The Evolution of the Inside Sales Landscape

At Velocify we’ve been following the field to inside sales migration for years. As we head into 2017, it is fascinating to see this trend take hold and evolve in a more meaningful way. From an increase in the number of technology vendors supporting the inside sales landscape, to the development of new sales models and the growth in revenue being contributed by inside sales teams.

Revisiting this trend seemed a natural discussion after reading a recent post by Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, principal of CaCube Consulting, where he talks about how inside sales is becoming sales. He notes that the boundaries between inside sales and field sales are being torn down. And organizations are quickly evolving towards a model where selling combines remote and in-person activity.

To fully appreciate the migration, it helps to look at the trends that bring us to the present day:

The inside sales profession delivers bigger quotas.

Let’s start with Trish Bertuzzi, founder and CEO of the Bridge Group Inc., an inside sales consulting firm. Trish has been studying trends in the inside sales profession since 2007. One of her more intresting findings is the growth of quotas and deals sizes over the years. In fact, between 2007 and 2013 inside sales rep quotas grew 62 percent, at an approximate rate of 10 percent annually. Quotas have leveled off in recent years, but the massive growth in those years show a major momentum shift toward inside sales organizations taking on more revenue responsibility. The full report by The Bridge Group — Inside Sales Metrics and Compensation — can be downloaded from their site. See page 13 for average annual quota per rep data.

The drivers of the field-to-phone migration are real.

In 2013 we partnered with Steve W. Martin, sales thought leader, on a new report titled “The Truth about the Field Sales to Inside Sales Migration,” which confirmed that there is a clear shift to inside sales occuring with 46 percent of respondents reporting a migration from field to inside sales models within their organization.

The purpose of this report, however, was not only to confirm the migration but to understand the drivers of the migration. The report found three primary market drivers giving momentum to the inside sales profession:

    1. B2B sellers feel competitive pressures to cut costs. A trend that picked up steam during the 2008 downturn.
    2. New technology advancements like video conferencing, social media, and marketing automation make it easier for companies to create customer connections remotely.
    3. B2B buyers are becoming more accepting and even prefer a remote engagement with a seller.

Lines are blurring between inside and field sales.

The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) and Bob Perkins, the founder and chairman of the organization, have been a major driver of the discussion around the blurring of lines between field and inside sales. In a conversation Bob had at ELEVATE with Tony Pante, the COO of inside sales at SAP, this idea came to light as they discussed the similar skill set needed to be successful in both an inside sales and a field sales role. Inside sales reps need to manage their franchise in a similar way as a field rep – whether it is an industry or a territory, its important to understand it well, understand the numbers you have to hit, and have a plan, noted Tony. Also similar to a field rep, the best inside sales reps are well networked, building strong relationships with the people inside the organization that can help them get their questions answered quickly – marketing partners, product experts, industry gurus, etc.

Sales development becomes table stakes.

In 2015 and 2016 sales development became a very real function within most B2B sales organizations. The role emerged out of the need to help eliminate neglect of early stage leads and ensure closers focused on later stage opportunities. A typical sales development rep focuses on the front end of the sales cycle, qualifying sales leads, setting appointments, and handing qualified leads off to closers. In a recent blog post – Grow Revenue with a Sales Development Team – we chatted with Craig Rosenberg, founder and chief analyst at TOPO, who shared learnings from his career-long experience helping sales leaders build out the sales development function within their organization.

The inside sales technology landscape supports the virtual way of selling.

The inside sales technology landscape has evolved and grown up. Today there are tools that not only help inside sales reps work more productively but also help sellers better meet a buyers expectations around how they want to buy. Nicolas De Kouchkovsky, principal of CaCube Consulting, first published his inside sales landscape analysis in 2015. As the inside sales landscape matures, he updates the grid. The most recent version includes 100 new companies with a total of 450 participants. The grid include several layers of software that make up the inside sales landscape including engagement, productivity and enablement, sales intelligence, pipeline and analytics, and finally people management. Nicolas has also identified 27 categories.

Velocify is proud to be represented in five major categories including email, sales dialer, lead distribution and call management, sales activity logging, and multi-channel orchestration.

A high-resolution version of the inside sales landscape is available here.
inside sales landscape

It is clear that inside sales is quickly becoming sales. The profession is changing before our eyes. It will be exiting to see what 2017 has in store.


Alyssa headshot Alyssa Trenkamp is the director of marketing communications at Velocify and a 15 year veteran in the enterprise technology sector. Prior to Velocify, Alyssa spent nearly a decade as a marketing and public relations consultant for Microsoft. Alyssa holds a BA in Journalism from Western Washington University.

  • Excellent article! I am an experienced Enterprise Account Executive that
    is transitioning to a remote Inside Sales role for quality of life
    reasons. I desire to hunt, develop and close deals from wherever I
    choose to be. SaaS provides the opportunity to manage the sales cycle
    much more efficiently than the traditional face to face model.

  • Nice Information Shared, Such a wonderful Post , Much appreciated , 🙂

  • Mark Wray

    With the advancements in tech over the last decade, especially those focussed on sales acceleration, it makes sense that there’s a big transition from Field to Inside Sales happening. Great article, definitely makes the need for investment in inside sales a reality.

  • Jesse Peterson

    Great piece! I’d love to hear stories of some larger companies who’ve successfully transitioned from the traditional field sales model to an inside sales team in a follow-up blog.

  • Tim Dunlea

    With the increasing complexity and options for the sales and marketing stack, would be interesting to hear if there is a trend towards simplification and more on the strengths / weaknesses of a best of breed stack vs. platform plays.

  • Branden O’Donnell

    It was only a matter of time before inside sales would get the spotlight. The growth of inside sales to emerge into its own market is awesome and will continue to adapt. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the next platform.

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