Selling on the phoneAsk different sales managers what inside sales means and you will get different answers. One popular definition is that inside sales is a role where the sales person receives inbound leads and attempts to close them or qualifies them and then if required makes an introduction to a more senior sales rep. Another common view is that inside sales defines selling that does not happen face to face in the field.

Different Models Mean Different Skills

The former definition of inside sales is a role that requires a small set of sales skills, primarily the ability to ask questions and qualify, while the latter model requires all the traits of a full sales person, such as drive, competitiveness, and optimism, as well as ability to prospect, qualify and close.

Whichever model you subscribe to, there is no confusion that the line between inside and outside sales are blurring and there is a movement away from field selling and to remote sales models. Earlier in the year, the Harvard Business Review cited Astra Zeneca, IBM and SAP as three big examples of the shift organizations are making to in-house selling models (see The Growing Power of Inside Sales).

The True Field Sales Role is Becoming the Exception

At Peak, increasingly, we see roles where the sales person will spend the majority of their time at their desk, periodically visiting customers or prospects for key meetings. Today much of the selling function occurs on the phone and the shift has been going on for several years dating back to the 90’s. We have always held that the Internet is driving a lot of this change (see the Evolution of Sales) .

Researchers are seeing the same thing. In 2009 and Dr. James Oldroyd of SKK University released a study which noted the following inside sales trend:

“For the last four years the remote selling trend has grown,” said Dave Elkington, CEO of, the primary sponsor of the research. “Remote selling offers cost savings and time efficiencies that make it the method of choice for many companies. In addition, business is going green by cutting the carbon footprint from unnecessary travel. We are finding that buyers are increasingly asking for a remote web demonstration rather than a face-to-face sales call to save time. Add to that the lifestyle enhancements of a sales force that does not have to be on the road all the time and you have some compelling reasons behind this remote sales trend.”

Impact on Your Sales Recruiting

The key impact of all this is that given that most roles are now inside to some degree, the following skills are required in addition to all the other base sales skills required to close business:

  • Phone skills (cannot underemphasize the importance of new skills here such as how to get past gatekeepers, developing relationships and how to read prospects without being able to see them)
  • Internet research
  • Online networking and prospecting
  • Online demos and Webex

The better you now the traits you need to hire, the more likely you will hire someone who will exceed your targets.

To your success!



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.

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