Inbound vs. Outbound Sales Development Rep? Why You Need an Allbound SDR Team
An allbound SDR team—often called a hybrid or blended SDR team—is made up of sales development reps tasked with both outbound cold calling and following up with inbound marketing leads. Allbound is the more effective alternative to a siloed SDR team in which reps are responsible for only inbound or only outbound activities.
With an allbound strategy, organizations can set themselves up for long-term scalability with an enhanced ability to manage strategic accounts and more precise tracking of the team’s performance.
Surprisingly, some companies still opt to silo their sales development team into inbound-only and outbound-only reps.
But through many years of experience managing SDR teams for both our own company and thousands of clients, we’ve found that an allbound strategy leads to better overall results and initiates stronger relationships with prospective customers.
Inbound vs. outbound SDR
For companies that silo their SDR teams into inbound and outbound, there are some key differences they must consider when measuring the outcomes of their reps’ efforts.
Evaluating inbound and outbound SDRs along the same lines can be like comparing apples to oranges. Managers need to understand the distinctions between these siloed teams in order to avoid any potential misalignment between them.
An inbound SDR pursues warm marketing leads
Inbound sales development reps call on warm leads that have been generated through marketing initiatives. These marketing-qualified leads are funneled into the database through activities such as:
- Submitting a contact form on your website to ask a question or request a call
- Providing contact info to a representative or bot in a webchat on your site
- Signing up for your email list or subscribing to your blog
- Submitting a landing page form in exchange for a content download
- Giving you their information in person at a trade show or other networking event (though this is considered “outbound marketing,” we still refer to them as marketing-qualified leads)
These leads are considered warm because they have some prior knowledge or interest in your company before the SDR contacts them.
Certain marketing activities suggest a higher level of interest than others. A hand-raising action like requesting a call implies more interest, for example, than downloading a general educational content piece.
These variations aside, it’s typically easier to generate interest for any type of marketing lead than it is for a cold lead. These leads have at least heard of your company or have expressed an interest in what you sell.
Because inbound leads are generally easier to qualify and set sales meetings for, many companies get away with paying inbound SDRs less than outbound reps. This difference in compensation might explain why some companies feel compelled to silo their SDR teams.
Outbound SDRs call and follow up with cold leads
An outbound SDR initiates relationships by making the first touch on a lead through a cold call.
These leads are mostly generated through data building efforts, such as purchasing lead lists and manually prospecting on networks like LinkedIn to find leads who meet a specified buyer persona.
These leads have no previous knowledge to give context to the conversation. It’s much more difficult for an SDR to generate interest for a cold lead who possibly has never heard of your company and/or doesn’t have any idea about your product or service offering.
Aside from the lack of context, there’s a distinction for most people between receiving a cold call randomly and hearing from a company they’ve interacted with before.
The unsolicited nature of cold calling results in much lower conversion rates for cold leads compared to marketing leads. In fact, one study found that less than 2% of cold calls actually turn into set appointments.
Still, converting even 2% (out of the hundreds of cold leads being called on) leads to growth for B2B companies, who often close high-value deals. Plus outbound drives inbound, in that it generates awareness of your product that is often shared with other more relevant buyers outside of your funnel.
But it’s clear that the job of an outbound-only SDR can be an uphill battle, especially in contrast to reps who only pursue inbound leads.
Who do siloed SDR teams report to?
In a perfect world, sales and marketing teams would always work together in harmony. But we often find misalignment between how the 2 teams function inside a company, and that misalignment is not something you want within your SDR team.
Inbound SDRs often operate as a function of the marketing department, as they’re responsible for following up with MQLs and making sure all those inbound leads generated come to fruition. According to The Bridge Group’s SDR Metrics Report, inbound SDR teams are twice as likely to answer to marketing leadership.
On the other hand, outbound SDRs are usually more aligned with the company’s sales department, with 90% of outbound teams reporting to sales.
This difference in ownership of the SDR teams can cause confusion for reps, miscommunication between teams, and issues when it comes to attributing opportunity- and revenue-generating activities.
The siloed SDR approach gets messy
When isolated, it can seem like inbound and outbound SDRs are working toward two completely different goals, with differing responsibilities and benchmarks for performance. But the reality is that all SDR teams have the same goal and are trying to speak with the same decision makers.
There are a couple of scenarios that come to mind when considering the possible consequences of a siloed team structure.
Scenario #1: Lack of attribution
Miscommunication between inbound and outbound SDR teams can significantly affect attribution of SQL conversions to the right rep or channel. Here’s a hypothetical to demonstrate:
- An outbound SDR cold calls a new lead for your company.
- The cold lead is not qualified or converted on the first call, but ends up passing along information about your company to a colleague they work with.
- Their colleague looks up your company online, decides to download one of your whitepapers, and their contact details are sent to your database as an MQL.
- An inbound SDR follows up with new MQL, qualifies and converts the lead to an SQL, then sets a sales meeting with your closer.
This is a prime example of how outbound efforts drive inbound leads. But because the prospect account is split along inbound/outbound lines, the outbound activity appears ineffective.
In this situation, the outbound rep made the first touch and generated awareness for the account. But leadership has no visibility into communications happening within the prospect’s own company, so there’s a slim chance the outbound SDR will be credited for the part they played in this conversion.
Not only is this unfair for the outbound rep, whose individual metrics are at stake, but this scenario can also impact the accuracy of reporting on the team’s metrics.
When inbound and outbound are divided, it becomes much more difficult to attribute a precise lead source for sales-qualified leads.
Scenario #2: Brand damage
Disorganization that can result from siloing the sales development function between inbound and outbound reps might also be reflected externally. Consider the impact of this disorganization on your prospects and how it may affect the perception of your company’s brand.
Here’s the scenario:
- An outbound SDR cold calls a decision maker for an account, the cold lead doesn’t pick up, and the SDR leaves a voicemail.
- The voicemail generates some interest for the lead and influences them to delegate researching your product to one of their employees.
- After reviewing your website, the employee submits a request through your contact form to get further information.
- Later, an inbound SDR follows up with the employee, now an MQL, and ends up setting a meeting for them with sales.
- The employee, now an SQL, attends the sales meeting and is in the process of facilitating the purchase decision.
- The outbound rep continues to call on and email the original lead (unaware that this account is already at the opportunity level).
Badgering a contact that is already interested in purchasing from your company, especially a high-level decision maker, can threaten the deal. It can also attach negative associations to your brand that may cost you future referrals.
This is a risk that sales teams take when they keep their SDRs siloed.
Not only does this scenario have the potential to negatively impact your brand and lose you deals, but it’s also inefficient for an outbound rep to keep knocking on the door of an account that an inside rep has already walked through.
It’s worth mentioning that the chances of this happening is higher for companies who do not use any type of an account-based sales strategy. Ideally, SDRs should have visibility into the accounts of companies you target, and all contacts associated with the account should share a home in your database. If you treat your contacts as separate entities within your database, you run a much higher risk of losing track of your customer relationships as they develop.
But even with an account-based strategy, siloed teams increase your chances of an SDR overlooking an important interaction and making a negative impression for your brand.
This is yet another reason why the benefits of an allbound SDR team can’t be emphasized enough.
Allbound helps you scale
With an allbound outreach strategy, inbound and outbound efforts work together instead of against each other to increase SQLs.
Rather than slicing your database by type of lead, you can organize contacts by the account they fall under and give individual reps ownership of specific accounts. This allows them better insight into their assigned segments, so they will be able to keep track of their target companies and each interaction they make.
How should accounts be divided among your reps? What your SDR team needs is a defined line of segmentation, which may come in several different forms:
- Geographic territories
- Alphabetized set of accounts
- Segmented by industry or vertical
You can see above that geographic territories are still a favorite method B2B companies use to split their SDR territories.
Splitting accounts by location also allows you to get more granular as your SDR team grows, by combining other factors to create new territories such as: tech companies in the Northeast.
Choose a segmentation approach that makes sense for your company and your buyers. In the long run, assigning groups of accounts to reps will be easier to scale, as it’s simple to replicate for different lead volumes and adjust to create equal footing for each SDR.
Allbound gives SDRs more confidence
Calling on warm and cold leads are two very different tasks that have very different average outcomes.
It’s easier for reps to withstand the frequent rejection from cold calling when they are encouraged by their success with MQL follow up.
For reps who only cold call, the monotony of calling through a database and consistently getting sent to voicemail or hung up on can become overwhelmingly discouraging. And believe it or not, when the rep sounds discouraged, once they finally get a prospect on the phone, the lead will be able to pick up on that tone.
When the monotony of cold calling is broken up by calling on more responsive warm leads, the momentum from the more successful conversations carries over to their cold calling efforts.
This encouragement improves morale for both your SDRs and leads, as prospects will feed off of the optimism and positive energy being conveyed. This often results in more fulfilling and productive conversations on both the inbound and outbound front.
Allbound improves SDR performance
Inbound activities make your team’s outbound activities better, and vice versa.
Inbound follow up gives reps more at-bats, more opportunities to speak with the right prospects. With a greater number of conversations being held, allbound SDRs are able to dig into the common pain points of your buyers and practice handling the common objections.
At the same time, outbound activities improve inbound by teaching reps how to fight for the appointment.
It takes special skills to convert a cold lead to a sales-qualified lead. Cold calling forces SDRs to learn:
- How to get prospects talking
- How to exploit their pain points to steer the conversation toward a meeting
If an SDR is able to handle this daunting task, handling warm inbound leads becomes a walk in the park in comparison. Allbound reps are able to take what they’ve learned from cold calling and use that momentum to qualify inbound leads more efficiently and shorten the sales cycle.
The reciprocal benefits of inbound and outbound activities demonstrates exactly why these tasks shouldn’t separated.
An allbound SDR teams gives your reps the chance to grow professionally with a polished set of prospecting and qualification skills. This in turn helps you grow your sales by strengthening performance throughout the team.
Better evaluate your SDR team
Considering the difference between inbound and outbound conversion rates, siloed SDR teams shouldn’t be held to the same standard. The playing field isn’t even, so you can’t expect the same number of SQLs to be generated.
But with an allbound team, all reps are on equal footing when it comes to their opportunities to convert leads.
The fact that you can measure all your SDRs along the same lines means that you can get more visibility into which efforts are working and which aren’t. Since data for each team aren’t isolated from each other, leadership can get more visibility into the first touch on a contact or account.
In this way, it’s easier to track if your inbound lead generation or your outbound outreach is falling behind. Then you can adjust your strategy appropriately for better outcomes.
Adjust SDR metrics for inbound and outbound volume
Keep in mind that inbound lead volume constantly fluctuates, depending on what kind of marketing initiatives are in place. If you silo your inbound reps, your SDRs may find themselves at a standstill when inbound volume dwindles.
But an allbound team ensures reps stay busy and always have leads to call on.
When it comes to setting expectations for an allbound SDR team, it helps to set a target for the outbound activity. Otherwise, you may find that SDRs are waiting around for the easy inbound leads to come in, instead of pursuing the cold ones.
Of course, targets will need to be controlled and account segments may need to be adjusted to keep up with fluctuations on both ends. Your data building team may be generating more cold leads to be called on, which can take time away from reps to drive inbound activities.
Your benchmarks should be reasonable for the volume of both inbound and outbound leads at any given time.
Growing companies need an allbound team
An allbound strategy is not only easier to scale and measure, but it also improves your SDRs’ outlook and expertise. Choosing to implement an allbound structure, instead of siloing your teams, is a step toward a better aligned sales and marketing engine.
At FHG, we’re always happy to help companies build out their allbound teams with talented, knowledgeable reps. Just contact one of our Specialists to learn how our SDRs can help your company grow.