Outbound and inbound telemarketing are two elements of the same process: marketing to prospects and customers using the telephone. In some call centers, operators combine inbound and outbound roles. In others, the roles are separate. Operators handling inbound calls might also handle customer service calls in addition to their telemarketing role.


Inbound telemarketing operators handle incoming calls placed by customers and prospects. These callers might include prospective customers responding to advertisements or direct marketing communications, or those simply making general inquiries about a product or service. The telemarketer’s role is to move the sales opportunity forward by qualifying the prospect, arranging an appointment for a field sales representative to follow up, or taking an order over the phone.


Outbound telemarketing operators make "cold calls" to prospective customers. They select prospects from a list and aim to raise awareness of a product or service, or convince the contact to place an order. Outbound telemarketers follow a script when making the call. The script guides them through the key points to make to the prospect. It also includes suitable responses to objections from the prospect.


Outbound operators are proactive in creating opportunities for a sale, while inbound operators tend to be more reactive. With training, however, inbound operators can also take a proactive approach by trying to "upsell" the caller a higher value product or service.

Sales Cycle

Inbound and outbound telemarketers both play important roles in the sales cycle and decision-making process of business-to-business marketing. Here, the sale typically moves through four stages: the prospective business customer identifies a need, seeks information, evaluates suppliers’ offers and negotiates a deal. In the initial stages, inbound telemarketers respond to requests for information and arrange appointments with different decision-makers. When the prospect is evaluating offers, outbound telemarketers contact key decision makers at the business to offer additional information or resources and move prospects closer to a sale.


Inbound telemarketers are often viewed by customers as advisers with a consultative role. Outbound telemarketers are perceived as more intrusive, focused on sales targets. The two roles require different characteristics. Inbound telemarketers must have empathy for a customer's needs as well as a strong understanding of the products and services they represent. Outbound operators require good sales skills and must have a high tolerance of rejection in the difficult cold-calling environment.