The pandemic has caused significant changes in how B2B SaaS businesses operate.
Pre-COVID, SaaS companies juggled conventional and digital customer service methods. It was a formula for success then.
Now, as remote work becomes the "new normal," they're embracing a contactless economy. This presents fresh challenges, particularly for sales teams, who must adapt to remain productive and connect with prospects and customers actively.
The shift also altered the sales model from a mix of inside and outside sales to predominantly inside sales. But can inside sales stand on its own?
In this article, we'll dive deep into inside sales vs. outside sales and determine which one excels in the post-pandemic era.
What is Inside Sales?
Inside sales is a sales approach where teams operate remotely, not needing to travel to meet customers. They connect with prospects and clients through calls, emails, video meetings (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.), and digital platforms like LinkedIn.
Inside sales reps handle everything remotely, from finding leads to guiding customers through purchases and offering product demonstrations, and this is the most commonly adopted sales model in B2B SaaS companies.
Benefits of Inside Sales
Inside sales offers a modern approach to selling and thus capitalizes on the digital shift in buying behaviors.
While this sales model offers numerous benefits, we will discuss the most important ones.
- Preference for remote interactions: Studies indicate that approximately 80% of B2B sales will occur through digital channels by 2025. Inside sales representatives leverage this trend by actively utilizing virtual sales techniques, including the use of online product demos to connect with potential customers remotely.
- Extended reach: Inside sales teams can engage with a broader customer base due to their remote working style. This geographical and time zone flexibility enables them to prospect, generate qualified leads, close deals, and manage customer interactions better.
Inside sales allows for direct and improved communication with prospects, no matter where they are located. It also provides sales reps with better opportunities for guidance and training from inside sales managers to close deals successfully. - Matthew Ramirez, Founder at Rephrase.
- Cost efficiency: Inside sales are cost-effective as they rely on digital tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, HubSpot, and others for remote prospecting and lead management. This also eliminates travel and accommodation expenses associated with outside sales, making it easier to scale your inside sales team.
- Focus on agility, and transparency: Inside sales work at a much faster pace than external sales. Introducing a new process or changing an existing one doesn't require too much manual effort or time. This is because most inside sales functions are automated with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools that also promote transparency among the team, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
For instance, VIVOTE uses Zendesk as its CRM to automate its sales processes and boost efficiency. With the help of Zendesk, the inside sales team streamlines operations with automation, including tasks from work orders to discount approvals and digital signatures to consolidating leads, contacts, and deals.
What is Outside Sales?
Outside sales, often referred to as field sales, is a traditional sales method where representatives engage with prospects in person, conducting face-to-face meetings to promote and sell products or services. Outside sales representatives, also known as field sales reps, are mobile, spending most of their time visiting prospects at various locations.
In B2B sales, field sales reps usually take up the following roles:
- Presenting their solutions at industry events such as conferences and trade shows and providing opportunities to meet potential clients.
- Network at industry events to connect with prospects that can lead to business opportunities.
- They may visit client premises to introduce themselves and their products or services to potential clients.
- Conduct face-to-face sales demos, allowing prospects to experience the value and features of their offerings firsthand.
- Managing contracts, subscriptions, and other administrative tasks related to the sales process.
Benefits of Outside Sales
Outside sales are particularly effective for B2B SaaS businesses only when there are lengthy sales cycles and complex software targeting larger accounts. For example:
- Enterprise-level engagement: Enterprises with thousands of potential users may prefer in-person interactions when making significant software commitments for a deeper level of trust and understanding.
- Higher-stakes deals: When dealing with large organizations, the prospect's financial commitment is substantial; hence, using personalized, in-person nurturing and assurance can help.
Some benefits of outside sales include:
- Building strong relationships: Outside sales reps can leverage personal charisma, build rapport, and establish trust through face-to-face interactions, which can be critical in influencing decision-makers and closing deals.
- In-person product demonstrations: Demonstrating the value and features of a product or service in person helps differentiate a company from competitors and addresses concerns effectively.
- Autonomy and flexibility: Outside sales reps often enjoy more autonomy and flexibility in planning their schedules and strategies.
Also, check out: Top Sales Enablement Tools
Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: 5 Key Differences.
Understanding the differences between inside and outside sales is crucial for businesses that are looking to optimize their sales models.
Here are some of the key differentiators between inside and outside sales:
- Inside Sales: In inside sales, SDRs reach out to potential leads, qualify them, and initiate contact via cold calling, cold emailing or cold social outreach. For instance, when someone engages with the company, such as downloading a document or requesting a demo, they reach out, record details in the CRM, and pass the lead to an Account Executive (AE).
- Outside Sales: Outside sales the SDR is out on the field approaching prospects at events or different locations and pitching them the product or service directly. It emphasizes on building in-person relationships, conducting face-to-face product demonstrations, and closing deals through direct interactions.
Sales Engagement Approach
- Inside Sales: Relies on remote communication and digital tools to engage with clients. Sales reps interact with prospects through virtual meetings, cold emails, and cold phone calls. The approach is more transactional and leans on the efficiency of digital channels. For example, in order to scale their outreach efforts to close more deals, they may use sales engagement tools to automate cold emails and cold calls at scale.
- Outside Sales: Outside sales emphasize face-to-face interactions. Representatives visit prospects personally to build rapport, trust, and stronger relationships. They can conduct in-depth product demonstrations, which is especially valuable for complex solutions.
- Inside Sales: The primary goal of inside sales is to efficiently generate leads, qualify prospects, and close deals through remote interactions.
- Outside Sales: Outside sales aims to establish and nurture deeper relationships with prospects and customers, with a focus on high-value, complex, and long-term deals. This approach aligns well with industries where personal trust and interaction are crucial.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
- Inside Sales: Common KPIs for inside sales include metrics like call volume, email response rates, lead conversion rates, and number of won deals . Inside sales teams often track efficiency-focused metrics.
- Outside Sales: Outside sales teams measure success through KPIs like face-to-face meeting frequency, relationship-building indicators, deal sizes, and customer retention rates. The emphasis is on nurturing long-term client relationships and larger, high-value transactions
- Inside Sales: Inside sales typically suit shorter sales cycles, where quick interactions, digital tools, and remote engagement lead to efficient deal closure. It is often preferred for products or services with lower complexity and lower price points.
- Outside Sales: Outside sales is well-suited for industries with longer sales cycles and complex solutions. Building trust and understanding through face-to-face interactions is valuable for high-value transactions, making it the preferred approach for many enterprise-level sales scenarios.
Even though inside and outside sales have stark differences, in recent times, the distinction between the both has become less clear. In fact, outside sales are also employing tools such as virtual conferencing product demos and sales automation tools to reach customers.
According to Stefan Chekanov, CEO and Founder of Brosix:
In the SaaS field, most customers want a quick and easy process from the comfort of their home or office. Pay a subscription and get access to the service - it's that simple. That's why inside sales prevail in most SaaS companies, and there are almost no obstacles faced while connecting with potential customers this way. At the same time, outside sales are also important as they bring immense positivity in the form of loyal customers.
Many SaaS companies, even though they prefer inside sales, have adopted a hybrid model, utilizing both inside and outside sales tactics to sell their solutions. Adopting any sales model would depend on the type of product you are selling and your target audience.
How Is a Sales Team Structured?
While following either of the sales methods, you need to ensure your sales efforts are set for success. For this, you need a worked-out process and have a skilled and able team.
Here’s what the structure and processes of an inside sales vs. outside sales team usually look like:
Inside Sales Structure and Process
The structure of an inside sales team is fairly straightforward. The process usually involves the following sales activities:
- Prospecting and capturing leads: Identifying and targeting ideal prospects through manual outreach via email, phone, or social media. CRM tools help organize and track prospects throughout the sales process.
- Distributing the leads: Implementing an automated system to distribute leads uniformly based on preset criteria, ensuring fairness and transparency.
- Qualifying the leads: Qualifying and prioritizing leads based on their likelihood to convert, often using scoring systems. Apart from this, the SDR also conducts discovery calls to find out if they pass the BANT/MEDDIC qualification criteria.
- Meeting: Utilizing tele-calling or video conferencing tools to make calls to assigned leads and tracking these interactions within the CRM. Some CRMs even record conversations for review and refinement of call scripts.
- Following up with the prospects: Diligently follow up with leads through automated reminders or email sequences to nurture them until they convert.
- Closing the deal: The final step is where leads become customers. The inside sales team hands over the deal to the customer success team.
The inside sales team structure can vary with organizations and also largely depends on the goal. But the following roles can be commonly seen:
- SDR (Sales Development Representative): SDRs focus on reaching out to prospects, prospecting, and determining lead qualification.
- BDR (Business Development Representative): BDRs specialize in generating qualified prospects through cold email, cold calling, social selling, and networking. Often, SDRs conduct cold calling and hand over qualified leads to BDRs.
- AE (Account Executive): AEs are responsible for conducting meetings, nurturing the sales pipeline, closing deals, and managing customer interactions.
Merely following these processes and structures doesn't ensure sales success. According to Kate Garrison, Enterprise Business Development Manager at Datasite on LinkedIn, it is very important to strike the perfect balance between quality and quantity of leads in sales. For this, you need to:
- Define your ideal customer profile (ICP).
- Prioritize lead qualification based on fit and engagement.
- Implement effective qualification techniques like BANT.
- Set realistic goals for quantity and quality.
- Please be sure to prioritize your outreach to increase engagement.
- Continuously refine your processes based on feedback.
Outside Sales Structure and Process
Here's what an outside sales process usually looks like:
- Attend in-person meetings and events: Field sales reps travel to meet clients in person and participate in industry events and meetings.
- Conduct demos: Conduct in-person product demonstrations, showcasing the value and features of their offerings.
- Carry out In-person selling (if necessary): Prospecting, closing deals, and managing the customer relationship are all conducted face-to-face.
- Meet sales quotas: They work towards meeting or exceeding their sales quotas, often with a smaller customer base but larger deal sizes.
The outside sales team structure may involve the following roles. Ultimately, the roles and hierarchy can change depending on your company's size, location, etc.
- Field Sales Representative: Responsible for traveling to meet customers, attending events, prospecting, closing deals, and managing long-term relationships.
- Sales Manager: Manages a group of field sales representatives, often overseeing specific regions or large customer groups, ensuring they meet their sales goals.
- Sales Support Staff: Assists the sales team throughout the process by processing orders, troubleshooting issues, and providing product information when needed.
Pros & Cons of Inside and Outside Sales
The choice between inside and outside sales models carries significant implications for businesses and sales professionals alike. If you are thinking of considering either of them, it is essential to know the challenges and advantages it brings to the table.
Pros and Cons of Inside Sales:
Top Sales Strategies for Inside and Outside Teams
Sales strategy is the roadmap to achieving sales goals; whether you're managing an inside team or an outside sales team, the right approach is critical.
So, let's explore some of the best sales strategies that work well with inside and outside sales teams:
Product-Led Sales Strategy
Product-led sales (PLS) are not the same as product-led growth, although this sales strategy is an approach meant for the inside sales team in PLG organizations. PLS uses the product as the persuader in the sales process. In order to ensure it works well, you need to use effective tools and automation, which are indispensable when it comes to inside sales.
The ultimate goal of the sales team here is to convert the PQLs (product-qualified leads) to SQLs (sales-qualified leads), and the methods employed here are always personalized. Hence, interactive product demos are the perfect nudge for converting them to paid users. And this is exactly where you can employ Storylane.
Storylane's interactive product demonstration capabilities can be invaluable for inside sales teams.
- Create and personalize interactive product demos for your prospect and send it as a leave-behind in your follow-up emails to help your champions get buy-in from different decision makers.
- Create live demos that can be used during discovery calls and various proof-of-concept stages.
- Offer personalized demos tailored to each prospect using CRM data, leaving behind static documents.
- Receive notifications when prospects view or share your demo, and gain valuable insights to improve your sales demos.
Outbound Sales Strategy
Outbound sales strategy is perfect for inside, outside, and hybrid sales teams as it involves proactive outreach to potential customers through methods like cold calling, email campaigns, face-to-face interactions, and other forms of communication. It is effective for outside sales teams who are often on the move, as it allows them to reach out to prospects in various locations.
Outbound sales teams use various tools to help them manage their leads and customer relationships, automate tasks, and track their results. These tools include CRM systems, sales intelligence tools, email marketing platforms, phone dialer software, and social selling tools that helps your team push the leads through the sales funnel and provide them value to convert at each stage.
The focus here is to scale your sales outreach by automating tasks such as lead generation, email outreach, and follow-up. This, in turn, allows your sales team to allows you to reach a large number of potential customers quickly and efficiently, in addition to focusing on building relationships with prospects and closing deals.
In short, outbound sales strategy is perfect for:
- Highly-targeted outreach
- Immediate feedback and results
- Personal contact with prospects
- Control over marketing and selling pace
Wrapping Up (+FAQs)
In the post-pandemic era, organizations need a cost-effective, flexible, product-centric, and data-driven sales model. Although some businesses may still prefer outside sales, B2B customers are slanting towards online interactions, making inside sales a perfect solution!
They employ modern technology to support your team and improve your sales conversions without increasing your customer acquisition cost. It is indeed a formula for success. So, embrace this shift and empower your team to adapt to this high-paced job with the right support.
Q1. Is inside sales better than outside sales?
Inside and outside sales have their merits. Inside sales may excel in digital-heavy markets, while outside sales can be effective for relationship-based selling. However, Inside sales is often favoured in the B2B sector due to its cost-efficiency, scalability, and adaptability to remote work, making it a better fit for the modern business landscape.
Q2. What is an example of inside sales?
An example of inside sales is a software company's representatives conducting product demonstrations and sales calls via video conferencing and email to reach customers remotely.
Q3. What is an example of outside sales?
An example of outside sales would involve sales reps traveling to client offices, attending industry events, and conducting in-person presentations and negotiations to secure large enterprise contracts.