Sales is defined as the activity or business of exchanging money for goods or services. Zorian Rotenburg, the VP of Sales and Marketing at InsightSquared, expanded on that by saying, “it’s the process of actively listening to people about their pains and needs and then helping them solve that pain and need with your help.” The best sales reps know that offering solutions to your prospects is the winning strategy.

But, not all sales roles are the same. Especially when it comes to inside sales vs outside sales. If you are wondering what the difference is, you are not alone. To become a successful sales professional and determine which realm is best for you, it is important to understand the distinct differences between inside and outside sales.

In this article, we’ll give some clarity and break down some of the key differences.


1. Where The Selling Takes Place

One of the biggest differences between inside sales and outside sales is where the actual selling is taking place. Most sources define inside sales as the act of selling goods or services to customers over the phone or online. With advances in technology now making video sales calls possible, inside sales is sometimes also referred to as “remote” or “virtual sales”. When you are working from inside your company's physical location and not meeting with prospects face to face you are working inside sales.

This is the opposite of the outside sales definition. According to the U.S Department Of Labor, an employee is engaging in outside sales when they are “customarily and regularly engaged away from the employer’s place or places of business.” Outside sales professionals spend most of their day traveling and meeting prospects and clients (usually C-level executives) face-to-face. As an outside sales rep, you’ll work autonomously outside of a formal office for the majority of your time.

2. Differences In Skills Needed

While there are similarities between the two roles, there are distinct differences between inside and outside sales and the skills that are required to be successful.

When it comes to inside sales, to be successful:

  • You must be comfortable in a fast-paced selling environment making dozens of phone calls each day
  • You must be good at multitasking since you will probably be constantly switching between accounts and software, more so than in outside sales.
  • You must be good with words, have a solid understanding of the importance of terminology, and be able to verbally articulate your product or service engagingly without having to be face-to-face.
  • You must be ok with working in an office environment that sees little variation in day to day activities.
  • You must be good at collaborating and interacting with teammates frequently.

To be successful in outside sales:

  • You must be confident and outgoing in social and face-to-face situations. Especially when it comes to meeting with CEOs and other executives.
  • You must have high emotional intelligence (or EQ) since you will be interacting with people in person.
  • You must be comfortable working alone in the field and have a high level of independence.
  • You must be able to easily adapt to changing surroundings since you will be going to different places every day.
  • You must be able to be flexible in your daily schedule. If a meeting gets canceled or delayed, you have to be able to think quickly and make effective use of that time.
  • You must be willing to prospect independently and set all of your own appointments.
  • You must be comfortable dressing to impress every day. In outside sales, your appearance makes almost as much of an impact as what you are selling.

3. Length Of Sales Cycle

Another big difference when it comes to inside sales vs outside sales is the length of the sales cycles. Once you understand the difference between the sales cycles in each environment, you will more than likely determine you favor one over the other.

In inside sales, a transactional sales model that revolves around lower-value deals and shorter sales cycles will be used. You will talk to your prospect fewer times, talk to fewer decision-makers per sales, and not be focused on forming a long-term business relationship. The sales cycle for inside sales is more streamlined and usually happens in less than 90 days. It is more about the volume of sales versus the size of the sales.

In comparison, outside sales has a significantly more in-depth and longer sales cycle that is often referred to as a relational sales model. The goal is to build rapport and form a lasting business relationship with the decision-makers. For each prospective new client, you will be meeting or speaking with an average of 5.4 stakeholders on multiple occasions, all of whom will have a say in the final deal. This means the average sales cycle for outside sales will usually be over 90 days, even with streamlined processes.

4. Differences In Sales Technology

Advancements in technology have brought sales software farther than ever before. There are now tools available that make daily tasks more streamlined and accurate, improving efficiency and productivity. But, the necessary and most effective tools vary differently between inside sales and outside sales.

With inside sales, activity automation is usually the number one goal when it comes to the specific technology used. The foundation is an efficient Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform where all of the customer information is held and organized. As well as every interaction you have with a customer and every other important aspect of your sales funnel. Other valuable tools for inside sales include automated dialers and email automation with tracking.

Outside sales reps, on the other hand, will rely more heavily on technology that optimizes their efficiency out in the field. While they do also use a CRM (a mobile-friendly version of course) to organize customer data, a tool like a territory mapping software that offers optimized routing is going to be their main go-to. Other important technologies for outside sales include territory prospecting tools to find new possible customers and content sharing applications to provide insightful product information on the go.

5. Compensation

There are differences when it comes to compensation and inside sales versus outside sales salary. Depending on the sales commission structure, outside sales professionals normally receive a higher base salary and commissions compared to inside sales reps. Even as an entry-level rep. This is due in large part to the fact that deals closed by outside sales reps are usually significantly higher in value compared to deals closed by inside sales reps. According to ZipRecruiter, as of March 9th, 2020, the average annual salary of an outside sales rep in the US, before commissions, is $53,366. Outside sales reps will also often receive compensation for other expenses including travel and client meeting costs.

Even though it may be lower, inside sales reps rely on a more stable salary or hourly pay. The average annual salary for inside sales reps as of March 9th, 2020 is $49,196.  With inside sales, like outside sales, you will probably also receive a percentage of commission on the sales you sell as well.

6. Quantity Versus Quality

When you ask experienced sales professionals what a big difference between inside and outside sales is, you may hear that it is quantity versus quality. Inside sales reps do not have to contend with travel and logistics. So, in that role, you are not as limited to the number of calls and contacts you make in a day as compared to outside sales reps. Inside sales reps make 42.5% more calls than outside sales reps. With inside sales, the price point of what is being sold is usually lower and you are not focused as much on building long-term relationships, so inside sales reps do not focus on quality as much as they do on quantity.

In comparison, outside sales reps focus on higher-priced products and services that are often more complex. That’s why client meetings will be face-to-face with the goal of meeting with the right people, building rapport and developing strategic relationships, and providing solutions to more complex pain points for the customer. In outside sales, it is impossible to meet with the number of people that an inside sales rep would call in a day, so the focus is on higher quality meetings versus a large quantity. This is why outside sales reps have a 30.2% higher close rate compared to inside sales.

Inside vs Outside Sales: The Importance Of Understanding The Differences

As you can see, not all sales roles are the same. Though the end goal of providing valuable solutions to answer the needs of prospects is universal. But, when it comes to inside sales vs outside sales there are some distinct differences. Everything from where you spend most of your day to the skills needed to be successful to the tools you use daily. Some companies find success using solely either inside sales reps or outside sales. While others utilize a strategic mix of the two.

It is important to have a clear understanding of the differences between inside and outside sales, especially when you are new to sales. This will help you decide which role might be the best fit for you and your sales career goals as well as giving you a better chance of being successful from the start.