Key Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Sales Playbooks

Hiring Sales Talent

Both inbound and outbound sales are effective ways to reach new customers, but there are several key differences to consider when building your sales playbooks.

Each process follows different steps through the customer journey. Inbound sales aims to attract warm leads to the company and then guide them to a solution, while outbound sales focuses on cold outreach. This article will walk you through the three main stages each playbook should focus on.

Building your inbound sales playbook

1. Attracting ideal customers

The first step in an inbound sales playbook is to find a way to attract ideal customers to the company, usually through targeted content marketing. 

The goal of this stage is to generate engagement and build awareness across multiple channels, ideally the channels your ideal customer uses most often. Inbound sales playbooks may include a personalized content strategy to help streamline this process.

2. Relationship building

Once the prospect has engaged with the company, an inbound sales rep can begin to build and nurture that relationship. The rep’s goal at this stage is to initiate conversation, qualify the prospect, and build trust. Plays at this stage of the sales playbook will focus on prospecting and qualifying leads.

3. Sales pitch

The next step in an inbound sales playbook is the sales pitch, in which the rep continues to guide the prospect along their customer journey by offering a product or service. This usually involves a call to action, either to buy directly, book a meeting, or schedule a demo. The sales playbook at this stage should focus on closing.

The inbound sales process can occur over weeks or months, or it may take place during a single phone call, depending on how far along the customer journey the prospect is. The need for custom content and relationship building can make for a drawn-out sales cycle, which means inbound playbooks should also include detailed procedures for follow-ups.

Key Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Sales Playbooks

Building your outbound sales playbook

1. Prospecting

Compared to inbound sales, your outbound sales playbook will have a much heavier emphasis on prospecting. Instead of trying to attract customers, outbound sales reps begin by creating a list of potential leads to reach out to. 

A key difference here is that the company is the first to initiate contact. That means that outbound sales prospects are usually not solution aware–as opposed to inbound leads, who are often already searching for a solution. Because of this, your outbound sales playbook should focus on educating prospects and building that awareness.

2. Lead qualification

After the initial outreach, the next step in any outbound sales playbook is to qualify the lead. In most cases, this will be a longer process than inbound sales qualification, because inbound leads have already self-qualified to an extent.

Outbound sales playbooks should pay particular attention to this stage. If a lead isn’t properly qualified, reps will waste time on sales that never come to a close. But if there is a solid process in place (for example, a list of questions the rep needs to ask), it will be easier for reps to focus on only the most qualified leads.

3. Closing the deal

After a lead has been qualified, the rep can then present a solution and make their sales pitch. This part of the process will be similar to inbound sales, though of course the pitch should be tailored to each prospect as much as possible. 

This final stage may be more drawn out in outbound sales, because the prospect may have more hesitations to overcome. Be sure to include a standard process for handling objections in your playbook.

If you aren’t sure wether to use inbound, outbound, or a combination of both, or you’re having problems building your own playbooks, book a free discovery call with our Coaching team!

Inbound and outbound sales need to work together

Although your company may choose to emphasize one sales strategy over the other, inbound and outbound sales are best used together, and the two playbooks should work in tandem. 

Outbound sales playbooks focus heavily on prospecting, lead qualification, and handling objections, while inbound sales may include additional processes such as personalized content creation and relationship building. Both inbound and outbound playbooks are critical for a successful sales strategy.

The tips in this book will help you navigate a better outbound process, one that focuses on human connection over quotas. Because ironically, focusing on your prospect instead of the sale will make you a more successful sales rep.

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