The Power of Inbound Sales: A Better Alternative to Cold Calling

A data-driven inbound sales approach can jumpstart slagging growth and invigorate your sales team


Bill Arnold

12/4/20236 min read

Inbound Sales
Inbound Sales

While marketing is a critical component of customer acquisition, it is only half the story. Nothing happens until a sale is made, and for most products and services, that requires the knowledge and ability of a seasoned sales professional.

We begin our series on sales, where we will discuss the process, share strategies, and offer suggestions on how to help your sales team when they continue to miss their quotas. Today, we are going to discuss the new outbound sales methodology.

When people think of outbound sales calls, they often conjure up the image of a boiler room, filled with young eager associates, who are creating seedy offers for some nonexistent product. The reality is that outbound sales efforts can be an extremely effective tactic for generating sales. The problem is usually how it is carried out.

It might surprise you to learn that the number one inbound marketing company in the world built much of its business with a robust outbound sales effort. HubSpot is known for introducing the term "inbound marketing" and was wise enough to understand that true growth requires a multitude of marketing and sales strategies. They literally had a room of financially motivated eager employees who spent their day dialing for dollars. The difference between how they did outbound calls, and the image you often think, is they did it the HubSpot way.

HubSpot is not unique in using an outbound sales team to find prospects who can quickly be closed. In fact, most successful companies supplement their marketing efforts with an outbound sales reach.

The secret to being able to generate sales from calls you initiated is all about the methodology used to decide who to call, when to call, and what to say. Today, we will discuss how to do outbound sales calls that will have a successful outcome.

Inbound Sales

How the Inbound Sales Methodology Works

Most outbound sales efforts involve cold calling random people from a list, who have little or no interest in your product or service, in hopes of finding that rare person who is either bored enough to listen or may, actually, have an interest. The success rate is horrible, and you need a salesperson who can accept rejection really well to make the phone calls.

When was the last time you answered a call from an unknown person? You probably don't even answer calls from people you know.

In an outbound sales scenario, the key to success begins with having a salesperson who has exceptional research skills. The goal is to first identify the most likely prospects, through the interactions they have already had with your content, or from the information you learned about their company or industry.

In the ever-evolving world of sales, businesses are constantly seeking more effective ways to engage with prospects and close deals. HubSpot changed the marketing world when it introduced the inbound marketing methodology in 2005. The process they perfected for a new way to use outbound calling changed the face of sales forever. The new methodology is called "inbound sales."

This inbound sales methodology should not be confused with a sales department whose only role is to wait for a prospect to call them and, simply, take their order. The inbound sales process is truly an outreach to prospects who, according to a traditional inbound marketing methodology, were not yet ready to be called.

It is the general understanding, with an inbound marketing program, that the Sales Department should not contact a company until there is a bottom-of-the-funnel event that demonstrates the prospect is a qualified lead and ready to discuss the product and their potential purchase. A bottom-of-the-funnel activity is typically where the prospect has asked to speak to sales, has inquired about pricing, or developed a lead score through their behavior and activity that tells marketing they are ready for that discussion.

Since the inbound marketing methodology can take months to properly attract and nurture a company to the SQL stage, what can it do to procure sales while waiting for the nurturing to take place? Typically, there are two options: implement a paid demand program and/or an inbound sales program.

Inbound sales uses a data-driven consultative sales approach that leverages information the salesperson can learn from the engagement they have had and through investigating the buying signals of the company or their industry.

The inbound sales methodology involves five key stages:

1. Research - In an inbound sales scenario, the key to success begins with having a salesperson who has exceptional research skills. The goal is to first identify the most likely prospects through the interactions they have already had with your content, website, or from the information you learned about their company or industry.

Buyer Intent Data - A critical requirement for any sale to occur is for the prospect to want to purchase a solution. Just because a prospect has not made a bottom-of-the-funnel action on your website, does not mean they have not done so elsewhere.

One way to learn whether they are actually at the buyer stage is to obtain buyer intent data. Buyer intent data is a set of information based on user behavior on the internet. By leveraging this data, you gain a deeper understanding of your target audience’s buying journey and can determine the most effective time and approach to engage them.

There are several software solutions that specialize in providing this data. To be able to determine the level of interest, they look at a number of factors including:

  • Content consumption they downloaded (e.g. eBooks)

  • Attendance at webinars or industry events

  • Social media engagement

  • Queries and terms used

  • Purchase history and intent

  • Buyer intent signals, such as RFPs or budget changes.

Some of these solutions include G2 Intent, ZoomInfo, Cognism, DemandScience, and my personal favorite 6Sense.

2. Finding the Right Contacts: Just like with inbound marketing, there may be several people who are involved in the buyer process. If you just focus on the title of who you believe might be the decision-maker, often, you will find your outreach is thwarted. The same software solution that can identify buyer intent can also show you who the likely decision-makers and internal influencers are within the target company. Much like an account-based marketing approach, you need to immerse yourself into where these individuals go for information, education, entertainment, and advice. Spend time understanding their passion and interests, so when you finally are ready to connect with them, you have a "hook" and can use that as an entry point. For example, if you know that the decision-maker or internal influencer is a Kansas City Chiefs football fan, you can use their Super Bowl win or Taylor Swift as a tease to grab their attention at the awareness stage. We will discuss how this is done in part two of our series, Sales Strategies and Best Practices.

3. Connect: The initial connection is arguably the hardest part of any inbound sales initiative. Most often, simply sending them personalized messages that address their unique needs and challenges is not enough. You need to be creative when trying to get their attention. This is why you conducted the extensive research in the previous stage. In part two of this series, we will share some ways that HubSpot utilized to break through that initial barrier to begin a conversation.

4. Engage: Once you break through the connection barrier, you can start a conversation. This must be a consultative conversation with the prospect. Take time to listen to their pain points, goals, and challenges. Avoid the temptation to sell them anything. Your job, during this stage, is simply to listen and understand. Nobody will listen to your message until you hear theirs. Every single person will tell you how to sell to them if you take the time and listen. Once they core-dump their information, ask relevant questions to better understand how your solution can solve these issues.

5. Consult: Once you have taken the time to learn from the prospect, you now have to transition into offering them a solution that will address them. The key to making this transition is getting prior buy-in, before you present it. For example: "If I could show you how all of those issues (cite them) could be solved, would you be interested in hearing about it?" Very few people will say no to that question.

When you present your solution, focus squarely on the benefits to the company and the person. People do not buy features, they will purchase based on the benefits they derive.


Inbound sales offer a more customer-centric and effective approach to sales compared to cold calling. By focusing on building relationships, providing value, and leveraging personalized interactions, businesses can attract and convert prospects while creating long-term customer loyalty.

In part two of our series, Sales Strategies and Best Practices, we will show how you can maximize the potential of inbound sales and drive sustainable growth for your business.