There are two basic types of sales, inside and outside. What do these terms mean? Inside sales reps are professionals whose job is to sell remotely. This person works out of an office and rarely deals with customers face to face. An outside sales representative is a professional who works primarily “in the field.” This person needs to have strong “people skills.”

An organization will often have both types of sales representatives. There are somewhat different skill sets needed for successful inside sales vs outside sales. And, there are many skills there are needed for both jobs.

Here we will look at inside vs outside sales from several different viewpoints. What specifically do outside and inside reps do and how do their jobs differ. And, what are the pros and cons of each type of sales job, including the income? And, how do the two types of jobs fit on sales teams?

What Do Inside Sales Reps Do?

The sales process is different for inside sales vs outside sales. Rather than meeting face to face with customers, inside sales representative uses telephones, video, email, and virtual meetings to interact with and turn contacts into customers.

Inside sales persons generally have set hours and routines. And, during these hours, insidesales reps usually have targets that they try to meet. These targets will have to do with the number of calls that they make, meetings that they book, or proposals that are sent.

Inside sales individuals need to know the products and services they are selling from top to bottom. And, unlike an outside rep who can often give a demonstration, an inside rep needs to be able to explain clearly just what a product or service does and why that is something the person should purchase.

Although inside sales professionals do not meet people face to face, they need to be able to engage with them through the communication tools that they use.

What Do Outside Sales Reps Do?

While a person in outside sales may work from an office, they typically spend nearly half of their time away from that office doing field sales. Speaking engagements, conferences, industry events, and scheduled calls are what fill this time.

Although a rep doing outside sales is less constrained by in imposed schedule, he or she needs to be good at organizing and managing their time. The outside sales representative needs to be good at dealing with people and selling products and services face to face but also needs to use all of the tools that a person doing inside sales uses, including social media, email, the phone, and CRM tools.

The advent of cloud-based business software allows many outside workers to get things done from their virtual office for hours and days at a time while always remaining physically separate from their home base.

The skilled individual in outside selling is able to successfully integrate electronic communications tools with the personal touch of face-to-face meetings with clients.

Who Makes More Money?

Although work in inside sales in most organizations involves many more contacts and may also involve many more sales, the size of the sales is generally larger for outside sales workers. A rep in outside sales is usually more experienced and has a higher base salary.

And, their commissions tend to be larger. The national average base salary for an outside sales worker is about $49,000 while it is about $43,000 for an inside sales individual. Average yearly commissions for outside sales reps are about $15,000 while inside sales reps have an average just below $10,000.

Experience counts in this matter as nearly half of inside reps have fewer than 5 years on the job vs two-thirds of outside reps in field sales have more than 5 years’ experience.

With more experience, both inside and outside sales workers on sales teams develop greater efficiency in handling more activities and selling more. And, both learn to increase the value of each sale as their levels of experience grow.

Daily Activities of Each

An inside sales employee in a company will follow a set schedule every day. This may include following up on leads that have been generated elsewhere, doing cold calls, or following through on sales leads that have been working over longer periods of time.

The focus of the inside sales rep’s day will be meeting quotas for numbers of contacts as well as the number of sales or leads passed up the line to a sales executive. Many times with worker is less involved in selling than in fitting into their sales teams.

The skilled inside sales worker has a shorter sales cycle as they are more efficient in converting prospects to sales. Although this individual may use social media for their work, they are careful not to get tempted to share with clients when there is work to be done.

The outside sales representative will spend more time following up with established clients, developing and taking advantage of leads (often generated by reps in inside sales ).

The focus of this sales rep’s day will be successful sales for higher dollar amounts and converting onetime customers to regular buyers. Much of the work of an outside sales individual will be keeping current customers happy and appraised of new buying opportunities.

Many times an individual who specializes in outside sales and depends on a relational sales approach will spend a fair amount of time “wining and dining” a customer in order to gain their friendship and trust.

A skilled person in outside sales will be working toward a sale in many ways that the customer may not realize when they are enjoying the various “perks” that the outside sales employee and their company are providing.

Pros and Cons of Each

For a person who likes a set schedule, clear instructions, and never having to travel, an inside sales job is ideal. For a person who likes to manage their own routine and does not mind spending the day on the go or the week out of town, working in an outside sales job can be appealing.

The fact is that the positive aspects of an inside sales job for one person may seem like negative aspects for another. And, the same applies to an outside sales job in that the freedom this work offers may seem like a burden for someone who simply wants a 9 to 5 job and clear instructions every workday.

Some of us are “people persons” to a much greater degree than others are. There are people in outside sales for which the normal workday does not feel like work. These same people are able to easily integrate the apparent socializing of their job with actually getting sales accomplished.

Unfortunately, not everyone can integrate “work and play” so easily. Such a person may really enjoy outside sales until they realize that they are not making any sales or any money!

Prospecting Challenges

Sales don’t happen without finding prospects first. The challenges that both inside sales reps and outside sales reps face include spending enough time every day reaching out to new potential customers and doing so in the most efficient manner.

Because much of an inside sales rep’s day is scheduled for them, the biggest prospecting challenges are making enough contacts and doing so efficiently so that true prospects are developed.

Because an outside sales professional typically has more control over their time, the quality of contacts that they develop becomes more important than the sheer numbers of persons contacted.

While inside sales reps rely on lots of contacts to develop their prospects, outside sales reps rely on the depth and quality of the contact experience to create strong sales prospects.

Many successful outside sales reps develop friendships with their customers. One of the challenges, in this case, is to make sure that friendship does not get in the way of making repeated sales.

Sales Cycles

The sales cycle can be defined as the process that begins with nothing and ends with closing a deal or as the time it takes to turn a qualified prospect into a sale. In either case, inside sales reps and outside sales reps may fit into different parts of the sales cycle depending on how a sales force is organized.

Many companies use inside sales reps to generate leads and then pass those leads to experienced sales executives or experienced outside sales reps. Others will allow both inside sales reps and outside sales reps to do their own lead prospecting and developing of qualified leads into sales.

How this mix of chores is handled within a sales force will typically be determined by issues such as the depth of knowledge needed either to introduce a product or service to close a sale.

Successful companies and successful sales reps learn to track their activities for each segment of the sales cycle in order to optimize the number of sales and dollar value of sales per unit of time spent on the job.

The goal for an inside sales professional who relies on sales volume for their income will always be to shorten the time needed to complete the sales cycle. The goal for an outside sales representative who works for occasional big sales will be to complete sales cycles before potential customers lose interest or become attracted to a competing product.

Skills Needed to Be Successful

High-volume inside sales professionals need to develop the ability to develop prospects and close sales efficiently. In this sort of sales world, every minute counts. In contrast, an outside sales professional often depends on a relational sales approach.

He or she needs to work at a pace that engages the potential customer, develops trust, and results in not only one sale but a customer for life.

This having been said, inside sales representatives do better when they are able to develop trusting relationships with their clients and outside sales reps need to stay active on more than one potential sale in order to be successful.

With both inside sales reps and outside sales reps, balancing speed and efficiency with customer relationship management skills is important.


The worlds of inside reps and outside reps have much in common. Both are typically part of the sales team. Working individually or within organizations, each type of sales representative needs to find clients and develop prospects.

Each needs to efficiently manage their time. Both inside and sales representatives need to develop and maintain “people skills” but, perhaps to a greater degree for outside, face-to-face sales personnel.

An inside sales professional works with communication and CRM tools instead of meeting clients face to face. He or she uses the phone, email, video conferencing, and other electronic tools to contact and develop prospects. As such, the inside sales professional needs to be good at using these tools.

However much an outside sales representative may depend on the personal face-to-face approach, half of his or her time is spent using electronic communications as well while selling products and services.

Thus there is a big overlap of skills used every day in the worlds of inside sales professionals and outside reps. While outside sales professionals in field sales tend to make more money, they are also more experienced.

To a large degree, their economic success may increase and depend as much on their skills and experience as on the fact that they work outside of a formal office half or more of the time in field sales and following up on leads from the rest of the sales team at their company.

This being the case, success and happiness on the job are possible both for inside and outside reps that develop and hone their skills over the years and choose the sales-rep niche that best suits them.