I had a roundabout route into sales. In a past life, I got a law degree and did a stint in the commercial legal department at Warner Bros. How can the movie biz not be fun, right? It was for a while, but about a year into my time there, I realized I was on the wrong side of the business.
In my job there, I worked closely with sales teams on the contractual side of Warner Bros’ content distribution business. It didn’t take me long to realize that the sales team was doing a lot more of the work that I like to do—presenting, relationship
I am several years into my sales career in tech and loving it. If you are considering a career in tech and wondering whether sales is for you, I suggest you start by asking yourself the following questions:
1. Why do you think you want to go into sales?
First of all, do you know what being a software sales rep or sales development rep really involves? This is probably the best place to start. The more you know about sales, and the day-to-day tasks involved in being in sales, the more prepared you’ll be to make a decision as to whether to pull the trigger and go for it.
If you’ve done your research into tech sales, then ask yourself the question, what about this attracts you? Is it the idea of interfacing with customers? Presenting and negotiating? Maybe it’s closing business (or all of the above)? The more clarity you can find in your reasoning, the more you’ll know what to expect for the future. The goal is to get a good grasp of whether or not you’ll enjoy it. You can’t know for certain what your career is going look like, but these questions can help you get on the right track. Not to mention, it can’t hurt you in an interview! Seriously though, you should prep this information before you meet with a sales development manager.
2. What do you want to sell?
While you may just want a job “in tech sales”, something you should consider while looking at tech companies is what you will actually be selling. What’s the product? Who does it help? Think about how much the company’s product and its impact resonates with your passions and interests. When presenting your company’s offerings, it helps to have an appreciation for the value they bring to their customers. The more you understand that value, the better you’ll be able to speak to it and truly believe in it.
To give a personal example, one reason I like selling software to sales and marketing teams is that as a sales person, I can intimately understand all the ways that EverString can save time and resources. I can’t say I’d feel the same if I were selling into IT or finance teams.
3. Are you a good listener, and are you curious about how businesses work?
The traditional stereotype of a salesperson is someone fast-talking their way into a quick sale. B2B sales tends to have several stages that take longer than say, B2C sales, so it’s a different story. Because of that, in B2B sales you have to listen to what the customer has to say and ask the pertinent questions to get to the heart of whether or not his or her business is a good fit for your product. This is what is usually referred to as “consultative selling”. The expectation is that you’ll identify the customer’s pain points so that you can help solve them–the more you are naturally inclined towards wondering what these are, the better positioned you’ll be for a sales role.
4. Do you like to educate, explain, and present?
While listening is obviously important; good communication, interpersonal, and presentation skills are an absolute must. You’ll not only need to present information to your prospects and customers, but also internally–to management, your direct team, and your sales engineering team.
If you get the job, know that it’s very important that you know your own business, product, and space so that you can position your product appropriately. As a salesperson, you are a representative of your company to buyers and, as such, you need to be well-versed in what you can offer and how your customers derive benefit. This allows you to educate the customer on your company’s products and services, how it differs from your competitors, and convey how this will benefit the customer. No one is expecting you to be a thought-leader immediately, but it is certainly helpful to be as knowledgeable as possible about the space you are selling into.
5. Do you like to manage projects?
As a tech sales rep, it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with sales cycles that last a few weeks and affect people on both sides of the transaction. There tends to be several stages involved in this process. Once the initial pitch/demo is done (which may need to be given more than once to different individuals or teams), you’ll have to figure out operational, commercial, legal, and financial details. Coordinating all of this equates to what is essentially project management. You are juggling many different tasks at once and trying to make them all line up to achieve your end–a closed deal!
6. How do you handle rejection?
Rejection is an essential part of sales, whether in prospecting or during a sales cycle. In regards to flat-out rejection of your product, objection-handling can get you by, but it’s a truism that not all prospects will become customers. Many won’t even enter deal cycles with you. There’s also day-to-day rejection that you get your fair share of as a salesperson. You’ll find that seemingly great prospects won’t pick up the phone when you call, or reply to your emails (or even open them). Others still will tell you they’re not interested and to leave them alone (sometimes using slightly stronger language—yikes!). Even when a prospect becomes interested and enters a deal cycle, they could go silent on you or choose a competitor at any time. It’s your job not to let the stress associated with this affect your day-to-day routine. Focus on the variables that you have control over, like ensuring you have a full pipeline and are staying engaged with your other prospects.
Sales can be a very rewarding endeavor–seeing a closed deal and a full business relationship germinate from a distant cold email or phone call is an incredibly gratifying experience. That being said, it can also be frustrating when things don’t go to plan. Knowing what to expect and preparing yourself for it will be key to deciding whether this is a career for you. Good luck!