3 years ago
January 5, 2015

Inside Sales vs Outside Sales

Sales teams in the US and Canada are seeing a growing distinction between outside sales and inside sales.

Rhys Metler

Sales teams in the US and Canada are seeing a growing distinction between outside sales and inside sales. For sales people these distinctions can be important, as the parameters for success in these environments are different. The following common guidelines that distinguish inside sales from outside sales can help sales people at the beginning of their careers or considering a change in career direction make an informed choice.

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: Location, Location, Location

The most commonly accepted difference between inside sales and outside sales, and the difference which gives each type of sales work its name, is the workplace environment. Inside sales people work almost exclusively from the office and handle the majority of sales work from prospecting to order taking over telephone and email, though clients may occasionally visit the office to sign a contract. Outside sales reps also work from the office, but frequently visit prospect and client sites and may be involved in overnight travel for this purpose. This has impacts on:

  • Compensation, as outside sales reps are usually given travel expense budgets and other travel-related compensation, whereas sales reps who do not travel will not receive such compensation;
  • Work schedules, as it is much more common for inside sales reps to have set hours given that the majority of their work is done from the same location;
  • Timeline to close, as since inside sales reps are frequently working with client bases and deal sizes that do not require face to face contact their closes tend to follow an accelerated timeline compared to outside sales.

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: Where and How Prospecting Is Done

Inside sales has a reputation of being a lead generation tool, finding promising prospects only to hand those prospects to outside or field sales representatives for follow up. However, in the last few years inside sales has been trending away from the lead generation aspect and it is now more common for inside sales to follow up on its own leads, except where the size or type of prospect would be better served by follow up by an outside sales representative. Still, there are differences in prospecting as done by each sales group, including:

  • Inside sales does the majority of prospecting over the phone, whereas outside sales is more likely to use a mix of telephone and in-person prospecting
  • Inside sales is more likely to be assigned to follow up with inbound leads, since their schedules may make them more available
  • Inside sales may also be partly responsible for generating leads for outside sales through references, referrals, and research

Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: Who is Taking Care of House Accounts?

House accounts are those accounts which have extended for two years or longer, and are therefore no longer generating commission for the sales person who initially handled the contract. In many cases these accounts revert to being taken care of either by inside sales, customer service, or the first available sales person. Smaller house accounts are generally assigned to inside sales once the initial contract has lapsed. This sales team is also most likely to be responsible for reactivating dormant accounts, where an expired contract has not been renewed but the business is still a potential repeat customer.

The exception for house accounts being generally the purview of inside sales is with highly dissatisfied or exceptionally high-value accounts. Because outside sales emphasizes face to face interaction to a greater extent than inside sales, these types of contracts are almost always handled by outside sales.

Although there are not firm definitions that separate inside and outside sales, there are generally recognized distinctions between the responsibilities of inside sales and outside sales groups. Both inside sales and outside sales play important roles in the sales process, and though the key responsibilities for each group are different, the success of the business depends on both types of sales in equal measure.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 11+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and two daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day, tropical vacations and cottaging.