Many people assume that learning to code is essential to unlocking the lucrative paychecks and growth opportunities the tech industry offers. This isn’t true. While many find a profitable and satisfying career writing code, many prefer the people side of tech.
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Isaiah Ascher is one of them. Beginning his adult life with very little after growing up in foster care, he quickly learned he had to work for everything. So, when he graduated from Bible college, Ascher got his start in digital media by first working for a religious non-profit in San Francisco. After spending some time in that role, he considered moving on to software development but discovered he could do just as well on the sales side through a program called Prehired.
“I’ve thought about it a lot, but at the end of the day, sales drives business. I just fell in love with sales. I love software sales because I first fell in love with software and how it works.”
While the term ‘sales’ may conjure up the idea of an ‘aggressive car salesman,’ the modern software salesperson is much different. As we’ll explain, that’s a big reason professionals in software sales find just as much career success, and just as high earnings, as those working in software engineering or other technical positions.
What Does “SaaS Sales” Mean?
SaaS (Software as a Service) sales means selling software products that have a subscription pricing model. While some software solutions are simple and self-explanatory, many business solutions are intricate and specialized because they’re built with industry-specific functions in mind.
Tech sales professionals don’t need to know how the code inside their company’s software works. They just need to know how companies can use it to solve their problems. In other words, they help clarify what’s causing the most painful issues, or pain points, and show how their software fixes them. In today’s economic turmoil, getting the right tools—and getting them first—could be one of the key factors differentiating a company from its competitors.
With that in mind, let’s look at each of the four major sales process stages, along with an example of a salesperson’s role in each:
The first stage, Prospecting, involves researching and getting in contact with the right people at the right companies who are most likely to have a need for your product. Of course, even before reaching out to a client, you need to understand your product and prospects’ needs well. That way you can showcase how they might implement this solution.
Let’s take, for example, a Sales Dev Representative (SDR) we’ll call Jack. Jack works for a SaaS company offering software to help large lumber companies keep track of lumberyards and increase their efficiency. Jack needs to find prospects with multiple lumberyards, with 500 or more employees for their SaaS solution to be appealing. After launching an email campaign to prospects, Jack gets to talk on the phone with the people who want to learn more.
Qualifying involves asking a few key questions to find out if your product matches the prospect’s needs. Expert-level product and industry knowledge help you know what to ask.
During the qualifying stage, our fictional SDR, Jack, asks a handful of filtering questions to see if the prospect has the kinds of pain points his software solves. If it seems like they do, Jack offers to book an appointment with his Account Executive (a mid-level sales role), Suzie, who will show them a software demo.
Discovery is where your prospect gets to see the software in action. Here, product expertise lets you answer in-depth questions and clarify deal-breakers. While an AE usually handles this stage, some multirole SDRs also do demos.
If Jack, our example SDR, handles Discovery, he’ll hold a video conference with decision-makers in the prospect lumber company. After walking through how the software works to solve their pain points—along with its different configurations or plans—Jack will also field questions from the team and handle any objections he can. Finally, if the decision-makers like the software, they can move on to the final step.
The Advisory stage is exactly what it sounds like, advising your potential client on which solution fits their needs best. This typically means a particular configuration or subscription level.
At this point, our example AE, Suzie, recommends a mid-level plan for their software solution. This plan has just enough features to help the lumber company solve its current management problems while saving money, along with the option to upgrade later. In this case, we’ll say the company likes the solution and buys it. After this, they get passed on as a customer to your Customer Success team for onboarding.
What Is a Career in Software Sales Like?
Before deciding if software sales is the right career path for you, let’s delve deeper into what to expect in a software sales career.
Salary and Benefits
According to Glassdoor, software sales professionals in America average $76,769 a year in just base pay. This is in addition to commissions, bonuses, and profit-sharing, which with base pay add up to an average total of $139,489 per year. Entry-level positions pay $60-80k, and six-figure incomes typically start after two to three years of experience.
Another perk is variety, since no prospect is exactly the same. Yet, you can still work regular 40-hour work weeks when you learn what (and who) to focus on. On an average day, you’ll research new prospects based on your Ideal Customer Profile and reach out to them via email, LinkedIn, or phone, while following up with people already in your pipeline. On top of that, a software sales career sometimes offers remote working flexibility—something that not all professionals can enjoy.
Five Must-Have Traits for SaaS Sales
The common misconception is that sales positions are only for extroverts with a gift for gab. This isn’t true, especially when it comes to software sales, because listening and analyzing needs is also important. Anyone can have a successful career in sales if solving people’s problems excites them. As previously mentioned, salespeople today are more than just sellers; they are the product experts, solutions advisors, and enterprise-level consultants.
To master those roles, salespeople need to cultivate these traits if they want to succeed:
- Communication skills
This skillset should come as no surprise, since asking good questions, listening, writing, and speaking are all must-haves to gain trust, show you understand your prospects’ needs, and present solutions. Knowing different personality types and how to tailor what you say and how you say it can gain or break trust.
- Problem-solving skills
After showing a prospect you understand his problems, you need to explain how your software can solve each of those problems. This takes creativity. For example, you may need to bring in help from the technical team or give examples of other similar customers your company has helped.
- Ability to accept criticism
The road to success as a SaaS salesperson isn’t paved with perfect people or clients. You’ll hear “No” many times a day, or just silence from getting ignored, yet you still need to keep confidence in yourself and your product.
- A passion for study and learning
You have to know your product inside and out and keep up with updates. You also need to constantly train on the latest tools, since they make you more productive every day. Mastering your sales techniques with daily practice is also crucial.
Looking outside your company, you’ll need to study your prospects to figure out their needs, and which features will work best for them. Finally, you’ll also need to study the competition, so you can highlight features of your software that let it stand out from the crowd.
- Being data-driven and having organizational skills
As a SaaS salesperson, you’ll need to juggle multiple leads and opportunities at various stages. Since nobody has a perfect memory, you’ll need to use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, which records data every time you contact a prospect and lets you see that data in convenient reports. Following proven step-by-step processes (workflows) to do your daily work is also critical.
- Knowing your tools
The average SaaS salesperson uses 10-15 different software tools daily, starting with a good CRM. Tools to find new prospects based on criteria, automating one-to-one email outreach, and video conferencing software are other examples. These tools are so essential, any hiring manager will expect you to know them like the back of your hand before you even get a job.
When it comes to qualifications, many hiring managers still say they prefer people with four-year college degrees but often hire people who don’t have degrees. Hiring managers care about results, and almost no college or university teaches sales. Even business degrees often only give students a broad overview of real-life company operations.
If you’ve had some experience in a former sales position, that might also help, though hiring managers expect more than sales experience and good communication skills. You also need to know how to combine the common tools, skills, and workflows SaaS sales teams use because nearly every company have the following basic requirements:
- Identify and follow up on new business opportunities
- Develop and execute sales strategies
- Create and strengthen business networks
- Conduct direct meetings with potential and existing clients
- Document relevant information using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools
- Research potential competitors.
Reading that, you might wonder, “Where can I go with my career, starting as an SDR?” Moving up to an Account Executive is common, as is becoming an SDR Team Leader. There are also paths in marketing, operations, and other management roles. Whatever you do next, knowing how to sell lets you influence people to get what you want. Not that you need to switch positions. You can stay an SDR if you’re happy in that role.
There’s a lot of talk about what to expect in the future of work, especially with cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. As automated technologies continue to grow, many expect a global workforce disruption. Some people fear that newer innovations might ultimately cause certain professions to become obsolete.
While other industries face these uncertainties, tech professionals can breathe easy as their industry continues to grow. According to a report by research consultancy IDC, the tech industry is reaching $5.2 trillion in 2020, with the United States being the largest tech market, at $1.7 trillion for 2020.
Those in tech sales, especially, will not have to worry. Jobs deemed “future-proof” are the ones employing softs skills and human qualities, which is the basis of all sales roles. This is backed by the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs report that said, “The future of tech industry relies heavily on people skills”, citing Sales Development Representatives as one of the most in-demand roles.
This is also reflected in the courses offered by renowned institutes such as Purdue University and UCLA Extension, which are starting to introduce sales specializations. While they may be a little late to the party, this is a strong indicator that the sector is generating more and more interest.
How Prehired Can Help You Get Started in the Industry
If you’re interested in pursuing this career path, you may be wondering where or how to begin. You can put your worry aside because you don’t have to go through the journey alone.
Enter Prehired, a lifetime membership association designed to unlock your income potential, starting with a tech sales career launch program, which has produced hundreds of success stories. Prehired teaches the tools, skills, and workflows hiring managers expect skilled SaaS salespeople to have.
Instead of focusing on closing deals, Prehired’s Science-Based Sales® methodology focuses on creating clarity as the catalyst to make sales happen. To teach effectively they combine video-based training with hands-on experience and personal mentoring.
You’ll then get real-world experience by doing outreach to potential employers using email, LinkedIn, and phone the way a sales professional would. This shows hiring managers you’re qualified to do the job, especially since you’ll ask questions during each of the three to four typical interview stages to qualify the company as a fit for your career and income goals.
That kind of experience is how Prehired members average $73k in year one and earn an average of $110,000 in their second year on the job.
After joining Prehired, Isaiah Ascher used the skills he learned to cold call a Sales Manager at billion-dollar sales engagement software leader Outreach.io. She was so impressed, she fast-tracked his interview process. Isaiah got the SDR job and became a top performer before he was later recruited back to Prehired to be their Director of Member Success.
Are you ready to start a career in software sales? The first step is to apply here with Prehired; it only takes a few minutes. Once you pass the application, you can book an interview with an Advisor on Prehired’s Admissions team to see if they can help you start your own six-figure sales career.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.