What Are Inside Sales?

Inside sales means the sale of products or services by personnel who reach customers through phone, email, or the internet. Other ways to define inside sales are "remote sales" or "virtual sales."

Understanding Inside 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.

Key Takeaways

  • An inside sale is the sale of products or services by personnel who reach customers by phone or online.
  • Inside and outside sales may be paired for greater efficiency, where they assist each other in tasks, such as lead generation, to increase sales.
  • Purchasing goods and services online or by phone is popular among consumers.

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 high ticket phone sales common with business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales practices.

Unlike telemarketers who read from scripts, inside sales reps are highly trained, creative people, who determine a sales strategy for selling products and services to customers. By the late 1990s or early 2000s, the term "inside sales" was being used to mark a difference between inside and outside sales.

Sometimes inside and outside sales personnel and practices work together 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 by adding ancillary products or services to their order.

The inside sales segment is now the fastest-growing segment of sales and lead generation.

Advantages of Inside Sales

Purchasing goods and services online or by phone is popular among consumers, looking for ways to simplify their lives. It even has its own industry association, the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP). One study found that inside sales made up about 29% of the global sales force in 2017, but was expected to rise to over 30%. 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 buying habits and attitudes about how products and services are sold. This has led to a new moniker for inside sales: "sales in the cloud."

In 2019, according to PayScale.com, the median base salary for an inside sales representative is $42,702, with 10% receiving a maximum salary of $61,000. However, salary differences can vary greatly among companies. For example, Oracle Corp. pays its inside sales reps an average salary of $51,204, while State Farm Insurance Company offers its sales reps an average salary of $29,290, according to PayScale's data.