Skip to content

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: 5 Key Differences You Should Know

To build a robust sales team and attract top sales professionals, it’s important to understand the distinction between inside and outside salespeople.

When it comes to building your sales team, one key decision you’ll face is whether to prioritize inside sales or outside sales. Both sales positions play a crucial role in driving revenue, but they employ different approaches. Understanding the difference between the two is essential for finding the right mix for your organization’s strategy.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is Inside Sales?
  • What is Outside Sales?
  • Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: Five Main Differences
        • What you are selling
        • Who you are selling to
        • How you measure success
        • Technology and travel requirements
        • Sales skills
  • Which Sales Strategy is Right for You?

What is Inside Sales?

Inside sales occurs within the office environment. This includes a salesperson’s remote home office setting or onsite at a corporation’s office space. Practices and tools such as cold calling, email marketing, social media platforms, web conferences, and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms help inside sales professionals build relationships with new customers without the need for travel. An inside sales team is typically designed for sales velocity, volume, and a relatively lower cost of sale.

What is Outside Sales?

Outside sales professionals often meet prospective clients face-to-face. Just as the name suggests an outside salesperson will be conducting the majority of their business outside the office. Outside salespeople may take virtual calls, but they will frequently travel to meet with clients in person in order to develop a strong customer relationship. An outside sales person will use similar tools to an inside sales rep, such as a CRM platform. But the way they go about using these tools is reflective of their in-person sales style. 

Inside vs. Outside Sales: Five Main Differences

What You Are Selling

When considering hiring inside sales vs. outside salespeople, it’s important to assess the product or service you’re selling. For products that can be explained simply or purchased quickly at a lower price point, an inside sales approach may be appropriate. If you have a large product or services portfolio, inside salespeople can also identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell additional products to existing customers. By understanding customer preferences, inside salespeople can effectively present relevant offerings. This ultimately helps your company maximize customer value.

Additionally, it’s helpful to use an inside sales agent if the decision-making process can be made by individuals, rather than requiring multiple stakeholder sign-offs. Industries that commonly utilize inside sales teams include B2C businesses and tech sales for SMB and midmarket companies.

On the other hand, outside sales teams excel in situations where the product or service being sold is complex and requires a longer sales cycle. If the offering has the following then an outside sales approach is more effective:

  •       A product and service.
  •       A high price point.
  •       Requires a multi-year commitment.
  •       Involves multiple stakeholders who need to sign off on the purchase.

Typical examples of industries that employ outside sales teams include enterprise software, IT services, and industrial solutions.

Who You Are Selling To

Inside sales teams often use digital communication strategies (ex: LinkedIn and Zoom). This means inside sales team’s target customers who are comfortable conducting business virtually. Or customers who prefer purchasing products or services without the need for in-person meetings. 

Outside sales teams typically target large enterprises and high-value clients. These clients prefer a personalized sales approach. Because outside sales teams travel to meet customers in person, they can often build strong relationships and deeply understand customer needs and potential customer requirements.

How You Measure Success for Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales

When it comes to hiring an inside sales representative vs. outside sales representative, it’s important to consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) your organization will use to drive early success.

For an inside sales team, KPIs often emphasize activity. The number of outbound calls, emails, social media messages, and other actions. Track these actions on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to understand sales success. Metrics such as the number of calls required to secure a meeting with a client provide valuable insights into a company’s sales process. These metrics can help companies identify sales processes to fix, whether it’s refining pricing, product features, or providing direct coaching to improve performance.

KPIs for outside sales teams are often focused on building strong customer relationships. Success can be measured by tracking pipeline growth, the number of in-person customer meetings, and deal size.

What Technology and Travel Requirements Are Needed

Inside sales representatives require access to standard work essentials such as laptops and phones. They also need to meet customers and prospects on relevant communities such as LinkedIn.

Outside sales reps often require a combination of technology and travel arrangements that enable them to effectively engage with clients and prospects while on the go. They often rely on smartphones to access crucial information while traveling. Outside sales reps need efficient travel arrangements with support for travel expense tracking. Additionally, reimbursements for in-person networking events and client dinners is key. Both inside and outside sales teams also typically use a CRM system like Salesforce to effectively streamline lead management, enhance team collaboration, and track performance.

What Sales Skills Are Needed to Succeed

According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Most In-Demand Skills List, “skills that help a business not only run efficiently but also reach and retain customers are the ones companies need most right now.” This reflects the skills needed by both inside and outside sales representatives, but differ slightly for each role.

Inside sales reps need to be competitive, results-driven, and adept at establishing strong relationships with prospects. For outside sales reps, similar qualities apply, but at a strategic level. They require patience to navigate long sales cycles while maintaining discipline and assertiveness to keep deals progressing. Strong communication skills and the ability to develop creative solutions are essential for building long-lasting customer relationships and confidently closing enterprise-level sales.

Which Sales Strategy is Right for You?

Today, many organizations often adopt a strategic hybrid approach. The inside sales team will handle smaller, high-velocity transactions. The outside sales team will pursue large, complex enterprise deals. This strategy ensures a dual advantage:

  1.     A consistent flow of predictable revenue generated by the inside team.
  2.     Large wins achieved over time through the efforts of the outside sales team.

Whether you opt for inside sales, outside sales, or a combination of both, understanding the unique benefits and adapting your strategy accordingly will ensure the success of a strong sales team that continuously brings in revenue.

If you’re looking to build or strengthen your sales team with top-performing professionals, we’re here to support your hiring needs. As experts in providing B2B sales recruiting services for companies in the technology, professional services, telecom, healthcare, manufacturing and industrial sectors – we have an extensive network of exceptional inside and outside B2B sales representatives who are eager to help drive your company’s long-term growth strategy. Click here to contact us and kickstart your hiring process today.


Related posts

11 Sales Team Structures: Types and How To Choose
Cut Your Costs: Onboarding Sales Reps
5 Tips for Reducing Remote Sales Rep Isolation

close relpost-thumb-wrapper

Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting

Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless. Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner. He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.