Inside Sales vs Outside Sales: Key Differences

Sales professionals trying to advance their careers often deliberate whether an inside sales or outside sales role is the better fit for them. While both positions involve closing deals and achieving targets, there are several major distinctions between inside and outside sales jobs across dimensions like environment, activities, skills and compensation. This in-depth article examines the key differences between inside and outside sales to help you decide which path is right for you.

Defining Inside Sales

Inside sales refers to selling remotely from a centralized office location. Inside sales representatives connect with prospects and clients by phone, email, social media, and digital channels. Common inside sales responsibilities include:

  • Making high volumes of outbound cold calls to generate new business
  • Nurturing inbound leads by demonstrating products online and qualifying accounts
  • Managing lengthy sales pipelines across different stages from prospecting to closed deal
  • Writing emails and campaigns to educate, cross-sell, upsell, and develop customer relationships
  • Working towards monthly, quarterly, and annual quotas by closing deals quickly

Inside sales is highly metrics-focused with representatives tracking calls made, conversations had, leads generated, opportunities advanced, and deals closed. Superior phone, digital, and communication skills are imperative. CRM and sales enablement technologies are heavily leveraged.

Explaining Outside Sales

In contrast, outside sales reps meet with prospects face-to-face at client sites and events. Common outside sales duties include:

  • Traveling frequently via flights, car, and rail to visit accounts within an assigned geographic territory
  • Representing the company at trade shows, conferences, and networking events
  • Building relationships with economic buyers through small talk, meals, and gathering customer insights
  • Delivering custom product demonstrations and business reviews on-site
  • Negotiating complex, multi-year contracts for enterprise accounts
  • Coordinating implementation and account management post-sale

Outside sales involves substantial travel, public speaking abilities, and consultative problem solving skills. Extroversion, hustle, and competitiveness also help in frequently interacting with clients.

Comparing Key Differences

Now that we’ve defined the two sales roles, let’s contrast them across these dimensions:

Work environment – Inside sales offers a more structured 9-to-5 desk job. Outside sales requires flexibility to meet clients anytime, anywhere.

Client interactions – Inside sellers converse with prospects on the phone or online. Outside reps meet face-to-face at the client site.

Deal sizes – Inside sales focuses on closing high volumes of small to mid-market deals. Outside closes longer enterprise-level deals.

Sales cycles – Inside sales has shorter cycles driven by automation. Outside sales cycles for strategic accounts can stretch out to several months or years.

Essential sales skills – Inside demands superior communication, persistence, and technology proficiency. Outside requires advanced relationship building and consultative selling skills.

Compensation structure – Inside sales representatives earn lower base salaries but higher commission rates on deals. Outside earn higher bases but lower variable commission percentages.

When considering inside vs outside sales, reflect deeply on your workplace preferences, selling strengths, target accounts, and income needs. An informed decision will help ensure you select the sales role in which you can excel and unlock your full earning potential.