It’s become quite the debate. Has inbound marketing eliminated the need for traditional cold calling? Is it really a more cost effective and sustainable option?

Is it on the way to eliminating the concept of outbound sales as we know it?

To understand this discussion – and to reach a reasonable conclusion – we need to look at what each of these practices brings to your business.

Inbound Marketing

Essentially, inbound marketing does just what the name states. It connects to a qualified audience and brings them to you, turning them into leads. This is accomplished through consistent, quality content pulling an audience to the company, instead of purchasing traditional ads and hoping that they come to you.

You find this in the form of social media content, blogging, email outreach, landing pages, search engine optimization (SEO), and similar strategies. The result? Your leads are pre-qualified as interested in your industry, service, and business. This makes the conversion process much more streamlined.

Cold Calling

Your average sales department is dominantly outbound-focused. By this, I mean that they go out and bring new leads back in.

One manifestation of this can be found in cold calling, or systematically contacting a list of people who might be interested in a product or service. These leads are usually qualified by geographic area, income level, or a similar demographic marker.

What’s the Difference?

Cold calling has been used by businesses for decades, and for some industries, it’s still a viable part of a comprehensive strategy. This can be a great way to connect with customers that would not otherwise find your business. The problem that many businesses are running into today is that people don’t want to be told what they should buy – they want to get to that decision on their own (or at least, feel like they have). They don’t like being “sold” on a product or idea.

With inbound marketing, your leads are pre-qualified as interested in your industry, service, and business. This makes the conversion process much more streamlined. If you are structuring your content effectively, you’re creating advocates for your brand. You are creating a following that is loyal and vocal about your product or service. You are creating a new kind of sales team.

So – Which is Better?

Neither….sort of.

In a perfectly structured business – it is understood that the sales team and the marketing team are two separate (though symbiotic) entities. Each has a different purpose.

The marketing team should be focused solely on bringing in and maintaining a consistent flow of qualified leads. The sales team should be focused on converting these leads and fostering a long-term one-on-one relationship.

If this is the case, the practice of cold calling specifically may not be the best option for generating those leads when considered against time and monetary investment. Your sale reps’ time may be better used elsewhere. However, your inbound strategy will only get you so far.

If you’ve created an effective strategy, you’ve done your market research, you’ve placed yourself in front of the right audience, and you’ve caught their attention. How do you get them to the next step?

In some markets, you may be able to operate completely under an inbound strategy to convert those leads. Some markets will require you to take a more aggressive approach and combine your inbound campaign with an outbound sales strategy. To say that one is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ better solution for every business is absurd.

Regardless of which approach is the best fit for your business, one thing will remain true:

A well-formulated inbound marketing strategy will make the sales process easier on your team. The leads will be warm already, which makes those cold calls…well, not so cold!

Contributor: Erika is the founder of Heeren Content & Strategy and serves as Project Manager for Wright Stuff Radio. A 13-year marketing and public relations veteran, she has a professional focus on integrated media spanning 16 different industries. She works with small businesses and non-profit organizations to provide affordable, professional-quality content development, marketing, and public relations services. Her clients include local small business owners, marketing agencies, public universities, media outlets, Huffington Post-published authors, IT firms, and non-profit organizations.

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