What is Outside Sales? Is it a good career? Honest Pros and Cons.

Lidia Vijga

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The thrill of the chase. Juggling appointments, navigating traffic, bargaining with clients. The adrenaline rush of closing the deal. The satisfaction of hitting your sales targets. For many, a career in outside sales seems like a dream job. But is it right for you? Before jumping in feet first, it’s important to weigh the honest pros and cons.

Outside sales or field sales have long been the primary method for B2B sales and still, remain one of the dominant sales methods for many B2C companies. However, with the rapid advancements in remote or virtual sales technologies, there has been a shift towards inside sales in recent years, with more and more companies and sales professionals moving to inside sales models.

While inside sales do have many advantages, outside sales are still strong in certain B2B verticals like healthcare where clients prefer doing business in person. In fact, many companies are finding that hybrid sales models, having both an inside sales team and an outside sales team, are the most effective way to reach their target market. While field sales may not be suitable for all B2B companies, there are still many industries where it remains the best option for outside sales professionals to reach potential customers.

If you aspire to become an outside sales representative, this article will provide everything you need to know about outside sales and the skills required to succeed as an outside sales representative.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Outside sales, or field sales, is the term for selling products or services in person.
  • To sell products and services, outside sales representatives travel to meet customers within an assigned sales territory where they are – whether that’s at their offices, restaurants, industry events, or trade shows.
  • Most outside sales representatives earn a base sales salary and commissions on sales they make.
  • Nowadays, hybrid sales models that use both an inside sales team and an outside sales team are becoming more prevalent among B2B and B2C companies in certain industries.
  • Both inside and outside sales can pose unique challenges, as well as offer amazing rewards. Many sales representatives try both to find the one that they prefer more.
  • Outside sales representatives use a wide range of hardware and software tools that help them optimize their sales process.
  • Self-motivation and discipline are one of the many key skills that outside sales representatives need to succeed.
  • Although it may seem counter-intuitive, introverts can make great outside sales reps when they focus on their natural strengths, such as strong listening skills and attention to detail.
  • Many companies do not require outside sales reps to have a college or bachelor’s degree. However, if you want to sell specialized and technical equipment to other businesses, in most cases you’ll need a college diploma or degree in a related field.

What is outside sales?

So how do you define outside sales?

Outside sales definition

Outside sales or field sales refer to the process of selling products or services in person. Outside sales representatives don’t spend a lot of time in the office. Instead, they travel to meet potential clients and existing customers face-to-face in their offices, restaurants, industry events, and trade shows.

What's the difference between Outside Sales vs Inside Sales?

Outside sales professionals doing face to face meetings

Outside sales representatives are the traditional type of sales professional. They typically work for a company that manufactures or distributes physical products or provides high-value services.

Field sales reps are responsible for finding prospective customers and developing relationships with them. Outside sales representatives travel to meet with potential customers, attend trade shows and industry events, give in-person presentations, and do product demonstrations. Because outside sales reps build relationships with customers face-to-face, they must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Inside sales professionals, on the other hand, work for companies that sell products or services remotely. Inside sales reps are responsible for generating new leads and developing relationships with customers, but they do not typically meet with them in person. Instead, they use email, phone, social media channels, live video, and asynchronous video to communicate with potential customers. Because they don’t have to travel to meet with customers, inside sales professionals can often sell to a larger geographical area than outside sales representatives.

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Inside sales connects with customers remotely. Understand what inside sales is, pros and cons, and how it differs from outside sales.

The 10 Most Common Outside Sales Myths

Alright, let’s talk about some of the biggest outside sales myths. I’ve heard them all and I’m here to bust those suckers wide open with the cold hard truth.

  • Myth #1: Outside sales reps are smooth talkers who can sell ice to an Eskimo.
    Reality: Most outside sales reps are just trying to make quota without self-destructing. Selling takes work, not just gift of gab.
  • Myth #2: It’s all face to face meetings and wining-and-dining.
    Nope, a huge part of the job is extensive research, writing emails, follow up calls, and updating the CRM.
  • Myth #3: You’ll be living that Wolf of Wall Street lifestyle.
    Unless you’re selling luxury yachts, most outside sales jobs won’t buy you a Lambo. It’s grinding for decent base salary + commission.
  • Myth #4: It’s just a bunch of cold calling all day.
    While prospecting is part of it, smart outside sales reps know how to nurture relationships with current and prospective customers.
  • Myth #5: You need a college degree and years of experience.
    Some roles require a college degree (for example for outside sales reps that sell medical equipment, stuff like that), but sales training and drive are most important. This job will quickly make you a subject matter expert.
  • Myth #6: Outside sales is for extroverted social butterflies only.
    You don’t have to be the life of the party, you just need to be a detail oriented listener who can establish trust.
  • Myth #7: It’s all about giving the perfect sales pitch.
    A good outside salesperson asks questions, consultatively solves customer problems, and avoids pushy tactics.
  • Myth #8: You’re always on the road away from home.
    Some air travel is required for face to face interactions, but most outside sales reps have an assigned sales territory close to home.
  • Myth #9: There’s no room for career growth.
    With experience, outside sales can lead to roles like sales manager, account manager, or leadership in the sales force.
  • Myth #10: It’s a young person’s game so don’t bother over 40.
    Age doesn’t matter as much as hustle. Some of the best outside sales professionals have decades of experience and strong relationships.

The reality is, outside sales is a grind but also potentially very rewarding if you put in the work. Don’t buy into the outside sales myths, this career is about being a detail oriented subject matter expert who can build trust.

Do inside sales teams and outside sales teams work together?

Outside sales professionals and inside sales reps work together

Many B2C and B2B companies are increasingly using a combination of inside and outside sales, where a team of inside reps will prospect and identify qualified leads before passing them off to outside reps who then close deals in person.

Some outside sales professionals choose to work from their office at the early stages of the sales process and then travel to meet with pre-qualified prospects to close the deals. By handling it this way, they stay in control of their sales process from start to finish. While this sales process may not be as efficient as working with inside sales professionals, it can be very effective in certain industries where customers appreciate this hands-on personalized approach.

Custom branding
Showcase your brand.
Video narrations
Easily video-narrate sales presentations or proposals when needed (otherwise video is optional). Redo slide if you made a mistake. Use built-in teleprompter to record longer videos.

Data rooms
Attach any supporting files and links. Make it easy for your prospects and clients to find the right information quickly.

Company profiles
Create company profiles with custom banners and info-packages tailored to different industries.
Contact details
Show your contact info easily accessible by your prospects and clients.
Custom CTAs
Add custom CTAs to drive prospects or clients to your calendar, sign up form, etc.
Engagement analytics
See how prospects and clients interact with your PDFs.

Feedback and Reactions
Collect feedback from prospects and clients. Feedback and reactions are not publicly visible.
Share PDFs
Share any existing PDF presentations and documents.
Live links
Share with a single link. Update files even after sharing your link. Get notified when your PDF is viewed. Turn off access anytime.

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Is inside sales or outside sales harder?

Busy inside sales team

There is no simple answer to the question of whether outside or inside sales is harder. The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the type of product being sold, the target audience, and the geographical area in which the outside sales representative is working. Both types of sales require a high level of skill and dedication, and each comes with its own unique challenges.

For outside sales representatives, the biggest challenge is often simply getting in front of potential customers. With inside sales, on the other hand, the challenge is often more about creating a personal connection with customers remotely.

Perhaps the most significant difference between inside and outside sales is that field sales require significantly more travel. This can be a major time commitment as outside sales representatives are often required to meet with potential customers who may be located in different parts of the country or even the world. This can be a daunting task, particularly if you’re not used to traveling.

Inside sales, on the other hand, typically involves working from an office or home. While this may seem like a benefit, it can also be a challenge, as you may feel isolated from potential clients.

Ultimately, both inside and outside sales can be difficult in their own ways, and which one is harder will likely depend on the individual sales rep.

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What do outside sales representative responsibilities include?

Outside sales representatives typically plan their workday to account for time spent traveling and meeting with current or prospective customers. Outside sales representative responsibilities include:

  • Booking appointments around clients’ busy schedules.
  • Traveling to visit customers in person to sell products and services.
  • Keeping records of customers and sales in CRM (Customer Relationship Management software).
  • Having in-depth knowledge about the products or services they are selling.
  • Visiting customers in person regularly to educate them about products or services.
  • Doing in-person product demonstrations.
  • Building relationships and trust with customers to keep them engaged.
  • Renewing contracts with existing customers and negotiating contracts with new customers.
  • Surveying the target audience.
  • Identifying new competitors.
  • Attending industry conferences and trade shows to connect with prospective customers and network with other sales professionals.
  • Meeting sales quotas and sales targets.
  • Reporting to sales managers.

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What's the difference between B2B vs B2C outside sales process?

Outside sales representative going to meet potential clients

While B2B outside sales representatives sell to other businesses, B2C outside sales reps sell directly to consumers oftentimes going door to door. The goal of a B2C outside sales rep is to sell a product or service on the spot. Unlike B2B outside sales professionals, they rarely build long-term relationships with customers.

B2C field sales is a physically demanding job that takes a certain kind of sales representative to be successful at B2C outside sales. B2C sales reps have to be able to deal with in-person rejections regularly, as well as the physical challenges of being on their feet all day in all kinds of weather conditions. It requires a lot of energy and motivation to be successful.

However, B2C field sales can be extremely rewarding, both financially and personally. B2C outside sales are not for everyone, but for those who are cut out for it, it can be a very rewarding career.

Is outside sales representative a good career?

Outside sales professionals going through sales training

Many outside sales representatives work for companies that sell products such as office supplies, clothing, or appliances. Others may work for service-based companies, such as those that offer mowing services, pest control, or home improvement services.

Being a B2B outside sales representative has several great benefits, such as being able to travel and having the potential to earn a lot of money. Outside sales representatives sell products or services to customers outside of the company’s office. They typically work for a base sales salary and commission, which means they earn a percentage of the sales they make. This means that outside sales representatives have the potential to earn a lot of money, especially if they are good at field sales.

In addition to high earning potential, outside sales representatives also have the opportunity to travel. Outside sales reps travel a lot to meet with clients or attend trade shows and industry events. This can be a great perk for those who enjoy traveling and meeting new people.

Overall, if you are looking for a challenging and rewarding career, field sales may be the right option for you.

Is being an outside sales representative hard?

Outside sales professionals work hard to hit sales quotas

Being an outside sales rep can be both challenging and rewarding. On the one hand, you are your own boss and have the freedom to set your own schedule. On the other hand, you also have to be self-motivated, disciplined, and able to work independently without being closely supervised by sales managers.

Outside sales professionals are constantly on the go, meeting prospective customers and trying to sell them products or services. This can be draining, both physically and emotionally. In addition, outside sales professionals often have to deal with rejection, as many customers are not interested in what they’re selling or the timing could be wrong. It’s important to be resilient in this role, as it can be easy to give up when faced with constant rejection.

Outside sales representatives typically work for businesses that sell high-ticket items and to be successful in this career, outside sales reps need to be masters in building relationships with potential customers. Those who are successful in field sales often have strong communication and negotiation skills. Outside sales professionals also need to be able to manage their time and assigned sales territory effectively.

Of course, no two days are alike, which can make the job both exciting and frustrating at the same time. But if you are the type of sales representative who thrives on challenges and enjoys working independently, then field sales might just be the career for you.

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What tools do outside sales representatives use?

Outside sales representative driving to face to face meetings with prospective customers

Outside sales representatives use a wide range of tools to help them close deals and build relationships with clients. While some tools are essential for every rep, others may be specific to a particular industry or sales process.

Some of the most common outside sales hardware tools include:

  • A laptop or tablet – Outside sales representatives need a reliable way to access their client database, sales materials, and contact information. A laptop or tablet can provide outside sales reps with the flexibility to work from anywhere.
  • A smartphone – A smartphone is an invaluable tool for outside sales representatives that provides access to email, outside sales app, business apps, and GPS. Smartphone cameras also can help outside sales professionals to capture client testimonials, product feature requests, etc.
  • A mobile POS terminal (Point of Sale) – A mobile POS terminal is a great solution for outside sales reps who need to take payments on the go. It’s small and lightweight, so it’s easy to carry, and it has all the features of a traditional POS terminal, including the ability to process credit and debit cards wirelessly.

Some of the most popular outside sales software tools include:

Custom branding
Showcase your brand.
Video narrations
Easily video-narrate sales presentations or proposals when needed (otherwise video is optional). Redo slide if you made a mistake. Use built-in teleprompter to record longer videos.

Data rooms
Attach any supporting files and links. Make it easy for your prospects and clients to find the right information quickly.

Company profiles
Create company profiles with custom banners and info-packages tailored to different industries.
Contact details
Show your contact info easily accessible by your prospects and clients.
Custom CTAs
Add custom CTAs to drive prospects or clients to your calendar, sign up form, etc.
Engagement analytics
See how prospects and clients interact with your PDFs.

Feedback and Reactions
Collect feedback from prospects and clients. Feedback and reactions are not publicly visible.
Share PDFs
Share any existing PDF presentations and documents.
Live links
Share with a single link. Update files even after sharing your link. Get notified when your PDF is viewed. Turn off access anytime.

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What skills are needed for outside sales?

The outside sales job is a profession that requires a unique skill set and a high degree of self-motivation and discipline. Because outside sales representatives are not typically working in an office environment, they need to be able to stay focused and driven even when there are distractions.

Outside sales reps need to be comfortable working independently and be able to manage their own time effectively. This can be a lot to handle, but it’s important to be organized and have a good system in place. One way to do this is to create a daily schedule and stick to it. Make sure to block out time for prospecting, in-person meetings, following up with new leads, and administrative tasks. It’s also important to set goals and keep track of your progress in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management software).

Additionally, field sales reps need to know how to negotiate effectively without putting excessive pressure on the customer. The key is to find the right balance of assertiveness and accommodation. For example, outside sales reps should be assertive in their belief that the product or service they are selling is the best option for the customer. However, they should also be willing to accommodate the customer’s needs and budget. By finding the right balance, outside sales reps can negotiate effectively without putting undue pressure on the customer.

Outside sales representatives are the face of a company. They are the ones who interact directly with customers and build relationships. As a result, they need to be great at problem-solving and connecting the dots. They need to be able to quickly understand a customer’s needs and find the best solution. This helps build rapport and establish trust with new and existing customers.

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Can you do outside sales as an introvert?

One of the most common questions aspiring outside sales representatives ask is “Can shy people succeed in outside sales?”

Many people believe that field sales require extroverted personality types, but this is not necessarily true. While extroverts may be more likely to enjoy the fast-paced, in-person interactions of field sales, introverts can still be successful in this career.

The key for introverts is to focus on the strengths that they bring to the table, such as strong listening skills and attention to detail which can be a valuable asset in outside sales helping them to get to know their clients and understand their needs. By using these strengths to their advantage, introverts can be successful outside sales representatives. In addition, outside sales may offer introverts the opportunity to work independently, which can be a significant benefit.

While outside sales may not be the ideal job for every introvert, it is certainly possible for introverts to succeed in this field.

What are the job requirements for outside sales professionals?

Outside sales representative job description and requirements

As an aspiring outside sales representative, you might be wondering what the basic job requirements are. While some sales managers may accept candidates who only have a high school diploma, others might prefer or even require that applicants have a college degree in fields like business, marketing, or communications. Companies that sell highly technical and specialized equipment to other businesses oftentimes require their outside sales representatives to have a bachelor’s degree in related fields.

Depending on the company, sales training for an outside sales jobs can last anywhere from a few weeks to upwards of a year. Also, in many competitive industries, employers will be looking for outside sales experience.

Outside sales representative salary

Inside and outside sales representatives make an average of $61,000 per year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There is significant variation in earnings for sales professionals among different industries. For example, outside sales reps who work in the pharmaceutical industry tend to earn much more than those who work in other industries. The top earners are sales engineers that make more than $100,000 per year. In addition, outside sales reps who work in large metropolitan areas tend to earn more than those who work in smaller cities or towns. Earning potential of outside sales jobs varies greatly and is highly dependent on the base salary and commission structure, skills and dedication of a sales representative.

Here’s the table of average salaries for sales reps in the United States for various industries based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Sales jobs Average sales salary
Advertising Sales Reps $52,340
Insurance Sales Reps $49,840
Real Estate Brokers and Sales Reps $48,770
Sales Engineers $103,710
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Reps $62,910
Travel Agents $43,810
Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Reps $62,890
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FAQs

What does an outside sales representative do?

Outside sales representatives meet with potential and existing customers face-to-face to sell products, services or solutions. They spend most of their time in the field developing relationships, giving presentations and product demonstrations to close deals.

Strong presentation, negotiation, customer service and relationship building skills are needed for outside sales. Outside sales reps should also be comfortable working independently and adept at networking, lead generation, territory management, and research to identify prospects.

Pros include the ability to work independently, high earning potential from commission-based pay, opportunity to travel, lack of direct supervision, and the satisfaction of closing deals face-to-face. Outside sales roles provide variety and interaction that more office-bound inside sales jobs lack.

Cons include an unpredictable salary since pay is commission-based, frequent travel and being out of the office which can be demanding, lack of structure and formal team environment, and continual pressure to meet sales quotas and goals. The role also requires persistence and handling rejection well.

A typical work day of an outside sales rep involves early morning sales calls, meetings, presentations, product demos, lead follow ups, cold calls, networking, administrative work, and travel to different locations to meet prospects and customers face-to-face. Evenings may be spent on preparation.

It can be, for those who thrive on the freedom and constant challenges outside sales offers. Top performers who continually exceed quotas can advance to sales leadership roles. Outside sales provides transferable relationship-building skills useful for any customer-facing position.

About the Author

Lidia Vijga is a seasoned professional with 10 years of first-hand experience in B2B sales and B2B marketing. She has a proven track record of driving growth for companies across various industries. Throughout her career, Lidia has led numerous successful sales campaigns and implemented innovative marketing strategies that have significantly increased revenue and reduced customer acquisition cost for her clients. Lidia regularly shares her insights and experiences on LinkedIn, webinars, and public speaking engagements. Lidia believes in the power of personal qualities such as kindness, empathy, and the willingness to understand others. She is committed to empowering client-facing teams with tools that enhance their talent instead of automating it, and she firmly believes that teams that show their human side grow companies much faster.

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