For sales leaders and business owners alike, it's essential to understand the difference between inside and outside sales—so you can decide which team is best suited for your business right now.
Below, we explain:

inside sales vs outside sales

What is inside sales?


Inside sales is a team dedicated to selling remotely from an office. Instead of traveling to meet with prospects in person, inside sales representatives talk with leads over the phone, via email, and video chat.


A variety of industries benefit from having an inside sales team, but they're best suited to selling lower-priced, transactional products.
For example, inside sales reps will make cold calls into a list of target accounts to gauge their need, interest, and budget for office furniture.
 

 

What is outside sales?


Outside sales refers to sales reps "in the field." While they may still spend time in an office, outside sales reps meet with customers face-to-face, too, often traveling to do so.


Outside sales teams are best suited to industries where:

For example: An enterprise company selling automation software may use outside sales reps to meet with customers, explain the product, provide in-person demos, and build relationships.
 

5 key differences between inside and outside sales

The most significant differences between outside vs. inside sales come down to:

inside sales vs outside sales

What do inside vs. outside sales reps do?

One of the biggest differences we highlighted above comes down to the roles and responsibilities of inside and outside sales reps and their skill sets. Let's break that down a little more.
 

Inside sales: key roles and responsibilities

Understand products thoroughly

Since they're selling primarily over the phone or email, inside sales representatives need to develop a deep understanding of the product(s) they sell—deep enough to quickly and clearly explain the functionality without an in-person demo to lean on.

Learn to do demos and answer questions

For digital products like software, inside salespeople are often responsible for running virtual demos, typically over video conferencing. Reps need to be prepared to answer prospect questions on the fly during these demos, too.

Build prospect relationships

Inside sales teams are often the first point of contact for potential customers, so reps need to be adept at developing positive relationships with new prospects. Inside reps should represent the company well—be friendly and professional, speak competently about the product, and confidently answer prospective client's questions.

Engage with interested prospects and build trust

Trust is the foundation of sales today, and it falls to inside sales teams to build that initial trust with new prospects and potential clients interested in their product. Be honest and think of yourself more as an advisor to prospects, offering educational resources and answering questions, rather than going for the hard sell.

Attain monthly sales targets

Inside sales teams are often held accountable to monthly sales goals for the number of small and large deals they close, meetings they book, or sales qualified leads (SQLs) they pass on to account managers, along with activity-based benchmarks for the numbers of calls made and emails sent.

Track and report data

As inside sales reps talk with prospects, gather information, and qualify or disqualify leads, they're responsible for reporting that data—often using CRM software to keep track of everything.

Outside sales: key roles and responsibilities

Outside sales teams are mostly deployed for longer sales cycles, products that buyers find complex, and higher-priced deals. To succeed, outside sales reps need to:

Research and monitor the competitors and market conditions

Outside salespeople are on the hook for handling prospects' objections on the fly. To do that, they need to always know what competitors are offering and general market conditions around the product.

Be on the ground in a particular sales territory and meet prospects

The most basic role of an outside sales professionals is to be on the ground and meet with prospects face-to-face, usually at the prospect's own office or even trade shows to win new business.

Call and arrange face-to-face meetings with prospects

To make that happen, outside sales reps are responsible for placing phone calls with prospects to schedule in-person meetings and set expectations and agendas.

Update the database or CRM with data

Outside sales reps need to update the company's CRM with details on meetings, sales stages, next steps, and other details that keep leadership in the know and ensure they're moving the sale forward.

Build and maintain relationships with prospects

The relationships outside sales handles are long-term, so relationship-building is a core competency for outside sales reps, building trust, navigating complex situations, and creating a positive relationship.

Conduct live demos of the product and explain benefits

Outside sales reps tend to sell more complex, newer, or less intuitive products, so they conduct demos in person. From there, it's the rep's job to explain the benefits, handle objections, and answer questions face-to-face.

Meet quarterly and annual sales targets

In outside sales, performance is judged based on quarterly and annual sales targets. Leadership is often less concerned with activity benchmarks and more interested in sales closed and quota retirement.

Inside sales and outside sales: what's your pick?

"I've always approached inside and outside as two sides of the same coin," Evan Tarver, co-founder and CEO of Selling Signals said.
"Ultimately, if you're building relationships with prospects and customers, a lot of that can be done inside an office over the phone, Zoom, and email. But it often pays (quite literally) to have your salespeople meet with prospects and customers in the field when a face-to-face interaction will help."
"If you find your sales process requiring a lot of lead nurturing, consider a blended approach as I've outlined above," Evan advised.
There are many things to consider when determining if your company needs an inside or outside sales team (or both!) Let's talk through a handful of the most important ones:

 

Product and industry

The product you're selling is the most important consideration as to whether you should build an outside or inside sales team. High-priced and high complexity products are best sold via in-person outside sales reps. Lower-priced, easy, and intuitive to understand products are often sold more efficiently by an inside sales team.

For example: An enterprise technology company selling a brand new category of software would benefit from having an outside b2b sales team to help explain and demo the product in-person and answer prospects' questions.

"As a digital marketing agency, inside sales has always been the preferred avenue for us because we sell to our leads entirely online. Because the way we work with clients functions completely in the online space, it wouldn't make sense to begin the selling process with an outside sales strategy," Kristaps Brencans, CMO at On The Map, explained.

inside sales vs outside sales

Tools and resources you can invest in

If you don't have the resources to cover travel for an outside sales rep, for example, then you're better off starting with inside sales. Here's another example: if you don't have an office space for inside sales reps to work in, you may opt for an outside sales team instead. Look at what's cost-effective for you. 

inside sales vs outside sales

 

Sales cycle length

Longer sales cycles typically involve many decision-makers and relationship management is even more critical. That's when outside sales representatives are your best option. Here's a counter-example: many SaaS products have a low price and self-service signup process, making the sales cycle very short. Inside sales may be all that companies like that need.

inside sales vs outside sales

Budget

To compensate for the travel, complexity of their jobs, and expertise required, outside sales representatives command higher salaries and commissions. So your budget is an important consideration here—can you afford an outside sales team?

inside sales vs outside sales

Ability to scale

The expertise required for outside sales reps, along with the budget and resources you need to build an outside sales team, affects your company's scalability. If you're expecting to need to scale quickly—after closing a new funding round, for example—an inside sales process may be the better option.

inside sales vs outside sales

Tools for inside sales and outside sales teams

Here are some of the tools different type of sales models will need to be successful for your company.

Sales calling tools

Both inside and outside reps will need a way to call prospects on the phone. A great sales calling tool tracks and records calls, lets reps view context and notes while on the phone, and offers analytics for management to track. Call masking is also helpful for both inside and outside sales reps to show their personal phone number, a number local to the customer, or the company's number.

Pro tip: With Freshsales CRM, you can enable reps to call from anywhere using Cloud Telephony and even mask calls with their phone number.

inside sales vs outside sales

Sales prospecting tools

We recommend using virtual sales tools like Linkedin Sales Navigator to help inside sales reps prospect, discovering new potential opportunities, finding contact information for leads, and pulling details to inform and tailor pitches.

You can also use Freshsales CRM for cold calling and cold emailing, track your cold prospects' response, and nurture them with emails. 

AI for sales

Sales email tracking tools

Emails sent to prospects need to be tracked so that both reps and sales leaders can keep track of the sales process. Metrics like the number of emails sent, opens, clicks, and bookings resulting from each email can help both reps and their managers track and improve email selling.

Pro tip: You can integrate Freshsales for two-way tracking of emails sent to and received from prospects.

inside sales vs outside sales

Sales automation tools

From emails and follow-ups to data entry and sales cycle tracking, both inside and outside sales teams benefit from automating repetitive tasks and workflows. Some tasks that can be automated include:

  • Data entry into your CRM

  • Scheduled emails and triggered campaigns

  • Sales reporting and analytics

  • Follow-up reminders and sales cycle tracking

  • Lead qualification

Pro tip: You can empower outside reps when they're on the go by using the Freshsales mobile app to give them access to all their data and workflows right on their smartphone.

inside sales vs outside sales

Video calling tool

Both inside and outside sales reps will need a video calling tool. In this category, you need something simple that just works. We recommend using Zoom, since it's reliable and most prospects will be familiar with the software.

 

Calendar and booking tool

When it comes to sharing availability and booking both sales calls and meetings, we recommend Google Calendar. It's easy to use on the go and works seamlessly with other calendar tools like Outlook and Apple.

Wrapping up

Both inside and outside sales reps have many responsibilities and skills in common. They both also benefit from a great CRM system. 

Outside sales reps need a CRM they can reference and update on the road to prepare for in-person meetings. Inside sales reps need a CRM that gives them the proper context for customer calls, simplifies tracking many prospects, and helps monitor and improve their close rate.

Freshsales CRM is a great option to help power and track the sales cycle for both inside and outside reps.

inside sales vs outside sales