If you are reading this now, you have hopefully read this. Lets start the next stage of this discussion by chewing a few numbers, shall we?

The average outside sales costs 6X more than an inside sales call. The average inside sales quota is increasing every year and now stands at > USD 900K. For every one field sales hire there are 10 inside sales reps hired.

Do refer to some interesting HBR stats here. Ok now that we have gotten a glimpse of the changing landscape, lets answer some of the questions we raised last time.

Lets start by broadly classifying industry. Fast/slow tech adopters – Healthcare although being at the cutting edge of innovation is adopting IT slower than Finserv. Manufacturing which has been using machines for ages is adopting slower than Services. Governments which deals with large volumes of data is slower than Retail. So classification like this doesn’t work much. Lets look at what is being sold:

Can you sell an aircraft deal to a government on the phone, of course not! Can you sell a $10 million real estate asset on the phone, you are kidding right! Can you sell a Rolls Royce (firstly its never sold. Only bought) on the phone, God No! Can you sell a football team on the phone, you must be crazy!

Whilst selling aircrafts, perhaps your inside team can identify relevant contacts, study the opportunity, the landscape and create ‘intel’ for your outside teams to “get to know” their prospects. You can call a buyer about that hot property and generate initial interest, share pictures and walk throughs, before the wine and dine to seal the deal. You can call the RR customer and tell him about that fabulous feature, of-course you can! Whatever else may be, a football team cannot be sold on the phone, period.

So there is an application for inside and then there isn’t, but every business process is broken into finer and finer pieces and examined to explore cost saving and efficiencies. Your companies are doing it and the consultants they hire are doing it.

Overall the decision hinges on what is being sold and scale of complexity.

Now lets get closer home, solution v/s service v/s product, in most of our areas of interest: Information Technology.

Services are hard to sell on the phone, even prospecting is hard. Imagine a Services Inside sales rep (there isin’t one, last I checked) calling on a prospect and asking her if she is interested in….. What? Which service? In optimizing what? Beep. The customer has hung up already. Sorry!

Contrast that against the rep calling his existing customer to talk about a new service, or a new use case, a new solution to a problem they discussed in their previous meeting, she will listen, this is where outside is being done from the inside.

Products – yes, Computers – yes, Servers – yes, Storage solutions – hmmm… ok yes until you can meet, Switches – yes, Additional licenses – yes, Upgrades – yes, Saas – yes, Paas – yes, IaaS – yes, all Cloud – yes, ERP – yes if smaller tickets. Overall anything that is a product or can be ‘PRODUCTIZED’ can be sold on the phone.

Then there is ‘AFFORDABILITY’. Lets see who can afford a field rep. Yes, affordability lies with the customer today, eventually he is paying for it. Larger deal sizes, complex solutions, certain sectors like Government, certain geographies because of cultural mindsets (even though the cost of doing business is expensive and highly questionable), complex deals and “Big-Ticket” sales need a visit or ten.

So whats the verdict here, whats the idea behind going inside or not?

If you are a business owner break down your process into finer steps and build efficiencies by assigning appropriately. More bang for your buck. If you are a customer have your tea with your friends and buy on the phone if you can, save your time as well as your vendors.

If you are a sales rep today ask your self this question: Can my job be done on the phone or email? Or worse by a Bot, hopefully not. Will I still need to visit a customer in three, five or ten years? Will I still have a job then? Staying relevant. Will my customer need selling to? Or will they buy? Introducing inbound here and going marketing heavy.

Lastly, is Inside sales for YOU? Yes if you are looking for a sales career and value work life balance, if you have great communication skills, both written and verbal. If you value efficiency and productivity. It is for you, because the world around you is changing and your customers are changing, products are changing and inside is growing.

But remember the football team, the RR or the aircraft, remember things which are sold over dinner and wine, relationship and partner sales and all those ways of selling which can never be bought inside. If you are a sales guy of this profile then you should be outside.

You can meet Bhavani  on Jan 21st @ SaleS AddA meetup 


Profile of author:


Bhavani Sidharth – Director of Sales and Marketing at stackArmor
With over 14 years of sale experience. Past sales leadership positions in Dell, Oracle, Akamai