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Navigating the world of outside sales

Navigating the world of outside sales

8
min read

While everyone’s use of technology in the workplace is on the rise, many client relationships continue to be best served by face-to-face interactions. Outside sales professionals spend their days traveling to clients to introduce and promote products or services. 

Read on to learn more about what it means to work in outside sales and what you’ll want to be mindful of if you’re building an outside sales team. 

<a href="#outside-sales-overview" class="anchor-link">Outside sales overview</a>

  • <a href="#job-description-rep" class="anchor-link">Job description of a rep</a>
  • <a href="#differ-inside-sales" class="anchor-link">Differences from inside sales</a>
  • <a href="#responsibilities-of-rep" class="anchor-link">Responsibilities of a rep</a>

<a href="#compensation-for-rep" class="anchor-link">Compensation for a rep</a>

<a href="#before-hiring-rep" class="anchor-link">Before hiring a rep</a>

<a href="#structure-sales-team" class="anchor-link">Structure sales team</a>

<a href="#stay-organized" class="anchor-link">Stay organized</a>

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div id="outside-sales-overview" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

An overview of outside sales

Outside sales are sales that happen “in the wild”— at industry events, during meetings at a client’s office, at someone’s front door, or even on the golf course. They are made live and in-person. 

You may have also heard them referred to as “field sales.” Outside sellers take a high-touch approach, often by providing a higher level of personalization and individual attention to clients than they’d receive from an inside sales team. An outside selling strategy is most effective in industries where relationships drive decision-making.

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div id="job-description-rep" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

What’s the job description of an outside sales rep?

An outside sales rep meets face-to-face with potential clients to close sales in person. The rep typically invests a great deal of time in building a relationship and demonstrating the value of their product or service. 

While an outside sales rep may have an office, they spend most of their time on the go, serving clients within their designated territory. The schedule of an outside sales professional is often different from the typical 9-5, thanks to both travel requirements and the need to meet with clients during their availability. They may need to be on-call late hours and during the weekend, ready to support clients whenever they need assistance.  

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How do outside sales differ from inside sales?

Outside and inside sales each have an important and distinct role in a strong sales strategy. Outside sales happen in person, in a location that’s convenient to the client. Because they’re a bigger investment of time and resources, outside sales are usually dedicated to accounts with a higher value. 

Inside sales take place remotely, through email, video calls, and phone calls. Inside sales professionals often target a broader audience, since communication takes place virtually. The sales cycle for inside sales is shorter than outside sales because rep-to-buyer interactions are more direct and streamlined, and inside sales typically promote products and services that are relatively straightforward. 

Estimates suggest that most organizations have a balance of 10:1 inside sales professionals for every one outside rep. 

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What are the most common responsibilities of an outside sales rep?

As we’ve established, an outside sales professional spends most of their time on the road, meeting with clients. However, outside reps also do typical office work, like completing necessary forms and paperwork and staying in communication with team members and managers. 

More specifically, these responsibilities look like: 

  • Building and maintaining client relationships
  • Holding face-to-face meetings and presentations
  • Attending trade shows, conferences, and conventions
  • Prospecting to generate leads
  • Market research and analysis
  • Sales reporting and documentation
  • Collaborating with internal teams such as marketing, customer service, product development, and leadership
  • Negotiating contracts and closing deals 

The best outside sales professionals work closely with other teams to design a targeted sales strategy and coordinate travel plans. 

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A look at compensation for an outside sales professional

An outside sales rep’s compensation typically includes a baseline salary, variable compensation based on quota attainment, and benefits. Of course, all of these things will vary from organization to organization, but those are the most common three elements of an outside seller’s comp. 

Salary 

According to Glassdoor, the average salary range for an outside sales rep in the U.S. is $85k to $151k. However, reps across the board often earn an additional ~$41k in commission, tips, cash bonuses, and profit sharing, bringing total pay up significantly.

Benefits

Common benefits outside sellers enjoy include:

  • 401(k) matching
  • Student loan repayment 
  • Generous parental leave policies
  • Professional development opportunities
  • A flexible work schedule
  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Employee stock options

Because outside sales professionals travel and communicate with potential clients so frequently, they are often provided with benefits that cover those costs as well, such as:

  • A company cell phone or monthly bill reimbursement
  • A company car
  • Mileage reimbursement
  • A fuel credit card
  • A company credit card for client entertainment expenses

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What to do before you hire an outside sales rep

The extensive travel and relationship building required of an outside sales professional means that the role isn’t a good fit for everyone. Here are a few factors to consider as you decide if and how to add the role to your organization. 

1. Consider the expenses

Compensation for an outside sales rep is typically higher than compensation for their in-office counterparts. If you’re considering hiring an outside rep, you need to account for all of the costs associated not just with their compensation, but with travel and client entertainment, including:

  • Car rentals
  • Plane tickets
  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Entertainment expenses (sports tickets, golf outings, dinners)

While the costs associated with an outside sales rep are higher, this model of sales also brings in deals of a substantial size. 

2. Come up with a plan for scaling

There are two ways to scale an outside sales team. The first strategy is to grow your team headcount-wise. If you find that your outside representatives are experiencing success, you may add more members so that you can target a greater area or allow each member to focus on a smaller territory. 

You may also consider keeping your team the same size, but expanding your offerings. For example, you could enter new markets or introduce new products. Your existing sales professionals could then offer the new options to clients in their current territories. 

3. Find the right people with great experience and a strong work ethic

When you’re hiring an outside sales rep, look for individuals who offer a combination of hard and soft skills. You may find that hard skills — like knowledge about your industry or a specific product — can be taught. Soft skills, on the other hand, are qualities that top sales professionals should already have in their toolbelt.

Successful outside sales professionals are strong communicators and natural self-starters since they’re working outside of typical office hours and structure. Additional helpful skills include attention to detail, organization, and a commitment to quality customer service. 

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How to structure an outside sales team

The way you structure your outside sales team can have a strong impact on their effectiveness, efficiency, and overall success. Here are some steps to take as you set up your team.

  1. Define each team member’s roles and responsibilities. This may include clarifying specific territories, designating target customer segments, and outlining KPIs.
  2. Designate leadership roles. Leaders, such as sales managers or team leads, should be available to provide guidance and direction. 
  3. Segment territories. Consider factors such as geography, industry, and product lines. Assigning each team member a specific area allows them to design a targeted approach for their territory.
  4. Establish collaborative relationships. Connect your inside and outside sales team members and define how they will work together to ensure a consistent customer experience.
  5. Incorporate technology. Choose sales technology and a CRM system to streamline the sales process and track customer interactions. Programs that offer a mobile app, like Streak, are ideal for traveling sales professionals. 
  6. Foster regular communication. Since your outside sales reps are not often in the office, staying in touch may prove to be a challenge. Schedule limited, but regular team meetings for all outside sales reps to ensure everyone stays on the same page despite the distance between them.
  7. Track metrics. Define and analyze key performance metrics including customer acquisition costs, conversation rates, and revenue per representative. This data will reveal big wins and successes, as well as areas for improvement. 

With the increasing role that technology plays in our workforce, many outside sales roles have transitioned to a hybrid model, with employees acting as both inside and outside sales reps. If you’re thinking about building an outside sales team, consider if it truly makes sense to establish a clear divide between inside and outside selling roles, or perhaps design your positions to follow a hybrid model. 

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Give your outside sales pros a way to stay organized

An on-the-go sales workforce needs an on-the-go mobile solution. That’s why there’s Streak.

Streak is a CRM built right into Gmail, and it’s available on both iOS and Android mobile devices because we believe outside sales reps should have instant access to their pipeline no matter where they are. 

With the Streak app, you can handle business from a mobile device with features and functions including:

  • Email tracking
  • The ability to log calls, comments, meeting notes, and tasks
  • Comprehensive searches that get you the information you need faster
  • Dark mode support for those late nights

Do your sellers need a simplified, efficient way to create and manage their pipelines? Streak is here to help.

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