Inbound Opportunities vs. Outbound Opportunities

Devon-McDonald by

One of the biggest mistakes that a sales person can make is to treat inbound and outbound opportunities that are passed along to them the same exact way. While they both may be “qualified” based on management’s standards, at the end of the day, outbound opportunities are far more sensitive and require more hand holding by the sales team members responsible for closing deals.

Just to set the record straight — an inbound opportunity is one in which a lead has come in through a company’s website, through marketing efforts (SEO, PR, social media, etc) or directly though the main phone line. At the point when the lead requests additional data about the product/services, a lead qualification specialist — or perhaps a sales rep (depending on the size/complexity of the sales organization) — connects with the interested prospect to answer questions, share additional information, and determine whether or not the product/services are going to be the best fit for the prospect. In a nutshell, a potential buyer has a need and makes the effort to reach out to the company is some capacity on their own.

An outbound opportunity is the result of prospector’s blood, sweat and tears in a cold calling role. An outbound prospector, or as OpenView, one of the top venture capital firms in Boston, refers to it, a Lead Generation Specialist, is is responsible for reaching out to leads that come from an industry/person-specific list. These leads have most likely never heard of the prospector’s company before, particularly if the business is at an expansion stage and newer to the market. If the prospector is able to get the decision maker on the list to pick up the call and then actually open up, he or she will be able to determine whether or not there is a need for the product within the lead’s business. Based on OpenView’s Lead Generation Services research, only 20% of the conversations that are had during the day will result in a positive outcome — that outcome being an opportunity for the sales team.

Do you see the difference? The inbound opportunity’s decision maker WANTS to buy. On the contrary, the outbound opportunity’s decision maker was caught of guard by a cold caller. And even though that initial call made a big enough impact that the prospect realized that the solution might address a pain point/need and agreed to the next step, they were still most likely not at the point where they were proactively researching solutions to invest in. They are at a different point in the buying process right off the bat.

All of this may sound completely obvious. However, time after time, I have seen sales teams treat opportunities, regardless of their origins, the same. The decision makers get the same emails, the same demos, and the same close. Guess what? It doesn’t work — the opportunity is lost because the decision maker needed more hand-holding and special treatment.

When launching a lead generation team at your company, the new hires are not the only people that should be receiving training. Your sales team in place will need training on the opportunity hand-off process and outbound opportunity nurturing/closing best practices process.

Additionally, sales people who were previously solely responsible for closing inbound opportunities may take for granted the hard work that it took the prospecting team to generate outbound opportunities. The sales team should be completely aware of the metrics that the lead qualifiers are accountable to each day so that they understand the number of conversations it took to find one opportunity. It also might be wise to have your sales team shadowing the outbound prospectors once a week/month/quarter, or have the sales team responsible for their own outbound prospecting at certain times each week. This will help them understand the difficulty in finding qualified leads, and also the level of sensitivity these opportunities require.