In your grandparents' day, the word "salesman" usually invoked images of men showing up at people’s doors with a range of products hidden in their briefcases or under their abnormally large coats.
This sort of door-to-door salesman is in stark contrast to more recent depictions of salespeople, like the characters in The Office. These salespeople mostly stay in their office, making sales to customers remotely via phone or email (when they’re not pulling pranks, at least).
As it happens, both of those types of salespeople represent a real-world sales strategy—inside and outside sales, to be more specific. But what are inside sales vs. outside sales? Keep reading to find out.
What is inside sales vs. outside sales?
We’ll start this comparison by defining each of our key terms and explaining what they might look like for a company. Essentially, inside sales happen remotely, while outside sales happen in person. Let’s look at each term in more detail below.
Inside sales refers to a sales process that takes place remotely, without face-to-face contact. Inside salespeople make sales while working from home or in an office, and they communicate with prospects and customers by talking to them virtually.
As you might imagine, inside sales relies on many different tools. Phone calls are one of the oldest and most common methods of making inside sales, but video calls are now growing more prominent as well. Many inside sales reps also frequently use digital mediums like email.
Inside sales often overlap heavily with marketing as companies aim to move prospects through the pipeline and toward conversion.
Related: 6 things salespeople should know about inbound marketing
Outside sales, as the name suggests, refers to sales processes that take place face-to-face. While few companies still use door-to-door salespeople, outside sales still rely heavily on traveling and meeting up with prospects in person.
Business-to-business (B2B) outside salespeople will often travel directly to their potential clients’ offices to meet with them. However, outside salespeople also frequent conferences, conventions, and other industry events to find prospects.
The use of outside sales is older than inside sales, but the power of in-person communication keeps it relevant, so many companies still rely on it.
Benefits of outside sales vs. inside sales
Now that we’ve covered what outside and inside sales are, let’s look at how each one can benefit your business.
One of the biggest benefits of inside sales is convenience. Inside sales enable you to stay in your office, saving you the hassle of traveling. Similarly, since you don’t have to spend hours traveling from place to place, you have more time to make sales.
Another way inside sales benefits you is through your budget. Travel is expensive, particularly when you have to shell out money for it on a regular basis. But when you make all your sales from your office, those expenses are nonexistent. That frees you up to invest that money in other parts of your business.
Related: How to transition from outside sales to inside sales
The most significant benefit of outside sales is how personal they are. Emailing someone or even calling them on the phone lacks a certain element of closeness and familiarity—understandably, since the person you’re talking to is often miles away.
But with outside sales, you have the benefit of speaking to them face-to-face. In-person interactions encourage trust and friendliness on the part of the customer, ultimately making them more likely to buy from you.
Another benefit of that personalization is that it gives you a chance to show off any physical products you might sell. If you sell a physical item that performs a particular function, it’s much easier to demonstrate that function in person than remotely.
Inside sales vs. outside sales: Which should you use?
Both inside and outside sales have the potential to drive up your company’s revenue, and both are very effective when done well. For that reason, it could be a good idea to try using some of both. However, it really depends on your situation.
If your company doesn’t have a very large travel budget, you’ll naturally want to stick mostly to inside sales. On the other hand, let’s say you have a decent travel budget, and you also sell specialized physical products that sell better when people try them out themselves. In that case, outside sales could really help you.
When considering which type of sales to use, be sure to consider factors such as your budget and your industry. That said, bear in mind that the two types often work well when paired together.
The merging of inside and outside sales
When talking about outside sales vs. inside sales, one point to be aware of is that in recent years, the two have started to grow less and less distinct.
The 2010s already saw an uptick in the use of digital communication for sales. But when COVID-19 arrived in 2020 and led to a massive increase in remote work, it changed the game even more. All at once, it became apparent that you can handle many face-to-face meetings just as effectively through video calls.
That realization has led to many companies transitioning outside sales work to remote environments, conducting formerly in-person meetings over Zoom or other video platforms. These meetings are still technically face-to-face, but they require none of the expenses or hassle of traveling.
Some sales prospectors in the COVID era have even experimented with cold video calls instead of traditional phone calls—but use that strategy at your own risk.
Use Nutshell to revitalize your outside and inside sales efforts
Regardless of whether you rely more on outside or inside sales, you’re going to have to keep track of your customer data. It’s important to know who your leads are, what kinds of people to market to, and how successful you’ve been at driving sales.
To keep track of that information, you’ll want a customer relationship management (CRM) tool—and you won’t find a better one than Nutshell. Not only does Nutshell possess all the essential CRM features, such as sales automation, but it also comes with our top-tier customer service team to help you through any questions or concerns you have.
Want to try out Nutshell? You can start with a free 14-day trial!