Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: How Are They Different?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover the differences between inside sales and outside sales, sales salaries, and how to get a job in inside or outside sales.

[Featured image] An inside sales representative sits in front of a laptop and whiteboard in a windowed office.

Inside sales vs. outside sales: what's the difference?

The difference between inside and outside sales is simple: Inside sales refers to salespeople who sell products or services to customers remotely, such as over the phone and internet. Outside sales refers to selling products or services in person, which requires traveling to meet with customers or teams face-to-face.

What is inside sales?

Inside sales is the selling of products or services over the phone, email, chat, or another remote channel. An insides sales representative approaches warm leads—customers who have expressed interest in the company or product by clicking on an advertisement, asking a question in a chat, or signing up for newsletters and promotions, among other actions.

Insides sales is different from telemarketing, where salespeople cold-call potential customers from a register and read from a script. Though cold-calling might still be involved, inside sales typically requires creative and strategic approaches to selling to business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) clients.

Read more: Inside Sales Representative: Career Outlook 

Inside sales duties and responsibilities

Inside sales teams are often responsible for generating leads and nurturing them until they can either close the sale or pass it off to an outside sales representative or account manager. Responsibilities might include:

  • Building relationships with potential or existing customers to inform them about a product or service

  • Qualifying potential customers, identifying their needs, and matching them with the right products or services

  • Answering questions about the product or service

  • Asking questions to understand the customer's needs

  • Recording and refreshing customer information in sales software

  • Taking inbound calls from prospects or customers

  • Making outbound telephone calls and following up on new leads

  • Overcoming objections and closing sales

Build your negotiation skills

Negotiating can be one of the more difficult soft skills for people to master, but it's an important skill for both inside and outside sales jobs. The Yale University course Introduction to Negotiation outlines a framework for analyzing and shaping negotiations. You'll be able to complete hands-on projects with classmates on a wide range of case studies in business and life.


Tools used in inside sales

As an inside salesperson, you may use technology to help you sell remotely, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) sales system. Here are a few other key tools needed:

  • A laptop or desktop computer

  • A phone with a reliable internet connection

  • CRM software (such as Salesforce)

  • Sales automation and prospecting software

  • Video chat and screen-sharing tools (Zoom, Teams, Skype)

  • LinkedIn, databases of contacts, and other research tools

The telephone is generally your primary means of communication with customers. You may also use email to follow up and send information about your products and services.

What is outside sales?

Outside sales refers to selling in a variety of locations, which requires sales development representatives to be agile and flexible. You'll need to adapt your sales pitch to each situation since environments could range from trade shows and conventions, to field sales meetings, to door-to-door. Building relationships in person can be more effective for answering questions and closing sales.

Outside sales duties and responsibilities

As an outside salesperson, you’re responsible for generating new leads and business opportunities through face-to-face interactions and presentations while maintaining relationships with existing clients. This involves providing clients account updates, product information, and other support.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the duties in outside sales.

  • Developing and maintaining relationships with customers

  • Understanding customer needs and providing solutions

  • Generating new sales through prospecting and lead follow-up

  • Managing a sales territory, assigned account base, or event-based sales pipeline

  • Achieving monthly, quarterly, and annual sales targets

  • Conversing with potential clients at conventions and events to close deals

  • Demonstrating a strong understanding of your product or service, matching them to client needs

  • In-person presentations and demonstrations for potential clients

Read more: What Is Relationship Management? And Why Do Businesses Use It?

Tools used in outside sales

As an outside salesperson, you will communicate and present to potential customers, as well as build a sales pipeline. You’ll use many tools similar to those used in an inside sales role, such as a laptop or computer, a smartphone, as well as the following:

  • A tablet for presentations and filling sales forms with customers

  • A reliable car or good walking shoes for your sales appointments and meetings

  • Printed sales presentation materials, such as product brochures and price-lists

  • Samples of your products (if applicable)

  • Convention stands, banners, and branded goods

  • Business cards to exchange with potential customers

Skills needed in inside vs. outside sales

If you choose to work in inside sales, you’ll need to be very good at building relationships over the phone or via email, as you’ll normally be dealing with customers remotely.

In inside sales, you’ll need to: 

  • Understand customer needs and pain points.

  • Match customer needs with what your company offers.

  • Be resilient, creative, and resourceful in employing sales strategies.

  • Have active listening and information-gathering skills. 

Outside salespeople often work on high-value deals, where building relationships and establishing trust are important.

In outside sales, you’ll need to: 

  • Establish the product credibility.

  • Have excellent interpersonal skills.

  • Be willing and able to travel.

  • Be organized and have strong time management skills. 

  • Be familiar with technology to manage your sales pipeline or territory, set up presentations, and complete product demonstrations.

In general, both inside and outside sales representatives need to be strong communicators. Whether it's over the phone or at a convention in Las Vegas, sales representatives must develop and maintain relationships with customers, tapping into psychology to get at exactly what they need. Sales requires negotiating and closing deals, working under pressure, and meeting deadlines, so you'll need to stay positive and motivated to meet your sales goals—and earn that commission.


Inside sales vs. outside sales salary

The average annual salary for an inside salesperson in the US is $63,991, while the average salary for an outside salesperson is $100,429  [1, 2]. Outside salespeople typically work on higher-value deals, which may result in a higher salary. Some inside sales jobs have salaries equivalent to outside sales because of commission, such as IT software sales. It's common for sales representatives to be paid a lower base salary because of the potential for high commissions (or getting paid a certain amount for each sales deal closed).

Inside sales jobs with average annual salaries (US):

  • Sales associate: $49,823 [3]

  • Inside sales representative: $69,987  [4]

  • Account manager: $72,038 [5]

  • Business development representative: $75,073 [6]

  • IT software sales: $119,106 [7]

Outside sales jobs with average annual salaries (US):

  • Field sales representative: $90,340 [8]

  • Territory sales representative: $99,303 [9]

  • Key account sales manager: $124,550 [10]

  • National sales representative: $104,418 [11]

  • Outside sales representative: $108,663 [12]

How to get started in sales

Sales jobs don’t have a specific path. In fact, many people come to sales from different industries and experience levels. Developing some key skills will help set you up for success in interviews and thrive as an inside or outside sales representative. Specific knowledge can make you appealing for certain sales jobs. Some industries, like medical or pharmaceutical sales, require more technical product knowledge and formal training; a background in software development could set you up for a role as a software sales consultant.


The required educational level for sales jobs varies based on the sector and type of sales position. Some employers select candidates with a bachelor's degree, while others prefer majors in psychology, business administration, or another related field.

IT sales employers may expect you to have an IT or technology-related degree. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies prefer you to have studied biochemistry, pharmacy, or another related major so you are knowledgeable not just in the types of prescription drugs and medical technology, but also how they might interact with a person's health.

In short, it depends. But employers typically like to see at least an associate or bachelor's degree.

Sales training

To succeed in a sales job, you must have a strong understanding of the product you’re selling, excellent communication skills, and the ability to close a deal. You can learn these skills through:

  • Online courses, conferences, and workshops

  • Community college or a university degree

  • Learning by practice in sales roles

In addition, many employers offer comprehensive in-house staff training programs to help you build competencies for your job. 


Certification can demonstrate to potential employers that you have sales skills and knowledge. In some cases, you’ll need certifications to qualify for a job. Even when certifications are not required, they can give you a competitive edge over other job candidates. Here are some sales certifications to consider:

  • Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP)

  • Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP)

  • Certified Sales Executive (CSE)

  • Certified Master Sales Professional (CMSP)

  • Certified Professional Sales Leader (CPSL)

  • Inbound Sales Certification

  • Salesforce Certified Administrator

Become a sales representative today

Build your resume and enhance your chances of getting your first job in your sales career by earning a Professional Certificate. You learn new skills and knowledge that can be applied to your new position, helping you achieve better sales figures from the start. Consider enrolling in the HubSpot Sales Representative Professional Certificate to learn advanced sales techniques in six months or less (based on five hours of learning per week).

Article sources


Glassdoor, “How much does an inside salesperson make?,,2_IN1_KO3,21.htm.” Accessed June 7, 2023.

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