Article

What is inside sales? Definition, benefits, and tips for success

Learn the ins and outs of inside sales.

By Emily Miels, Contributing Writer

Published September 17, 2019
Last updated September 17, 2021

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

3 inside sales tactics to increase your chances of success

Inside sales may be more convenient for reps, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy. You can’t meet with leads in person, so you have to work extra hard to understand what your potential customers are looking for and connect with them in compelling ways. Here are a few tips for keeping your inside sales methods customer-centric and successfully closing deals.

  1. Do your research

    Make sure you perform plenty of research to learn about your leads and their specific pain points and needs.

    Start by exploring leads’ company websites and reviewing their social media platforms. Understand what the company does, what role your point of contact has within the organization, and what values are important to them—both on a personal and company-wide level. Read the “About Us” page, staff and team pages, blog, and social bio. You can often find interesting tidbits to help you hone your sales pitch and find common ground as you begin to build the relationship.

    Once you’ve thoroughly researched your lead and their company, take some time to research their competitors, too. What are they doing well? Where are they struggling? Use that information in future conversations to showcase how your product or service will help your potential customer outshine the competition.

  2. Focus on relationships, not sales

    Not everything has to be a sales pitch. Inside sales requires establishing rapport and fostering trust, which naturally leads to sales.

    Get to know your leads by connecting with them on social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn. Comment on their posts, like a few things here and there, and share helpful content to build rapport over the long-term.

    Initial conversations may be less sales-focused and more friendly and educational. Practice active listening and ask the right questions to understand your leads on a deeper level. Then, you can naturally segue into talking about how your business can help them overcome the challenges they’re facing.

  3. Find your selling persona

    Because most of your sales interactions are virtual, you have the unique opportunity to find the tone, voice, and selling style that works best for you. While you should always be true to who you are, asynchronous communication allows you to fine-tune responses.

    Unlike outside sales reps, you don’t have to come up with witty jokes and responses on the spot. You can easily send memes, emojis, and other humorous content that helps build connections. The same is true if you really want to showcase your expertise by sharing educational resources, stats, and data.

    Like any form of selling, inside sales centers on the prospective buyer. The three customer-centric sales tactics described above will help you close more deals more efficiently.

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.

Simplify your sales tools

Learn how to remove the guesswork of sales software so your team can focus on building relationships and closing deals.