Sales representatives are in demand at software companies across the world, providing job opportunities for those with the right skills and knowledge. While there are many openings for sales reps, breaking into software sales is not always easy.
Software as a service (SaaS) companies tend to prefer candidates with past sales experience. They also favor those with a college education and knowledge of the technologies that they sell. If you lack experience and tech background, figuring out how to get into software sales becomes more of a challenge. Use the following 11 steps to land your first software sales job.
1. Meet the Educational Requirements
Many SaaS companies only hire sales representatives with college degrees. Depending on the company, you may need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for an entry-level sales job. A master’s degree is often necessary for senior positions, such as sales manager or VP of sales.
If you plan on getting into software sales, majoring in computer science provides a technical background that may help you land a sales job. Other common majors include business management, marketing, and finance. The field of study is not the most important detail. Simply having a college degree is often enough to meet the minimum educational requirements for a sales role.
2. Gain Some Type of Sales Experience
While SaaS companies may prefer to hire those with previous software sales experience, any type of sales experience is better than none. Other sales positions are also typically easier to obtain. Insurance companies, financial services, medical device manufacturers, and merchants all need sales representatives to sell products or services. Working for a company outside of the software industry gives you a chance to develop your skills as a salesperson.
After landing a sales job, keep track of your success. Software sales managers want to see statistics and figures when looking at your resume. Maintain a record of your quota selling insurance or financial services.
3. Learn the Tools of the Trade
Learning how to use the most common sales tools can help improve your resume. Sales representatives in every industry rely on software to manage customer contact information and lead generation strategies.
The most used software for customer relationship management (CRM) is Salesforce. It provides an extensive selection of tools for managing interactions with past, current, and potential customers. Sales reps often include knowledge of Salesforce on their resumes. However, a lot of applicants may not really know how to use the software.
Consider downloading a demo of Salesforce to explore the features. Complete tutorials to become more familiar with the software. You may also gain the chance to use Salesforce and other popular software while working in sales in other industries.
4. Launch an Entrepreneurial Project
Software sales managers often look for candidates who are willing to think outside the box. They want self-motivated individuals who are willing to put everything into a project. You can showcase these traits by launching your own business project.
Becoming an entrepreneur also provides the opportunity to work on your sales skills, as you are solely responsible for the success of your endeavor. While this is not a required step, it can provide an alternative solution for those who cannot find outside sales experience. Your online business gives you something else to add to your resume.
5. Start Networking and Building Connections
Employers are likely to review your social media profiles when applying for a sales position. Questionable posts on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter may create a negative first impression. Scrub your social media profiles of any potentially harmful posts from the past.
You should also use social media to reach out and network with those working in software sales. Build connections on LinkedIn and Facebook. Having several hundred connections on LinkedIn can significantly boost your employability in sales.
6. Learn More About Your Potential Employers
Start researching the software companies that you may potentially work for. Some of the most common types of SaaS solutions include:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Accounting software
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
- Project management software
- Email marketing software
Explore the leading providers of each of these types of software. Find out which companies have the largest share of the market and learn more about the features of their software.
7. Take Software Courses to Develop New Skills
Traditionally, salespeople are not technicians. They only learn what they need to know to sell the software. However, it is becoming increasingly important for salespeople to have at least some technical skills and knowledge.
You should be proficient with the software that you sell. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to get your hands on the software until you land a job. In the meantime, you can start working on your technical aptitude by enrolling in software courses.
Check with your local community college or search for online courses for popular software packages, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Office, and Adobe. Taking a few software courses or computer classes is also helpful if you lack a college degree with a technical major. It shows a commitment to learning.
8. Update Your Resume and Post it Online
At this point, you should be ready to begin applying for sales jobs. Update your resume and include any relevant skills and experience. Remember to mention any entrepreneurial experience and metrics related to previous sales positions. After updating your resume, post it on LinkedIn and other job search websites.
9. Assess Your Qualifications for Different Types of Sales Jobs
Most sales departments have a variety of job titles. Based on your experience and educational background, you may only qualify for certain positions. When you first start in sales, you may need to focus on openings for sales representatives (sales reps). Sales reps are often responsible for cold calling potential clients and qualifying sales leads.
Account executives are a step up from the sales reps. They are responsible for nurturing sales leads and closing deals. Account executives work more closely with potential clients. They learn more about the needs of the clients and find ways to solve their problems.
Unless you have sufficient sales experience in other industries, you are likely to start as a sales rep. However, if you have worked in sales for several years, a smaller SaaS company may consider you for an account executive position.
10. Start Searching for Sales Jobs at SaaS Companies
With your resume updates and posted online, start applying for sales jobs at software companies. You may need to start with smaller companies. Some of the largest SaaS companies only hire a limited number of new salespeople each quarter. Competition for open positions can be fierce.
Most of the big companies are also located in major metro areas. If you live in the Midwest or outside of a heavily populated region, you may not be within commuting distance of the largest companies. Focus on companies in your area. Smaller companies tend to be more willing to accept candidates with less experience.
Use the Sales Trax job search to begin searching for suitable jobs. You can search by title, company, job type, or location. The search function even has a toggle button for those looking for remote work jobs.
11. Thoroughly Prepare Before Going for an Interview
Do not go into a job interview for a software sales job unprepared. Take the time to learn more about the company that you may work for. You should find out what type of software they sell, who buys it, and how much they sell. Review their sales figures and market reach. Potential employers expect you know as much about them as they do.
Along with researching the company, consider using mock interview questions. Some of the most asked questions during an interview include:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What attracted you to this company?
- Why do you leave your present job?
- What do you know about this industry?
- What do you know about our software?
- What can you do for us that other candidates cannot?
Provide a detailed response to each of these questions. Practice responding out loud instead of in your head. Speaking out loud makes it easier to analyze your response and revise your answer before the interview.
Conclusion: How to Get into Software Sales
In the end, becoming a sales rep for a software company is not the easiest career path. Companies often seek candidates with college degrees and sales experience. If you lack one or both these requirements, you should first consider going back to school or finding work outside of sales.
Additional work experience can offset a limited educational background and vice versa. For those who do not want to go back to college, focus on gaining more work experience. If you struggle to find work, sign up for college courses.
If you think that your resume meets the requirements for a sales job, start searching for openings. Remember to look for positions that match your qualifications. Sales jobs are often highly sought after, creating more competition.
In the end, it is important to not give up. You may get turned down multiple times before finally landing your first job. You just need to get your foot in the door to prove yourself as a qualified salesperson.