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How to Become a Tech Sales Representative: a Step-by-Step Guide, Plus 5 Tips for Breaking into Tech Sales

Job Market
April 13, 2022
How to Become a Tech Sales Representative: a Step-by-Step Guide, Plus 5 Tips for Breaking into Tech Sales

Creating a great product does not automatically guarantee a tech company's success. It is also essential to have qualified salespeople who can communicate the value of this product to the target audience and explain how becoming paying customers can make their lives easier. And this is where tech sales representatives come into play. 

Today we will discuss what tech sales is, what tech sales representatives do, why it is one of the most exciting careers in tech, and how to get into this field even if you have no previous experience. 

What Is Tech Sales?

Tech sales is the process of selling complex scientific and technological products. It might be software, equipment, or services, such as e-commerce tools, cybersecurity solutions, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, hardware, or IT consulting. 

Tech sales often occur in a business-to-business (B2B) environment when one company sells a product—for example, a digital payment system—to another organization. However, it might also be about selling services and products—be it a Netflix-type subscription or smartphones—directly to consumers. In that case, we are talking about the business-to-customers or B2C model. 

Another term that you might frequently hear in connection with tech sales is SaaS. It stands for software as a service and means that users access the application via the internet instead of installing it on their devices. SaaS examples include Dropbox, Zoom, DocuSign, Salesforce, and HubSpot. The reason why tech sales is often associated with SaaS is that this market is booming. It is projected to grow from USD 130 billion in 2021 to USD 716 billion by 2028. And unsurprisingly, there is a high demand for sales professionals in that field. 

Now that you know what tech sales is, let's take a closer look at the role of tech sales representatives in companies. 

What Do Tech Sales Representatives Do?

As the name suggests, tech sales representatives are professionals who sell tech-related products. Their goal is to identify who can benefit the most from the technology they promote, build a relationship with potential clients, and demonstrate how a particular product or service can help them. 

Day-to-day tasks of tech sales reps may include:

  • Looking for new selling opportunities
  • Researching leads and reaching out to potential clients
  • Analyzing customers' needs and suggesting appropriate solutions
  • Creating presentations and explaining the benefits of different products
  • Preparing proposals and negotiating contracts  
  • Maintaining strong business relationships with existing customers
  • Providing post-sales support
  • Preparing reports and updating records in CRM systems
  • Researching current market trends and assessing competitors 

Depending on a company's size and structure, one person can be responsible for the entire sales cycle, from researching leads to providing post-sales support, or responsibilities may be divided between several professionals. These are the most common job titles in tech sales:

  • Pre-sales (generating and qualifying leads, contacting potential clients): Sales Development Representative, Business Development Representative, Account Development Representative
  • Actual selling (preparing proposals, negotiating terms, closing deals): Inside Sales Representative, Account Executive, Sales Executive, Sales Engineer
  • Post-sales (managing accounts, resolving issues, upselling): Account Manager, Customer Success Manager, Renewal Specialist

Tech sales jobs are among the most appealing in tech. Now let’s look at why that is the case.

Tech Sales Representative Salary and Job Outlook

The demand for tech sales representatives is high and continues to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 7,300 new positions in tech sales will be opened each year through 2030. And LinkedIn research reveals that business development and sales professionals are among the top 15 in-demand jobs in the US.

In addition to a promising job outlook, tech sales positions come with good salaries. Based on Glassdoor data, the median total pay for a technical sales representative in the United States is $92,021, and for a sales engineer it’s $102,739. 

Tech sales jobs also provide a lot of opportunities for career advancement. Typically, salespeople in tech start as Sales Development Representatives or Business Development Representatives, work their way to Account Executives or Sales Operation Managers, and then eventually on to VP of Sales or Chief Sales Officers. But the skills these professionals acquire in tech sales can also allow them to easily change their careers to marketing, consulting, or entrepreneurship.  

Considering the advantages that tech sales jobs provide, getting into this field is surprisingly straightforward, as the entry barriers are relatively low. And now, let's talk about the skills and education you need to become a tech sales representative.

Tech Sales Representative Job Requirements

Requirements for a tech sales representative may vary from company to company. In general, employers are looking for a certain combination of education, skills, and experience. 

Many tech sales professionals have a bachelor's degree in business-related or information technology fields such as marketing, business administration, computer science, or engineering. Usually, though, there are no strict criteria regarding applicants’ formal education. And rather than a specific degree, many companies are instead looking for the necessary skills and the right mindset. 

Employers also know very well that good salespeople can come from different backgrounds, and typically, there are no exact rules as to previous work experience. However, hiring managers might prefer candidates from sales, marketing, or customer support backgrounds. If the role involves selling very complex technological solutions, experience in engineering or software development can also give an applicant a significant advantage.

As has been said, the most important condition for getting into tech sales is a having particular skill set. In the next section, we will discuss what you need to learn to get your first tech sales job. 

Essential Tech Sales Representative Skills

To become a tech sales representative, you will need a solid understanding of the modern sales cycle, proficiency with related tools, and certain soft skills. 

Considering the variety of products and services tech sales representatives work with in different companies, hiring managers do not expect a candidate to know everything about the technology during the first interview. You will often be trained on the product you are going to sell as part of the onboarding process.

As for soft skills, communication skills and active listening are crucial for success in tech sales. That is because the goal of tech sales reps is to bridge a gap between a client's current and desired state. And to achieve it, they need to ask the right questions, listen carefully, and be able to explain complex solutions in an easy-to-understand manner.

Also, a big part of a sales representatives' job is building strong business relationships with potential and current clients. They need to be able to put themselves in the customers' shoes to understand their goals and problems, which is why empathy is crucial in this profession. 

The ability to learn quickly is another skill essential for tech sales reps. Their job is to offer the most suitable and up-to-date solution for their clients' problems. Technology is constantly changing, though, and what works today will not necessarily be relevant tomorrow. So, they have to work hard to keep up with industry trends to stay competitive in the job market. 

Other sought-after soft skills are problem-solving, analytical thinking, creativity, persistence, and the ability to work well under pressure.

Besides these skills, candidates for tech sales jobs are expected to have general computer skills and be familiar with common productivity and communication tools like Zoom, Slack, or Google Workspace. Proficiency in using CRM systems, such as Salesforce, will also give a candidate an advantage.

Yes, that is quite a long list. And at this point, you might be wondering, how much time is needed to learn all of these skills? 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Tech Sales Representative?

Becoming a tech sales representative might take between a few months and several years. The exact time frame depends on which learning path you choose. Getting a formal college education and earning a degree will typically take four or five years. For those who cannot invest that much time in studying, short-term courses or boot camps provide an excellent alternative. They are designed for students who want to pick up necessary knowledge fast. Such programs can last a couple of weeks or months.

For example, Careerist's Sales Career in Tech program includes 20 live sessions, one-on-one mentoring, internships, and community support. Students learn tech sales fundamentals, get familiar with industry-specific tools, and practice lead qualification, cost-benefit analysis, contract negotiation, and more. This intensive sales training allows them to learn all the skills needed for entry-level tech sales positions in just four weeks. 

If you are still unsure how to get your first job in tech sales, read the next section, where we will provide a clear and actionable plan for getting into the field. 

How to Become a Tech Sales Representative: a Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know what tech sales is, how career prospects look in this profession, and what the main requirements are for positions in this field, let's discuss what steps you need to follow to get your first job as a tech sales rep. 

Step 1: Learn the necessary skills.

Scanning job descriptions at websites such as Indeed, Monster, or Glassdoor is a good starting point. Look at the requirements for candidates and think about what skills you need to improve and what knowledge you need to gain. Then evaluate your education, previous work experience, preferred learning style, and how much time you can invest in studying. Considering all these factors, you can choose between getting a relevant college degree, enrolling in a short-term training program, or a self-study path. 

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with common tools.

Another thing you should not neglect is getting familiar with common tools used in tech sales. Companies use various tools for CRM, market research, planning, analytics, communication, contract management, and reporting. Of course, a hiring manager will not expect that you are an expert in each of the thousands of solutions available on the market. If you invest some time in getting familiar with some of the most popular ones, however, it will make you more confident and boost your chances to impress the interviewer. And this is quite easy to do, as there are plenty of free online tutorials covering the basics of using Salesforce, Pipedrive, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and similar tools.

Step 3: Gain some experience.

In any profession, employers prefer candidates who have at least some hands-on experience in a similar position, and tech sales jobs are no exception. Luckily for individuals from different backgrounds, not only paid, full-time jobs count. So even if you have never worked in sales, it might be a good idea to apply for a relevant internship or do some volunteer work where you can familiarize yourself with the sales process of tech products. Such an addition to your resume will significantly improve your chances of getting hired.

Step 4: Get ready for the job search.

Once you've learned the necessary skills, familiarized yourself with the most popular tools, and gained some experience, it’s time to start looking for your first paid job. The first thing to do is update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Do not underestimate this step. The first impression a hiring manager makes about you is especially important when you are looking for a job in sales. After all, a significant part of your job will be to present the product to potential clients. And it is better to show right away that you can do it by presenting yourself well. In other words, treat the job search as a selling process where the product is your qualifications, and the potential customer is an employer. In your resume, focus on what you can offer a company, highlight relevant experience, and emphasize skills that will help you succeed in a new role. 

Step 5: Apply for jobs. 

Use multiple resources to look for open positions in tech sales—for example, company websites, job search platforms, and LinkedIn. And remember that getting a job is a numbers game. Applying for a couple of openings and waiting for a call from the recruiter is not the most effective strategy. The more applications you send, the higher your chances of getting an interview. That is why you have to dedicate a couple of hours each day to look for suitable openings, adjust your resume for particular jobs, and send as many applications as possible.

 

Step 6: Get ready for the interview. 

Once you have been invited for an interview, you still have important work to do. First, you need to prepare your answers to common interview questions. For example:

  • What are the qualities every salesperson should have?
  • What sales tools are you familiar with? 
  • What do you like most about working in tech sales?
  • What are your favorite questions to ask a potential client?
  • What steps would you take to learn about a new technology?

Second, you have to research the company. You need to know as much as possible about their products, target customers, unique value proposition, and tools before you enter the interview room. So browse the company's website, social media pages, or articles on industry-related platforms. This will help you feel more confident answering a hiring manager's questions. It will also help you make a list of questions you want to ask a potential employer. 

Hopefully with this step-by-step guide, you now have a clear picture of where to start and how to proceed if you want to become a tech sales representative. Next we’re going to provide more tips on getting into the field and, most importantly, succeeding there. 

5 Tips for Breaking into Tech Sales

There are several things you can do to get your first job faster and accelerate your career in tech sales. Here are our favorite tips. 

#1 Know what you want. 

Tech sales is a broad term, and although it might be tempting to apply for any position that at least somehow relates to tech sales, a better approach is to narrow down the list of companies you would like to work for. Which type of products or services would you like to sell? What kind of tasks would you like to do? Which target markets interest you? This step in the job search is just as important as a lead qualification in the sales process. Miss it, and your chance to close the deal drops drastically. First, taking time to define your ideal employer will help you develop an effective job-search strategy—and therefore help you find the perfect position—faster. Second, you will have an advantage during the interviews, as you will know what types of problems potential clients are usually trying to solve with this particular technology or what competitors are offering. 

#2 Network. 

Networking with other tech sellers is the best way to become familiar with this field. Connect with them on LinkedIn, pay attention to what they are talking about, and ask questions. Visit relevant conferences to get insights from successful speakers. Join a training program where you can share experiences with fellow students like you who are looking to join tech sales. Such connections will help you get familiar with tech sales reps' jargon and get inside information on the sales process. They might also get you access to job opportunities that never get posted or help you receive a referral to a company you want to join. 

#3 Find a mentor. 

Working with a mentor can do wonders for your career. Mentors support and guide you, keep you motivated and focused, provide objective feedback on your skills, help you define your professional goals, and most importantly, help you achieve them in the shortest time possible. A good mentor can give you firsthand information on industry trends, insights on tech sales best practices, and recommendations on avoiding common mistakes. They can also teach you about a specific tech sales role, product type, or market. In addition, you can get access to their network and therefore more job opportunities. 

#4 Work on the right mindset. 

For many professionals with a background in sales in other industries, the most challenging part of transitioning into tech sales is shifting their mindset. Tech sales is not about tricking potential clients into buying things they do not need. A tech sales representative’s job is to identify potential customers who can benefit from using a particular product, listen to them, relate to their problems, and offer the optimal solution. Those are abilities that hiring managers are looking for, not the "I can sell a drowning man a water bottle" skill. You have to remember about the “serving the customer first” approach when answering interview questions.

#5 Keep learning.

No matter how many years of sales experience you have, there is always something to learn: from buyer psychology to new tools for forecasting revenue. And if you are new to the field, the more you know about it before applying for your first job, the higher your chances of impressing a potential employer. Luckily, there are plenty of resources you can choose from, such as books, YouTube videos, online courses, offline training programs, and podcasts. 

Conclusion

Tech sales is a great career choice for anyone who is interested in technology and prefers a client-facing role. It is a fulfilling and reasonably challenging job that offers a good salary and excellent career advancement opportunities. It also requires continuous learning, but the skills developed in tech sales positions are useful for a lifetime.



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