Nigel is a tech sales professional, who’s worked in the industry for over nine years, and has been teaching at Careerist since spring 2021. Throughout the years he’s worked in many different industries and he has since become a tech sales pro. In this interview, we’ll get to know Nigel a little better and he will tell us how to master working in the field.
How did you become an expert in the world of tech sales?
That’s a great question, and I think a lot of it really can be put down to my curiosity.
As a young kid I always wanted to take toys apart, and I’d always try to figure out how and why things worked in a certain way. That led to me developing an interest in engineering.
The engineering field, you see, always makes you strive to understand people, and why they do some things or think in a certain way. It's very important to understand a client’s needs, what problems you are trying to solve for them and you've got to know what solution(s) you can offer to someone.
When I was getting my mechanical and energy engineering degree I was working part-time at a US-based chain. When I was working at this department store my love for sales really started. I fell in love with the sales side of things and everything connected to it.
When working in the department store we would often get a commission from what we sold to people. It was essential that I learnt to understand the customer’s needs, so that I could help them to solve a particular problem, and this would then result in a sale and extra commission for me.
It doesn’t matter if you're selling a pair of jeans or a software solution to someone, the principles of selling are the same. The experiences I learned here were applied to my technical sales jobs later down the line.
It’s been an excellent career so far, and I love all aspects of what I do and I wouldn’t change a thing.
What companies have you worked for and what do you remember most about these roles?
I’ve worked for many companies over the years and these jobs have been across various industries. I’ve always been a sales engineer though. I love to work in completely new industries all of the time because I am constantly learning new skills.
The first company I worked at was a small family business. I was the only sales engineer there and I had to cover all the sales-related jobs. I was overseeing some back-office work, assisting with the hiring process, making calls, and I eventually learnt most of the office’s processes inside and out. I enjoyed this job as it gave me an insight into all the various roles that were available for me to work in.
From there I moved to a more industrial-based company. Here I used my mechanical and engineering degree. This company specialized in aerospace and big construction work, so very different to the job I’d worked in before. Here I focused on making plans and sales, and I’d look at how to make equipment work more effectively.
The next step I took was to join the software sales industry, and this is where I am at present. This is a software company providing infrastructure solutions to customers. Here we do a lot of work to do with roads, pipe designs and government projects.
Each new workplace brings new challenges, and they all have different needs and new solutions to tackle, and this always makes me really excited about my work.
After so many years in tech sales, do you still love the work?
I really do! I’m always really excited about my work, I love sales and I’m really, really happy that I started working in this area.
There are never two days the same. Customers, problems and values are always different. Each day is a new challenge – I really like this side of my work.
I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I am able to listen and help people solve their problems. The way you present ideas to a customer is really exciting, and I want them to see how valuable they are to us, and how valuable our solutions are to them.
I’m intrigued to see how the field of tech sales will develop in the future.
Can you tell us about your typical day at work...
I’m currently working with a few medium and large sized businesses, and I’m trying to help them organize their data, marketing and sales habits. I am working on presenting them all with a solution that will help them to solve their issues and to achieve their goals
Effective sales personnel can bring in thousands of dollars of income to a company, so it’s essential that tech sales professionals get straight to work. There’s no time to waste, we must find solutions for the customers.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I’ve always had a love for teaching, because I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences with others.
I’m currently an active team member at an organization called “Big Brother Big Sister” in America. Here I tutor young people, and the work me and my fellow colleagues do really does have a huge impact on these children’s lives.
Careerist is a huge project that I stumbled upon fairly recently. It’s been life-changing and remarkable for me to witness so many individuals blossoming at the end of the course and achieving great success. Playing a part in their triumphs is what it's all about.
Can you finish this sentence: “A person who works in tech sales is a person who …”
... is not afraid to fail. Is someone really curious, is someone who believes in themselves, and really just wants to learn. A tech sales professional who can tick all of these boxes is someone who’ll do well in this area.
That’s what differentiates a really good salesperson from the crowd.
It’s interesting that you said “is a person who is not afraid to fail” – Did you find it difficult to accept failure early on in your career?
I’ve always played sports, and I was the youngest in my family, so I’ve naturally got a competitive side. But honestly, it wasn’t easy to fail. I did have to learn to take a backseat, and to accept that there would be times when I’d fail.
Losing a deal, doing a horrible demo, or even saying the wrong thing is difficult to overcome. But it’s important to learn from these events and not to dwell too hard on them.
What would you say to someone who’s not sure if a career in tech sales is for them?
Nothing comes to us overnight, everything we do in life is just one big learning process. In my opinion, the hardest step for someone to take is to accept that it’s okay to take a step out of their comfort zone and into the unknown.
Before taking a leap of faith you don’t have to know your complete self, your strengths and weaknesses, because sometimes it’s just about applying the skills you have to the role you want. You often find in life that a lot of skills overlap and you can learn more about yourself in a role.
Some people are afraid to take the leap because they feel they aren’t qualified enough, but that’s not always the case with tech sales. You can learn about tech sales by taking a short course!
What soft skills do you need to work in tech sales?
When people think of sales workers, they often associate the act of selling goods with being able to talk nicely to customers, and to push products onto a customer so that they can make money.
However, the number one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that all you really need to do is listen to what the customer has to say. You don’t need to be pushing products onto people. You need to help them out effectively.
To be honest, I feel more in control of a conversation when I just listen to a person talk. The conversation just flows naturally. Active listening is huge in tech sales. Gathering all the information you require, and being able to confirm that you’ve understood what you’ve been told is paramount in the role.
Questions are also a big deal in this industry. Asking the right question at the right time means that you deal with the issue under concern properly, and that you don’t miss key problems out (quite often stakeholders don’t know the extent of their issues).
It was a pleasure to have this conversation with you and to get to know you better. You’ve no doubt inspired a lot of our readers to try their hand at tech sales.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us today.