Inside Sales vs Outside Sales – A Direct Comparison
Sales pros are typically divided into two different groups: inside sales reps and outside sales reps.
They are both defined by the different sales activities they perform day-to-day. As well as the industries and sales scenarios they are best suited to.
Typically, there has been a clear divide between inside and outside sales, though this line has continued to blur. That overlap is due to the increasing influence technology plays within the sales pipeline. It’s also common to see collaboration between inside and outside sales reps working as part of a larger sales team.
As a company, you may be considering how to best structure a sales team and the proportion of inside/outside reps you employ.
Or, you might be someone who is considering a career in sales. You might want to better understand the sales processes and techniques of both roles.
Our blog will explore how inside sales and outside sales differ. We’ll also cover what is expected of sales reps working in both roles.
What is Inside Sales?
As the name implies, inside sales happen from inside a company’s offices or working from home. This is instead of dealing with clients in face to face meetings.
Is inside sales cold calling? It’s a common question many ask when looking into becoming a sales rep. To be clear, inside sales isn’t the same as telemarketing. Cold calling may fall under the list of activities of an inside sales rep but it’s only one of the ways reps use to communicate with buyers.
The primary contact methods used by inside sales reps include phone, email, and social media. There are video calls, online conferencing, and other channels too. It’s common to use multiple methods to connect with prospects as part of a “touch pattern”. This makes inside sales more dynamic and effective than simple telemarketing, drawing on AI, automation and emotional intelligence to sell more impactfully.
The role requires skills in research and being able to understand the needs of a business and challenges they face. Good sales reps carefully plan their appointments and messaging by learning more about their prospects and where they work.
They also need confidence in pitching. Reps need to communicate the benefits of the products and services they are selling. Depending on your industry, this process will include remote demos. This is especially common in software sales.
To quickly recap, inside sales reps sell remotely. Successful inside sales reps blend various tools along with customer relationship management (CRM) systems to nurture leads. This will help reach their sales goals.
In the next section we’ll be giving you an overview of outside sales.
What is Outside Sales?
Outside sales – also known as field sales – is the sale of products and services done in-person, face-to-face with a buyer. Outside sales representatives work out in the field as opposed to being in-house and working from an office.
This practice can be expensive and usually requires reps to travel. This is in order to attend talks, conventions, events, and appointments. As a result, outside sales are mainly used to close big deals sizes with high value target accounts.
Outside sales professionals need to be autonomous self-starters who can work independently. That said, they will still need to operate as part of a larger team. The role demands a different, more flexible mindset than inside sales though isn’t naturally more challenging. However, selling in-person can come with more pressure than doing so remotely.
There is an overlap with inside sales reps in terms of the tools and channels they use. While key sales chats and demos can be done in person, field sales reps will spend most of their time contacting customers via email and sales calls, as well as through video calls.
What do inside and outside sales reps do?
When it comes to the day-to-day operations of an inside sales rep, these differ between “outbound” and “inbound” practices.
Outbound looks to identify and engage new customers who aren’t aware of a company’s products and services. Meanwhile, inbound will deal with customers who have approached a company looking for a solution to their problem.
Whether outbound or inbound, sales reps will conduct phone calls, send emails, and connect with potential customers through social networks. To support this, they will log and update information using a CRM platform. Successful reps will also be expected to research their prospects and generate personas to optimize their sales strategy.
Although outside sales reps will perform similar tasks to inside sales reps, they will also spend time out in the field. They will book and attend appointments, visit offices, and appear at events and trade shows to network with prospects. As a result, an outside sales rep’s work calendar is less predictable than that of inside sales reps.
It’s worth noting that outside sales reps continue to perform more remote selling tasks. With buyers more comfortable dealing remotely with companies, this has had a natural impact on how many deals are made in person. This is an emerging trend that has no doubt been sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are a company deciding how you should best structure your sales team, you are no doubt wondering how many outside sales reps you should include, if any at all..
The short answer is that it depends. It depends on the customers you are attempting to reach and the methods of communication they feel most comfortable using. While buying remotely is easier and more convenient, there are still executives and decision makers who prefer to deal face-to-face, especially when it comes to more expensive purchases.
It also depends on the industry you operate in as well as the products or services you are selling. For example, if you are a software company, your inside sales reps will be able to demonstrate products and services remotely, whereas other industries may require site visits and in-person demonstrations conducted by outside sales reps.
When looking at the wider sales landscape, we can see that inside sales is growing at an accelerated pace. Organizations that have relied on outside sales are starting to lean towards 50/50 hybrid models. Many expecting to make a full shift to inside sales over the next few years.
Even though fewer people are being sold to in-person, there is still a value to outside sales. Virtual sales offer an effortless convenience that has become the new norm in how we buy consumer products though some decision makers are less comfortable with online sales when it comes to larger sales. Depending on the product, a physical demo will always be preferable to one done via video call.
As someone who is looking to start a career in sales, working in inside and outside sales both offer different benefits. Throughout this blog we have discussed how the two are converging though both require different mindsets.
Outside sales reps tend to close bigger deals and have traditionally been seen as superstars among sales teams, though they need to be highly flexible. They will primarily deal with the elite, including high level decision makers. They typically sell complex products and services that solve challenging or very technical problems.
Inside sales reps will usually employ a transactional sales model with a shorter sales cycle. Meanwhile, outside sales reps will work to a relational sales model with a long cycle. As a result, outside sales reps are paid more with a 36% higher base salary compared to inside sales reps.
Should I choose Inside or Outside Sales for My Business?
There’s no one-size-fits all for sales operations. Each business will have its own needs, specifications and requirements. Choosing between these sales models is, therefore, an important decision.
For most modern businesses, inside sales just makes sense. The market has grown hugely since 2020 – 300% faster than field sales according to SalesLoft. This is a trend that isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
Why? Because inside sales directly matches how buyers want to buy in the modern world. B2B buyers today want a digital experience, similar to the way they purchase in all facets of their personal lives. The writing is on the wall in terms of results too: companies with sales teams dominated by inside sales reps have a 9.8% higher quota attainment than field sales teams. As per Hubspot.
From the CFOs or an IT budget forecast perspective, an even higher percentage use the inside model due to the cost efficiencies and benefits in recruitment, attrition and retention. Working inside extends reach, meaning teams can be built cross-nationally or even across the globe.
Equally, with more people working remotely than ever, sellers are far less inclined to work out in the field. It’s an incredibly challenging hiring marketing to break into. The same can be said for prospects. They aren’t working in offices anymore; they’re working from home. You can’t expect to sell on someone’s doorstep or couch. All of these factors combined, clearly show that inside sales will continue to outpace field sales, and be the chosen map method where possible.
That’s not to say that field sales is dead; it just requires a different approach. If you decide to invest in a field sales team, you need to invest in a decent CMS system to control your entire team. Try to localize your team too to ensure there’s no overlap or confusion.
Many businesses also adopt a hybrid approach. This is becoming extremely popular at most sales companies. This approach can be extremely effective and enables businesses to cover more ground than one single approach – but you need to hire a variety of different talents for full operational effectiveness. Sellers need to be analytical enough to work as an inside seller, but agile enough to be a decent outside seller at the same time.
Throughout this blog we have explored the differences between inside sales and outside sales. We’ve looked at the different activities they engage in, proving the the growing overlap between the two roles.
As we slowly return to a state of normality, inside sales will only continue to become more widespread. Especially as we step closer towards a fully digital future. Yet, the power of both inside and outside sales is still relevant. It ultimately hinges on the industry, their customers, and how their buyers expect to be sold to.
Now, businesses should look to experiment. Discover a sales strategy that suits the needs of their customer base and be adaptable to future shifts in sales trends.
Originally from Iver in the United Kingdom, which she will proudly tell you is near where the Queen lives, Christina moved to the U.S.A. in the early 2010s before founding InsideOut in 2015. Fast forward 12 months to 2016 and InsideOut had 150+ employees and a 7,500 square-foot facility based in Florida! With 25+ years in sales and operations, the majority of which has been at board level, those who have met Christina would agree that she strives for operational excellence on a daily basis, consistently working to develop the individuals at InsideOut and help them unlock their full potential.