Inside Sales Versus Outside Lead Qualification in B2B Marketing: A Needless Conflict


Share on LinkedIn

In a world where technology has made it possible to transact business remotely, many companies have found that a well managed inside tele-sales operation can boost profits by increasing coverage, serving customers faster, and selling low-margin products that outside sales people don’t want to bother with.

However, many businesses, having made this investment, believe that inside sales teams can also be used to qualify and nurture sales leads. After all, telemarketing is telemarketing, right? Why pay money to an outside firm when it can be done in-house at no extra cost? However, trying to marry inside sales with lead qualification under the same department is a huge mistake.

Two very different disciplines

In order to generate maximum profit and customer satisfaction, inside sales departments must conduct business as efficiently as possible. Asking them to also qualify prospects and nurture them into sales leads means less time serving established customers and ringing up orders. Inside sales and lead qualification, although both are typically conducted via telephone contact, are also two very different animals.

Lead qualifiers are trained to question, probe, identify critical pain points and, above all, overcome objections and counter misinformation that is preventing a prospect from becoming a bona fide sales lead. Further, lead qualifiers initiate virtually 100% of their phone contacts with prospects.

Inside sales reps, on the other hand, often generate the majority of their transactions from inbound calls. However, this does not mean that inside sales people are mere “order takers.” On the contrary, they are typically skilled at maximizing order size by cross-selling, promoting special offers, and identifying a customer’s additional needs.

Lead qualifiers (or tele-prospecters) are best employed for the following tactics:

  • Account mapping and list build
  • Focused opt-in programs
  • Focused recruitment campaigns for events and webinars
  • Surveys or account intelligence programs
  • Lead generation calls
  • Follow-up outbound lead generation programs for direct mail or  email activities
  • To handle prospect inquiries from different tactics as a pre-qualifier
  • To nurture prospects through the various stages of the lead funnel until they are qualified for a sales call

Inside sales, on the other hand, should only be contacting qualified leads that meet the proven ALEA criteria:

  • Right Company
  • Right Person
  • Identified pain point
  • Timeline to purchase
  • Willingness to engage
  • Budget to purchase

Your sales department, including your inside sales, should only work on leads that meet the above criteria or that have passed what is referred to by industry experts as BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs and Timeframe).

Empower all sales people to sell, not qualify

No unqualified lead should ever be distributed to sales— regardless of whether they are inside, outside, direct or whatever. You want your sales teams to be able to concentrate on closing— not prospecting or, worse, making cold calls. The fastest way for an inside sales group to grow is if they have the right supporting infrastructure: meaning that they should receive extremely qualified leads in the right numbers for them to close on top on their regular, inbound activities.

One should compliment the other

Lead qualification services can generate significant added business opportunities for both field and inside sales organizations. Trying to “piggyback” this discipline onto your inside sales department won’t save you money or create synergy. In fact, it will cost you in missed sales opportunities and profits. Resist the temptation to “throw stuff” at them just because they are an in-house resource.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


  1. How can Business-to-Business (B2B) telemarketing campaign ensures that a company gets continuous supply of new prospects and sales leads with opportunities to market products or services.

  2. Louis, this is an interesting article and I agree with your conclusions. It seems that every company has a slightly different sales model and occasionally you find a company that has successfully blended the sales and qualification functions. However, in most cases, it is better to separate the two. You would think that individuals who are good at qualifying would be natural inside sales reps, but from my experience, people are usually good at one function or the other, and not both.

    Chris Ryan

  3. You will always need Outside Sales to grow the business. Sometimes customers may want one thing but need another thing for their business to prosper. This is done through an onsite person to inspect and probe for solutions to benefit the customer’soperation.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here