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Inbound vs. Outbound Sales: Knowing the Difference Will Greatly Improve Your Success!

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

By: Dan Flynn - CEO & Founder of Skyhawk Sales Consultants Inc.

Knowing the difference between Inbound Sales & Outbound Sales is an important step towards coaching a sales team to perform to its highest potential. So why do most salespeople want to automatically pitch their products or services to a sales prospect on the first call? While studies have shown that more than 50% of inbound prospects welcome a demonstration right away, the very same studies also show that less than 10% of outbound prospects care to see a presentation of what a seller has to offer during the first meeting. Therefore, there must be a difference between the two types of prospects, but aren’t all sales the same? The answer is an emphatic NO and your success in closing sales will greatly increase if you customize your approach to the two different kinds of prospects.

First, let’s define the two terms. What is Inbound Sales and what is Outbound Sales?

  • Inbound Sales: A sales process that begins when a prospect comes from a potential customer reaching out to your organization about a product or service.

  • Outbound Sales: A sales process that begins from the result of a prospecting effort to a potential customer who has not yet expressed interest in a product or service offered by an organization.

Do you see the difference? While Inbound Sales prospects have reached out to you, it was you who reached out to the Outbound Sales prospect! The energy to make a change in how an inbound prospect is currently doing something already exists. Therefore, an inbound prospect will likely welcome the opportunity to see or hear a pitch of your product or services on that first call. Your job is to harness that energy and demonstrate to the inbound prospect why your company offers the best solutions for their specific needs so you can advance to the proposal stage and hopefully go to contract.

On the other hand, there is no energy to make a change in how an outbound prospect is currently doing something. Again, you reached out to them, so before a demonstration of your products or services is made your immediate goal is to establish trust and to begin a relationship of empathy for your potential customer’s needs. Avoid seller-centric tactics such as pitching the benefits of what you sell and instead focus on customer-centric tactics such uncovering the prospect’s Goals, Challenges, and potential Consequences for not taking action once their challenges are identified:

  • Goals: What are your prospect’s objectives? What outcomes do the desire?

  • Challenges: What are the specific problems/needs that your prospect is facing?

  • Consequences: What will happen if the prospect’s challenges are not addressed?

By first authentically showing your outbound prospect that you are more interested in understanding their circumstances and needs than you are in selling your own products or services can you then begin the process of building motivation within the prospect to make a change in the way they are doing things. Improve sales and save the demo for later. It can wait!

Dan Flynn, the CEO & Founder of Skyhawk Sales Consultants Inc., is a natural leader and motivator with a 20+ year history in sales leadership and success. Dan has designed and led sales teams from start-up to annual revenue responsibility exceeding $200 million. Most notably, Dan’s success track record includes re-imagining and leading a sports media, multi-platform organization consisting of the Lakers & Dodgers sports networks, as well as NBA & MLB content from ESPN, TNT, TBS, FS1 & the MLB Network. The results were 50% organic growth in year 1 and 28% growth in year 2.

Dan Flynn earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Marketing from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is a resident of Hermosa Beach, CA.

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