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Donald C. Kelly, Inside Sales, Outside Sales

TSE 1172: Should I Start Off With Inside Sales or Outside Sales?


Donald C. Kelly, Inside Sales, Outside Sales

Are you new to sales and asking yourself the universal sales question, “Should I start off with inside sales or outside sales?” Many share the same thought and I have five things to help you figure out a better way to go.  

Inside sales vs outside sales 

Every company is different, however, inside roles typically have the SDR (sales development rep) or the BDR (business development rep). Depending on the company, these may be different roles done by different individuals. 

The business development reps may be the ones finding new prospects for the business. For some companies, the sales development reps are focused on the inbounds. When the sales come in through marketing or via the website, the sales development reps will get more information making them the first line of contact with the SDRs. They talk to potential clients, qualify them, and set them up for appointments. 

An inside sales rep who’s also doing outbound tasks has a lot of work. The upside to outbound sales is getting a bigger commission than the person who’s doing solely inbound tasks. 

The business development reps need to qualify people, follow up, and make sure that they know their company’s products and services to have meaningful conversations with potential customers. 

For other companies, this doesn’t matter. 

If you’re on inbound sales then your job is to generate opportunity whether it’d be through cold calling or setting up appointments for outside sales reps. If you’re on outbound sales then your job includes taking the first appointment, having a deeper discussion with the prospect, and building value with the prospects. You need to dive in and understand their needs to be able to go to the most important parts of the sales process which are the pitch, presentation, and closing the deal. 

Inside sales first 

If you’re new to sales, the best path you can go is inbound sales. Here are the reasons you need to consider why. 

The decision of whether to go to inbound or outbound sales depends on the complexity of the product or service you’re selling. Consider a B2B sales scenario in which you’re selling a product with a certain level of complexity (computer software or something from the medical industry). Coming right out of college, you may not be used to such a level of complexity. Doing outside sales and having to develop the ability to sell the product and talk about it convincingly is not the easiest route. 

This scenario will be different if you’re selling a simple product. You can easily up your game, learn everything about the product, and sell it in no time. 

So, the first thing you should do is to evaluate the complexity of the sale that you’re doing. If the product is something that you’re not familiar with, learn as much as you can about the product first before you consider doing outside sales. 


The second thing to consider is that each industry has different ways of doing things. 

Take for example a government-based industry. The deal size for government-based industries can go from $30-$150,000 and the sales cycle can run from 6-18 months. If you’re not knowledgeable about how that works, then you’re not going to last. You need to know what the industry is and make sure that you understand how it works. 

Going to the inside gives you the opportunity to learn things and understand the lingo and the processes of the industry. 

One thing I’ve learned from doing inside sales for the government is that every city government typically has a buying cycle anywhere around the October timeframe or sometime during the summer. Typically, a sales rep’s job from January to June is doing demonstrations. You can’t expect to close deals on those months. The government-industry has long sales cycles and new sales reps need to understand that before jumping into the game. 

Sales cycle 

Outside sales are good if you can close your product within 30 days but if it takes longer than that, then you need to rethink your decision. 

Sales are like hunting or going on an adventure into a new world. #SalesQuotes

It’s better to have a guide to be able to make the right decisions. In the same sense, inside sales provides a team that will guide you along the way. You’ll know the proper ways of doing things and get more help from the mothership. This is something you won’t have if you do outside sales working as a lone ranger in a remote territory without a support system. 

Doing inside sales for a long sales cycle is best to get all the proper help before going off on your own. 

Business acumen 

Being new to sales or coming straight out of college means not having a strong understanding of the business. You’ll end up being one of those traditional sales reps that everyone’s making fun of, not the sales reps who is making value. You become the order taker and you’ll have a difficult time closing deals. 

You won’t be authoritative because you won’t feel confident. 

When you’re in inside sales, your job isn’t to close deals. Your job is to understand the challenges, to understand and create opportunities, and to know how to find the right people. #InsideSales

The knowledge you get from inside sales will help you ease into the outside sales. If you do some ride-alongs, you can jump on some demonstrations with your account executive. Being an inside sales rep gives you the chance to hear what your account executive is doing and why she is doing that. 

You have the chance to learn from their demonstrations and apply those learnings to your demonstrations when you start on your own. This will help you build your business acumen. 

You’ll be able to hear your seniors when you’re on inside sales the way I did before with Heather Barkley. 

She was one of the seniors in the bullpen when I was starting out and she gave me so much knowledge. Sometimes, she’d pull me out and explain the way things work. Her teachings helped me to frame my message as I was reaching out to prospects. 

Mess up and learn 

Being new in sales, you are bound to make mistakes. When you’re on inside sales, your quota may not be as large as the ones on outside sales. 

There are a lot of expectations for someone in outside sales but in inside sales, you have some room to mess up. 

If you are on outside sales and you’re getting all these qualified opportunities but you don’t know how to close these individuals, you’re not assertive enough, and you didn’t go through the TSE Certified Sales Training Program. You’ll eventually lose the opportunities. 

When that happens, you have a higher chance of getting kicked off the team because you’re not qualified. 

Diverse learning 

Another great reason why you need to start in inside sales is the chance to meet every department and learn from different individuals. Being in inside sales allows you to understand and learn many things. You understand marketing messaging and how they communicate with sales. You also know where the accounting department is coming from and you learn about the challenges that departments face. 

Additionally, you learn in customer service that the best types of customers are the ones who don’t complain, who use the system, and more. 

All these things will make you a better outside salesperson in the future. 

Go inside first, at least for six months for you to learn the ropes. If you’re on the outside when you’re not prepared, you’ll end up frustrated. 

Before you answer the question, “Should I start off with inside sales or outside sales?” consider these things first: 

  1. Complexity of the product
  2. Type of industry
  3. Sales cycle
  4. Your business acumen
  5. Your room for error

“Should I Start Off With Inside Sales or Outside Sales?” episode resources

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TSE 021: Should I Do Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales?

Inside Sales vs Outside Sales

I recently was sent this info graphic by a friend of mine and I wanted to share it and offer some of my thoughts. This is a great info graphic done by Sales Loft, and they did a pretty good job. I have had the opportunity to serve both as an inside sales and outside representative. Both have their benefits, but depending on the organization, product and the individual, they can work very successfully.

One of the companies I worked for brought me in as an inside sales representative with the promise that if I perform well, I will be promoted to outside sales. In this company, inside sales was more like the telemarketers. Our sole purpose in life was to find opportunities and serve the outside sales representatives. Mind you, not all organizations are like this. In some organizations the responsibilities are the same, except for the fact that one travels. We had a base salary and gained a small commission from the opportunities we generated which depended on if the outside sales representatives closed.

At times this was frustrating because you are depending on someone else’s ability to close “your deals”. At first I thought inside sales had the short end of the stick, but I quickly learned an invaluable secret. I am sure you have heard the saying “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime”? Well, that is essentially what happened when I was promoted to become an outside sales representative . I already KNEW all the right ways to find and developed opportunities with prospects. I did not rely on inside sales to feed my pipeline. I was able to see success over many of my counterparts and eventually out performed them. Inside sales taught me “how to fish” so I never went hungry.

If you have an opinion on inside sales vs. outside sales, please share. Thanks!

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