales process, the core difference has everything to do with the path of initial intent. 

Leads are either coming in to your team because your prospects found you or your team is engaging in targeted outbound sales activity aimed at the prospects who you believe to have the problem that you solve. 

Inbound or Outbound???

When determining if you should spend your time building an inbound team, outbound team, or a mixture of both it is important to consider and understand exactly where you are at in your journey as a business. 

Do you have enough inbound leads coming in from organic search (SEO), ad spend, events, etc to justify a full-time person (or multiple) to spend all of their time on?

If so, your decision to have an inbound or outbound sales team is simple. Build the inbound team first.

Depending on your closing ratios, sales metrics, and growth goals you will likely still want to build an outbound team that is going after the prospects who you believe to have the problem you solve. But, start with the inbound team — they are top priority.

Inbound Sales

People reaching out to you asking about your product / service is one of the sweetest thing that can happen in your business. 

This means that someone either heard about your business from a referral, found you on the internet, or took action on your digital marketing strategy. 

These are usually your hottest leads.

The prospect making the first move to you typically (if your system is set up right) confirms that they indeed are experiencing the pain that you claim to solve. People in pain tend to take action — this is a good sign.


The top of funnel strategy for your inbound and outbound sales plans are different. The inbound strategy is composed of a few very important components that vary from the outbound side:

1. Qualifiers

As people are finding your offering and reaching out to your team, you want to make sure you are setting some level of qualification before a prospect can get time with one of your inside sales reps. 

Make sure your messaging is crystal clear about exactly who your product is for and what your product solves. This will keep the misunderstood, unqualified prospects out of your team’s calendar.

2. Scheduling

Once you’ve set up your qualification, make sure that it is extremely simple to schedule with your inbound sales team. 

Use scheduling tools like Calendly or chat bots like Drift on your site to make sure the experience is convenient. The days of making your prospects fill out “talk to sales” forms on your website and wait for a rep to reach out are long gone.

3. Self Serve

You may live in a world where you want your customer to sign up on your site for some kind of a free trial or free version of your product. That’s great.

These are still leads for your inbound sales team. Spend time building the strategy of exactly what that process should look like. Ask yourself the following:

  • What emails should the prospect receive after they sign up to intro them to your brand? 
  • How are you tracking sign-ups in your CRM?
  • How are you distributing leads to your reps?
  • What learning materials do your sign-ups need to be successful?
  • What is the goal of the trial for you to make sure they convert? 
  • When should your inside sales team be reaching out to close the conversion to your paid product?

Watch Out

There are red flags in every inbound and outbound sales process. But they are a little different.

On the inbound side it is important to remember that these prospects are likely “shopping.” 

This means that it is more likely than not that they they are comparing your service to your competitors and have also reached out to them. 

This matters in the way your inside reps are positioning your product. Make sure they are trained to know how to compete. Keep your friends close and your competitors closer.

Outbound Sales

Once you’ve figured out your plan for taking care of all the leads that are coming in to the business, it’s time to build your outbound plan. 

Most companies don’t have enough leads coming in to the business, so the need for outbound sales is as great as ever. You will likely start with an outbound sales team and over time morph into a split model.


There are a lot of things to consider when building your outbound sales strategy. And, the differences between your inbound and outbound sales strategy are quite drastic. Here are the most important areas of your outbound strategy:

1. Define Your Exact Customer

You cannot have an outbound sales strategy if you don’t know exactly who your customer is and what pain they are in. 

Define them down to the most intricate detail. Understand their pain and situation even more than they do themselves.

  • What industry are they in?
  • What size is the company they work for?
  • What’s their job title?
  • How are they motivated to make decisions?
  • Why do they have the pain that you solve?
  • What are the repercussions of the pain they have?
  • How do you solve it?
  • What does their life look like after you solve their pain?

2. Understand The Psychology of Sales

The biggest error made in outbound sales is when sales reps ask for the sale too fast. 

You must remember that you are reaching out to complete strangers who do not know your brand (in most cases). 

Nobody buys from you until they trust you. Nobody trusts you until they like you. And nobody can like you until they are aware that you exist. 

Build an outbound strategy that leads people down this buying journey.

3. Know Your Lane

It is your job as the sales leader or business owner to understand what avenues your team should utilize as they perform the outreach to the above defined prospect. 

A multi-channel approach is also recommended, but choosing your different channels is extremely important.

Some people are very difficult to get on the phone so stopping by in person makes more sense. 

Some people never read their email so social channels like LinkedIn makes more sense. Knowing your customer intimately will give you all of your answers here.

4. Understand Your Metrics

Once you know your prospect and your lane, build out a metric game plan. 

Your people should know exactly how many outreaches it takes on average to get a prospect on a demo/sales call. 

They should know exactly how many demos on average it takes to close a deal.

They should know their average deal size. 

All of these metrics from historical data give you everything you need to predict future sales by managing the proper sales activities. 

Deciding on and building out your inbound and outbound sales team, process, and strategy is an important one. 

The best place to start is to put on the shoes of your prospect and deeply understand what’s happening in their world as they engage with your brand. 

Them reaching out to you or you reaching out to them makes the process different. But, the fact that your sole job is to solve their pain never changes.

Josh currently offers free Sales Growth Strategy calls for founders/CEOs of B2B companies looking to develop a plan for how to generate more leads, build bigger pipelines, and grow your business through modern sales.

You can learn more and save your spot here.

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