Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales (With Duties and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Inside and outside sales functions have differences in operations, although their goals and functions are similar. They're sales techniques that professionals adopt to promote goods and services to customers. Understanding the differences between inside and outside sales can help you decide the most suitable option to conduct sales. In this article, we consider inside sales vs. outside sales, define their primary job responsibilities, and list necessary skills for inside and outside sales representatives.

Inside sales vs. outside sales

Some of the differences when considering inside sales vs. outside sales include:

Definitions

Inside sales involves making sales for a company remotely, rather than face-to-face. An inside sales associate may complete sales through phone calls, e-mails, and other digital mediums. Here, a sales representative works within a team of internal sales associates and a sales manager. While this method may be more efficient and rarely requires strenuous logistics, it may be disadvantageous as it lacks the personal element of meeting in person with clients.

Outside sales refer to completing sales while interacting with the client or customer face-to-face. This typically happens outside of the office. It can also occur during networking events. These sales representatives may work in various settings, including private and public sectors. They might leverage virtual meetings when in-person meetings aren't impossible or unnecessary. It allows them to build more personal relationships with clients, which may positively affect client retention.

Read more: Outside Sales: Definition, Responsibilities, and Differences

Leads

As opposed to outside sales representatives, inside sales associates generally communicate with more leads in a given period. Their virtual processes allow them to access more clients as they don't move around for each interaction. A downside to this may be that they may have lower closing rates. To help resolve this issue, they may use a hybrid approach, where they can occasionally meet with clients in person. Alternatively, they can work with outside sales associates to help meet clients for some business functions.

In contrast, while outside sales representatives may interact with fewer leads due to logistical issues, they generally have higher closing rates. A reason for this is that they provide more flexible meeting options for clients by alternating between physical and virtual meetings. They also provide a personal aspect that may be more convincing to clients.

Read more: Relationship and Effect of Customer Service in Sales

Operating costs

Inside sales representatives incur less operating costs as they remain stationed in the same location throughout their business. Outside sales associates require higher operating costs as they move around often. In addition to their basic administrative costs, they often require transportation and lodging fees when meeting with clients. A remedy to these high costs is that they close more deals and generate more income for the company.

Sales orders

Inside sales associates generally place smaller sales orders than outside sales associates. The reason is that inside sales representatives deal mostly with new clients. Outside sales associates manage both new and existing customers and may receive more sales orders within the same period.

Work types

Outside sales associates usually complete more tasks when closing new clients or maintaining old ones. In addition, they usually perform more preliminary tasks, like preparing meeting slides and engagement reports for clients. Inside sales associates may have fewer tasks, as they rarely have preparatory responsibilities.

Sales models

The model of operations for inside sales representatives includes a large focus on acquiring more leads for the company and faster sales cycles that are typically less than ninety days. Sales representatives also focus on connecting with new leads, clients, and prospects by leveraging digital channels. Generally, it costs less, but it's more scalable. In contrast, the business model for outside sales representatives includes an emphasis on converting and nurturing leads and slower sales cycles of more than ninety days.

Responsibilities for inside sales associates

Sales representatives can use two basic approaches to acquire new clients and maintain existing ones, including:

Cold calling

Cold calling is a process by which representatives contact people to establish relationships. In cold calling, representatives gather new prospects and try to make sales pitches. This process requires many negotiation skills as representatives speak with many contacts, including those who may not be interested in making a purchase.

Targeted sales

In targeted sales, representatives take a different approach to maintaining existing clients. Here, the associate communicates regularly with clients, helping with queries and inquiries. In addition, they act as company agents and help troubleshoot issues and sort client orders. The sole purpose of this strategy is to keep clients satisfied and maintain long-lasting relationships with them. Maintaining steady relationships with clients helps ensure steady income flow long-term.

Responsibilities for outside sales associates

Here's a list of some responsibilities of an outside sales associate:

Cold lead function

Outside sales associates who work on cold leads may work in a setup booth at an expo event or in a permanent position at a store. Their basic function in either of these positions is to reach out to and onboard new clients. They also collect basic information about these clients so they can follow up on them and provide additional assistance.

Targeted sales

Outside sales representatives working on targeted sales usually work from an office within the company's region. Their major function is to build and maintain relationships with clients within the area. They make phone calls and pay visits to clients when necessary to review orders and attend to general client needs. These professionals also schedule new appointments with potential clients. Finally, they meet with these new clients and pitch the company's products and services to close a deal.

Skills for inside sales associates

Here are some skills necessary for inside sales employees:

Communication skills

It's important for an inside sales representative to communicate clearly with other sales professionals and clients. Effective communication may also include understanding client needs and trying to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. They may also communicate with clients regularly through e-mails and phone calls.

Computer literacy skills

Computer literacy skills help ensure that inside sales representatives know how to use digital and technological devices to perform work functions. This may include using spreadsheets to build models and store large data. Having computer skills helps ease work processes and increases efficiency.

Persistence

Inside sales representatives usually communicate with clients over long periods to help maintain their relationship with the company. These communications may include cold calls, regular check-ins, and sales calls. It's important that an inside sales representative can stay with clients and try to negotiate an agreement.

Intuition

Working as a sales representative requires the ability to assess people. This skill can help you reach out to potential clients, know what to say, and determine who to remain persistent with and convert to an actual client. It also helps them analyze client responses and determine whether to proceed.

Skills for outside sales representatives

Some of the necessary skills for outside sales representatives include:

Organization

Outside sales professionals deal with more paperwork and have regular on-person meetings with clients. These meetings require that they maintain physical records and agreements compared to inside sales representatives who keep virtual records. Strong organizational skills help ensure they track these documents, product promos and order sheets, and client scheduling and contacts.

Math skills

While sales representatives generally require math and calculation skills, it's more important for outside sales representatives to have the skills to make mental calculations. Showing quick math skills while trying to onboard clients helps you impress and convince them faster. In addition, strong math skills help you make analyses that may be necessary to clarify questions from potential clients.

Interpersonal skills

Being a physical sales representative requires regular in-person meetings with clients. It's important that you're friendly and have the charisma to impress new clients. Being approachable also helps you retain old clients and maintain an impressive sales record.

Read more: 10 Sales Associate Skills and How to Improve Them

Communication skills

It's important that you know how to communicate efficiently with clients when making sales pitches. This skill helps ensure that clients understand what you're saying and that they develop an interest in your proposal. It's vital that you can communicate effectively through other mediums besides physical meetings where necessary.

Explore more articles