Everyone knows that a professional sales career can be lucrative if you have the right mindset and skills. In the technology world, you also need other things. So, if you want to break into tech sales, you must take some specific steps to position yourself for success. Some of the general training or experience you may have in sales and marketing may be useful, along with any knowledge of a particular technology or science, such as biotechnology or aerospace engineering. If you want to transition from working in science or technology to selling related products or services, like staffing services, read on to learn what it takes and how to maximize your odds of success.
A preview of technical sales work
A sales job is a sales job. Your work revolves around building relationships with potential buyers, understanding what they want or need, and helping them find an ideal solution. In tech sales, which is not the same as IT sales, you are selling hardware or services to businesses, for the most part. You may also deal with sole proprietors, government agencies, and colleges and universities.
An IT sales job focuses on selling IT services like mobile app development, cloud computing, or cyber-security and disaster recovery. You will need to be able to focus on details, both technical and business-related, so you can understand your client’s needs. The job also takes some creativity in terms of finding ways to differentiate your employer’s service from the competition.
What if you have no experience? You don’t really need sales experience to begin, though you do need some direct experience with the technology you will be selling. Experience as a user, such as a CRM tool, can definitely help. If you go into technical sales for a staffing agency, like BDN, you would definitely benefit from a background in aerospace, life sciences, biotechnology, or one of the other areas where we provide staffing services. Note that direct employers and staffing agencies often provide on-the-job training.
What training might be useful for someone moving from project management or technical work to sales? Aside from sales training, professional certifications related to your specialization are a good option. Are you going to sell cloud computing services? Get AWS or Google Cloud certifications. Selling marketing software? Get a couple of free HubSpot certifications. Those are just a few of the possibilities.
Potential earnings can be lucrative in this field too. Here at Black Diamond Networks, we followed a group of our account executives and recruiters during their first three years. During their first year, they earned an average of $71,000. With 3 years of experience, they saw an average of $195,000 in earnings.
What Challenges Will You Face?
Like many sales roles, tech sales can be a high-pressure job where you have potentially big sales with big commissions but face deadlines, quotas, or sales goals that can be challenging. There can be lots to learn about the technology and the benefits, client needs, sales tactics that work, and so on. If you have a firm grounding in the technology you are selling, such as experience coordinating VoIP installations, you might be further along the learning curve than you think.
One longer-term challenge is the need to specialize. The technology you will be selling is complicated and often changes so you need to specialize. This can make it hard to switch industries down the line. For example, a VoIP salesperson may have a hard time shifting gears to sell enterprise resource management software. Someone who sells application development services may find it difficult to shift gears and start selling cloud-based computing services.
How You Can Set Yourself Up for Success
If you have a little sales and technical knowledge, you are off to a good start. To create a tech sales career and succeed, you will want to take additional steps. In a sense, this is just like working in any sales or marketing field. However, some of the advice is specific to tech sales versus, say, real estate or insurance.
- Find a mentor: Someone who can at least answer the occasional question about the technology or the industry can be invaluable even if they can’t have regular meetings and chat.
- Network, online and offline: At a minimum, you need to be active on LinkedIn and one or two job sites. Join networking groups that meet in real life. Attend job fairs and information sessions at your university if you are still in school.
- Learn about the latest sales trends and tactics: You need to go beyond basic Sales 101 concepts and tactics to succeed in the complex and sometimes high-stakes world of technical sales.
- Get additional training: You read about certifications above. Find out what might be helpful in your chosen industry or with your chosen technology.
- Learn the tools you’ll be using: Generally, this means becoming familiar with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot or Salesforce. You may also need to use email marketing and newsletter management software.
While continuous learning is always good, you don’t actually need sales training to start working for Black Diamond Networks. We offer three months of hands-on training for all new hires. These new hires have diverse backgrounds in sales – no experience, a couple of sales internships, staffing company experience, or some sales or customer service experience. This training teaches new hires about the company’s background, the services they provide, and the industries they serve. Trainees also get some practical sales training, such as how to prospect, manage first-call jitters, create relationships with prospects, and close deals.
The Ingredients for Success in Tech Sales
You can succeed in tech sales without a sales background or a technical degree. However, you need to be ready for a potentially stressful working environment where there may be a steep learning curve to master the company’s products and services. The upside is that you work with interesting technologies and business challenges that customers have. You can also earn a respectable income. If you are looking for opportunities in the life sciences, technology, or engineering versus sales, BDN may also have a role for you.