Inside sales and outside sales are sales functions focused on different tactics. While teams can be structured similarly, inside salespeople primarily accomplish tasks by phone and focus mainly on high volume sales or administrative support for outside salespeople. Outside salespeople conduct tasks in person and are employed primarily for low volume, high-ticket sales.
Pipedrive CRM can work in both inside and outside sales environments. For inside sales, its email integration and tracking are great for prospect and customer outreach. For outside sales, its mobile app is great for locating nearby contacts and managing your schedule. Sign-up for Pipedrive’s free trial.
Inside Sales vs Outside Sales at a Glance
|Lead Generation, Qualification & Management|
|Hosts Product Demos|
|Attends Conferences & Live Events|
|Makes Routine Customer Visits|
|Performs High Volume Outreach (Phone & Email)|
|Offers Administrative Support|
*Note that this list is a generalization and salaries can vary by industry.
What Is Inside Sales?
Inside sales is a job responsibility and tactic where sales activities are done virtually as opposed to in person. It works by assembling a team of sales professionals who make outbound calls, send emails, do video conferencing, or receive inbound calls to close a high volume of deals. Some companies also use inside sales to generate and qualify a large volume of leads or to offer sales administrative support to outside salespeople.
What Is Outside Sales?
Outside sales is another role (although specific titles vary) and tactic where sales activities are done face-to-face. It works by having sales professionals go into neighborhoods and business districts to seek opportunities, close deals, or generate leads. It also includes participating in live events and conferences to meet prospects. The volume of expected sales tends to be lower than inside sales because it takes a lot longer. However, commissions tend to be higher.
When to Use an Inside Sales Team
Inside sales is great for businesses with wide sales funnels that contact large volumes of prospects and convert them by phone. This sales tactic should be used when you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to reach a large number of people in your target audience quickly. It can be used with an inbound sales strategy, where you advertise to your target market to call you or with an outbound strategy, where your sales team makes outbound calls.
When to Use an Outside Sales Team
Outside sales is a great option for businesses with more narrow sales funnels that require a lower volume of sales and contacts. This sales tactic should be used when you don’t need to contact as many prospects and your sales strategy works better with face-to-face interaction. It can be used for business-to-business (B2B) consultative selling or business-to-consumer (B2C) sales like roofing, where you can more easily reach the customer and make better product recommendations on their properties.
When to Use a Hybrid Approach
A hybrid approach is where your sales team is made up of both inside and outside sales functions. It’s best when deals must be closed in person and when you need to quickly qualify a large volume of leads virtually. It’s also great in situations where there are a lot of administrative tasks associated with closing deals and when ongoing account management is needed. Inside sales focuses on these tasks while outside sales closes deals in person.
Inside Sales vs Outside Sales: Roles & Responsibilities
The very nature of inside and outside sales teams drives specific roles and responsibilities. For instance, inside sales teams can conduct outreach to lots of prospects and customers, so their roles and responsibilities include mass outreach like making calls and sending emails. Alternatively, outside sales teams tend to make in-person sales calls, so their responsibilities may include driving to their territories and meeting prospects face-to-face.
Roles and responsibilities are also driven by areas of focus. Inside and outside sales have three main areas of focus. They include lead generation, B2C sales, and B2B sales. Both inside sales and outside sales teams focused on any of these areas have very different roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators (KPIs). Inside sales job titles can include Account Manager or Inside Sales Rep, and outside sales job titles can include Outside Sales Rep or Field Sales Consultant.
Below are more details on inside versus outside sales roles and responsibilities within each area:
Inside Sales vs Outside Sales: Prospecting
Both inside and outside sales teams focusing on lead generation make outbound calls, take inbound calls, or visit prospects in person with the objective of qualifying prospects so that another area of sales can close the deals. Their success is often measured by number of calls, number of prospect visits, number of qualified leads added to the sales funnel, and adherence to the lead qualification process (e.g., verifying income or annual revenue).
Inside Sales vs Outside Sales: B2C Lead Development
Inside sales teams focused on B2C sales are responsible for pursuing a high volume of deals that close right away. This includes telemarketing and covers a variety of industries. Outside sales teams focused on consumers tend to be in real estate and contracting, and are responsible for prospecting mainly at clients’ homes or businesses. Outside sales teams in these fields focus on meeting consumers in their homes.
Inside Sales vs Outside Sales: B2B Lead Development
Inside sales teams focused on B2B businesses are responsible for building relationships over time by making multiple calls, sending emails, or facilitating online product demos. Outside sales professionals are also focused on nurturing leads over time, which means they may make multiple visits and place follow-up calls before closing a deal. Both inside and outside sales teams do not try to close a deal until they have had meaningful interactions with their prospects.
How to Structure Inside & Outside Sales Teams
The basic structure of a sales team includes a sales manager and direct reports. However, for a team to function at its best, both inside and outside sales teams benefit from additional specialized skills as a business grows. For instance, inside sales teams can benefit from sales operations managers who remove product or technical roadblocks. Outside sales can benefit from field trainers familiar with their territories who can help onboard new team members.
Below are examples of how inside, outside, and hybrid sales teams can be structured:
Inside Sales Team Structure
Inside sales teams should include a manager and sales reps as a starting point. However, if you have a larger organization with over 15 people, consider additional roles such as team leads and coaches. The sales manager reports to the business owner or a director of sales. The sales manager manages the sales reps, team leads and coaches, operations managers, and account managers.
Here’s an example of how an inside sales team should be structured:
- Inside Sales Manager: The sales manager should lead the inside sales team, set team goals based on company revenue goals, and hold teams accountable. They should also establish sales objectives and KPIs to measure performance.
- Team Lead and Coach: An advantage of inside sales is that it is done using technology that can track sales and sales activities using automation. Team leads and coaches can view reporting to spot weaknesses and plan training and coaching accordingly.
- Sales Operations Manager: The high sales volumes and dependence on technology produces the need for a sales operations manager to help inside sales teams move through issues that come up in the sales process and eliminate tech issues.
- Inside Sales Rep, Account Manager, and Senior Account Manager: There would be no team without this role. They make the calls and close the deals. You can expand responsibilities and increase commissions and bonuses based on production.
Outside Sales Team Structure
Outside sales teams should include a manager and sales reps as the core team. That said, if you have a larger organization with over 15 people, additional roles to consider include field trainers and account managers. The outside sales manager reports to the business owner or the director of sales. The sales manager manages the sales team, field trainers, and account managers.
Here’s an example of how an outside sales team should be structured:
- Outside Sales Manager: The sales manager for an outside sales team should set team goals based on company revenue goals and hold teams accountable. They should also establish sales objectives and KPIs to measure performance.
- Field Trainer: Territory-based field trainers help local team members get up to speed on new products and initiatives. They also train new hires and serve as a resource on the local area.
- Outside Sales Rep, Account Manager, and Senior Account Manager: There would be no team without this role. They make the customer and prospect visits and close the deals. They also manage the sales activities and pipelines. You can expand responsibilities and increase commissions and bonuses based on production.
Hybrid Sales Team Structure
A hybrid team is made up of both inside and outside sales functions. Many industries, like hardware and software sales, can be more efficient with both roles on one team. For instance, you can have an inside and an outside sales team work together by focusing on different product lines. You can also have your inside sales team hunt for opportunities while your outside sales team closes them.
Here’s an example of how a hybrid sales team should be structured:
- Hybrid Sales Manager: The sales manager for a hybrid sales team should set lead generation and product sales goals for inside sales reps. They should also set goals for the outside sales team that include higher priced, in-person sales. Sales managers establish sales objectives and KPIs to measure performance.
- Sales Operations Manager: The high volume product sales and lead generation aspect of an inside sales team makes a sales operations manager useful in making sure leads and sales continue to be generated.
- Inside Sales Rep, Account Manager, and Senior Account Manager: This role should focus on generating leads for the outside sales team and selling lower profit, recurring purchase products. This frees up the outside sales team to focus on larger, complex deals.
- Outside Sales Rep, Account Manager, and Senior Account Manager: This role should focus on larger, more complex sales opportunities. These types of opportunities usually require more face time than lower priced recurring sales.
Inside vs Outside Sales: Pros & Cons
There are several pros and cons of inside sales that should be considered before establishing it as a tactic in your overall sales strategy. A couple of the pros include being able to reach a wide audience quickly and being able to track sales and sales activities using automation. Cons include losing in-person rapport building and increased competition.
Pros of Inside Sales Teams
- Lower cost per lead: Generating and qualifying leads virtually is less expensive than doing it in person.
- Lower cost per sale: Sales generated virtually are less costly than sales generated in person.
- Wider reach: You can reach a larger number of people in a wider geographic territory or market than you can in person.
- Easy to track: CRM and sales technology make inside sales easier to track, especially with automation.
- Easier to coach: CRM and call recording technologies also make it easier to coach and provide feedback on sales execution.
Cons of Inside Sales Teams
- Harder to establish rapport: It’s harder to establish rapport over the phone or through email and video conference than it is to establish in person.
- Higher competition: Because costs are lower, competition is higher, making it harder to stand out.
- Can be harder to demo certain products: Depending on the product, it’s easier to do a demo in person than it is to do it virtually.
- Do not call and email laws: There are do not call or email (opt out) laws that can be expensive if violated.
Pros & Cons of Outside Sales Teams
There are several pros and cons of outside sales that should be considered before establishing it as a tactic in your overall sales strategy. A couple of the pros include being able to establish rapport more quickly than over the phone or email and the ability to assess client, prospect, or market needs by being here. Cons include the expense of outside sales and its limited reach compared to the reach you have with inside sales.
Pros of Outside Sales Teams
- Easier to establish rapport: It’s harder to hang up on someone right in front of you. If you meet someone at an event, it’s easier to get to know them than over the phone or with email outreach.
- Easier to demo physical products: It’s easier to demo physical products in person than over the phone.
- Easier to identify decision-makers: It’s easier to identify the decision-maker in person than over the phone, where you have to go around gatekeepers.
Cons of Outside Sales Teams
- More expensive: Travel and other expenses make outside sales a lot more expensive than inside sales.
- More time-consuming: You cover less territory with outside sales than you do with inside sales.
- Limited reach: Your territory and live events define the scope of your reach, whereas with inside sales, you can reach prospects nationwide or internationally depending on your product or service.
- Local laws that prevent outside sales: Many cities have non-solicitation laws that limit or prohibit outside sales initiatives.
- Braving the elements: Outside sales reps must endure bad weather and other uncomfortable aspects of the geographies they’re working in.
Inside Sales & Outside Sales Alternatives
There are many alternatives to generating leads and sales than using either inside or outside sales. Some of these alternatives include direct mail, advertising, content marketing, and public relations (PR). These alternative strategies drive sales or generate leads without or with minimal facilitation from salespeople.
Below are a few alternatives to employing dedicated inside or outside sales teams:
- Direct mail: You can generate sales or leads by sending a direct mail package to your target audience, prompting them to ask for more information or buy your product.
- Advertising: Similar to direct mail but usually seen by a larger audience, you create ads to generate leads or sales.
- Content marketing: Here’s where you create educational content that makes prospects and customers more interested in your product and gets them to buy or contact you for more details.
- PR: This is when news coverage of your product or service gets them to contact you.
- Leads for purchase: You can also purchase leads through services like UpLead, which allow your sales team to focus on closing deals and nurturing relationships.
- Outsourced calling: Another alternative is to outsource calling campaigns, be they lead generation or upsell initiatives.
Whether you use an inside sales strategy, outside sales strategy, or a combination of the two depends on your unique needs. We’ve covered the pros and cons of both sales tactics, which should help you decide which one is right for you.
Pipedrive offers a variety of features suitable for both inside and outside sales. Its visual pipelines make it great for managing complex sales that often come with outside sales. And its task management features make it great for inside sales and lead generation, which often require completion of certain tasks. See Pipedrive for more details.