Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads – How to Handle Both

By Daniel Threlfall

Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads – How to Handle Both

Inbound leads vs. outbound leads.

Both have the potential to be awesome customers. 

But there’s a different level of interest, familiarity, and receptiveness to your brand with each type of lead.

So, to move them smoothly through your sales funnel, you need to take a very different approach. 

Here’s how to handle inbound leads vs. outbound leads the right way. 

What’s the Difference Between Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads?

The first order of business is fully understanding how these two types of lead differ from another. 

And it’s pretty simple.

An inbound lead comes to you, while you’re the one who reaches out to an outbound lead.

Some common ways to generate inbound leads are through blogging, eBooks, videos, and social media.

Pretty much any lead that comes to you through content you create would be considered an inbound lead. 

They have already expressed a certain amount of interest in your brand and should have at least some familiarity of who you are and what you do. 

Outbound leads, on the other, are generated through traditional prospecting. 

Some common techniques to get outbound leads are cold calling, direct email, and sending out an invite to connect on LinkedIn. 

Because you’re the one reaching out to outbound leads, they may have no current interest in your brand and may even be completely unfamiliar with it. 

As a result, they tend to be less receptive than inbound leads and require more finesse when convincing them to buy. 

This graphic from VIEO design offers a nice breakdown of inbound vs. outbound leads. 

Coming Up with the Right Approach

Now that we know precisely how these two types of leads differ from another, let’s talk about how this will shape your approach. 

Beth Abbot, Inbound Advisor at New Breed Marketing does a great job of articulating what to do with inbound leads. 

“With inbound leads, there’s a very clear line of understanding from a specific person at a prospective company of who we are, whether that’s just that they’ve been to our blog before or they’ve downloaded our content.”

“There’s some familiarity, and a lot of your focus for outreach can be around that commonality.”

Let me give you an example. 

Say that a lead spent a considerable amount of time exploring the Chili Piper website. 

During that time, they checked out three particular pages.

They looked at the blog post, Appointment Scheduler Software | What To Look For.

They read another blog post called Best Scheduling Software 2020 | Honest Reviews

And they explored the book a meeting page where we explain how Chili Piper can help businesses automate scheduling for the full customer lifecycle. 

After which, they went ahead and decided to book a Chili Piper demo.

By looking at these specific pages, we can surmise that they 1) have an interest in meeting scheduling software and 2) have at least some degree of familiarity with Chili Piper. 

Armed with this information, the rep that speaks with them would know which direction to steer the conversation and would make it a point to discuss Chili Piper’s robust scheduling features and the practical value it offers for making meetings a cinch.

I should also note that inbound leads have established a need for a product like yours because they’re already checking you out. 

And given that they’re actively performing research, there’s a good chance they need it fairly soon. 

As for outbound leads, there’s no prior interaction or history to go on, which means reps need to come up with another way to build rapport and move leads through the sales funnel. 

“What you have to make sure you’re still doing with outbound outreach is that you’re still finding a commonality that could exist, even though you don’t have that lead intelligence from marketing,” Beth Abbott explains. 

There are also no guarantees that outbound leads have a need for a product like yours. 

This means outbound outreach tends to be trickier than inbound.

That said, it’s still important (outbound was given an average importance of 7.3, which is barely below inbound at 7.4).

And it’s something that can be done effectively as long as you have the right game plan. 

That’s exactly what I’m going to discuss for the rest of the article. 

How to Handle Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads

Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of the specific techniques you should take during interactions with each type of lead. 

Piotr Zaniewicz, CEO of RightHello, a B2B lead generation and data enrichment platform, made an awesome graphic that highlights the fundamental differences between how to handle inbound leads vs. outbound leads. 

So, here’s what you want to do based on this. 

For Inbound Leads

Considering that an inbound lead already has some degree of familiarity with your brand (even if it’s just a little) and an established need and interest, they require less convincing than an outbound lead.

They’re at the very least at the awareness or interest stage of your sales funnel.

However, some inbound leads will be even further down the funnel at the intent or evaluation stage. 

So, the first thing you need to do is qualify them to determine whether they’re a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or a sales qualified lead (SQL)

Inbound leads at the top of the funnel are MQLs, while those at the bottom of the funnel are SQLs. 

MQLs will likely still require some nurturing before they’re ready for an official sales pitch, so you’ll want to hand them over to your marketing team. 

At that point, marketing can send these leads targeted content to build rapport and get them more familiar and comfortable with your product. 

SQLs, however, are legitimate potential customers and are ready to rock and roll. 

For these, you’ll want to take a more aggressive approach and make them top priority.

This usually means scheduling a demo or sales call where a rep:

  • Explains the ins and outs of your product
  • Shows the benefits and value your product offers
  • Answers their questions and addresses their concerns

And inevitably, the rep will want to go for the close. 

For more helpful advice on how to handle inbound leads, check out this video from Myriah Anderson of IMPACT Marketing. 

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For Outbound Leads

I’ll just go ahead and say it. 

Outbound leads are much trickier to handle than inbound leads. 

They likely have zero knowledge of your brand, have not expressed any interest, and may not even have a need for your product. 

And because outbound outreach is inherently disputive, it can potentially lead to bad blood right from the start. 

Just think of this scene from Seinfeld.

That said, leads can still be great even if they’re outbound and have the potential to be converted into loyal customers. 

It just takes skill and plenty of tact.

As Piotr Zaniewicz mentions in his graphic, your rep is the one initiating the buying process, so they need to take their time and be patient when attempting to convince an outbound lead to buy. 

The moment the rep makes first contact, the lead isn’t even officially in the sales funnel, as they’re probably not yet aware of your product or brand. 

In fact, they’re right here. 

So, the first thing a rep needs to do after making contact is pre-qualify the lead, which is critical given that “67% of lost sales are as a result of sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process,” says Steven Tulman, CEO of Zenvest Capital Corp. 

How should they go about pre-qualifying?

There are five main things they should look for, Tulman explains. 

Asking questions to determine need, uniqueness, budget, influence, and timeline should allow a rep to quickly decide whether or not they’re dealing with a qualified lead

Here’s an example. 

Say that one of our reps at Chili Piper is cold calling an outbound lead and wants to determine need and uniqueness.

Shortly after making an introduction, they might ask these questions:

  • Are you happy with your current system for booking meetings? Or, are there any rough spots that are stopping you from efficiently connecting with buyers?
  • Are you currently using any scheduling apps? If so, how satisfied are you with them?

This should give the rep a baseline reading and help them figure out if the outbound lead is qualified or not. 

Assuming the outbound lead is qualified, they would want to move forward where they explain the basics of:

  • What product you offer
  • The pain points it solves, features, and benefits
  • The core value you bring to the table

With Chili Piper, for instance, we would point out that our platform provides an ultra-efficient framework that lets leads book meetings and briefly break down how the process works. 

We would also point out that we’re one of the top-rated scheduling softwares and we’ve helped brands like customer data platform, Segment, convert 61% of their inbound meetings into opportunities. 

Keep in mind that the outbound lead is just finding out about your brand and may not have even known it had existed just a few minutes ago. 

So, you don’t want to throw too much at them and go right for the jugular. 

Rather, you want to quickly establish rapport and start building some initial trust. 

If the outbound lead is receptive, you can then go into more detail and discuss two or three UVPs that are relevant to their business, make your pitch, and ask them to buy. 

Otherwise, you’ll want to schedule follow-ups and work on lead nurturing until you’re in that position. 

And remember that it takes time for an outbound lead to digest an offering, so many just won’t feel comfortable pulling the trigger right away. 

Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads FAQs

What’s the difference between inbound leads vs. outbound leads?

Inbound leads come to you, typically through your website, content, or social media. 

With outbound leads, you reach out to them.

The latter involves “the sending or pushing of messages out at a target audience, regardless of whether they have asked for it or expressed an interest in the content.

As a result, inbound leads tend to have a base level of interest and are at least somewhat familiar with your brand.

With outbound leads, however, no interest has yet been established and they may have no idea who you are. 

Therefore, you can expect inbound leads to be more receptive to your offerings and outbound leads to be less receptive. 

Which strategy produces more leads — inbound or outbound?

Studies have found, “inbound practices produce 54% more leads than traditional outbound practices.”

How should you handle inbound leads vs. outbound leads?

Inbound leads can be approached more aggressively.

You need to first qualify inbound leads to filter out MQLs who should be sent to your marketing team and SQLs who demand top priority. 

For SQLs, you’ll want to schedule a demo or sales call where a rep goes for the close. 

Outbound leads require more patience, and you’ll want to take a more careful approach. 

They must first be pre-qualified.

Then your rep needs to work intently on building trust and scheduling follow-ups if they’re not ready to buy right away. 

Let’s Recap

Knowing the difference of inbound leads vs. outbound leads and how to handle each is absolutely integral to the success of your sales team. 

Although they’re both legit leads that have the potential to become paying customers, they require a very different approach, as we’ve just learned. 

For inbound leads, it’s a matter of figuring out where they are in the sales funnel and moving them efficiently through the rest of it until they’re ready to buy. 

And for outbound leads, it boils down to quickly qualifying them, getting them up to speed with what you’re offering and why they should care.

Then, you need to have enough patience to nurture them until they’re at a point where they feel comfortable buying. 

Find out how to take your lead qualification to the next level and send leads to the right rep with no drama. 

Book a demo to see Chili Piper in action today. 

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