June 20th, 2019 | by

Wouldn’t it be nice if every lead you got was a hot lead: a hand-raiser who converted on your website and requested more information or a call from the sales team?

Few things are guaranteed in life. In addition to Benjamin Franklin’s certainties of life, death, and taxes, we add another certainty, for high-growth businesses: outbound sales prospecting.

Cold-calling and cold email are tough – the rate of rejection is high, and the bites are few and far between even on a good day. But if your company has goals for growth, you need an outbound lead strategy.

Read on to learn:

  • What’s the difference between inbound and outbound prospecting
  • Why an outbound sales strategy is mission-critical
  • High-growth companies use outbound prospecting
  • How to battle cold-call reluctance

If it’s your job to eat a frog, Mark Twain says, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. Or as CEO Henry Schuck would say, “You have to do the hard things.

So let’s eat this frog! Who knows – you might like the taste!

What’s the difference between inbound and outbound sales leads?


Inbound leads are people who have expressed interest in your product by asking for more information, a product demo, or even a purchase. Outbound leads, on the other hand, are people who you identified as a great fit for your product – but who have not engaged with your company.

In other words, In other words, inbound leads come to you; while outbound leads require you to come to them.

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Check your lead temperature: Warm or hot?

Operationalizing machine learningSometimes inbound leads are broken down further, by lead “temperature.” Warm leads are those people who have implied interest in your product, through actions such as filling out a web form to download a new research report or ebook, or subscribing to an email list. They haven’t explicitly asked to engage with your sales team, but the relationship was initiated by the warm prospect. And the more they engage with your brand – for example, reading blogs or engaging on social media – the warmer those become.


The best inbound leads, of course, are hot leads: those who want to talk to a salesperson – those who ask for more product-related information, or even request a demo.

Companies define “leads” differently. Some treat warm and hot leads the same. Others nurture warm leads – putting them into an email drip campaign, for example – before the sales team reaches out. But everyone agrees on one thing: Inbound leads are great. Inbound leads are easy (easier, anyway). Everybody wants inbound leads.

But it’s a rare company who can generate enough inbound leads to significantly grow the business.

You’re going to have to eat some frogs.

Read it: What 15k Demos Per Year Taught Us About Converting Inbound Leads

Why an outbound sales strategy is mission-critical

You can’t grow your business on inbound leads alone. Here’s why you need to build pipeline with outbound leads, too:

1. Not all of your inbound leads will be decision-makers.

Hey, if you have a cool brand and great content, you may have an embarrassment of riches: Lots of people want to learn more! Great – you’ve generated plenty of leads. The problem? Inevitably most inbound leads are not decision-makers with the ability to sign the check or actually negotiate the sale. Most of those names … aren’t real leads.

2. You have less control of your inbound lead flow pipeline.

Is your business affected by seasonality or holidays? How about financial events like budget cycles, end of quarter, spending freezes, or rounds of funding? You can recover from a bad quarter. But what if new regulations impact your ability to do business in another country? What if a major source of inbound leads, like a content syndication program, or your website, goes down?

You’re out of luck.

Inbound lead flow is impacted by a million things over which you have no control. Don’t put all your eggs in one very unpredictable basket!

3. Most of the buyer journey takes place … not on your website.

You’ve probably heard the oft-quoted statistic from SiriusDecisons: 67% of the buyer’s journey is done by the time they engage a salesperson. Yep, those sweet would-be leads are out there doing web research on a problem YOU solve. You just don’t know it.

Rather than wait for them to find you, outbound prospecting enables you to find them – usually sooner in the sales cycle, before they’ve been heavily influenced by other vendors.

In short, to rely on inbound leads alone is to leave money on the table. It might be possible to do business without cold calling, cold email, field sales, trade shows and event marketing, or other outbound avenues.

But why limit your potential growth?

4. Your competitors are using outbound prospecting to grow.

“Walk into any fast-growing company or recently IPO’d technology company,” says DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck. “You can’t find ONE that doesn’t go outbound. In fact, you won’t be able to find a single company that is growing after it hit $20m in revenue, that doesn’t have an outbound engine. They all do.

“Don’t believe me? Type in outbound prospecting into the jobs search on LinkedIn, and you’ll find VMWare, Amazon Web Services, Zendesk, Marketo, Riverbed, BugCrowd, The Financial Times – all the sales jobs require cold calling – AKA, outbound prospecting.

“Outbound selling is the way you scale your business, the way to grow your company in a scalable, strategic, proven way.”

High-growth companies know this. You’d better figure it out, too.

High-growth companies use outbound sales prospecting

Our Growth Drivers survey asked sales and marketing leaders at high-growth companies about the factors at their companies that drove or inhibited growth, and one thing was immediately clear: outbound sales methods were key.

Specifically, we found that high-growth companies were more than two and a half times more likely than low-growth companies to perceive cold-calling as alive and highly effective.

The data clearly shows that companies who go to market with a fully optimized sales development structure and outbound cold-calling team are growing significantly faster than those don’t:

Battling cold-call reluctance

Actually, we know why people shy away from outbound sales prospecting.

“It’s hard. I get it,” says Schuck. “It’s different, and it takes work. I know. It’s harder than giving in each time. But enough with the excuses!

“All I hear is: ‘I’m too scared to try something hard,’” says Schuck.‘“My business is special, it’s different – it’s relationship-based, so that won’t work.’ ‘We’re not in San Francisco, so we can’t find the talent.’ ‘We tried before, but people in Boston don’t want to make outbound calls.’ ‘Our CEO is allergic to outbound cold calling.’

“Those are all sneaky ways to say, ‘I don’t want to do the hard thing.’ Companies that don’t let those excuses get in the way, are the companies that the survey clearly shows are growing significantly faster than those who do let those excuses get in the way.”

Outbound sales prospecting methods may be changing fast enough to make your head spin, but cold-calling is still alive and well, at the heart of it all.

So pick up the phone. Eat the frog


We already have deep insights into your target accounts.



How much is bad lead data costing you? What’s it worth to fix it?


Charity Heller
About the author

Charity Heller

Content Strategist, DiscoverOrg

Charity Heller, DiscoverOrg's content strategy manager, has been developing, composing, and editing content since age 2. Before her dive into content marketing, she founded and operated a book-editing company for 10 years. Charity has a B.A. in English literature, Professional Editing Certification from U.C. Berkeley, and she's a certified Project Manager.