Sales is a great career. If you’re personable, competitive and driven to make an impact on others by connecting them with the solutions they need, consider working in sales.
Sales positions are also more financially rewarding than most. Though there are a few ways salespeople can get paid, high-performers consistently garner six-figure incomes. Whether you’re just joining the workforce, or have been in sales for decades, now’s as good a time as any to weigh your options.
There are two common types of professional sales positions: Inside sales and outside sales.
While the goal of these two jobs is the same — to generate revenue by selling a company’s product(s)/service(s) — performing them is different.
Your experience as a salesperson will change substantially depending on whether you work in outside or inside sales. Let’s make sure you understand what you’re getting with each of these career paths.
Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) has been selling transportation services across the U.S. and around the globe since 1955. A byproduct of growth, today ATS employs hundreds of salespeople across the nation. Under the definitions we’ll lay out in this article, these are “inside” salespeople. That said, our staff consists of many individuals who have experience in both of these realms, giving us an excellent understanding of both.
In this article, you’ll learn the difference between these two sales careers, including the pros and cons of each so you can decide which would fit your lifestyle (and goals) best.
For simplicity, you’ll find the information bucketed as follows:
- What is inside sales?
- How much does inside sales pay?
- What is outside sales?
- How much does outside sales pay?
- What are the advantages of working in inside sales?
- What are the advantages of working in outside sales?
What is Inside Sales?
Inside sales is the process of selling a company’s product(s) or service(s) over the phone (cold calling is prevalent), via email, through a video call or another digital method. Often, inside sales professionals connect with prospective clients and provide solutions without meeting them face-to-face. Instead, these professionals do so from an office space and aren’t regularly required to meet in person to close a deal, inspect an issue or facilitate a product demo.
A variety of industries employ inside sales representatives including but not limited to:
- Technology/software sales
- Business-to-business service providers like:
- Staffing agencies
- Transportation companies
- Marketing agencies
- Accounting and consulting firms
- Financial service companies (banks, investment firms, insurance providers)
Inside sales professionals are responsible for prospecting, contacting, nurturing and closing customers using a variety of tactics and tools.
How Much Does Inside Sales Pay?
Inside sales can be a very lucrative career, paying $56,000-$90,000 per year with an average annual pay of $70,000 per year — according to Glassdoor. This range depends on factors such as the industry you work in, the commission structure at your company, your location and (of course) your level of success.
At ATS Logistics, for example, a national sales representative can make more than $150,00 in a year. Like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it in logistics sales. The same is true of all inside sales careers.
What is Outside Sales?
Outside sales is a job where the salesperson does most of the selling process outside of a central location. Often, this requires traveling for client meetings and in-person visits. While telephone calls and emails play a role in the outside sales process, these professionals are required to travel for work and are often given a territory to cover.
Outside sales is most prevalent in industries that require more in-person interactions with clients — either for live demonstration purposes, relationship building or otherwise. Often, outside sales professionals work for companies that sell products rather than services. For example, businesses that sell building materials, agricultural/construction machinery, food and beverage products, retail clothing or pharmaceuticals, often employ outside sales representatives.
How Much Does Outside Sales Pay?
On average, outside sales pays around $100,000 per year with a salary range (listed on Glassdoor) of $94,000-$169,000. Outside sales has a higher pay range and average salary than inside sales. That said, exact pay depends on industry, location, compensation structure, tenure and sales volume.
What Are the Advantages of Working in Inside Sales?
Compared to outside sales, inside sales professionals experience a few distinct benefits. Here are the three largest advantages of working in inside sales instead of outside sales:
1. Larger Potential Customer Base
One of the best things about working as an inside sales professional is the size of your prospecting pool. Since you won’t have to travel for sales appointments or face-to-face meetings, you can prospect or sell anywhere within your company’s service area(s). Distance isn’t a barrier for inside sales professionals.
While some companies assign inside sales representatives a target area to pursue, many don’t. And, companies that can provide services or ship products anywhere give inside sales professionals the freedom to sell to any company that fits its customer profile.
This can be a really big upside for inside salespeople with the drive to take advantage of it.
2. Greater Efficiency and Productivity
Today, inside sales is heavily integrated with technology and digital resources. Things like analytics software, video tools, CRM technologies and customer behavior analysis programs help inside sales representatives increase their conversion rates.
With these tools in your corner and more time to sell (time outside salespeople spend on the road or traveling) inside representatives can gain efficiencies. In the end, this can lead to increased productivity, sales and profit.
3. Better Work-Life Balance
While not exclusively the case, inside sales requires less travel than outside sales. This means these people spend more time near home, allowing greater work-life balance than the alternative. If you opt to begin an inside sales career, expect to have a bit more freedom to do things outside of work. Achieving a more balanced 9-5 work-life is possible within this career path.
What Are the Advantages of Working in Outside Sales?
Like its counterpart, outside sales is a great job. Not only do you get paid handsomely in this role, but outside salespeople receive three exclusive advantages:
1. Face-to-Face Interactions With Clients
Meeting someone in person is powerful, especially when creating a relationship with them. Sure, forming an impression of someone and building trust over the phone is possible, but it’s easier to do this face-to-face.
This is an advantage outside salespeople have; they get to physically meet with prospective and existing customers to answer questions, quiet concerns and close deals. Selling in this manner often leads to higher close rates and less “transactional” relationships.
2. Better Flexibility and Autonomy
Every job has expectations, key performance indicators and goals. Whether you work in inside sales, outside sales or any other career, you’ll have a boss to report to and deadlines to meet. That said, largely because you don’t need to show up to an office every day, in outside sales, you receive a little bit more autonomy than you do in inside sales.
Outside salespeople can book sales appointments on their schedule and pursue their goals as they see fit. That might mean working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. one day and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. the next.
3. Not Confined to a Single Office
Working out of the same location every day can get boring. Luckily, in outside sales, you get a little bit more variety in your work location. One day you might work from the office, while the next you’re on the road or at a client visit. This can make your job a little bit more exciting than just interacting with prospects over the phone or video from the same desk day in and day out.
Inside vs. Outside Sales: Which Should You Choose?
There are certainly advantages to working in an inside sales position, pursuing new business over the phone and via email. These jobs offer high earning potential and a nearly limitless pool of potential customers. Work-life balance in these sales jobs is also pretty great.
On the other hand, outside sales can also be a good fit for many. Outside salespeople are responsible for selling products/services in person. In many cases, the people in this job make a great living, get a good amount of autonomy and develop deep relationships with customers that are mutually beneficial over time.
Your next step is to do some research on what’s available in your area along both of these career paths. Lean on your interests and try to find a sales position you can be passionate about. Whether it's inside or outside sales, successful salespeople truly enjoy what they do.Try to find a role that gives you this advantage.
Learn More About Inside Logistics Sales
Here at ATS, we’re always looking to add talented, driven individuals to our salesforce. While we primarily employ inside sales professionals, there’s a lot of diversity in our offerings. Learn more about the pros and cons of a logistics sales career.
To find a position near you, explore ATS’ sales openings here. If you have any questions about working in the transportation industry, check out our Career Success Center for a library of resources created to help you navigate your career journey.