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The most pragmatic definition of Inside Sales is simple:

Inside Sales is “remote sales,” most lately called “virtual sales,” or professional sales done remotely. Where Outside Sales or traditional Field Sales is done face-to-face.

Taken in this context, the majority of all sales is done remotely, and the numbers are growing. A recent study done by SKKU and MIT, in conjunction with infoUSA, found that over the next three years, Inside Sales is growing at a fifteen times higher rate (7.5% versus .5% annually) over Outside Sales, to the tune of 800,000 new jobs.

More evidence: if you don’t believe it, grab a list of 10 traditional or “Outside Sales” people and call them. 7 out of 10 will be sitting in front of their computer, working in their cubicle, office, or home office—just like the Inside Sales people.

The term “Inside Sales” originally came about in the late 1980s as an attempt to differentiate “Telemarketing” (or “Telesales in the UK) from the more complex, “high-touch,” phone-based business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) selling practices.

Telemarketing is often believed to have begun in the 1950s by DialAmerica Marketing, Inc., reported to be the first company dedicated to telephone sales and services. By the 1970s telemarketing was a common phrase used to describe the process of selling over the telephone. It often included both outbound and inbound, but later became much more synonymous with the types of outbound calling we’re all familiar with—large-scale “blasts” to lists of names to try and drum up quick sales, usually while the family is sitting around the dinner table.

By the late 1990s/early 2000s, Inside Sales was the term used to differentiate the practice from Outside Sales—the traditional face-to-face sales model where salespeople went to the client’s location of business to engage in the sales process.

In 2004 when Dave Elkington and I founded, we searched in Google on the keyword Inside Sales and there was nobody else there, but there were 10’s of thousands of companies that came up trying to hire inside sales reps.  What was a second class department is now the fastest growing segment of sales and lead generation. With the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP), a viable inside sales industry association in place for three years, inside sales is an industry rapidly maturing.

Companies found the new channel of Inside Sales to be undeniably effective, but often didn’t know what to do to solve the conflict between the younger, disruptive, more technically savvy upstarts who sold over the phone, and their more senior counterparts who wielded incredible political power in their organizations as the entrenched source of revenue for nearly a century.

For years Inside Sales has been relegated to generating leads for the more senior Outside Sales reps or merely closing the smaller accounts. This is now no longer the case. Many companies are already using a hybrid form of Inside Sales, with reps calling from their company’s home office, then traveling occasionally to client locations and merely calling it “sales.” Research shows that three years ago Outside Sales reps spent 41% of their day selling remotely, last year it rose to 46%.

By Marc Benioff’s own admission in his book “Behind the Cloud, “grew their company for the first five or six years with a telesales or Inside Sales model.” They added Outside Sales or Field Sales to go upmarket when they wanted to sell to Enterprise-class companies, but the company still does a majority of their sales work remotely. True door-to-door Field Sales is almost extinct.

Marc Benioff started with Inside Sales during the First 6 Years

Marc Benioff started with Inside Sales during the First 6 Years – (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Another way of defining “Inside Sales” is to also state what it is not.

Inside Sales is not Telemarketing.

Let me repeat: Inside Sales is NOT Telemarketing. Telemarketing is a scripted, single-call-close, almost always targeting a small-ticket, business to consumer (B2C) model.

Inside Sales is not scripted. It requires multiple calls or “touches” to create a sales close, involves medium or large ticket goods and services, and targets business-to-business (B2B) or high-end business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions.

Inside Sales is professional sales done remotely or virtually. It is not the mindless “phone drone” that calls at dinner time and won’t hang up until you have said “no” seven times.

Inside Sales is also not Customer Service. Though Inside Sales frequently involves an element of inbound call handling like a customer service department, in its pure form it is not customer service.

Some companies erroneously describe their inbound call centers as “inside sales,” but this does not fall within the boundaries of our definition unless the agents’ primary function is selling.

Inside Sales is professional sales done remotely. . . it is remote sales.

Top 30 Articles on (with total views) and a Summary of Ken’s Forbes Articles

  1. What is Inside Sales? Our Definition of Inside Sales | Ken Krogue – 56,369 Views
  2. Inside Sales Best Practices – 9,281 Views
  3. Inside Sales Tips by Ken Krogue – 5,488 Views
  4. My Final Comment on my “Death of SEO” column on Forbes – 6,411 Views
  5. 31 Linkedin tips – How-to-use-Linkedin-Best-Practices for B2B Prospecting – 5,680 Views
  6. Prediction – SEO will be Dead in 2 Years – 3,976 Views
  7. KPI – Key Performance Indicators – 2,285 Views
  8. Inside Sales versus Outside Sales – 2,226 Views
  9. Is Leaving a Voicemail Worthwhile? – 2,100 Views
  10. Inside Sales Tips – How LinkedIn Gives you 3 Free SEO Backlinks – 3,057 Views
  11. About Ken Krogue – 1,943 Views
  12. Inside Sales is Top Method of Lead Generation – 1,074 Views
  13. Inside Sales Training – 1,888 Views
  14. Good to Great by Jim Collins – Ken’s Notes Summary – 1,526
  15. Inside Sales Tips – Skip to the Beep – 1,392 Views
  16. Inside Sales Best Practices: 7 Ways to Increase Contact Ratios – 1,360
  17. Climb the Trust Ladder to Increase Results in Prospecting – W/ VIDEO! – 1,339 Views
  18. Harvard Business Review says Sales is No Longer About Relationships – 1,148 Views
  19. Inside Sales Tips – No Vacations Last Week of the Month – 1,140 Views
  20. Lead Generation Strategies: When to Call, When Not to Call? – 1,049 Views
  21. Inside Sales Tips – Specialize – 998 Views
  22. Inside Sales Tips – Interest is The Counterfeit of Need – 898 Views
  23. Behind the Cloud – Ken’s Notes – 877 Views
  24. 6 Reasons Salesforce Users Need Hosted Dialer Technology – 856 Views
  25. Demand Generation Tactics and Strategy – 689 Views
  26. Power Dialers – 665 Views
  27. Inside Sales Best Practices: Gathering Direct Dial Phone Numbers – 601
  28. What is Lead Response Management – 573 Views
  29. Ken’s Rules: The Business Card Rule – 430 Views
  30. Josh James Shares 36 Startup Rules – 399 Views

A Complete Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes Articles, Including his newly updated “Definition of Inside Sales” and his #1 on all of Forbes (and most controversial) article “The Death of SEO

Author: Ken Krogue |

A little more about Ken... |

43 thoughts on “What is Inside Sales? — Our Definition of Inside Sales

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  5. To continue with the “Lead Generation” theme: (Nice blog spot here by the way)

    I don’t know if the rest of you agree but, the obvious difference between a lead generation program and an appointment setting campaign is that a lead generation program stops one step short of setting a qualified appointment. Some clients, involved in a complex sale that requires a vast knowledge of the industry or strong knowledge capital, prefer us to qualify the lead and then hand it over to the client to have an in-depth business discussion and qualify the lead more thoroughly before they actually set a qualified appointment.

    What you have to do is Select Target Campaigns: Some of our clients (Tech Company Lead Generation) request that we focus our cold calling to set qualified appointments on a short list of select targets. The Select Target campaign involves calling multiple times collecting information and escalating the qualification process until we set a qualified appointment. For enterprise targets involving a complex sale we can contact multiple decision makers and influencers to schedule a qualified appointment with each executive. All B2B appointment setting campaigns are customized to meet your needs.

    The Bottom Line. Would sales increase if your salespeople and agents spent more time with qualified prospects and less time trying to find them? Appointment setting isn’t just a necessity – it’s an essential resource to help capture market share, build your business and achieve your revenue goals.

    Here is what we offer, what do you people think in here about this?

    * Decision Maker appointments
    * You receive every email and communication with prospects (audio recordings)
    * (No Shows for you = 0%)
    * We have lists of over 25,000 potential prospects in the U.S.
    * We can use your CRM list if requested
    * Unlike most Lead Gen firms, you can directly call our Bus. Dev. people anytime
    * Your account status is done DAILY by Phone not email like our competition
    * Fast turnaround of your project
    * Cost savings and revenue increase
    * Significant improvement in the quality and productivity of your business

    Honestly, every post that you see on the web describes the next BIG methodology when it comes to B2B Lead Generation. At my company Partner Source, which is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we approach the Lead Generation subject with science, as it is our business.

    You have to have values that you stand by as an organization, Partner Source Values: Our principles define us. We stand for: Qualified appointments, results, performance and quality above all else. Outstanding Client Service is our dedication to responsiveness, consistent and effective communication with no surprises, and always meeting deadlines. Absolute honesty and integrity. Continuous Self-Improvement – the spirit of mastery. Making a difference with each person, every minute, every call, every day. We are dedicated to our client’s total satisfaction.

    Glenn Wright
    Partner Source Minnesota (B2B Lead Generation)

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  7. Ken – conclusive summary. Thanks! My favorite line: “Inside Sales is professional sales done remotely.”

    In fact, many companies have responded to economic pressures to cut costs and increase productivity by re-strategizing around an inside sales business model. While this shift might implicate a potential loss of outside sales touch, video conferencing technology enables today’s effective enterprise to transform its inside sales force into a virtual outside sales organization. They’re able to put the human back in the selling equation… without the price tag.

  8. Lead generation is one of the most important if not the most important marketing tools in the insurance and real estate industries!

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  16. Ken – Perfect differentiation between telemarketing & Inside Sales. Best line to sum up : Inside Sales is professional sales done remotely . . . it is remote sales

  17. I agree with Eric Hickman. Generating quality leads is still an all important way to get sales and long-term business clients.

  18. Thanks for a well written article, just what I was looking for. Will be back for more 🙂

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  24. I have fun with, cause I discovered just what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

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  28. Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the challenges.
    It was definitely informative. Your website is useful.
    Thank you for sharing!

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  30. Ken – Great article! You mention that, “Research shows that three years ago Outside Sales reps spent 41% of their day selling remotely, last year it rose to 46%.” Do you know where this research is published? I’m looking to site this statistic in a presentation I am constructing.

  31. Hey! I just want to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice
    information you’ve got here on this post. I will probably be coming again
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  32. Ed,

    The first study was done by infoUSA and the second one was done by the Business Intelligence team at


  33. I’ve been doing inside sales for almost 20 years… ran my own inside sales business for 15 years and over that time have really figured out how it works… the frustrating thing is its hard to get the respect this “art” deserves… Companies seem to think they can pick up anybody and throw them on the phone and get the same results… Today I’m seeing a tendency for companies to want to hire current college grads…they just don’t have the experience and skills to do the job more experienced inside sales people can do. It truly is a talent and takes experience to develop the knowledge, as well as as verbal skills and almost an innate ability to develop rapport quickly which I think comes from a mindset that understands true customer service, which in my opinion is a lost art. Especially in the younger generation as they just have never experienced the old fashioned customer service people crave today. I have closed $20,000 to $40,000 sales over the phone in a 20 minute conversation with someone I never talked to before… and who has never seen the product.. Most companies think this is impossible…can’t be done… but it is possible … its hard to find good inside sales jobs though… I’m pretty sure that’s changing though, with the high cost of gas, it has to…companies can’t afford salesmen running all over town burning up gas at $3-4.00 per gallon.

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