While salespeople used to visit corporate offices or knock on doors to show off their company’s latest products, they have far more ways to sell now. Thanks to the Internet, much—if not all—of the sales process can be done remotely, no face-to-face meetings required. This type of selling is known as inside sales.
Inside sales is a crucial part of a modern sales strategy in today’s virtual world. It allows for a fast, efficient sales process that saves reps time and money and provides added convenience for potential customers.
What is inside sales?
Inside sales definition: The process of selling remotely over the phone, email, messaging, and other digital channels.
Inside sales essentially means selling products or services via telecommunications. The activities of an inside sales representative predominantly occur behind a desk at their place of employment. This form of selling is especially common in tech, SaaS, and B2B industries.
Inside sales used to primarily happen over the phone or email. But as technology grew, inside sales reps began to embrace digital forms of communication like messaging apps, social media, and video conferencing. You may also hear inside sales referred to as “remote sales,” “virtual sales,” or “social selling” because of the digital focus.
Inside sales agents spend their days prospecting and connecting with leads who’ve expressed interest in the company’s products or services via sales calls, online forms, messages, and more. They don’t travel to meet with prospective buyers face-to-face.
Inside sales vs. outside sales
The main difference between inside sales and outside sales is where and how agents work.
As noted above, inside sales representatives can communicate with customers asynchronously and spend most of their day behind a desk. Outside sales reps, on the other hand, spend a lot of time “in the field,” traveling and meeting customers in person at offices, conferences, and networking events. Outside sales is considered to be the more “traditional” sales approach—like the typical door-to-door salesperson you might think of when someone mentions sales.
The line between what differentiates inside and outside sales is continually blurring.
But the line between what differentiates inside and outside sales is continually blurring. Thanks to technology, outside sales reps have access to various communication tools through their smartphones and other devices while on the go, allowing them to connect with customers wherever they are. Meanwhile, inside sales reps are now able to put faces to names and make more personal connections with potential buyers (like outside sales reps) through real-time video chats.
Pros and cons of inside sales
Before becoming an inside sales agent, be sure that you understand both the good and bad aspects of the role. You should also think about what is most important to you in a working environment—do you thrive on routine, or do you thrive out in the field? Consider the following pros and cons to determine whether inside sales is the right fit for you.
Many inside sales agents enjoy a solid work-life balance and stability. Inside sales also tends to be more efficient and cost-effective for the business at large than outside sales.
- Consistency. Inside sales representatives typically have more consistent working hours because they’re not traveling and dealing with unpredictable factors like traffic, weather, and flight delays. Plus, they have more control over how they structure their day when communicating with customers asynchronously rather than scheduling multiple in-person meetings.
- Access to more resources and communication tools. Because inside sales agents spend most of their day in front of a computer, they have easier access to the necessary tools, supplies, and files. In an office setting, they can also go directly to sales managers and colleagues when they need support.
- Can work from anywhere. Technology gives inside sales teams the freedom to work where they want. Remote work has become popular, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. And according to Owl Labs, remote employees note feeling less stressed and enjoy the flexibility to work when and how it suits them best.
- Lower costs. Inside salespeople incur fewer incidental costs, such as travel and lodging, than outside sales agents. Additionally, they only require a basic set of tools to do their job: access to a computer, Internet, and a phone. If your company allows reps to work from home, it also may save on overhead costs.
- Quick and efficient. When you’re not spending hours traveling every day, you can dedicate more time to selling. Asynchronous communication tools like messaging platforms and email also allow inside sales reps to speak with multiple prospects at once. Plus, you can use automation to schedule follow-up messages, set reminders, and handle repetitive tasks.
The biggest challenges of inside sales involve building relationships remotely and dealing with repetition.
- Monotony. For some, sitting behind a desk all day and connecting virtually may become tedious or unfulfilling. Outside sales reps get to spend much of their time on the road exploring new locations and meeting with people in person, which may be more invigorating.
- Difficult to build strong customer relationships. While everyone is more familiar with Zoom due to COVID-19, video meetings with leads may still feel somewhat unnatural. The technology is relatively new, so some reps (and/or customers) may prefer meeting in person. And building those relationships might just take longer when most conversations are virtual.
Use a CRM to boost inside sales success
Inside sales reps heavily rely on digital communication, so the right tools are critical to creating connections with leads and meeting benchmarks. A customer relationship management (CRM) system, like Zendesk Sell, is particularly helpful for setting up reps for success.
A CRM will capture all your conversations and customer data so you can track progress and sell more effectively. You can also save time by building targeted lead lists, scheduling meetings and phone calls, and reviewing customer notes—all from one centralized place.