Tech Sales 101 - December 2022
- Published on December 10, 2022
December 10, 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 and what you’ll need to begin applying for work in this competitive field. 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.
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.
Why work in tech sales?
Everyone is looking for a paycheck for their own reasons. But outside of the customary short-term payoffs, there are a few long-term benefits of working in tech sales.
Stay up-to-date on technology trends
The next technological breakthrough is always right around the corner. As a tech sales representative, you’d be one of the first people to learn about modern software and hardware trends. You’ll also get an in-depth look at the important features of new technology, which can give you technical experience with the product.
This can be a great way to find new sales opportunities. You can even act as a consultant for these types of products. You’d be able to offer your expertise and advise companies on how each product works, which could lead to a wide range of career growth options.
There’s always new technology to sell
There will always be a need for salespeople in the tech industry because companies are constantly looking for new breakthroughs to solve their buyers’ problems. Whether it’s a tool that can shave a few minutes off the daily operations or a program that can restructure and streamline an entire process, there are typically great tech innovations just around the corner. And someone will need to be there to sell them.
Startups and existing companies are constantly looking to fine-tune an existing product or revolutionize their industry with new ideas. If you manage to land a long-term role with a company, you’ll understand the benefits and uses of different types of advanced technology and stay ahead of the curve.
These traits make tech sales a stable industry to work in. Whether you’re working for a wide range of businesses or looking for a position with a single company, you won’t have trouble finding tech products and services to sell.
Meet plenty of industry-relevant people
Every company has its own set of challenges, and they’re continuously looking for a way to boost earnings. Working in the technology space gives you an opportunity to interact with professionals from a wide spectrum of fascinating and high-profile industries.
Whether you’re speaking with someone face-to-face or CCing them in an email, the simple act of interacting with different people will help plant your name in the minds of important players in your industry. Those contacts could be invaluable if you decide to change your career path.
That said, if you prefer to stay in tech sales, there are plenty of opportunities for mobility. You’ll have connections with a variety of other talented salespeople who can share strategies or lucrative job opportunities.
Of course, in order to reap the benefits of working in tech sales, you need to get the job first.
Where to Start & How to Break into Tech Sales
Between consulting skills, sales strategies, communication skills, and numerous other responsibilities that come with nailing the selling process, it can feel like tech sales positions have a lot of barriers to entry—especially if you’re transitioning from another field.
But if you’re looking to break into tech sales, there are some steps you can take to land a position without years of experience, technical knowledge, and a fancy tech degree.
The job you want to be searching for will be that entry level role of the Business Development Rep or Sales Development rep. You can find those entry level sales jobs here.
Since tech sales is such a lucrative career there have been a number of different specialized courses that have come to life to really help people get into these jobs. The great thing about them is you can come in with no experience and they will really train you and help you land a role.
One of the top camps is a company called Springboard. The beauty of their courses is that they are free to start and you only pay once you land your tech sales job which they really help with. We highly recommend something like this if you are just starting out and want to get trained up and land a high paying tech sales job quickly.
Here is their tech sales bootcamp.
Leverage your sales experience
Tech sales is mostly centered on selling new products to companies, so hiring managers don’t place as much importance on understanding the technical details behind each product. You can iron out any necessary details about products later. For now, the most important trait to highlight is your sales experience.
Fun fact: You don’t need to work in sales to have legit sales experience. Maybe you developed savvy communication skills from a fast-food job or dug into your negotiation skills as a real estate agent. Any time you’ve used persuasion to motivate someone to take action counts as sales experience.
Network, network, network
Networking is responsible for 70 percent of all hires in the modern era. So if you’re looking to land a position in tech sales, interacting with companies is your best bet.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and professional. Then, try to find individuals with the tech sales position you’re looking for and ask about their day-to-day. This is a good way to learn about tech sales processes and strategies from the source, and you’ll also be able to build relationships with people from different tech companies.
If you have a particular company in mind, try connecting with their recruiters and walk them through your profile. Even if they don’t have an opportunity ready for you, you’ll be able to learn more about what they’re looking for when you apply in the future.
Finally, Tech Sales Jobs has a ton of great tech sales jobs openings listed right here and we make it easy to apply! Good luck in your job search!