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Shifting to Inside Sales? Know How to Recognize the Traits of Outside vs. Inside Sales People



Since 2009, inside sales roles have grown at a 7.5% rate annually. It doesn’t sound so dramatic until you compare the 0.5% growth of outside or field sales roles. This trend will only continue as companies shift to inside sales models to cut costs and put technology to work.

However, this shift is also due in part to changing buying behavior. Today, 57% of a purchase decision is completed before a buyer contacts a seller, giving inside sales reps a bigger role within their companies. Half of the battle with inside sales is keeping your prospect engaged. It’s easier to lose prospects in inside sales because there’s always the opportunity for them to hang up, not return phone calls or send your emails straight to the delete folder. With prospects that much more aware of your product or service before the initial contact, it is vital as a seller that you tailor each conversation to their pain points and maintain engagement.

With the modified relationship between buyer and seller, it is important to be aware of your own sales characteristics and those of your team–whether you’re among the sales managers or the salespeople–to ensure all people placed in inside sales roles are well suited to this role. That’s because those characteristics that make for successful outside sales reps aren’t necessarily the same as those characteristics that make for successful inside sales reps. Since companies have goals they need to reach, they have to make sure the right people with the right characteristics are working towards those goals.

Below we’ve summed up the common characteristics of both outside and inside sales reps. If your department or business is in the process of streamlining the sales process and placing a new emphasis on the inside vs. the outside sales rep, you’ll want to read through these descriptions and understand the different qualities needed for each role.

Characteristics of a successful outside sales rep
Those salespeople working in the field? They are the epitome of what we call a people person. Outside salespeople are focused on:

  • Building relationships – They’re like self-employed business owners in the way they do their own thing, and those “businesses” they’re developing are the relationships that lead to sales.
    • As a result, their days are less structured and lack routine.
  • Networking – They tend to be much more focused on their networks versus cold calling and prospecting. And because they are never in the office, they are typically less focused administrative details like logging their activity in the CRM.

If you have been or you know a successful field sales rep, then you know firsthand this tendency to pay more attention to people than paperwork. And these relationships pay off! Most outside sales reps prove their worth by closing deals—often very big deals.

Characteristics of a successful inside sales rep
As opposed to the outside sales person, inside sales reps tend to be less focused on networking and more focused on cold calling and structured sales pitches. Inside sales reps are focused on:

  • Structure and organization – Because they are typically at desks in a corporate office and not on the road working out of coffee shops, it is beneficial if the inside salesperson is organized and comfortable with routine.
  • Metrics and numbers — like outside reps, inside sales reps have their sales goals or quotas that need to be met. But, because they are typically in an office environment, they also need to be able to prove their worth via keeping their CRM and activity reports updated to show the status of each MQL/SQL in the sales funnel. In many ways it is a more quantifiable position.

Don’t think they’re all about routine administrative tasks, however. Good inside salespeople have to be optimistic, persuasive and competitive. After all, they’re in sales! They care about the revenue and results every bit as much as the top producer does (which sometimes comes from the inside sales team)!

This isn’t to say that just because someone exhibits all the extroverted traits of a field rep they can’t succeed at a desk armed primarily with a computer and sales technology. In addition to the organized and structured traits of inside sales reps, it takes a desire to connect and build relationships via phone and email. Some say it takes more than that of an outside or field sales rep due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. It is imperative to make sure those who are placed in the inside sales positions are well-suited to the job, with the ability to conform to routines, be detail-oriented about administrative tasks, and thrive without the face-to-face contact that’s typical of the outside sales rep’s daily life, while still focusing on developing personal relationships and closing the deal.


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