Many of us are stuck in the coronavirus lockdown right now and the difference between inside and outside has become rather acute. The inside world has become a collective bubble, the outside world one we only venture into for exercise and essentials. It’s a stark difference, as stark as the difference between inside and outside sales.
Inside sales versus outside sales is a concept and quandary that most businesses will have to consider at some point. This dichotomy is as much about philosophy as it is strategy and tactics. Deciding on which approach to take is an important step in any sales professional’s career and has a tremendous impact on one’s business.
Despite the importance of this cleavage many salespeople are unaware of the difference between inside sales versus outside sales. Inside salesmen have different needs compared with outside salesmen and learning the difference between the two concepts will significantly improve your personal and business efficacy.
What’s the difference between inside and outside sales?
The main difference between inside sales versus outside sales comes down to how you sell your product; via technology or in person. Inside sales involves selling products and services remotely. This can take place using a variety of methods including phone calls, emails, video conferencing etc.
Outside sales is where you sell products and services in person through face-to-face meetings, and other more traditional mediums and events. These can include industry events, conferences, trade shows, seminars etc. This can even include bars and door to door sales. As you can imagine this method involves a considerable amount of travel.
Inside sales are more common in companies focusing on modern products like technology whereas traditional hardware product sales usually rely on the outside sales method. However there are exceptions to this rule. You have to decide which method works best for you and your product.
The essentials on inside sales
If you’re an inside salesman you need to be able to balance a variety of factors. You have to be able to chase down leads from your own desk so you need to be comfortable using technology. Good wifi is a must as are social media savvy and researching skills.
In fact social media is the key to advertising your product and finding new customers especially via professional pages like LinkedIn. When you’re contacting a new prospect you have to invest time in researching their company, discovering their pain, and finding out how you can best sell your product to them.
Inside salesmen need to be able to write proficiently as you might imagine, but they also need to be able to pick on non-verbal cues and implications. A lot of their work will be over the phone or webcam so the subtle hints prospects can drop in conversation can be very useful. If you’re involved in this field be prepared to take the initiative and be adaptable.
Despite being office based inside sales is not a regular 9-5 job. Far from it, thanks to modern technology you’re reachable anytime, anywhere. You have to know your product inside and out, and be prepared for tough prospects and questions at any time.
You’ve also got to be a real team player. As an inside salesman your base is going to be in an office surrounded by teammates. Embrace this, let your team motivate you to excellence and empower them in return. This is how to be the best inside salesman.
How to be the best outside sales rep
Outside sales are an absolute must in industries where personal relationships and human interaction are key, like automobiles and manufacturing. As a result you need to have outstanding interpersonal skills if you want to work in outside sales. Confidence is so important to performing well in any sales environment but this is especially so in outside sales.
Where an inside salesman needs to be a good researcher, an outside salesman needs to have good problem solving skills. Compared with an inside salesman you don’t have any time to react to potential problems as your prospect or customer will frequently expect an answer on the spot. If you’re the type of person who views problems as challenges rather than obstacles in your way then you’re probably the kind of person who’ll thrive in outside sales.
As you’ll be spending a lot of your time out of the office you need to dress to impress for every meeting and be able to manage your own schedule. Be prepared for last minute changes and don’t moan if meetings drag on into the wee small hours. This is especially true for countries where business relies on establishing friendly relationships like Russia and China.
There are a lot of perks to outside sales including social visits, corporate dinners and sometimes even free flowing alcohol. Don’t be seduced into thinking this makes it an easy job however, it’s not, being an outside salesman is very competitive. Stereotypes about the crumbling care salesman and stressed real estate agent exist for a reason, outside sales can be tough and not everyone is cut out for it.
Should I choose inside sales or outside sales for my business?
Choosing which of these sales models to use for your business is an important decision. In the United States inside salesmen are rapidly becoming the norm accounting for just under 50% of sales professionals. They’re growing a rate of 15% faster compared to their outside sales counterparts.
To be sure, if your product is entirely online and multinational then inside sales is your best option. If you decide to use the inside sales model then base your team’s goals on overall company sales goals. Every inside sales rep should have an attainable target that is on display to their colleagues to improve accountability. Also, make sure your major targets are based on verifiable big data.
If you decide to focus purely on outside sales then you absolutely have to invest in a decent scheduling system your entire team uses. Mark each of your colleagues’ territories, record their meetings, and plan to ensure there’s no overlap or confusion. Try to localize your reps too as hiring someone in say Los Angeles, California, if you’re selling directly to the film industry, makes much more sense than flying people in from Omaha, Nebraska.
You can also adopt a hybrid approach. In fact this is rapidly becoming a feature at most sales focused companies. Adopting this approach can be extremely effective as it covers more ground than one single approach but it relies on hiring adaptable and tech savvy employees. They need to be both analytical enough to work well as an inside salesman yet possess enough initiative and interpersonal skills to be a decent outside salesman.
Inside or outside – Always adapt
Whatever sales system you decide to use, inside or outside, you will encounter challenges you will need to overcome. Always consider how you can adapt and change your practices to maximise your efficacy and success. You can achieve this via research as well as by implementing the best practices of colleagues and competitors.
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