What is Inside Sales

Inside sales is the sale of products or services by personnel who reach customers by phone or online, rather than by meeting them in person. Inside sales relies on the phone, email and the internet to reach customers and is common in the retail industry. Other ways to define inside sales are "remote sales" or "virtual sales."


Unlike outside sales personnel, inside salespeople traditionally do not travel. Despite this, they are still proactive about contacting potential customers and may engage in cold calling. However, a company may also designate incoming calls from prospective customers as inside sales. In addition, a company may outsource its inside sales duties to a third party instead of conducting sales in-house.

Inside Sales History

The advent of the telephone and its use as a sales tool gave birth to the distinction between inside and outside sales. The term "inside sales" was created in the 1980s to differentiate telemarketing or telesales from higher-touch phone sales common with business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales practices. Still, inside sales is essentially the same as telemarketing. By the late 1990s or early 2000s, the term "inside sales" was being used to mark a difference between it and outside sales.

Sometimes inside and outside sales personnel and practices are paired for greater efficiency. For example, an inside sales individual within a department may handle the legwork of creating and organizing sales appointments for outside sales personnel, otherwise known as lead generation. In some cases, inside sales personnel may be used to upsell incumbent customers.

Inside Sales Trends

Given the rising comfort levels of consumers with buying goods and services online or by phone, inside sales numbers are growing. It is now the fastest growing segment of sales and lead generation. It even has its own industry association, the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP). One study has found that inside sales made up about 29% of the global sales force in 2017 but should rise to over 30% in 2018. Companies with large sales forces are aiming for 40% or more of their salespeople to perform inside sales.

Meanwhile, the ways most inside and outside salespeople operate are converging. Increasingly, outside salespeople are making more sales remotely and inside salespeople are occasionally going out in the field. This convergence is aided by the adoption of new sales-facilitating technologies, as well as changing customer attitudes toward how they like to buy things and be sold to. This has led to a new moniker for inside sales: "sales in the cloud."