At Career Dreaming, we receive tons of daily email from readers asking about what it’s like to work in a software sales job and how to get started finding a position in the industry. Each individual has their own distinct personality and preference when it comes to what they prefer to do in their careers, which is why I enjoy software sales and the overall industry so much.
There are a number of different roles that make up the software sales industry, which is highly important to understand when examining it’s potential for a career path. The type of role/software sales job you have will dramatically effect your day-to-day experience, your career path, how your compensation is structured and how you interact with clients.
Are you someone who is the typical aggressive “hunter” sales professional, not afraid to go out and find new business for your company, winning big deals and earning big commission checks? Or are you more technically minded, preferring to focus on the specific details of the software and technology, presenting to an audience of like-minded customers?
Don’t really know where you fit in to any of this? That’s not a problem at all either and that’s exactly why I wrote this post.
In order to provide the most helpful information possible, I’ll provide a high level overview of the 4 most common roles in software sales jobs, so that you can focus your job search and career path on what’s most relevant to you.
Business Development Representative (can also be called a Sales Development Representative)
The Business Development Representative (also called a Sales Development Representative at some companies and referred to as BDR/SDR for short) is the front line of many software and technology sales organizations.
Typically, a Business Development Representative is the most entry level position on a company’s sales team.
The main responsibility of the typical Business Development Representative is to qualify inbound leads that come from marketing, while also prospecting for new leads in a cold call/cold email type format. Once a BDR qualifies an inbound or outbound lead to a satisfactory point, he/she hands the lead of to an Account Executive (see below) to run a full sales cycle and close the deal.
As I previously stated, the BDR/SDR role is usually a training type position, where you join the company with the specific aim to work in the role for 6-18 months, gaining the experience necessary to move into one of the positions below such as an Account Executive, Account Manager, Solutions Consultant, etc.
Is a Business Development Representative role the right Software Sales job for you?
Do you have any experience in the software sales industry or with sales in general? If not, a BDR position might be the starting place in software sales that you’re looking for.
Are you a recent college graduate or finishing up your Bachelor’s degree? If so, a BDR position is an excellent place to launch a career in many software companies.
The Account Executive (AE) role in a software sales company is your prototypical “sales rep”. Account Executives are responsible for generating new business for the company, by converting leads passed along from the Business Development team and by prospecting into new accounts through cold/warm outreaches.
Account Executive’s are responsible for leading the entire sales cycle prior to the “close”. As an AE, it’s your job to find prospects, nurture and educate them through the sales cycle, then negotiate a deal that works for both parties.
The Account Executive role is your software sales job that is most heavily based upon commission, so this is the position that usually has the highest earning potential, but also a serious risk to under-perform as well. The typical earnings structure for a software Account Executive is a 50/50 compensation plan, where 50% of your earnings is base salary and the other 50% is your variable compensation (commissions earned).
Is an Account Executive role the right Software Sales job for you?
Are you someone who likes to be compensated for the work that you do on a daily basis, being personally responsible for over 50% of your income through sales/commissions? If yes, an Account Executive role is for you.
Are you afraid to have the “awkward” conversations with prospect, pick up the phone to occasionally cold-call and face rejection on a continuing basis? If yes, it might be worth looking at another software sales job.
Solutions Consultant (can also be called a Sales Engineer)
The role of the Solutions Consultant (also called a Sales Engineer or Pre-Sales Engineer at some companies) is to demonstrate the company’s technology to interested prospects and clients. If we’re being very specific here, this role is often considered to be “pre-sales” because the Solutions Consultant is providing technology expertise and knowledge to prospects, prior to the actual sale.
The Solutions Consultant within a software sales organization typically works in conjunction with an Account Executive to sell software to a client. The Account Executive is responsible for finding a qualified prospect that is interested in learning more about the software, and once that happens, the Solutions Consultant’s role is provide a demonstration of the software to show the value of purchasing.
Is a Solutions Consultant role the right Software Sales job for you?
Are you someone who a strong technical background, who often just gets software, but also wants the benefits and challenges of working in a client facing role? If yes, a Solutions Consultant role might be for you.
Do you enjoy giving presentations; whether in school, to current clients/prospects, etc, unafraid to sell the value behind something using facts, persuasion and your own expertise? If so, a Solutions Consultant role could be a great fit for you.
Account Manager (can also be called a Relationship Manager)
The Account Manager typically comes into the picture after the first deal with the customer is closed by an Account Executive. Once a company signs a contract to purchase software, typically on a 1, 2 or 3 year agreement, it’s the Account Manager’s role to keep the client happy and ensure that they renew their contract.
In addition to ensuring that the software customer is happy with the product and willing to renew, Account Manager’s are also entrusted with “growing the account”, otherwise known as up-selling additional product to gain more revenue.
Is an Account Manager role the right Software Sales job for you?
Do you love interacting with customers and building relationships for the long-term? If yes, an Account Manager role might be the position for you.
Do you enjoy sales processes, the art of selling, but don’t necessarily love the grind of “hunting” for net new customers? If yes, again the Account Manager role might be the position for you.
Of course, not every role is called the exact same thing and many companies put a different spin on the naming convention of their software sales jobs, but this truly covers the bases for the majority of software companies right now. For example, look at a picture from Salesforce.com’s company page below.
Hopefully this post is helpful in understanding the different types of roles that primarily make up the typical software sales jobs that you’ll see. If you have any questions on which one would be the best fit for you or what companies hire for these roles most consistently, feel free to reach out at [email protected]
More information on Software Sales Careers
“How (and why) to Start a Career in Software Sales” now available on Amazon! –
This is one of my most popular articles on Career Dreaming and something that I’m quite passionate about. I currently receive emails on a daily basis from professionals in multiple stages of their careers requesting assistance to get started in software sales. Because of the scale of outreach, I’ve decided to write a book on careers in Software Sales.
Entitled “How (and why) to Start a Career in Software Sales”, the book is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle and Paperback! My goal is to answer the questions that I’ve been asked on a consistent basis, discuss the positives (and negatives) regarding a career in software in sales and outline a clear guide to getting started in the profession.
The book, which was released May 2nd, 2016, has received fantastic feedback some far from readers of all experience levels and backgrounds. Just take for example what reader Alex sent to me after reading the book via email!
“Hey Rob, Just wanted to follow up after reading your book. I binge read the whole thing in an hour. I couldn’t get enough of it and just kept turning the pages. After reading through your posts on the website combined with reading the book, I am confident that a career in software sales is something that I would love pursue.” – Alex
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