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Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: What's the Difference?

September 14, 2021

If you’re new to the sales world, you may be confused about the difference between inside sales vs. outside sales. While they are similar in function and goals, there are several differences to understand. The most important is whether you sell your product or services in person or remotely. In this article, we discuss the differences between inside and outside sales, skill sets and salaries.

What is inside sales?

Inside sales is the process of making sales over the phone or online, typically within the employer’s building. An inside sales associate is often part of a larger team of inside sales representatives operating under a sales manager.

Related: How To Write an Effective Sales Email

Inside sales responsibilities

There are two primary approaches to client acquisition and management for inside sales specialists: targeted and cold-calling.

In targeted sales, an inside sales associate maintains contact with existing clients. They act as the company’s point-of-contact and typically helps with client orders, troubleshooting and other client needs. Inside sales professionals exist to create and maintain long-lasting relationships with the company’s clients which, in turn, promotes steady income.

In cold-calling sales, an inside sales associate creates new contacts with businesses and individuals. This can be a more challenging situation for the salesperson, as they will often speak with contacts that weren’t planning on making a purchase.

In both targeted and cold-calling positions, inside sales professionals need to have the following capabilities:

  • Persistence: For targeted accounts, it can often take multiple sales calls and regular check-ins to earn and maintain business with a company. For cold-calling, it’s necessary to be able to push on through potentially long runs of nonsales in order to find an interested customer.

  • Communication: The ability to clearly convey what you are trying to say is vital to inside sales professionals looking to initiate or maximize a sales relationship with a client. In most roles, you are communicating through a phone call, text or email and you need to be able to make that communication count.

  • Intuition: The ability to read others is crucial. Both targeted and cold-calling staff should be able to understand their clients’ responses (i.e. what they say and how they say it) to respond in a way that increases the likelihood of a sale.

  • Computer literacy: Most inside sales reps will need to know how to use a computer to track their work, record contacts and process orders and payments among other basic sales functions.

What is outside sales?

Outside sales is the process of conducting sales outside of the company’s primary location, typically through face-to-face interactions. Outside sales representatives work in a broad range of potential settings, from visiting clients directly to meeting in other designated public and private spaces. Sales can also happen from your remote office.

Related: Top Questions To Expect During a Sales Interview

Outside sales responsibilities

An outside sales representative’s responsibilities vary depending on the setting in which they are working as well as whether they have a targeted or cold lead function.

A sales associate working in direct or targeted sales is commonly assigned a small area within the company’s region and is responsible for building relationships with businesses within that area. This entails making both visits and phone calls to existing clients in order to maintain strong relationships and renew orders when needed, as well as scheduling appointments with potential clients.

When meeting with a prospective client, the sales rep pitches the client on the company’s products or services in an effort to close a deal.

Some outside sales reps work primarily with cold leads, either in a permanent position inside of a store or in a booth set up at a festival or expo. When working in this setting, they’re responsible for engaging new clients and gaining contact information for follow-up.

In both targeted and cold lead positions, outside sales professionals need to have the following capabilities:

  • Interpersonal skills: The ability to use your friendly personality and personal charisma to win over clients, new and existing, is crucial to maintaining a solid sales record.

  • Organization: Outside sales professionals have more to organize and more paperwork overall than inside sales. Having solid organizational skills is essential for keeping track of all order sheets and product promos, along with contact info and scheduling.

  • Communication: It’s vitally important for sales professionals to be able to make pitches in a way that people understand and follow with ease.

  • Math: One benefit for in-person sales is the ability to use scratch math to make points. It can be quite convincing to do some quick math to show high savings.

Inside sales vs. outside sales: What are the differences?

The primary difference between inside and outside sales is location and the effect it has on the sales process.

Outside sales representatives may be placed into situations for which there is not a similar comparison in inside sales, such as working in a sales booth at a town festival. One major benefit that an outside sales representative has is the face-to-face contact they have with their clients. Direct contact makes it easier to build a strong relationship with customers, resulting in more loyal connections with long-term clients.

Other key differences between inside sales and outside sales include:

  • Inside sales representatives interact with clients almost exclusively remotely, as opposed to outside sales representatives, who can work exclusively face-to-face or use a combination of both.

  • Inside sales representatives are capable of contacting a greater number of leads in the same period of time, but they may sometimes experience lower closing rates.

  • Outside sales representatives have higher operating costs for their transport and lodging when required, but they often garner higher salaries as well.

  • Sales orders placed by inside sales representatives will usually be smaller than those of outside sales representatives, as they are more likely to be from first-time customers.

  • Outsides sales representatives have to complete more preparatory work, such as organizing slides for a meeting or preparing a booth for a demonstration at a show.

  • Inside sales representatives should be capable of closing sales without the assistance of visual aids.

Read more: 15 Sales Jobs That Pay Well

Sales team jobs

Finding the right sales position comes down to your personal preferences. Both inside and outside sales positions offer high-quality jobs with high-earning potential. Here are a few of the more popular positions in sales. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link for each salary below:

National average salary: $10.97 per hour

Primary duties: Sales associates greet customers and engage them in a friendly manner while ringing up purchases. They may also receive returned items and place them in a designated area to be assessed for restocking.

National average salary: $11.87 per hour

Primary duties: Retail sales associates offer advice to customers when asked and provide informed opinions and suggestions. They also handle the sale and return of purchases and maintain cleanliness on the sales floor.

National average salary: $50,498 per year

Primary duties: Inside sales representatives contact hot and cold leads to open relationships with potential customers and grow existing ones.

National average salary: $69,642 per year

Primary duties: Outside sales representatives travel between clients to meet with existing customers and potential new customers face-to-face. They demonstrate products or give presentations on the benefits of products to generate sales.

National average salary: $100,963 per year

Primary duties: A regional sales manager oversees the performance of sales professionals in multiple locations or branches. They spend time setting sales targets, assessing performance against goals and meeting with regional managers to discuss operations.

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