Inbound vs Outbound Sales: What’s the Difference?


Aoife Daly

Inbound vs Outbound Sales: What’s the Difference?


Reading Time: 6 minutes

Inbound vs Outbound Sales: What’s the Difference?


Aoife Daly

Content Marketing Manager, Operatix

There is a great debate around inbound vs outbound sales, with marketing leaders and sales professionals alike being unsure of which method is right for their business. Spoiler alert: it’s likely a mixture of both. 

Both inbound marketing and outbound sales have their advantages and disadvantages, working very differently but also cohesively.

This article explains the key differences between inbound vs outbound sales, as well as the key phases required to create successful strategies. Finally, we delve deeper into the debate and summarise the benefits of both methods to help you decide which one you may want to prioritise. 

Inbound vs outbound sales: your questions answered

What is the difference between inbound and outbound sales?

The main difference between inbound and outbound sales is who initiates contact. Inbound marketing is when a prospective customer reaches out to your business first, likely after coming across marketing material. Outbound sales, on the other hand, is a more proactive approach and is when a sales representative reaches out to a qualified prospect who has not yet engaged with the business.

It may sound as though inbound sales is the easier option when comparing inbound vs outbound as the lead already has an idea of what your business does. However, it requires as much of a strategic approach as an outbound sales strategy does. You need to be able to attract and engage using tailored content marketing, ensuring your target audience can not only find your services but feel inclined to use them. 

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What is an example of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing requires you to produce tailored content across multiple channels to attract and engage with leads in your industry. This includes eBooks, case studies, blog content, social media posts, video content and the like. It’s essential to create content that can be found during every phase of the buyer journey: awareness, consideration and decision-making. 

Monitoring the buyer journey is an essential part of a successful inbound marketing strategy, as this strategy revolves around nurturing them along the way and encouraging them to choose your solution for their pain points. 

You provide knowledge and content for their specific needs in the hopes that they’ll submit their contact information so your sales representatives can follow up appropriately. Inbound leads will have a level of brand awareness and may be more receptive to engaging in a sales conversation.

What is an example of outbound sales?

Outbound sales is a more aggressive approach compared to inbound marketing. A sales representative must identify, qualify and engage with prospective customers in a way that appeals to them. This typically involves a multi-touchpoint approach, including cold calling, email cadences, LinkedIn messaging, voice notes and WhatsApp or texting. 

Having a consistent outbound sales development cadence is vital – one call or email is often not enough to draw a response from a prospect, particularly if they are part of the C-Level. A 30-touch cadence is recommended, consisting of ten to 15 phone calls, seven to eight emails and seven to eight LinkedIn messages. 

This may sound overboard when phrased this way, but it’s believed that only the success rate of cold calls is just 2% as of 2023. This means that out of 100 cold calls, only two will convert, making it essential to keep engaging via different channels. Don’t push to book a meeting or sell a product straight away; ask relevant questions, provide helpful content and have a natural conversation. 

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The stages of an inbound marketing strategy

Inbound vs outbound: inbound marketing strategy

While your inbound marketing strategy will be based specifically on your audience and industry, it is typically segmented into four different sections.

  1. Attract: the first stage of an effective inbound marketing strategy is identifying and attracting your target audience at the very start of the sales cycle. You must first identify who your audience is via an ideal customer profile (ICP), and then learn what appeals to them. Consider what search terms they use, what questions they ask and what platforms they use to help identify the type of content you should be creating. This stage of an inbound marketing strategy is all about attracting the right people at the right time, ensuring your content aligns with their needs at this point of the buyer journey. 
  2. Convert: now that the buyer persona has landed on your website or social media channels, you must convince them to leave their contact information. Include some type of call to action, landing page or gate your content to entice the lead into leaving their contact information so you can take them to the next step.
  3. Close: in this step, you must use lead nurturing to turn your leads into customers. Send them relevant content via segmented email campaigns and engage with them regularly to support them through each stage of the funnel rather than allowing them to go cold over time. 
  4. Delight: just because your lead has become a customer, doesn’t mean that your inbound marketing strategy is complete. Drive customer satisfaction, referrals and brand awareness by continuing to engage with your current clients, ensuring they are happy with your services. This could be in the form of a dedicated customer experience team, website chatbots and surveys, with any information gathered being used to improve their experience with your team. 

The stages of an outbound sales strategy

Inbound vs outbound: outbound marketing strategy

Some parts of an outbound sales strategy are similar to inbound, but there are some key differences, notably around outreach. There are five key steps to this method, all of which are listed below. 

  1. Identification and segmentation: the first step of any outbound sales strategy is to identify your target market. Delve deeper into what businesses you want to target and the decision-makers of these businesses, as well as their pain points and how your solution solves them.
  2. Lead generation: once your team has an understanding of who they want to target, they must find a way to get in touch with these potential customers. Resources like LinkedIn, web directories, prospecting tools or outsourced teams are great ways to find out this information. 
  3. Qualification: after you’ve gathered enough information, your sales team must qualify this lead. It’s vital to qualify the lead and ensure they are a good fit for your solution before engaging too much, or else you’ll waste valuable resources pursuing leads that simply aren’t going to work. This is typically done via an initial sales call or email engagement. Ask questions about budget, pain points, deadlines and purchase power to determine this. 
  4. Outreach: once the lead is qualified, the sales team can begin engaging and pitching their product. 
  5. Close: the end goal here is to, of course, get a contract signed and close a deal with as many sales-qualified leads as possible.

Inbound vs outbound sales: which is better?

Rather than thinking of inbound vs outbound as one or the other, you should have elements of both to accelerate lead generation as effectively as possible. Both approaches have their benefits and work coherently together. 

An inbound marketing strategy may be slower to start with when compared to outbound sales. After all, your team will need time to strategise, research competitors, create and launch content. You must also consider the time it will take for leads to find your content and make the decision to reach out.

However, it increases organic reach and brand awareness while solidifying your place as a thought leader in the industry. Not to mention the fact that it puts you on the radar of those who are actively looking for a solution in a more natural way. 

Outbound sales, on the other hand, are great for quick wins as your sales team can quickly put your service on the table of qualified leads. Your team will receive immediate feedback from your target audience which can be used to tailor the pitch or solution itself, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of their pain points. Outbound sales offer more control and insight into each stage of the process, which is particularly beneficial for those with long sales cycles.

This is why it shouldn’t be thought of as inbound vs outbound sales, but rather both. You may find yourself prioritising one over the other based on your budget, goals and requirements, but having a mixture of both is certain to accelerate your sales process. 

If you need help accelerating revenue, pipeline and outbound sales activities, collaborate with Operatix. Our experienced outsourced sales development representatives work as an extension of your business, delivering great results in a multitude of markets. Get in touch now to learn more.

About Operatix

Operatix is a Sales Acceleration company specialized in supporting B2B Software vendors to identify new revenue streams, increase qualified sales pipeline, and accelerate channel development across Europe and North America. Operatix has a wealth of experience in working with the biggest tech players worldwide as well as a multitude of emerging software vendors.

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Channel Transformation

Digital transformation is changing how companies buy and use business solutions, making vendors re-assess the capabilities of their channel ecosystem. With channel dynamics in constant flux, vendors need to be ready to cut ties with partners that don’t share their vision or have connections with the right B2B buyers.


Operatix has supported numerous vendors in their path to Channel transformation by assessing current partners and recruiting new partners that are more aligned with their new channel strategy. Once the right partners have been identified, Operatix built scalable outbound sales development programs that accelerated their routes to market.

Inbound Response Management

In a competitive industry like technology every lead counts. Operatix can help you maximize conversion from MQL to SQL and from lead to pipeline, increasing both your revenue and ROI on marketing activities.

Account Identification

Identifying the accounts that are more likely to buy from you is part of our expertise. We will research the market, identify verticals and industries that can benefit from your solution and set up qualified sales engagements for your teams to kick-off the sales process. 

Cold Prospecting

Our team will identify new sales opportunities within the strategic accounts that you haven’t been successful in penetrating through your sales & marketing efforts. By applying the ‘Challenger Sale’ methodology we use a tailored, multitouch approach to connect with prospects, generating qualified sales engagements for your team and ultimately increasing your pipeline.

Outbound Sales Development

Using a proactive outbound sales approach has been proven to be one of the most effective methods to engage with prospective customers. By applying the ‘Challenger Sale’ methodology we use a tailored, human approach to getting in touch with prospects to increase your qualified sales engagements and ultimately generate more pipeline.

Outbound Sales Development

Using a proactive outbound sales approach has been proven to be one of the most effective methods to engage with prospective customers. By applying the ‘Challenger Sale’ methodology we use a tailored, human approach to getting in touch with prospects to increase your qualified sales engagements and ultimately generate more pipeline.

Partner Concierge Service

Our Partner Concierge Service helps vendors accelerate their channel programs, by engaging and nurturing channel partners and supporting them to get to revenue quicker.

Demand Generation

Whether you need to implement a demand generation strategy or get more results out of your existing demand gen engine, Operatix can work alongside your marketing team to yield better results out of your demand generation programs.

Account-based Marketing

An Account-based Marketing strategy is only as successful as the revenue it generates. At Operatix we will support your 1:1, 1:few or 1:many approach to get your team in front of decision makers in the accounts that matter the most to you. 

Lead Qualification

If your marketing leads aren’t converting, it might be a lead qualification issue. Operatix can help sieve through leads that need further qualification, so they are ready for an AE or sales team member to engage with.

Account-based Selling

At Operatix we will support your 1:1, 1:few or 1:many approach to get your team in front of decision makers in the accounts that matter the most to you. 

Pipeline Generation

Generating Pipeline for our clients is our key-objective. And we do that by using a multi-touch, multi-channel approach to generate qualified sales engagements for our customers’ sales teams.   

Account Intelligence / Deep Dive

Understanding buying centres, hierarchies and relevant personas in strategic accounts is a fundamental step to increase conversion rates. By leveraging account intelligence in a sales conversation your team can tailor their message and provide value to their prospective customer. But sales & marketing teams often struggle to dedicate time and resources to do the deep research and this is where Operatix can help.

DMID – Decision Maker Identification

Finding quality data is an on-going challenge for B2B Tech vendors. The accuracy of data platforms is questionable and that is why Operatix developed a manual process to identify & verify contact details for decision makers within strategic target accounts.

Playbook design

Operatix can develop Sales Playbooks that enable teams to sell more effectively. Your Playbook will be fundamental to get your messaging right, accurately position your solution against competitors, and adapt the communication of your value proposition to different buyer personas.

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Sales Playbook Development

Operatix can develop Sales Playbooks that enable teams to sell more effectively. Your Playbook will be fundamental to implementing the correct messaging, accurately position your solution against competitors, and adapting the communication of your value proposition to different buyer personas.

Lead Qualification

If your leads aren’t converting, it might be a lead qualification issue. Operatix can help filter through leads that need further qualification, ensuring that they’re ready for an AE or sales team member to engage with and progress through the funnel. 

Partner Portal / Marketing Concierge Service

Vendors often spend thousands of dollars building multifunctional Partner Portals to help channel partners educate their teams, manage opportunities, and create marketing programs. Still, these portals are often underutilized due to lack of bandwidth and capacity from vendors to offer support in enabling their partner community. Operatix, through their Partner Development team, can support your partners to make the best use out of your partner portal, managing the relationship with your partners and helping them set up co-marketing campaigns to drive more revenue for both businesses. 

Marketing & Sales Alignment

The sales development function is often seen as the “glue” that brings sales & marketing teams together. By working as an extension of your teams, Operatix will be your predictable source of pipeline, sales & revenue.

Optimization of MDF

Market Development Funds are an important component of any channel ecosystem, though vendors believe they are not maximizing the return on investment they should be getting from their MDF programs. At Operatix, we build scalable outbound sales development programs that will give you the visibility of return over the invested spend and will provide clear value for your channel partners.

Increase Partner Productivity

The 80/20 rule is still very applicable to the channel, which means that investing in partner productivity should be a priority for vendors looking to grow their businesses. Operatix can increase partner productivity and shorten sales cycles, by identifying ready to engage sales opportunities for your most valued channel partners.

Virtual Channel Account managers

Our VCAM team is responsible for building, maintaining, and managing sound relationships with current and prospective channel partners. They can get involved in opening up new sales conversations as well as closing small businesses up to $ 10k.

Tier 1 & Tier 2 Activation

Whether your business decided for a Tier 1 or Tier 2 distribution model, Operatix can help your channel partners get to revenue quicker. By providing qualified sales engagements to your channel partners we can accelerate your route to market with tangible and easily measurable results.

Solution Selling Training

Far too often vendors insist on enabling their channel partners to talk about features and technical details of their solutions. Customers don’t buy features; they buy the benefits your solution can bring. Operatix will work with your partner community to train them in articulating your message from a high-level business perspective, enabling them to talk to prospects about the value your solution can bring to their company from a board-level perspective.

Channel Enablement

Enabling your channel partners have measurable wins for your business when done right. Operatix has a proven track record in enabling channel partners from a sales & marketing perspective, providing them the knowledge and tools to successfully pitch your solution and sell the value & benefits of it. 

Partner Recruitment

Recruiting the right Channel Partners is the first step for a successful channel program. Operatix has helped over 350 B2B Software vendors recruit suitable channel partners across EMEA and North America, supporting them to scale and expand their presence in different geographies and verticals. 

Risk/Reward Business Model

To truly work as an extension of our client’s sales & marketing teams, we have also adapted our business models to show how our clients operate, and how their success is measured. With our risk/reward business model your investment is proportional to the results our team delivers.

Sales Qualified Leads

On average, 52.5% of the sales engagements set up by our team progress into a next step in the sale process. That means that 5 out of 10 meetings will progress either into a POC, a Demo or a pipeline opportunity.

Geographical Scale

Trading in different geographical markets not only requires a knowledge of the native language, local rules & policies, but a deeper understanding of the local culture and habits. We have the ability to deliver campaigns in multiple countries with flexible resource allocation. This is through our team of international speakers, who have the ability to sell in 17 different languages across the globe.

Increase Revenue & Decrease Cost

Building an internal sales development team comes with many additional costs and challenges that aren’t always taken into account: recruiting resources, training and enabling them etc. You also need to take into account the need for having the data and tools to make them successful, which in turn requires time, capital and effort. By outsourcing your sales development to Operatix you will see your revenue increasing, while decreasing costs and business risk.

Predictable Pipeline Generation

On average, our clients see a 26X ROI on the programs we deliver. By understanding your revenue targets and sales pipeline gap, we will work on a sales & marketing plan that will deliver tangible results.

Vertical Growth

Entering new industries or launching new product lines? Operatix can accelerate your growth by supporting your go-to-market strategy, and getting your sales teams in front of decision makers in key target accounts.

Reduce Headcount

By outsourcing your sales development and partner programs to Operatix; we reduce headcount and the challenges that come with managing people, technologies, and processes. We take care of your sales development, so you can focus on what matters the most: growing your business.

Revenue Acceleration

Operatix helps your business get to revenue quicker. By providing qualified sales engagements for your direct sales team (to kick-off new sales cycles), or by accelerating the growth of your channel partners, our focus remains on delivering tangible results for your business. 

Persona-based Selling

Operatix team will design specifically tailored messages to influence the different levels of decision makers in the sales process, tailoring the communication according to each job function. Our focus is to sell the value of your solution from a business perspective, not its features.    

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