Software Sales Career Path: The Ultimate Guide

There is countless software sales career path that sales reps can take, all of which can lead to fulfilling and high-paying careers. Salespeople can go into fast-paced and high return closing positions, strategic and fulfilling management positions, and stable, intellectually stimulating customer success roles. The choices are endless once you start performing at a high level for your company.

Below we’ve listed some common software sales career paths:

  • Sales Development Rep => Account Executive => Sales Manager => VP of Sales
  • SDR => Customer Success Manager => Senior CSM => VP of Customer Success
  • Technical Sales Rep => SMB AE => Mid-Market AE => Enterprise AE
  • Business Development => Account Executive = Marketing Associate 

Now we’ll give you an overview of the types of jobs you can expect to have throughout various stages of your career in software sales as you gain experience.

Entry-Level Software Sales Positions (0-1 Years Experience)

The most common entry point into software sales is a business/sales development rep position, where you primarily prospect for new leads through cold outreach. However, if you have some sales experience you might jump right into an Account Executive position and start closing deals ASAP. Some technically proficient people will also begin as Solutions Consultants.

Below are some descriptions of entry-level software sales titles:

  • Sales/Business Development Rep: Cold call and email lists of leads. Field inbound leads. Research potential businesses. Qualifying leads. Depending on your skills and commission plan you can make anywhere from 40k to 120k in this role.
  • Solutions Consultant/Sales Engineer: Assist AE in sales presentations. Analyze the business’s problem and think of how the software can solve it. Answer technical product questions. The average base is around 83,000/yr.

In the above positions, you’ll drink from the firehose, consuming massive amounts of knowledge about your product, industry, and software sales skills. Spending a successful year or two in one of these positions is an excellent way to prove yourself to higher-ups in the company. From there, you can move up the ladder to six-figure positions.

Mid-Tier Software Sales Positions (2-4 Years Experience)

Now that you understand what it takes to succeed in software sales, you can begin to explore more lucrative positions, like closing and managing roles. Most BDRs/SDRs will become Account Executives, another quota-carrying position that’s in charge of closing new revenue for the company. Some reps will choose to go into account management as a CSM, especially if they’re tired of hustling to meet a quota.

Below are some roles and job descriptions for those in the middle of their software sales career:

  • SMB Account Executive: Hold discovery calls. Deliver presentations and live product demos. Handle objections. You’ll sell to businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
  • Mid-Market Account Executive: Take deals from qualified to closed through the sales process. The companies you sell to range in annual revenue from 10 mil to 1 billion.
  • Customer Success Manager: Manage a portfolio of current clients. Ensure their satisfaction. Onboard and train them. Participate in upsells. Build relationships.
  • BDR Manager: Manage a team of BDRs or SDRs. Track their metrics. Coach reps. Help create commission plans. Hold training sessions. Design strategy.

At this stage, you should be able to make at least $80,000/yr in base salary as a Customer Success Manager or a BDR manager, and above $100,000/yr in base salary + commission as an Account Executive. You should also have a solid foundation of sales acumen and an idea of what type of sales job best suits your passions and personality. So you have the self-knowledge to choose your next step wisely.

Senior Software Sales Positions (5-10 Years Experience)

After five years software salespeople can move into senior positions. They might handle large deals as an Enterprise AE or manage a sales team of Mid-Market AEs. They might even run the entire sales department of the company. Those who left closing roles might move into Senior CSM jobs where they manage large accounts and earn higher salaries.

Here are some senior roles in the software sales career path: 

  • Enterprise Account Executive: Manage the sales cycle of large deals with companies making over $1 billion annual revenue. Strategically find ways to open opportunities. Identify and sell to multiple decision-makers. Often have a >$200k/yr earnings potential.
  • Sales Manager: Manage a team of sales reps. Coach and train reps. Hold 1:1 meetings. Monitor their performance. Strategize with reps on how to close specific deals.
  • Director of Sales: Run an entire sales force, including managers and AEs. Build the sales team structure. Run sales forecasts. Create and optimize a sales process. Build out the sales tech stack. Work closely with marketing.
  • Senior Customer Success Manager: Manage a portfolio of high-value clients. Help them implement and use the software to the best of their abilities.
  • VP of Customer Success: Manage a team of CSMs. Create and track KPIs. Support CSMs in their roles. Implement an account management strategy.

Regardless of your position, you should be bringing in well above the US average income by this point in your career. And that’s especially true if you’re working at a top company.

Just check out the average earnings of an Enterprise AE at Salesforce:

10 Years After Your First Software Sales Job

With ten years of software sales experience under your belt, the world is yours for the taking, and your next career move depends on your preferences, ambitions, and financial situation.

If you’re still loving the game, you can remain in software sales and bring in well over 200k/yr at a top company as an Enterprise AE. If you want to build your own sales department, you can become a VP of Sales of a tech startup. Maybe the future holds the title of CEO for you.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to try something new, you can bring your transferable skills like persuasion and relationship-building to just about any field, whether it be marketing, law, finance, or another tech-related industry. Perhaps you could even talk the American public into electing you as the next President.

Remember, this career's monetary rewards afford you options. You can start your own business. Or, If you’ve made a killing in software sales and just want to sit in a ranch house and carve wooden figurines, you can do that too. Ten years of quota-crushing and investing can set you up nicely for early financial freedom.

Bottom Line

Once you get your foot in the door at a software company, the career path options are almost endless. While many SDRs climb the ladder to top-earning Account Executive positions, some might choose to shift into management roles or other departments entirely, from product and tech to marketing and customer success.

If you’d like to learn more about the earnings you can expect to make in these positions we’ve covered, check out our ultimate guide on software sales salaries.