SalesInside Sales vs Outside Sales – a direct comparison

July 7, 2021by Rebekah Gellert
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Sales professionals 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 for.

Traditionally, 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 organization.

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 professionals working in both roles.

What is Inside Sales?

Inside sales are also referred to as remote 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 representative. 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.

The role requires skills in research and being able to understand the needs of a business and challenges they face. Effective sales reps carefully plan their appointments and messaging by learning more about their prospects and where they work. This can be done by creating a BuyerDNA.

They also require 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 demonstrations. This is particularly common in software sales.

To quickly recap, inside sales reps sell remotely. This should not be confused with telemarketing. Successful inside sales reps combine 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 phone, 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.

Inside sales vs outside sales - a direct comparison?

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.

Final thoughts

Throughout this blog we have explored the differences between inside sales and outside sales. We have discussed the different tasks they carry out while also highlighting the growing amount of overlap there is between the two when it comes to adopted technology.

As we slowly return to a state of normality, it will be interesting to see what impact COVID-19 has had on the future landscape and how this will change the divide between inside and outside sales. Inside sales will only continue to become more dominant as we step closer towards our fully digital future. However, as we’ve clearly identified, there is still a need for in-person sales.

The effectiveness of both inside and outside sales within an organization ultimately hinges on their industry, their customers, and how they prefer to be sold to.

Companies should strive to experiment and determine a sales structure and strategy that both directly suits the needs of their current customer base while also being adaptable to future shifts in sales trends.

Rebekah Gellert Inside Out
Originally from Norway, Rebekah’s was raised in the Tampa Bay area. From her first job at 16, she found success with Sales and Marketing exclusively. Although it didn’t go in the direction of music videos and commercials as her childhood dreams had hoped, her experience in the financial industry and real estate enabled her to establish her own company and travel. With focus on digital and social media marketing, advertising, brand awareness, content, and brand design, her motto is “don’t present a problem without offering a solution.” She follows the idealogy of “proactive, not reactive”, and enjoys analytical processes, working under pressure, and finding order in chaos. Following the sale of her company, Rebekah currently holds the position of Head of Marketing and Sales Enablement and resides in Downtown St. Petersburg.

Rebekah Gellert

Originally from Norway, Rebekah's was raised in the Tampa Bay area. From her first job at 16, she found success with Sales and Marketing exclusively. Although it didn’t go in the direction of music videos and commercials as her childhood dreams had hoped, her experience in the financial industry and real estate enabled her to establish her own company and travel. With focus on digital and social media marketing, advertising, brand awareness, content, and brand design, her motto is “don’t present a problem without offering a solution.” She follows the idealogy of “proactive, not reactive”, and enjoys analytical processes, working under pressure, and finding order in chaos. Following the sale of her company, Rebekah currently holds the position of Head of Marketing and Sales Enablement and resides in Downtown St. Petersburg.

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Rebekah Gellert Inside Out
Originally from Norway, Rebekah’s was raised in the Tampa Bay area. From her first job at 16, she found success with Sales and Marketing exclusively. Although it didn’t go in the direction of music videos and commercials as her childhood dreams had hoped, her experience in the financial industry and real estate enabled her to establish her own company and travel. With focus on digital and social media marketing, advertising, brand awareness, content, and brand design, her motto is “don’t present a problem without offering a solution.” She follows the idealogy of “proactive, not reactive”, and enjoys analytical processes, working under pressure, and finding order in chaos. Following the sale of her company, Rebekah currently holds the position of Head of Marketing and Sales Enablement and resides in Downtown St. Petersburg.