Software is eating the world. And software sellers are along for the ride as it does.
We’re eyeballs-deep in the technology. Every company needs software to survive and remain competitive, which means the demand for software and SaaS is only going to increase in the coming years.
So software sales presents a huge opportunity for rapid career and salary growth.
If you’re thinking about breaking into this field, whether you’re still in school or a seasoned sales pro in another industry, I’m going to tell you what you need to do to make the switch.
Why software sales is a good career move
If you’re not convinced, here are a few numbers to show you exactly why it would be great for your career to jump into software sales right now.
If you already believe me (and you should, I would never lie to you), then skip on ahead to the next section.
- Good pay: An entry-level SDR in software sales in the US can earn $40K - $60K per year, and sales leaders can pull in at least $190K. According to Glassdoor, the average salary is $76K a year, and that’s just base pay. Commissions and bonuses are on top of this.
- Lots of growth potential: Top performers can grow very fast. It might take only 5-6 years to get to the level of VP, CXO, or Director. Six-figure incomes generally start after 2-3 years of experience.
- Growing industry: The software industry is looking very strong. It is currently valued at over $500 billion, and expected to grow at a rate of 9.1% per year from 2020-2025.
- Virtual work: Sales can often be done virtually, which is a major perk in the current global situation. This is something that is particularly attractive to millennials.
- SaaS has better business unit economics compared to other segments. And because of the nature of SaaS — customers bring in more revenue over time at no increased cost to the business — companies are willing to spend more on customer acquisition, often leading to above-market salaries.
With that said, let’s jump right into how to get into software sales.
1. Have the right background (or don’t!)
Let’s be frank, it does help to have a background in software. But sales is sales. The best coders don’t always make the best salespeople.
Having experience in a tech organization, or if you are doing your graduation in computer science or a related field, will give you a better chance of getting into software sales even if you don’t have hardcore sales experience.
On the other hand, sales experience in any domain is translatable. If you can tout your “performance against quota” and other sales-related successes, then you still have a great chance.
2. Get relevant certifications
It definitely helps to get the knowledge that you need but don’t have. So whether it’s certification in the tech industry or in sales, go ahead and get what you need to beef up your resume.
There are plenty of free resources out there (books, podcasts, articles, videos, blogs, etc), but if you can shell out some money for a recognized certification course, it can’t hurt.
3. Find the type of sales job you want
Explore the different kinds of software sales jobs there are, and see where you might fit. Also, do some research to see if the sales position you are interested in is in high demand. If you don’t have prior sales experience, explore entry-level jobs.
4. Know who you want to work for
Narrow down your search by making an “ideal company profile” for yourself. It should include details like industry, location, number of employees, average salary, and so on. This will help you target the right companies.
5. Do your research on the company
When you land an interview, you’ll want to know what the company’s product (or product line) is and what use cases they address. If not, you can bet it will be a very short interview.
This might take a bit of effort, especially if you are new to the software industry. Obviously, you will visit their website, but also have a look at reviews on G2 and Capterra, what people are saying on social media, blogs and articles, and see if you can talk to an actual customer of their products. It’s also worth calling reps at the company – what do they say their experience has been?
6. Familiarize yourself with the tools, skills, and workflows SaaS sales managers want
Software sales teams often use at least a dozen tools across categories (CRMs, lead gen, sales enablement, and others). Find out what they are and familiarize yourself with them the best you can.
If you have previous experience with sales tools, then it’s probably best to brush up on them. Rest assured you WILL be asked about it in interviews.
Knowing the tech stack (even a little) will make starting out a lot easier when you do land a role, and do wonders to shorten your learning curve.
7. Brush up your LinkedIn profile
This should be standard practice while looking for any new job. Make sure you have a “serious” LinkedIn profile and use it to drive conversations with sales recruiters.
- Get a professional picture taken of you for your profile.
- Get at least 500 connections. Your profile displays only up to 500, and having the maximum number sends the message that you are serious about making professional connections.
- Start connecting with people in software sales. It could be an entry-level employee, a manager, or even a thought leader. It really helps when you have common connections with people who are deep in the industry.
- Find people with the sales job you want, and see what their profile has. Try and mirror that in your own profile (without embellishing too much, of course).
8. Brush up your Google presence
Recruiters and managers might Google you, so you want them to be impressed with what they find.
I don’t mean you have to take down every embarrassing post. But at the very least, the search results should show that you have a keen interest in software sales. Here are some things you can do to make sure your name shows up in the right places:
- Write articles on Medium or LinkedIn about software and/or sales
- Answer sales questions on forums or Quora
- Make some relevant content for YouTube
- Create your own personal website showcasing your work or ideas (in software and sales, of course)
9. Gun for the job like a true salesperson
First, apply by the normal means, which usually is submitting your resume to an applicant tracking system. Then forget about it.
That was just to give yourself a reason to reach out to them. Your CV will most probably never be seen by recruiters through their ATS. What you need to do is impress your target recruiter by showing that you have the smarts to find the decision-makers in their organizations.
Reach out to them by email, contact them on LinkedIn, try and find out their number. Add sales recruiters from the companies you are targeting as connections. Like their posts. You can even reach out to them on Twitter if they are active there. The point is that you need to get yourself seen and you need to sell yourself.
Show them that you know about the company’s challenges or the issues in their particular domain. Ask for an interview, and don’t be shy about it. You will be showing them that you know how to prospect, which is a key skill that any sales manager is looking for.
10.Highlight winning sales attributes
Whether you are new to sales or not, everyone has something going for them. Don’t shy away from shining a light on that.
- Highlight your past sales records, if you have any. If you have evidence of being a rainmaker, then flaunt it.
- Highlight your ability to collaborate. Sales is often a collaborative effort, and a software sales manager wants someone who can be a team player. It also hints at your leadership potential.
- Show your coachability. Everyone needs coaching on something, but it takes some getting used to to actually receive it. Make sure the hiring manager knows you’re going to be receptive to their way of doing things.
- Highlight entrepreneurial work. Even if it has nothing to do with sales, it shows that you’ve taken that journey and have that mettle.
To summarize what we’ve learned, here’s what you need to do to get into software sales:
- Have the right background (or don’t!)
- Get relevant certifications
- Find the type of sales job you want
- Know who you want to work for
- Do your research on the company
- Familiarize yourself with the tools, skills, and workflows SaaS sales managers want
- Brush up your LinkedIn profile
- Brush up your Google presence
- Gun for the job like a true salesperson
- Highlight winning sales attributes
There you go! Follow these tips, be tenacious, and snag a role in software sales no problem.