What are Outbound Sales?

You have probably heard the term and may have asked yourself, “What is outbound sales exactly?”

There has been a ton of hubbub around the subject of inbound sales over the past half decade or so.

Especially since the creation of a little company called HubSpot. In 2004, a bunch of MIT folks started talking about how to attract the right people to a brand using inbound techniques and BOOM!

But this post is about outbound sales.

You see, all the talk about inbound methods have made some think that finding a good quality lead and trying to get a hold of them via cold email and cold calling isn’t effective anymore. We hope to dispel that half-myth today.

We can go on and on, back and forth on the subject of cold outreach. Is it dead? Is it dying? Or, is it still a legitimate tactic?

Some are adamantly against cold email/calls while others still use it daily. Successes are on both sides of the aisle.

But we’re not going to argue outbound vs. inbound sales either—they’re both great.  

Why Outbound Sales are Important

Outbound sales are important because when you’re cold-calling or going door to door, you can find potential clients for your business that may not know about the services and products they need.

Also, it is a way of finding new customers by reaching out to them rather than waiting around for people to come into your store.

Defining the Term “Outbound Sales”

Outbound sales is the process of sales reps making sales calls and sending emails to potential customers (leads) for the purpose of generating interest and selling a company’s products/services.

Sounds simple enough, right?

We’ve just scratched the surface. The process described above has a lot of moving parts that we’ll also have to define.

Where do the leads come from?

What is outbound sales?

Leads are generated in a number of ways.

This is typically where the misconceptions start coming out (but we’ll get to those further down). Finding leads to reach out to come in three basic ways.

1. Buy a List
The least effective method (most of the time). Purchasing a list of names that meet basic criteria often leads to the lowest response rate (from cold outreach) and a pretty abysmal conversion rate. Unfortunately, many believe this is the only way to do “cold calling”.

2. Researching Contacts
A process that involves the salesperson developing a list of potential buyers based on intel, ideal customers currently using the products/services, and research skills to find contact information before reaching out. A very effective and profitable outbound method.

3. Leads Contacting Company
There are times when a lead will reach out to a company first. Through a contact form, by phone, email, referrals, or possibly advertising. These leads should be contacted as soon as possible by those who are responsible for qualifying and setting appointments.

Inbound Leads: Generally acquired through content marketing, SEO, and advertising. These leads aren’t typically part of the outbound process and will typically be handled differently and perhaps by a different role on the sales team entirely.

Who’s responsible for outbound sales?

What is outbound sales?

During the initial stages of your business, the founder or CEO will likely take on the prominent sales role. After all, you know the company best and need revenue.

Using a lead gen software will help, especially if you’re trying to construct a list of quality prospects for your cold outreach efforts. Side note: We know about a software that even sends your cold emails for you (while helping you optimize for maximum response rates).

Small, shameless plug over. Now back to the matter at hand.

The primary sales role that will be handling outbound lead acquisition will be a development rep. Click To Tweet

Some companies call this role a sales development rep (SDR) and others (like us) call it a business development rep (BDR).

We like to differentiate with SDRs being primarily responsible for setting appointments from inbound leads while BDRs are responsible for breaking new ground and finding high-quality cold leads.

Bonus Resource: For a detailed look at what a BDR does and some of the best practices for researching leads, check out our post here.

5 Steps in Outbound Sales

Wondering how you can start outbound sales? Here are some vital steps you should follow:

Step #1: Identify your target audience

A big part of outbound sales is knowing who you’re talking to and what they want or need, so the first step in this process is figuring that out.

For example, if you make coffee tables then it would be good to know how many people live in their own home with a living room that could accommodate a coffee table.

Step #2: Research your target audience and find their contact info

This is where the online tools come in handy because you have more information on hand to do this step, but make sure not to rely too much on these resources since they’re less personal than an actual phone call or visit would be.

Do you have a hard time finding the right person to talk to at your company?

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Step #3: Talk to your target audience

The message you want to convey is that there’s a problem and they need help solving it, but be careful not to come across as too desperate or needy because this can turn them off from what you’re selling. You also don’t want the conversation to end with an unanswered question about why they need help.

Step #4: Close the sale and collect their info for follow-up

You want to close this as quickly as possible because if you drag on too long, the person might start getting annoyed or lose interest in what you’re saying – not a good sign for your sales call!

Reach out with a personalized email that includes an offer they can’t refuse, and a call-to-action to get the conversation started.

Step #5: Reach out with follow up emails or calls when you’re ready for them to buy something from your store

Don’t be pushy – if there’s no response in 24 hours, try again at a later date.

If you want to be more successful in your outbound sales, it’s important that you do what they need and not just focus on your product or service specifically. This can mean talking with them about how their day is going, where they work, or anything else so that the conversation doesn’t end abruptly – this can make it hard for them to buy from you because they don’t feel like they know enough about your company.

Tackling the Straw Man

What is outbound sales?

Some really good arguments against some elements of cold outreach exist. Seriously.

That said, the ones worth reading will typically give credit to the many benefits of the method overall. In fact, many inbounders will go as far as to say that both inbound and outbound should be used to achieve growth.

Articles and posts that aren’t worth your time are straw man arguments.

You know, the type of thing that puts up common (but totally wrong) misconceptions that can really rally a crowd and make the thing being discredited seem really bad and often makes the presenter of the argument look really good?

No, we’re not saying people are intentionally leading people away from outbound. Most have excellent intentions, but let’s look at a common definition of our term in question.

Less Accurate Definition: Outbound sales is the process of sales reps making outbound sales calls to prospects. Outbound sales sometimes involves making cold calls to leads on a list, though often reps call leads that have previously demonstrated demand for a product by engaging with a brand’s content, filling out a form, emailing a business or making a previous call to a business. (Emphasis ours.)

No mention of developing a list, using great data to ensure the quality prospects, or even cold emailing (a vital part of outreach nowadays).

We love outbound, but this definition doesn’t make us feel like cold calling.

The way the word “list” is used makes you feel like it’s one purchased from a third party. And the term “sometimes” isn’t really an accurate representation.

  1. Outbound reps are either researching new leads, contacting fresh leads, or nurturing contacted leads—all the time.
  2. Buying a list isn’t terrible, but generating your own leads will lead to a much higher conversion rate.

There are a couple of other reasons outbound isn’t dead.

New Markets

What is outbound sales?

When you are venturing into new territory and don’t know if it’s worth having a full-on inbound marketing campaign; why not try some cold outreach?

Having BDRs reach out to some similar companies in other markets could shed light on how successful your products may be in that sector.

Not to mention that you can gain ground in said sector while you are trying to rank for those key terms via SEO and develop that awesome content for your new inbound funnel segment.

Unmotivated Buyers

What is outbound sales?

No matter how many leads come to you, there will always be new customers waiting for you to call them.

They may have been to your site, clicked on your ad, and liked an Instagram post—but won’t buy until you reach out. It happens all the time.

All a new client needs is the invitation to hear more about your stuff. Click To Tweet

Sometimes it’s due to a disorganized organization. No one knows who’s buying what. Or, other times, it’s misconceptions about the differences between your solution and the one they currently use (“aren’t they all the same”).

Whatever it is, there always has to be someone going to “them”. Or else you’re losing potential revenue.

3 Ways to Start, ReStart or ReInvigorate Outbound Sales

Sales is not about selling anymore but building trust and educating.” — Siva Devaki

Now that we’ve built a definition for the term, removed a few misconceptions, and made an argument for the process—it’s time to share a couple of tips.

Again, we think building a quality list is crucial to the success of an outbound process. We’ve already talked about that at length in this and other posts. Here are the three ways to do it better.

1 Research more than stats

What is outbound sales?

Using data is awesome.

Growth marketing, buyer personas, and business forecasting are places where data is king.

Outbound though, is a bit different. You’re reaching out to real people that make up those facts.

Often times having a bit of a connection with a lead will entice a greater response rate. The cool thing is that those generating new leads don’t have as many. Fewer, but better quality, leads may give you the time to do further research (e.g. looking at LinkedIn profiles).

Find something that you can mention in your email, make a personal connection. It works.

2 Build up credibility

What is outbound sales?

Don’t just walk into a new market like you own the place. Get your footing, follow people of influence in that industry—know what you’re talking about.

Understanding your world is less than half the equation. Click To Tweet

You have to understand the prospect’s concerns, responsibilities, and pains (in relation to your products).

Pro Tip: Acronyms are a big part of every industry. Getting acquainted with these is like gold. It’s like you speak their language and they’ll open up to you more seeing as how you “get it”.

3 Offer incredible value

What is outbound sales?

Inbound is all about offering value to visitors. A great lead magnet goes a long way to warm up new leads.

Outbounders can do this too.

Maybe via content suggestions, but it’s more valuable to give them strategies in relation to your product.

Example: You sell an app that helps video game developing firms collaborate. How about offering a one-on-one to help them implement strategies that lower development time (with or without your product)?

Should You Use Outbound Sales

Outbound sales are a great way to generate leads for your business because they allow you to reach out to people who might not have come across one of your ads.

This is best used if the person or company has expressed interest in similar products and services from other companies as well, so it’s like finding new prospects that want what you have.

Outbound sales can also be used to generate leads for the company if they are trying to position themselves in a different market or niche than what’s been successful before, and then convert those prospects into customers.


Outbound sales methods are a great way to generate leads for your business. Try using them if you have the time and resources, but also don’t feel pressured into it either because they can be more expensive than traditional lead generation methods.

Editors Note:

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Josh Slone
About Author: Josh Slone
Josh Slone is the Head Content Writer for LeadFuze. Josh writes about lead generation strategies, sales skills, and sales terminology.