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It’s no secret that the tech world is absolutely booming. Companies like Slack and Uber are receiving billion dollar valuations, chatbots are the next big thing, and even your grandmother is talking about new fangled things like “VR”. Shows like Silicon Valley show just how much the tech boom has taken hold of the mainstream culture.
Top performing companies are leveraging software to stay competitive, whether that’s using Asana to keep everyone on task, HipChat to keep distributed teams communicating clearly, or Salesforce to stay on top of prospective leads. Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) companies are taking over, with even old school software companies like Microsoft moving everything over to the cloud. Everybody wants to be part of the tech boom.
Because of the skyrocketing demand, software companies are increasingly focused on building best-in-class sales teams in order to compete effectively with other companies in the same category / niche. Companies with high-powered sales teams generate more revenue, profits, and value for investors, faster.
This is why so many of your friends are getting into software sales. It’s a hot, competitive market full of opportunities.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of software sales, as well as the different types of roles that are available. Think of this as primer of sorts for the industry. It’s not comprehensive and certainly won’t make you an expert, but it will serve as an effective introduction to the world of software sales.
Like any job, a role in software sales comes with very specific pros and cons. Depending on your goals, personality, and work style, it could be the perfect job or a total disaster. Evaluate these pros and cons carefully, keeping in your mind what success looks like for you.
Huge earning potential ($$$)
Most software sales jobs offer a competitive base salary along with an aggressive, performance-based commission structure. If you’re good at sales, you can absolutely rake in the cash.
Of course, the flip side of this is that, if you suck at sales, you’re going to really struggle, both financially and in your ability to advance in the company.
Sales usually (not always) requires a very specific type of personality. If you don’t have that kind of personality, this may not be the job for you.
A fast-paced, competitive environment
To say that sales is fast-paced and competitive is probably an understatement. Your very livelihood depends on finding leads, building relationships, and then closing sales. Doing this effectively requires a lot of hustle and a willingness to compete hard with other salespeople.
If you’re a competitive, type-A person, you’ll probably enjoy this environment.
Rapid upward mobility for top performers (usually)
In sales, more than most other jobs, top performers move up quickly. The reason for this isn’t particularly complex. Sales are the lifeblood of a software company, and those who perform the most effectively will find themselves being quickly promoted and receiving more responsibilities.
On the flip side, those who don’t perform well will find themselves languishing at the bottom while others jump frog them. Sales in particular is a job that rewards outstanding performance and penalizes poor performance.
High expectations in terms of performance and hours
Salespeople are expected to do whatever it takes to make the sale. If you go into sales, your manager will expect you to perform at a high level, securing new leads and closing sales when possible. Your manager will also expect you to put in the necessary hours to do your job effectively. Yes, the odds of upward mobility are high, but the cost of achieving those promotions will also be high.
Be prepared to burn the midnight oil and continue working outside standard business hours. The struggle to find work/life balance a in sales is real, so be prepared to figure it out ASAP.
Work can become quite stressful
The reality of any sales position is that you’ll encounter stress. It’s simply the nature of the job. Whether, you’re trying to meet a monthly quota, close a particularly large sale, or have a difficult manager who is always riding you, stress is part and parcel with sales. Unlike some cushy jobs which allow you to clock in, clock out, and leave work behind, a sales job is always in the back of your mind.
You usually don’t earn commissions if you miss quotas
While sales jobs do offer huge earnings potential, they also can create issues if you miss sales quotas. Because the compensation structures are almost always base plus commission, if you miss a quota you end up losing a significant chunk of your total earning potential. This can be one of the greatest stressors of a sales job.
When considering taking a job in software sales, carefully consider the pros and cons. Would your personality and strengths fit well with a sales job? Do you thrive in a stressful, competitive environment? Would you be comfortable having a compensation structure directly tied to your performance? The answer to these questions will help you know whether a sales job is a good fit for you.
Closers / “Hunters”
Customer Success / Client Success
If you want to be in a hot market loaded with opportunities, software sales is a great place to get started. The primary question is whether it’s the right fit for you. If you’re the aggressive type who likes to kick butt and take names, sales can be a perfect fit. Even if that’s not your personality type, sales can still work for you, but you should at least be aware of what you’re stepping into.
After all, you don’t want to unexpectedly end up in a sales situation like in Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin tells the salesmen under him:
We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado.
Anybody want to see second prize?
Second prize is a set of steak knives.
Third prize is you’re fired.
Here’s to helping you find a job you love, a career that challenges and energizes you, and your true calling as a software sales pro.
Mike Heintzleman is the Head of Talent at Verge ® in Indianapolis, where he works with entrepreneurs across the Verge network to help them build winning sales and marketing teams.
Be sure to connect with Mike on LinkedIn or at mike [at] vergehq [dot] com if you have questions or want to learn more about companies that are actively hiring in your area.