Inside Sales vs Outside Sales: Everything You Need to Know | Fileboard

Over the past several decades sales methods have remained mainly the same. Sales organizations employed field sales representatives (also called outside sales representatives) who have met their clients and closed deals face-to-face. However, nowadays sales is undergoing an important transformation. Many sales organizations, especially B2B sales organizations and B2C companies that sells high value goods and services, invest more and more in a new sales model that enable them to handle high touch transactions remotely. This new sales model, called inside sales, involves multiple touch points and requires inside sales representatives to work in teams, and cooperate with managers and marketers in order to convert leads into customers.

Difference between inside sales and outside sales representative jobs

Outside sales representatives’ weekly schedule includes traveling to the clients’ location (work outside their office) in order to negotiate with them and close every deal in person. However, inside sales representatives look for potential customers and keep in touch with them via telephone or email while staying inside their office. In other words, inside sales is remote sales. For years, inside sales representatives’ duty was to generate leads for the senior outside sales representatives who closed the deals. This is no longer the case. Besides sales prospecting, inside sales representatives also cope with inbound sales, lead qualification, sales follow-up and CRM data logging. Moreover, they might accompany their leads during the whole sales cycle while cooperating with marketing and other branch of business.

The job of inside and outside sales representatives differs significantly. Those aspiring sales representatives who are wondering which position would be suitable to them first have to decide whether independence is more important than interdependence and whether they prefer to meet new people regularly over working with the same peers every day. Besides these factors, there are other important differences between the work of inside and outside sales representatives.


Outside sales representatives

Outside sales representative jobs are suitable for self-starters who prefer working independently over being member of a team. Outside salesmen manage their own schedule as they are responsible for making and keeping their appointments. They have to be able to adapt fast and easily to new environments and people as their workplace may change day by day and they meet and negotiate with new clients very often. They have to get used to travelling a lot and take into consideration travel time when they plan their weekly schedule. As outside sales representative meet face-to-face with their potential customers they have to pay attention to their appearance. Furthermore, outside salesmen are their own daily supervisor: regardless of who their boss is, they have to stay focused and look after themselves without having anyone looking over their shoulder.

Success factors

In order to be successful, outside sales rep should possess or develop useful skills. They must have excellent interpersonal skills that help them build strong relationship with prospects. They need to possess good presentation skills in order to be able to demonstrate their products and services and persuade their clients that their goods can create value to them. Outside salesmen should also have good negotiation skills which help them conclude deals as fast as possible.


Inside sales representatives

Inside salesmen work a set amount of time in their office. As they spend the whole workday in their office, collaboration with peers and office politics play a more important role in their life than in case of the outside sales representatives. They have to be on-call during the whole day. Moreover, they must be able to give an excellent description of their product and persuade potential customers that it can help solve their problems without showing a physical prototype. This does not mean that inside sales representatives do not have the chance to show any visual about their products: thanks to screen sharing technologies, inside sales representatives also have the chance to demonstrate their product by making real-time presentations.

Success factors

Inside sales representatives also need to develop handy skills. They should do some pre-call research to find out what information can be relevant to the prospects. Pre-call research is very important but inside salesmen should not stop at this point: they should optimize their LinkedIn profile, identify the industry influencers and create relevant content to their clients. Besides these success factors, they should develop the skill of asking good questions which make prospects smile instead of causing them pain. Like outside sales representatives, inside salesmen must develop excellent presentation skills to demonstrate their products and explain potential customers how their products and services can solve the clients’ problem using screen sharing technologies.

Why can inside sales be more effective than outside sales?

Inside sales model has several advantages compared to outside sales model. Here, I list the most important of benefits of employing inside sales representatives.

Time savings: Based on the research of Pace Productivity Inc. outside sales representatives spend 13% of their week with travelling, 23% with administration, 10% with service, 12% with order processing, 22% with selling, 6% with lunch/breaks and 4% with other activities. Inside sales representatives can spend 35% (instead of 22%) of their week with selling as they do not have to travel to their prospects’ location. Moreover, they can decrease the amount of time spend with administration work as there are inside sales tools that logs all notes and meeting details in CRM systems. Thanks to these tools inside sales representatives can spend more time with selling instead of updating manually the applied CRM system.

Cost effectiveness: Inside sales representatives need only basic infrastructure like telephone and Internet and the sales organization can save the travel cost of salesmen.

Flexibility: Inside sales representatives can work not just in their office but also at home and any places where they have Internet access. Moreover, they can close deals using mobile devices (without meeting the customer in person) after the working hours.

Measurement of customer engagement: Inside sales tools enable inside sales representatives to measure the prospects’ digital behaviour: which prospect open a file, how long they view files, pages, slides and whether they pay attention during a live meeting. Based on these information, inside sales representatives can make up an engagement score which tells which prospect is sales ready. Click here to find out how Fileboard can help you track the prospects’ behaviour.

3 factors that determine which sales model should be applied in a sales organization 

In general inside sales can be more effective than outside sales but it can be worth to verify whether there are situations in which the use outside sales model can be more beneficial than the use of inside sales model. Based on the research of Steve W. Martin, 3 key factors determine whether a sales organisation should apply inside or outside sales model: sales organization development stage, complexity of sold products and sales leaders’ perception about the relative effectiveness of inside and outside sales models.

Sales organization development stage

Sales organizations can be classified into five groups based upon their development stage: build, compete, maintain, extend and cull. Every sales organization face different challenges depending on in which development stage the companies operate. At the early stages of the development (build, compete, maintain) organizations are likely to scale up the sales presence in order to be able to compete effectively against larger competitors. Consequently, at the early stages of organization development companies tend to set up a large remote (inside) sales team. At the extend stage of sales development, sales organizations have already adopted to the needs of their customers, so their established sales model does not change significantly. At his stage, outside sales representatives can be very effective at maintaining and strengthening relationship with customers. At the last (cull) stage, sales organizations mainly focus on revitalizing the demoralized and decreasing sales force.

Sales cycle complexity

Sales cycles can be categorized into three groups based on their complexity: point-specific sales, platform cloud-based sales and enterprise sales. The complexity of every sales cycle depends on the number of individuals and departments involved in the purchase decision and the size of purchase. Based in these factors, point specific solutions (solutions to certain individuals in a single department) have the simplest sales cycles and enterprise sales (solutions to many individuals in different departments) have the most complex sales cycles. Complex enterprise solutions require the involvement of field sales representatives but companies offering high complexity solutions also employ inside sales representatives who cope with sales prospecting. However, sales organization that offer cloud-based and point-specific sales solution can execute sales exclusively through remote channels.

Managers’ perception of sales model effectiveness

The applied sales model also depends on the decision makers’ perception of relative effectiveness of inside and outside sales models. Based on the research of Steve W. Martin, sales organizations employ outside sales representatives to maintain and strengthen relationships and close high ticket deals and hire inside sales representatives to make use of new, creative sales opportunities.

All things considered, inside and outside sales model differs considerably from each other: the weekly schedule of inside and outside sales representatives, the required skills to be successful in each position, the relative effectiveness of the two sales model in general and situations in which one the sales model should be applied are different.


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What’s Inside:

  • Industry Facts About the Insside Sales Approach
  • Advantages of the Inside Sales Model
  • When Not to Use Inside Sales