Whether you’re looking for a career change or just trying to find a good paying job, tech sales is a great place to start.
But where exactly is that starting point? Trying to find an open door into a tech sales career can be a bit of a maze. How do you contact someone to ask for a job? How can you leverage your experience to make it to the top of the resume stack? Are you sure you have enough industry knowledge and skill to avoid dropping out of the position in the first few months?
All of these are valid questions that any newcomer might have. Even experienced sales reps will sometimes struggle to get a tech sales job, and it isn’t because they’re unqualified. That’s just the competitive nature of the field.
While breaking into tech sales will be a challenge, it doesn’t have to suck. With the right frame of mind, proper training, and a few tips, you can lay out a solid roadmap toward your first job in tech sales.
In this article, we’ll walk you through what’s required for anyone to begin a job in tech sales as well as how to score your first job (and thrive there).
You probably already know some of the benefits of a sales job or you wouldn’t be researching how to get one. While there are a lot of good reasons to get into tech sales, let’s name the two biggest factors that usually convince people: money and more money.
Even entry-level positions stand to make between $37,000 - $60,000 per year with commissions. This is why many positions are hard to get. Even beginner sales reps need to be highly qualified to be considered. In some of the higher positions, tech sales jobs can bring in anywhere from $90,000 - $300,000 per year.
Beyond that, tech sales (especially SaaS sales) offers a lot of opportunity for advancement. While a higher management position does give you the opportunity for a higher salary, it also offers more than that.
Realistically, tech sales can give you experience managing teams, driving revenue, and otherwise working with technology in ways you may have never imagined. So, if you love talking to people about new technology and making good money, this is probably a good fit for you.
To start your journey toward your first tech sales job, you will want to take a look at your own qualifications for the position. Often more than other industries, resumes for tech sales get tossed to the side if you don’t appear truly outstanding. For this reason, you want to do everything you can to truly be prepared for the job and make your preparedness evident for hiring managers.
That said, here are 6 ways you can develop yourself toward a job in tech sales.
Whether it’s door-to-door, over the phone, or convincing someone at checkout that they should buy another candy bar, you want to start looking at your resume for previous sales experience. Just about anything that can demonstrate your ability in this area is valuable here.
Think about your past jobs, internships, or any other positions you’ve held (paid or unpaid). Was there ever a time that you sold something to someone, worked for commission, or otherwise convinced someone to take action? Even if this wasn’t the bulk of the job, work on your resume to bring that experience out in the job description.
This doesn’t just mean mentioning every time you closed deals. It also means any time you had the opportunity to drum up new business or form good relationships with customers. These are all valuable parts of the sales process.
Think of it this way: tech sales is less about knowing tech and more about knowing sales.
You will have to learn a completely new piece of technology wherever you start, so focus your efforts on being able to sell to people.
If you can’t think of anything at all in your resume where you have done this, or if you don’t have a lot of experience, seek to gain sales experience right away. Again, any kind of sales is a good start. This way, you can start padding your resume with something related to the field.
While storefront and car lot sales is more opportunity-based, B2B sales (like you find in SaaS companies) relies more on strategy. Because of this, you will need to have a good understanding of the sales process in order to succeed at the job. You will also need to understand it enough to get through an interview without making a fool of yourself.
In its basic form, the sales process works like this:
First, you have a pool of leads available that may or may not be interested in your product or service. Then, by researching those leads and eliminating those that don’t qualify as a customer, you end up with a more focused group of prospects that you can sell to.
You then start making contact with them, building relationships, and helping those prospects discover what your company can do for them.
Then comes the close, where prospects turn into customers by making a purchase. After that, it’s about upselling and maintaining customer satisfaction over time.
This flow from stranger to an eventual customer is also referred to as a sales funnel, because it gets more and more narrow as you move through the process. Not all leads will even qualify for a phone call. Not all qualified prospects will have a use case, and some may even decide they don’t want to hear from you anymore in the middle of the process. Even some of the most qualified prospects may decide after multiple calls that they don’t want to buy your product or service. Over time, the pool of prospects turns into a smaller group of closing customers.
That said, your role in the funnel may vary depending on the size and structure of the company. Many entry level positions (like SDRs) will only focus on getting more opportunities for sales. In other words, your job will be to qualify leads and hand them off to an account executive (AE) who closes the deals. Beyond that, account managers will likely be the ones to upsell and maintain customers over time.
If you’ve graduated college with a business-related degree, that gives you a good start in entering tech sales. However, it likely won’t give you the specific training you need to succeed. More often than not, you will need additional sales training to even be considered for a position.
While that may seem like a lot of extra work for recent graduates, it’s good news for those just starting in the field. With a solid tech sales training program on your resume, you may not even need a college degree to get your first job in tech sales.
Part of this training is about learning modern sales methodology. That is, learning what modern sales is really about. At Prehired, our curriculum is Science-Based Sales. We teach would-be reps techniques based on hundreds of interviews from the top sales professional and countless hours of research, testing and experimenting with what works in the world of SaaS sales. While best practices for sales calls and emails are certainly part of it, would-be reps often need to rethink the way they view the true goal of sales.
Rather than cheap persuasion techniques and trying to pressure your prospects into a close, the true goal of sales is to create a relationship with the customer that establishes trust. Then, you create the environment so that a close can naturally occur. This is not just a more modern approach. It is also more effective than what you see in movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “Glengarry Glen Ross”.
The focus with this approach is to bridge the gap between the prospect’s current state and the desired state (the close) much more naturally. You can learn to do this in a number of ways, but one of the most important things is asking the right questions. Get your prospect to open up about their challenges, and that gives you a way into demonstrating how your product can help.
All that said, there is a lot more to learn than a new mindset. That’s why the best tech sales training program will pair you with a mentor who can guide you through the process. Mentors are especially important for sales, where hard practical knowledge only goes so far. Having someone model good sales practices and provide feedback about your own performance can really help you grow.
Even if you’re not enrolled in training just yet, finding a mentor in tech sales or any sales position will definitely help you become a better salesperson.
Part of being prepared for a tech sales job is knowing which tools are available to help you succeed. You can bet that the top sales reps and agencies in the industry are using technology to augment their sales process. In fact, it’s hard to imagine doing sales of this volume without programs like Salesforce. That said, there are a few categories of sales technology that we make sure our members are familiar with before starting a sales job.
First, make sure you know basic productivity and communication tools like G Suite, Slack, Skype, Google Meet, etc. This is going to make your workflow much more effective for pretty much any job, but organization and communication are especially important for sales.
You will also want to learn how to use a CRM, which is an indispensable tool for tech sales reps. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, which is another term for pipeline building. In case you don’t already know, a sales pipeline is a way to visualize and manage leads and prospects in their progression toward becoming customers (like the sales funnel). You will want to familiarize yourself with some of the best practices for pipeline building before the interview, as this will likely be a required part of your sales process and you will probably be asked about it. Salesforce and Zendesk are some common examples.
Along with this, you will want to know how to use lead generation and lead enrichment programs. Other categories of sales tools include sales enrichment and AI (i.e. LeadIQ). While you don’t have to be an expert in using any of these, you will certainly increase your chances of success if you become proficient in any of them.
Much like prospecting in a real sales position, you want to start looking for sales jobs that are a good fit for you. While you might be tempted to scatter your resume across a random pool of tech sales companies and see what you get, that isn’t the best approach.
Instead, you will want to qualify the companies you apply for, just like your leads. To do this, start by researching companies you think you want to work for. Then narrow them down by any qualifications that you think you won’t like or don’t work for your situation. These can be things like average pay, target market, the type of tech, etc. Researching the companies you want to work for is also important for other reasons, which we will cover later.
For now, don’t get discouraged by positions that ask for prior sales experience. Part of your job search is going to be reaching out to companies in such a way that they can’t ignore your qualifications or your drive to succeed.
You also want to apply for the right position. While a VP of Sales position may be your end goal, don’t apply for that right away. We at Prehired would applaud your boldness, but it’s a little far fetched for a beginner. Realistically, the best way to break into tech sales is by applying for an entry-level position (like as an SDR) and working your way up from there. While some highly qualified candidates may be able to break in at the AE or sales manager level, it can be difficult even for those with prior sales experience.
Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Once you’ve scored an interview, all you have to do is schmooze your way into a cushy sales position and watch the cash roll in, right?
Not so fast. Chances are your first interview won’t be your last. Because of this, it’s highly important that you come prepared for this part of the job search. At Prehired, preparing for interviews takes up a whole module of our curriculum, and we work closely with members during this process to make sure they are well supported.
When you get to this point, take your time in the multiple rounds of questions and meetings with your chosen companies. Answer each question in detail, making the best use of the knowledge and insight you’ve gained in your sales training. Make sure you also prepare for complex questions about the sales process and your personal sales strategy.
That said, if you have made it to the interview stage, that means you’re likely part of a fairly large list of other candidates who are being interviewed as well. To stand out among the other applicants, you want to frame everything in the context of what makes you a unique salesperson. In other words, try and give answers that show what you can offer the company that no one else can. You are the product, and the company is the prospect.
Since other people are also training hard for a good sales position, it’s not enough to just get a passing grade. While you may have all the right knowledge and practical insight for the job, you may still be denied a position if you don’t really make an impression. That said, all sales reps should be doing these three things to give themselves the best shot at a new position.
Just like prospecting in an actual sales job, you want to know some key information about the company and position you are applying for. Of course, this first means contacting the right people, knowing the hiring managers, some decision-makers, and any other leaders at the company who can actually help get you hired.
This also means knowing a fair amount about what you will be selling. Before you apply or interview at a company, you absolutely have to know about the product they sell. Do not walk into this thinking that your sales experience alone will cut it. This doesn’t mean you have to memorize code for a piece of software or anything on that level. Simply know what makes the product or service unique and powerful in its target market.
You also want to know about the company itself. What is their mission? How do they present their brand? If you can find information about their specific sales process, research that as well. Knowing the company history certainly won’t hurt, and good research at the early stage will pay off.
When contacting any business that you hope to work for, make sure you practice good listening and communication skills. A salesperson has to have both of these traits, and they won’t hire you if you don’t exhibit them while interviewing and making your first contact.
During the interviews, answer all questions in context of what the company is trying to achieve. Make it clear that you understand the company and its mission and you want to be a part of it. Demonstrate that you care about what people in the company have to say by staying attentive and responsive. You also want to avoid typos in your written communication and always maintain an enthusiastic, yet professional tone.
As we know, tech sales is a very competitive field. A lot of people will be reaching out via email and phone, submitting applications and resumes just like you. To stand out, get creative with how you make contact.
That doesn’t mean DM the CEO on Twitter and say, “You’re a fool if you don’t hire me.” That’s a bit much. Instead, show your ability to use multiple mediums. Maybe send a GIF or even a video message in an email to the hiring manager or to another leadership role via LinkedIn.
However you do it, try to generate (tasteful) interest with your first contact. Let the company know that you are a unique candidate. Within that, let them know you want to help them solve their problems or improve their sales force overall.
Tech sales is a field with plenty of opportunity to advance in a very well-paying career. While entry-level positions are very tough to earn, and often come with an extremely high turnover rate, you can break into the industry if you take time to develop yourself in that direction.
Investing in training can take even some of the most inexperienced people from “ameteur” to “hireable candidate” in just a short amount of time. All it takes is a good attitude and dedication to learning.
While you might be ready to start training and finding tech sales jobs right away, everybody has budget constraints. Often self-development can seem like a risky bet. What if it doesn’t pay off and I’m stuck with the bill, still without the career I want?
We don’t want you to take on any undue risk, which is why as a Prehired member, you won’t pay a cent for your sales training until you land a job at the tech company you choose. After that, you pay us in proportion to how much you end up making for a capped period of time. This way, there’s no financial risk involved to make this important move for your career.
Apply today, and see if a six-figure sales career is right for you.
As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.
How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...
...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...
...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.
Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.