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Outside Sales: Definition, Differences and Tips

March 1, 2021

Successful sales representatives are knowledgeable about the products they sell and have strong customer service skills. Outside salespeople use these characteristics to meet potential clients in person and build lasting relationships. Working as an outside salesperson consists of constantly traveling and adjusting their schedule to fit the clients' schedules. In this article, we explain what outside sales are, the responsibilities of an outside salesperson, the difference between outside and inside sales and tips for being a successful outside salesperson.

What are outside sales?

Outside sales occur when a salesperson regularly meets with clients or customers in the field. Employees who work in outside sales are rarely in a typical office environment and instead travel to the client to sell them a product or service. They usually meet with clients in a location that's most convenient for them. This can be the client's office, a coffee shop, a conference room or any other professional meeting area.

What is an outside sales representative?

An outside sales representative is a business professional who works outside of a traditional office area to meet with and sell to clients. Outside sales representatives meet in person with prospective customers to either sell their product or build a relationship with a current client.

Since they're regularly traveling to meet with clients, outside sales representatives operate on the clients' schedules. This often causes them to work outside of regular work hours. They may meet a client before or after business hours to connect with them, provide a product demonstration and answer any questions about their services. Outside sales representatives rarely work in a typical office atmosphere, so they may work from a remote or home office.

Related: Learn About Being an Outside Sales Representative

Outside sales representative responsibilities

Outside sales representatives must ensure they stay on top of their regular sales tasks while factoring in time to travel and regularly meet with new and current customers. Common duties and responsibilities of outside sales representatives include:

  • Meeting with customers in person to educate them and sell their product or service
  • Building and nurturing ongoing relationships with current customers by meeting them regularly in the field
  • Providing hands-on demonstrations or tutorials of products
  • Making phone calls or conducting video conferences with customers
  • Renewing or negotiating contract terms with current or previous customers
  • Scheduling appointments with clients and working around their schedule
  • Setting and meeting sales quotas every month
  • Attending conferences and conventions to present the product or service to potential customers

Outside sales vs. inside sales

Inside sales representatives work primarily inside of their office. Both inside and outside sales employees can be crucial to helping a sales department function properly. Inside sales employees regularly cold call prospective customers to pitch their product and answer any questions they may have. Because they're quickly calling customers from their desks, they can gain potential prospects more efficiently.

Outside sales representatives excel at providing in-person demonstrations and check-ins. This can help make their product seem more humanistic and familiar, which can result in the salesperson building a stronger relationship with the client.

There are some key differences between working in outside and inside sales. Employees who work in outside sales typically:

  • Work independently from their remote office
  • Maintain a flexible schedule to meet with clients when it's most convenient for them
  • Constantly travel to different locations meeting new people
  • Receive little to no supervision throughout the workweek
  • Usually sell more complex products or services to higher-level employees

Inside sales employees often:

  • Collaborate with team members within the office daily
  • Work in an office environment with a regular full-time schedule
  • Sell a product over the phone without the ability to provide visual aids
  • Primarily communicate with clients over the phone or via video
  • Regularly cold call clients from an office

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

B2B vs. B2C outside sales

Outside salespeople often sell their products to a specific audience. A business-to-business (B2B) salesperson sells their service to another business. For example, a task management software system may sell their product to other businesses to help them keep track of their everyday tasks.

Businesses may be more challenging to sell to since they are aware of common sales tactics, because their own sales team likely uses them regularly as well. This is why many outside sales representatives often have extensive sales experience. They know how to sell their product in a unique and personable way. Traveling and meeting clients in person also allows them to work directly with clients and build a trustworthy relationship that goes beyond basic sales tactics.

Typically, when companies sell a product to another business, they are usually maintaining an ongoing relationship with the client. This is because B2B companies are usually investing in another business's ongoing service. As a result, businesses may send an outside sales representative to present the contract to the client and negotiate any terms.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing is when a business sells directly to a customer. A clothing store selling shoes to a customer is an example of B2C sales. This is often a single transaction, as the consumer may purchase the product and never see the salesperson again. Since the customer is less familiar with common sales tactics, an outside salesperson can these to easily sell the product to the customer.

Related: What Is the Difference Between B2C and B2B?

Tips for working in outside sales

Working as an outside salesperson takes strong time management and customer service skills, as they regularly travel and sell to new clients. Use these tips to perform well in an outside sales role:

Research the company beforehand

Before arriving at a company, make sure you conduct extensive research on them to make your sales pitch personable. Since they're aware of common sales tactics, you should try to make yours unique and specific toward them to stand out from the competition.

Look at the company's website and search for them online. This can help you identify any challenges the company may be facing to help you better explain how your product is a beneficial solution for them. If you know the name of the prospect you're meeting, you can research them as well by viewing their social media pages or reading about them on the company's website, if available.

Know your product

You should be highly knowledgeable about your product when selling it. Your customers may have specific questions about how it operates, which you should be ready to answer. If they see how well you know your product and can supply answers to all their questions, they may be more interested in using it. Knowing more about your product and its industry also sells you as a reliable source of knowledge, making it easier to establish trust and a relationship with customers.

Meet with your product's development team or a subject matter expert within your company. Ask as many questions as possible about the product to ensure you know everything about how it operates to relay this information to any prospective and current customers.

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