What are external sales?
External sales refer to the sale of products or services by sellers who go to the field to meet potential customers. External sales professionals tend to work independently outside of a formal office and a formal team environment. They often travel to meet clients face to face, as well as to maintain relationships with existing clients. Some companies may view telesales as a form of outside sales.
Understanding external sales
External sales (also called “field sales”) tend to operate without a formal schedule, which can provide flexibility but also means that the seller is always on call to respond to customer requests. This means maintaining a calendar of meetings with clients, having to respond and adapt to their requests and changes, such as delays and cancellations. External sales professionals must also manage their own travel, which can be subject to unforeseen delays and other problems. In addition, since external sales professionals must meet potential customers face to face, they must pay close attention to their appearance and must be ready to entertain customers and the network at all times.
Maintaining an outside sales force can be costly, as companies typically have to pay outside sales staff for miles traveled, accommodation, food and entertainment. In some industries, external sales forces are the norm, as customers will not go ahead with a purchase solely through internal sales strategies. External sales assistance tends to be more expensive than internal sales professionals. They also tend to exceed internal sales by 12-18%. External sales professionals are often paid by commission.
External sales and internal sales
When defining internal sales, it is useful to consider its analogue, “internal sales”. Internal sales professionals tend to work in an office environment for fixed hours while using the phone or a variety of other communication technologies, such as Skype, email, web conferencing, social media, or screen shares. They rarely travel to meet customers, if at all (although there is a trend towards a hybrid indoor / outdoor model). Internal sales personnel tend to work in teams, with more direct supervision. They must be comfortable with cold calls to win new business and familiar enough to explain a product or service backwards with little or no visual aids or prototypes. The widespread adoption of communication technologies has seen internal sales increase by leaps and bounds compared to external sales. According to one estimate, for each external sales professional hired, 10 internal salespeople are recruited.
External sales tend to be more strategic in nature, which means that they may involve meeting level C decision-makers to help them design and implement business strategies. External sales are more likely to be used when selling more complex and more expensive goods and services. Orders placed through the external sales process also tend to be larger than those placed through internal sales. Internal sales, in practice, are more a function of the quantity of interactions on the depth of these interactions.