what is inside sales? the definition of modern-day selling

What is Inside Sales? The Definition of Modern-Day Selling

Sales organizations today are commonly organized in two groups, outside sales and inside sales. Outside salespeople are responsible for closing new business. Inside salespeople reach out to possible prospects and find new sales opportunities.  Inside salespeople are also called business development representatives, or sales development reps.

They will then pass on that opportunity to the outside sales rep (sometimes called an account executive). But what is inside sales, really? Let’s delve into the inside sales definition.

In this blog post we’ll talk about the inside sales definition, key responsibilities of inside sales reps and what they do on a daily basis. We’ll also delve into  inside sales salary, technology, and how inside sales is defined in most B2B companies.

Here is a short outline of what you’ll find in our post:

  • Inside sales definition
  • Short history of Inside Sales
  • Benefits of inside sales
  • A day in the life of an inside sales rep
  • Should you have an inside sales team?
  • Inside sales salary and compensation structure
  • Modern technology for inside sales teams

The reason most high-growth companies have an inside sales team is simple. Specialized sales roles lead to more effective salespeople, that drive more sales pipeline and thus more revenue.


inside sales definition


Inside Sales Definition

Inside sales is the process of selling products or services via phone, email or social media. Oftentimes called “remote sales” or even “digital sales,” inside sales teams work to identify new prospects that may be interested in purchasing a company’s products or services. They will often try to get in touch with prospects via multiple touches, and use many channels to communicate with contacts, to maximize their success.

Short History

The genesis of inside sales has its roots in telemarketing. It all started in the 1970’s, when the increase in popularity of telephones made them indispensable in every household. Businesses saw a new way to easily get in touch with potential customers. Telemarketers would cold-call all day long, often rudely interrupting a prospect’s day or dinner to ask them if they wanted to buy a random product.

Because the model was so successful, it was quickly adopted by bad actors. It became associated with scams and pyramid schemes, and all around got a bad reputation. These days, phone companies have ways of protecting its customers from unwanted phone calls. Moreover, consumers are much more wary of who they talk to – and where they spend their money.

The phone has not died as a method of communication, and it is now complemented by email and social media as a way to reach potential prospects.

Most commonly, companies that have a B2B business model and pricy offerings use inside sales to build their pipeline.



Benefits of Inside Sales

Inside sales reps have different responsibilities from outside sales, and thus are often a separate team. When you have an inside sales team that is 100% focused on finding new opportunities and that is all they do, they have less distractions. They end up spending more time on the phone, finding new prospects to reach out to, and driving more sales pipeline.

We’ve seen many sales teams where inside sales reps do everything from admin tasks, to taking out the trash and to customer support. This model usually doesn’t work.

A good sales rep must always have a clear goal in mind: find the right prospects, build rapport and then set a meeting with the account executive.

A Day in the Life of an Inside Sales Rep

Almost every inside sales team has its own specific structure and modus operandi. Some inside sales teams target specific accounts and they are responsible for finding the right buyers at those accounts. Other inside sales teams own a specific territory. Inside sales representatives typically partner with an account executive in the same geography.

Normally, each day ends up being a combination of sales activities with the end goal of building pipeline. 

A day in the life of an inside sales rep
Activity Details
Research: Which individuals or companies should I be reaching out to? What are the messages that will resonate with them? What are the ice-breakers that I can use?
List building: Potential customers that they can reach out to or add to a sales cadence.
Meetings: Meet with new prospects to ask about their needs and pain points, and then figure out if their product or service can help them.
Admin and internal: There are always internal meetings, 1:1 meetings with the manager, as well as team meetings that you need to attend. There’s also administrative tasks like writing hand-off emails or registering notes in Salesforce. Make sure these tasks don’t take up too much of your day.
Outreach: Spending time on the phone reaching out to people, writing emails, and reaching out to prospects on social media. The best sales reps are the ones who have the most talk time and the most time spent reaching out to targets.

The outreach piece is the most critical of these.

Many inside sales teams get bogged down with all the other tasks that they don’t spend enough time actually focusing on the outreach. On average, sales reps spend on average only about 35% of their time on revenue-generating activity. This is why it’s a great idea to encourage outreach as much as possible, and to implement a time management philosophy in your sales team.

Should You Have an Inside Sales Team?

Sales teams are often comprised of both inside and outside sales reps. The balance is currently inching towards a ratio of 50 – 50, shows recent data from InsideSales.com. In the last five years, sales managers have increasingly been hiring inside sales reps to set appointments.

And even in those businesses where outside/field sales is dominant, field sales reps are spending a good chunk of their time on the phones and writing emails.

This is because buyer behavior has changed, and the way we sell too needs to change. Most potential clients would rather make a purchase on the phone or online, without ever meeting with a sales rep.

While there are still very good reasons to keep an outbound sales team, here’s some thoughts as to why you would consider building an inside sales team:

  • Your customers are in a different market/geography
  • You have a complex and long sales cycle
  • Your products are at the high end of the pricing range
  • Your customers need multi-touch cadences sent through omni channel communication

An important aspect to consider when deciding whether you need an inside sales team or not is budget. Do you have the budget to properly fund an inside sales team? Do you have the ability and the talent to coach and manage a team to a perfect hand-off process with account executives?

Companies that don’t have the capacity to build an inside sales team are better off outsourcing. Read more about outsourcing inside sales here.

Inside Sales Representative Salary and Commission

A common inside sales representative salary in 2019 typically falls between $39,732 and $55,230. That being said, most companies will have a base salary and a bonus compensation, so on-target-earnings will be in the $90K for some roles.

Inside sales rep bonuses will depend on how many meetings they set, or how much revenue they hit. Here’s a list of common key performance indicators for inside sales teams:

  • Appointments set/held
  • Calls, emails per day or per week
  • Revenue or closed deals
  • Win ratio, deal size or sales cycle.

Typically outside salespeople are compensated for closing. They also get some type of commission to incentivize driving more sales, but that will never be their main bread and butter. This is why they will spend most of their time working on existing sales opportunities, rather than on building pipeline.

A good inside sales team will be able to keep your pipeline filled with hot leads at all times.

Modern Technology for Inside Sales Teams

We noted above that the main difference between a telemarketer and an inside sales rep is that of consent and preparedness to purchase. But how does an inside sales rep know exactly who to call and when?

This is where technology makes the difference. We identified four essential tools that are in the arsenal of a good inside sales rep, and that help him get in touch with the right people, at the right time. These are: sales cadence tools, contact databases, contact guessers and dialing tools.

  • A contact database will give you a pool of contacts to work through.
  • Cadence tools allow you to enroll contacts into omni channel sales sequences, some as long as two to three weeks.
  • Contact guessers will find the right person, even if they have switched jobs or addresses
  • Dialing tools will help get in touch with a prospect, and not waste time on wrong numbers or old information

Without technology, an inside sales rep is nothing more than a glorified telemarketer.


At the end of the day, a highly efficient inside sales team can do so much for a growing sales organization. Not only can it find new qualified sales opportunities, but it is also a great pipeline for internal recruitment at an organization.

At OutboundView,  we help B2B companies effectively set up and execute outbound marketing and inside sales. For more information on OutboundView, visit our contact us page or give us a call to learn more.

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