Inside vs outside sales can often be perceived as complete opposites. According to the InsideSales.com research report on the State of Sales in the United States and EMEA, field sales made up 71.2% of the sales force, while inside sales made up only 28.8% of the sales force in 2017.
The situation is rapidly changing though, as the sales models are blending and the differences between the two become less noticeable. Both inside and outside sales play a vital role in the process of acquiring new customers.
However, depending on your business model and product, one sales model might be more suitable than the other. This article is intended to explain what each term means and how to tell the difference between inside sales vs. outside sales.
Inside sales are remote sales that happen while the salesperson is sitting in front of their computer. The inside salesperson doesn’t have direct access to customers, so forming personal connections is slightly harder.
If technology didn’t take the modern world by storm, it would be impossible to do inside sales. In the past, most sales happened face-to-face - there was a general public understanding that in order to buy or sell something you needed to meet a salesperson in real life. Nowadays, however, inside sales are as effective as outside sales.
Outside sales mean working in the field face-to-face with customers. The outside salesperson can speak to a customer in person, but they also spend a lot of time and effort organizing face-to-face meetings, hard knocking on doors, collecting business cards at events, and attending presentations and meetings.
Both outside and inside sales professionals use CRM as their main operating tool. Inside sales reps also use online telephony and video conferencing, while the outside salesperson has to employ an arsenal of equipment to move the sale forward. From presentation devices and software to on-site training materials, making a sale in the field requires a wider range of tools that are not always intuitive and easy to carry around.
Inside sales reps have a very methodical sales process that focuses on lead scoring rather than building long-lasting relationships, so the sales cycle is significantly shorter. Unlike inside sales reps, outside sales reps have a lot of preparation work to do - from numbers crunching to technical details explanations, outside sales reps have to know it all to give the best presentation of the product.
Outside sales are costly. Not only do you have to pay commissions that are hard to predict but there are numerous expenses that accompany the sales process such as plane tickets, golf club memberships, restaurants, and company car bills.
On the other hand, inside sales reps only need a desk and a working computer to do their jobs. The cost per acquisition is lower for the inside sales rep since they can reach a coveted balance of expenses and efficiency if they use the right mix of tools and strategies.
It’s easy for an inside rep to manage multiple interactions at once. Such CRM features like email automation and easy data retrieval help inside reps connect with hundreds of prospects and still ensure a personalized approach.
Outside sales are restricted by the abilities of one person. One outside sales rep can only pitch one client at a time. If an outside sales rep isn’t paying enough attention to a client, they risk losing the deal, that’s why outside reps try to focus on one project or client at a time.
There is more pressure on the outside sales reps to maintain outward appearance. They also tend to be more articulate and expressive as their gestures and facial expressions are part of their sales arsenal. In their work, outside sales professionals can also rely on the product because sometimes, showing a great product is enough to make a sale and no other skills are necessary.
Inside sales reps, on the other hand, mostly operate with their voice. They usually have a harder time explaining product benefits as they can’t show the physical product to the prospect. Inside sales reps also enjoy more support from their peers. They can bounce ideas off each other and learn new skills. Outside sales reps are usually doing work alone and rely heavily on self-development.
Inside sales reps are usually good at lead generation, while outside sales reps are great at closing deals. Unfortunately, many companies expect their sales reps to do both - lead generation and closing, which isn’t very effective.
The chosen sales method affects how well you can predict the revenue. It’s commonly accepted knowledge that the more leads you can generate, the more revenue you will get. With outside sales, it’s harder to predict revenue as the reps work with one client at a time and have to use people skills which are hard to quantify.
In a way, inside and outside sales complement each other and create a perfect balance that improves the quality of customer relationships and positively affects the business’s bottom line. However, there is really no single model for sales. Businesses are trying different models, testing various structures, and finding the right fit for their specific needs.
Inside and outside sales are currently going through a phase of transformation. Most companies adopt a hybrid model that combines the advantages of the two models into one.
As you try to solve the “inside sales vs outside sales” problem, consider your business model and the type of product or service you sell. In some instances, inside sales may be more effective than outside sales and vice versa.
For example, short online courses can usually be sold remotely, but complex educational programs and services require a personal approach. Your budget also has a great implication on the choice of a sales model. Large corporations can afford to pay for travel expenses and advanced sales tools for outside sales reps, while startups and small businesses can benefit from such a cost-effective solution as inside sales.
Finally, consider where your buyers are in the sales cycle. They might be comfortable with you reaching out to them via email at the very start, but as the purchasing decision stage approaches, they will likely want to see you in person to dispel the remaining doubts.