Maven Sales Group Blog

Don’t Treat Your Outbound Leads Like They’re Inbound

10/22/18 10:53 AM / by David Fletcher

Inbound vs. Outbound... the debate over which leads are "better" has been a constant source of articles, blog posts, and general arguments amongst sales and marketing professionals. While this post, will spend a brief moment defining what makes a high quality lead, I don't feel the need to contribute to the debate anymore, since I have already written about this in the past. Instead, I want to spend a moment pointing out what so many articles have failed to do ... outbound leads and inbound leads are two different entities, so why are so many businesses treating them like they are the same thing?

Defining High Quality Leads
In order to establish how outbound and inbound are entirely different (and why they should be treated as such), we need to first look at how we define high quality leads. The four key characteristics to consider include:

  1. What was the cost of acquiring the lead (and eventually turning the lead into an actual paying customer. CAC has become a very important metric, especially in the SaaS market)?
  2. What was the time commitment involved in acquiring the lead? (Don't forget that time is often the most precious commodity, especially when you must consider that time is part of the overall cost of acquisition.)
  3. What is the volume and sustainability of the lead acquiring strategy (i.e. is the approach scalable / flexible and does it deliver consistent results over time)?
  4. How close is the lead to matching your Ideal Client Profile (ICP)? This determines the closing potential for the lead?

With the above four factors in mind, we can then begin to look at the nuances of inbound and outbound leads. 

Understanding The Key Differences Between Inbound And Outbound Leads
By definition an inbound lead is one whereby a lead has followed a series of content creation pieces to inevitably reach out to your company. On the other hand, an outbound lead is acquired through your direct communication efforts (i.e. you reached out to the lead directly without receiving any prompting from the individual or business). With these definitions in mind, let's dig a little deeper into the key differences. 

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An inbound lead most often has a problem that they think you can solve. Whether they are interested in receiving a service or product from your business, they have a set solution in mind. Conversely, an outbound lead doesn't know that they have a problem. Alternatively, they might know that they have a problem, but not realize the enormity of the situation (that is until you come along with your solution). 

The above key difference is incredibly important to remember as you approach inbound and outbound marketing. In this vein, we are not saying that one type of lead is inherently better; what we are saying is that due to their differences, they should be treated differently. Keep the following tips in mind as you approach your inbound and outbound leads. 

  • Outbound Leads Need Guidance. -- Outbound leads must be guided through the buyer's journey. You will be doing yourself a great disservice if you think that you can reach out to an outbound lead and receive a quick "yes" to your product or service. Instead, to use a clichéd phrase, you might have "poked a sleeping bear." In other words, let's say that the outbound lead doesn't know that he has a problem. By informing him of his inherent problem, you have now provoked him into conducting research into possible solutions. In order to keep him from turning to your competitors, you must instead provide him with the tools, insights, and inevitable solutions (i.e. your products or services) that he needs. 


  • Outbound Leads Require Tact. -- Most people don't like being told that their company has a "problem," even if it is true. With this in mind, you must tread carefully with outbound leads. You have to gently guide them through the sales funnel without adopting the "used car salesman mentality." Once again, you have to read the person carefully to determine a) their communication preferences, b) their communication style, and c) their interest level. Remember that it will take time for an outbound lead to work their way through the sales funnel, and while you don't want the process to be too long, you also don't want to rush them and thus lose the lead to a competitor. 

The Bottom Line: All Leads Are Not Created Equally
The moral of the story is simple, outbound and inbound leads are not created equally. For many companies, inbound leads are actively chased due to the inherent "value" that they immediately offer. However, while outbound leads are often tougher to close, they do offer value to companies. Recognizing their value is only made possible if you don't treat an outbound lead like an inbound lead. In the end, all leads are not created equally, and as such should not be treated in the same way.

Topics: inbound sales, outbound sales, buyer personas, Content Strategy, get more sales, lead scoring, sales coaching

David Fletcher

Written by David Fletcher

David Fletcher is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Maven Sales Group, a HubSpot Sales Partner and sales enablement firm located in the Washington, DC area. David is also the Sr. Global VP of Sales for ClearSale, Maven's largest client, which is a fraud management and protection services company. David is a graduate of The George Washington University, graduating with dual majors in Business Management and Criminal Justice. After graduation, David stayed in the DC area as a sales professional before starting his own systems integration firm. Once his firm was acquired, David moved on to become the President of a marketing agency providing HubSpot Consulting and inbound sales strategies to B2B clients. David has a unique perspective on sales and marketing in which David doesn’t approach issues as a “sales problem” or a “marketing problem”, but as a “revenue problem”. As a seasoned sales and marketing professional, David has worked with the HubSpot product development teams in an effort to create a better user experience for HubSpot customers. David enjoys reading, golfing, fishing and the outdoors. He lives in Lake Shore, MD with his business partner & wife Shannon, and their 5 sons.

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