How to Get Into Tech Sales
- Published on September 4, 2022
Finding a good position in tech sales isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. The tech industry is constantly churning out new products to sell, and it needs good salespeople to communicate the value of its products to companies with specific needs that match what those products will do.
Luckily, many companies are willing to invest and train the right people. In this guide, we’ll break down the essentials of tech sales, salary levels, and how to get into tech sales. Even without years of direct experience, you can still communicate the value of your other skills to land a job in tech sales. You just need to know where to start.
Defining Tech Sales
Let’s begin with a clear-cut tech sales definition. Tech sales is the process of selling technology as software, hardware, technology services, or having to do with online (like online ad sales). Something technology oriented.
That’s a pretty broad definition. As a tech sales rep, you might be selling only one kind of tech product, such as Salesforce (a customer relationship management software system - CRM). Or, you might sell a product that combines different components, like a networking piece of hardware with a software license associated with it such as HP.
Here’s a breakdown of some different products you might sell as a tech sales rep:
- Software products. Software solutions can be sold as on-premise programs that are directly installed onto the customer’s computer or as SaaS (software as a service), which runs on the vendor’s servers and operates through an Internet browser. These kinds of products include CRM software, accounting and document-signing programs, email automation apps, marketing platforms, HR platforms and many others. The bulk of tech sales is moving towards SaaS and this tends to be very lucrative.
- Hardware products. Tech hardware is the physical product used to run the software. This includes laptops, desktop computers, servers, tech accessories, phones, and other physical devices. Big names in this space would be HP, Dell, Apple, etc.
- Tech and IT services. For IT tech sales rep might sell consulting and troubleshooting services to companies that don’t have a dedicated IT staff. Whether these IT shops have a single specialty (internet networking) or a wide range of IT skills (software, support services, and networking hardware specialties), it’s the salesperson’s job to land clients who need that knowledge and are willing to pay for it.
- Online Advertising Services. Every time you search something on Google you'll see paid advertising search results and much of the internet is funded by companies buying advertising spots. Tech sales reps in this department help companies optimize their advertising spend to get the highest ROI per dollar spent in online advertising.
- Other. There are a ton of other industries that might consider themselves "tech" because, let's face it, tech is everywhere! Tesla comes to mind in this category and is 100% a tech company so we had to include this category.
The bulk of tech sales is working with customers to find exactly what challenges they’re facing and what technology exists that will help them out. Some companies may just need a new line of laptops. But with higher-value accounts, they could need many different technologies such as IT hardware with numerous different software products to help protect their network from bad actors... and then every other SaaS platform to help run their business better.
Roles, Levels and Salaries of Tech Sales
It's important to understand the hierarchy of different levels when it comes to tech sales to understand where to start. We also wanted to put general ranges of On Target Earnings (OTEs) at each level so you have a basic understanding of what kind of money you can make in this line of work.
For individual contributors
Entry Level (Compensation: $50k - $100k OTE)
The two common names for entry level sales reps are "Business Development Representative" (BDR) or "Sales Development Representative" (SDR). Most people in this position are just starting out in their sales career or maybe have a year or two of experience. In this role you will be learning how to talk to people over the phone or in person and understand their challenges in order to try and see if what you are selling might be a good fit. Once you do find a "qualified lead" or someone who has a need that your product might fit, you pass that conversation on to an Account Executive who will learn more and hopefully close the sale with the customer. Compensation tends to be based on the amount of "qualified leads" that the rep is able to convert on a monthly or quarterly basis and send to the Account Executive team to close the sale.
Mid Level (Compensation: $120k - $300k OTE)
"Account Executive" or "Account Manager" are the typical titles you will see in this role. You may see other variables of this like "Inside Sales Rep" or "Mid Market Account Executive" as well. Most people in this position have at least 1 year of sales experience and typically come from a BDR position when they get promoted. In this role individuals are usually doing outreach to companies, educating these companies on the product, matching customer needs to the product, and ultimately closing the sale. Compensation is usually structured 50/50 base salary to variable compensation i.e if you have an OTE of $150k then you'll make $75k of base salary and $75k of variable compensation if you hit all your sales numbers. Where reps can really make a lot of money is when they overachieve on their sales numbers and accelerators kick in so that they start earning even more money than their OTE.
Enterprise Level (Compensation: $250k+ OTE)
Usually these are listed as "Enterprise Account Executives" or "Outside Sales Rep" where reps have 10+ years of sales experience and have been working in a particular sector for a long time. Day to day is similar to the mid level account executives but you tend to only have a handful of larger "enterprise" accounts that are buying from you. The difference at this level is it is typically less but bigger transactions when you make a sale and it is usually a long relationship history with that customer.
Entry Level (Compensation: $130k - $200k OTE)
Entry level roles typically manage the SDR team or younger AE team. In this role you will be responsible for 7-10 reps and have a quota that is likely the sum of all of your reps combined. Lots of young sales managers usually come from an AE role where they have done the job before but want to get into management and leadership. Day to day in this role is hiring/firing, coaching your team, getting through issues that your reps are having, and driving everyone to hit their sales quotas.
Mid Level (Compensation: $180k - $350k OTE)
Mid level roles in management are typically managing a Mid Market sales team or are a Director of Sales and managing a whole territory. Once you are at the Director level you are managing managers which would typically have anywhere between 30-80 people underneath you at a larger sales organization. Day to day you will be leading strategy, coaching managers, managing up to higher ups, and helping hire/fire any individuals.
Top Levels (Compensation: $250k+ OTE)
"Vice President" and up to "Chief Revenue Officer" depending on the size of the company are common titles for roles at the top of the sales organization. In this role you are managing directors. In this role you are leading direction of the oranization, setting up incentive plans, managing the budgets and growth plans, working cross functionally with the marketing team and generally making sure the business is growing. Lot's of compensation at this level will come from stock units in the company.
How to Land the Job
Now that we have gone over what a tech sales role is and what relative salaries look like (for the US) we'll take go through the proven methods in order for you to land your first $100k+ tech sales gig!
Finding the Company
There are a million tech companies out there and it is important to think about what kind of company might be right for you. First think about what kind of products you are passionate about or problems you might enjoy solving. Maybe you are a fan of Google or something like drones so those are lines of companies you could start to look at. We always recommend that you sell something you can get passionate about and is actually a good product. This isn't always the most easy thing to find but it is a way to start researching the kind of companies you might want to check out!
Pro Tip - when you have narrowed down companies that you think would be good to work for, check out the linkedin profiles of the reps. When you see longer tenure of most of the reps, that is a GOOD sign and it usually means that sales targets and compensation is fair and that reps are winning in their roles! Also make sure to check out the company Glassdoor to see what people are saying.
Finding the Role
Another approach would be starting with finding the role first and then narrowing down the companies. There is no right answer so figure out what works best for you! If you are just getting started in sales you'll want to look for companies that have sales development roles open. From here try and narrow down to companies you think would fit you.
Pro Tip - If you are a current sales development rep and looking to get into an account executive role it is typically recommended to stick it out at your current role and try and get a promotion. Once you get that AE role you can go wherever you want. However, if that is not possible then we recommend you looking for newer tech companies that roll their SDR and AE roles into the same thing (full sales cycle)
Getting an Interview
Now that you have narrowed down a list of companies that might work it is time to start grinding for an interview. It isn't uncommon to apply to 100 companies and only get 2 call backs so just be prepared - it's a grind!
The best way to get an interview is to get referred to internally from somebody already at the company. Utilize connections on Linkedin to find people you may be acquaintances with and see if they'll introduce you to someone there - you never know where those connections will come from.
If you really don't have any connections tied to the company then you should put on your sales hat and start cold outreaching to people at the company (like the sales manager). Some sales managers like to see the hustle and could reply with wanting to take a call with you!
An alternative approach would be to join a sales bootcamp. There are some great companies like Springboard that host great tech sales bootcamps with small investments up front and only paying once you land the gig. This allows you to get all the training you need and actually land the role before coming out of pocket. The benefits here are you'll be able to get connections and interviews right away without having the connections yourself!
Acing the Interview
Once you land the interview it is now your time to shine!!
What hiring manager typically look for (in some form or another) and some corresponding questions that might get you thinking!
- "Tell me about a time you had to make something happen"
- "What drives you?"
- "What is something you had to hustle on to win?"
- Ability to Build Relationships
- "What do you think is the most important part of forming relationships?"
- "Tell me about a time you had a bad relationship that got better?"
- "Tell me about a time you had to form a relationship and how you went about doing that"
- "Tell me about a time you had to adapt to change"
- "What have you had to overcome something in your life"
- "How do you organize your day?"
- "How do you prioritize competing tasks?"
- Cultural Fit
- "What do you like to do outside of work?"
- "Do you have anything you are super passionate about? Tell me about it"
If you can tell stories from your past that fit these then you'll be 90% of the way there to acing this interview.
Finally, make sure to close the interviewer!
"Thank you for the time today Mr/Ms Interviewer, based on everything we talked about today are you willing to recommend me for the next round? Is there anything that we covered today that you would like me to expand more on?
Based on their response to those questions make sure to address anything that they bring up. If you get the go ahead, congratulations, you are on to the next round!
In closing we went over a good amount in this post from what is a tech sales role to role and salary levels and finally how to land one of these roles. Here at TechSalesRoles.org we only specialize in tech sales jobs to get you to this type of salary and lifestyle.
If you're looking for a way to get into tech sales, check out our recommended bootcamp from Springboard. Use code TSJ500 to save $500 when enrolling.
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