By and large, the tech world has shown that they tend to value skills over pedigree. Throughout the software industry, companies continue to seek out individuals who can get the job done, even if they don’t necessarily have a degree to back that up. Companies like IBM have reported that 10-15% of their new hires don’t have a traditional four-year degree. Rather than following education paths, the realm of software is populated by people with a passion for product, hard work, and innovation. But, this isn’t only true for the technical side of business, either. Software sales is a rapidly growing field where employers need talent with the right skills.
A software sales representative grows a company and gets their products into the marketplace. For the software sales career path, a high school diploma is sufficient to get started. While you don’t need a software sales degree (which doesn’t even exist), pursue software sales education or majors for software sales, there are instincts and habits that elevate an average software sales rep to an elite performer. Here are four of the most important skills employers look for when hiring candidates for software sales positions.
1. Effective Communication
Not surprisingly, communication is the biggest part of any successful software sales career. Spending all day interacting with leads and clients requires the ability to express not just the value propositions of your own product but translating how those values can meet the buyer’s pain points. While techniques such as active listening can play a huge role in developing these conversations, at its core communication is about rhetoric.
This is the science and art of persuasion. Even millennia ago, great thinkers like Aristotle were contemplating this aspect of communication. He broke the practice into three general rules:
- The first is to establish credibility with your audience by demonstrating you know their challenges and empathize with their needs.
- The second is to appeal to emotion. Doing so can help to trump reason and help them understand why your software sales could be a solution to make their lives easier.
- The third is making a valid argument, tying together the logical and emotional sides of the buyer’s brain and appealing to what they truly value.
When a software sales rep can combine all these elements of strong rhetoric, employers will be excited by this ability to effectively communicate to customers.
2. Relationship Building
It’s rare to close a deal on the first try. According to InsideSales, half of all closed deals happen after the fifth contact. With the complexity of software sales, a quick sell is even less likely. Particularly in enterprise software, there is a lot of customization that’s going on. These deals require not just a software sales pitch, but an understanding by the software sales rep of what the buyer truly needs. Demonstrating how you can build relationships with clients can make you a top candidate. Even after you make the jump to software sales, this skill can quickly boost your numbers. Salesforce has stated that 51% of their best sales reps focus on relationship-building.
Customers are driven to software companies because they see the software could solve a problem. However, many might not realize how far-reaching their issues are. They might suspect their current software is causing a dip in sales. However, once you get to know their business goals, successes, and failures, you may be able to communicate how your product can help to improve other areas of their company. Placing an emphasis on building a relationship with clients will grow persistence and the soft touch needed by top software sales reps.
When we imagine a typical salesperson, it’s hard not to fall back on old clichés like used car dealers or slick telemarketers. In fact, a recent study of buyers found that the top complaint about sales reps was them being too pushy. Expressing confidence in a product or service is key for software sales jobs, but it’s about more than firing off statistics or value propositions. Reps need to have a constant dedication to learn software sales, and that means understanding how to sell.
Part of that is due to changes in the buying process itself. The B2B and B2C world has shown a dramatic shift away from dependence on the salesperson. Daren Tomey of Revenue Path Group said that the number one mistake sales reps make is “not adapting” to these new standards and looking to the software sales future.
“B2B buyers are buying as if they buy online,” says Daren, “It’s all impulse. They’re doing their research and they make their impulse. Buyers aren’t talking to the salesperson as they’re going through that process. Software sales people are using antiquated selling techniques”
The answer? Tomey says it’s all about what’s known as “impulse creation.” That means instilling in the buyer the idea that this is not only the right choice, but that it’s the right choice, right now.
“You’re really playing to what’s called the ‘reptilian brain.’ That’s the base of the stem, the fight or flight instinct. You’re either in or you’re out.” What Tomey means by this is you’re not really selling a product; you’re selling a feeling.
You need to create a situation that feels important and immediate, without making the buyer feel uncomfortable or pressured.
4. Staying Coachable
When it’s going right, software sales can be one of the most exhilarating fields out there. With the competitive pay and commission structures, as well as a fast-paced environment, skilled software sales reps can see their careers – and bank accounts – grow quickly. However, just as being overly-confident can negatively impact communication with a client, it can also cause software sales reps to put on blinders when it comes to personal improvement.
A good example of the importance of remaining coachable is the failure rate that comes with sales promotions. One company found that while 60% of their reps were promoted or transferred, almost 40% of the SDRs were terminated. Why? Much of it may come from trying to move forward too quickly.
While the failure rate for sales reps being promoted after 11 or less months was 55%, that number dropped drastically to 6% for those with 16 or more months experience. The lesson here is that staying open to personal improvement and outside help will not only make you a great software sales professional, but generally great to work with. In fact, companies are taking note of this as well, with studies showing that continuous training gives 50% higher net sales per employee.
How to Succeed in Software Sales
While these soft skills can help anyone excel in software sales, another big component is finding the right fit at the right company. If you’re interested in getting started in this new career, connecting with other professionals and companies looking for top talent should be at the top of your to-do list. Create your own profile now at our website to see what opportunities exist for you.