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 InsideSales.com, 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, salesforce.com “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.
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 www.KenKrogue.com (with total views) and a Summary of Ken’s Forbes Articles
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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”