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Is perception really reality?


In my 30 years of sales and sales management there is one thing that I have consistently seen regardless of the industry.  There is not a good understanding of the roles between inside and outside sales teams. I have managed both inside and outside teams, that ranged from one company where the inside team took 3,000 calls per day with a staff of over 70 people. Another  sold commodity type items with an inside staff of seven, to a team that sold engineered devices in a very complex industry with technical resources.

In each of the companies the perception that the inside sales resources had of the outside sales was, “all they do is take customers to lunch and play golf several days week”. Conversely the outside sales resources think that “the inside team simply sit in their cubicle all day waiting for the phone to ring and the fax machine to generate a purchase order”. For those that have worked both inside and outside roles or managed both inside and outside sales teams we know that neither perception is true.

Reality Road Sign

In my experience one of the best ways to improve the performance of the individuals and the team is to set the record straight and clear up these misguided perceptions. The goal is not that each of the roles can perform the others job, because they are vey different. But when inside resources understand that on a good day, a good outside sales person (who has been well trained in planning their week, their day, the sales call, etc…) may get  in 4-6 sales calls a day. That outside sales person will most likely generate 2-3 hours of work that will either have to be performed in the evening or they take a day off the street to follow-up with the customers. They may be researching competitors, developing a proposal,  or pulling together a sales presentation. Each of the sales calls if well executed will lead them to winning a project, taking a piece of business from the competitor or resolving an issue to protect a piece of business. Outside sales is not all about entertaining the customer. The outside resources need to understand that the inside staff have the phone, faxes, emails and yes still snail-mail orders that they deal with on a daily basis. Inside resources are dealing with order entry,  technical specifications, problem resolution, shepherding orders through the internal processes, expediting and sometimes accounts receivable responsibility. The truth is that inside resources will touch more customers in a day than most outside resources will in a week. Inside sales is not intended to be a personal assistant for outside sales, but they are an extension of the customer support.

When inside and outside resources better understand the others roles and responsibilities you have better alignment in who will perform certain tasks to serve the customer. You are able to align goals so each are pushing in the same direction. For more ideas on how to improve your teams performance please take a moment to review some of the solutions that Sagacity Sales Performance Solutions can help you with at                                   http://www.sagacity-sps.com/our-solutions

Remember perception is not always reality.




  • May 27, 2014

    spot-on. In my experience (having performed and managed both duties) there is usually a fairly sizeable disconnect in the perception of the two roles/responsibilities. The best salespeople and sales managers with which I have worked will engage their team in some cross-functional training or activities to try to bridge that perception gap. Joint sales calls or attending project meetings will open the eyes of most Inside Salespeople to the realities of the Outside Sales world, just as a having members of the Outside Sales Team strategically spend time in the office working side-by-side with Inside Salespeople will help bring their perception more in-line with reality. Great article.