I’m excited to announce the beginning of a new weekly feature on Career Dreaming, the “Ask Rob – Software Sales” column, which will be posted every Wednesday. I receive a ton of emails from readers literally throughout the world, asking about topics relating to careers in the sales industry, most specifically regarding the software sales space.
Since many people have similar questions or are curious about general topics, I thought it would be great to answer some of the most interesting questions every week, right here on the site. So let’s kick off the new Ask Rob column with some of this week’s reader emails!
If you have questions of your own and would like to get them answered, please send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll do my best to feature it on next week’s column!
Question 1: Software Sales in College
I recently stumbled across your video on software sales. I have had an interest in pursuing a career in that field and I wanted to check on some videos for anyone offering advice or sharing information. Your video was informative, well structured and eye opening for me.
To tell you a little bit about myself, I am a college student here in Texas. I will be attending The University of Oklahoma in the fall at the Price College of Business. I feel software sales is right for me because I feel that my strength in communication, knowledge of the computer world, and a drive to learn. What are some things in college that I could do to prepare for a career in software sales? What are some steps that I can take to make myself valuable in this career path?
Thank you again for your video. I look forward to hearing from you.
Great question and one that I thought would be applicable to many of the readers, as there are an increasing number of college students reaching out to me. Preparing for a career in sales in college, and more specifically software sales, is something that can be a bit tricky to do because there isn’t a “Software Sales” major.
A few actionable tips that I have that could help you to become more appealing to potential employers in the software sales space are the following:
- Pick a major the matches your software sales interests, but also a major that is applicable to sales in general. In my opinion, majoring in some type of business field is usually the most logical point to start for a career in sales, whether that’s general business, economics, marketing, finance, etc.
- Pick a minor (or even double major) in a technically related field. This is by no means a requirement, but many of the top technology sales professionals often have some type of technical background. For context, I didn’t major or minor in anything technology related in my undergraduate studies, but I received a Master’s degree in Information Systems and that’s helped me tremendously. Like I said, having an education in the technology or computer science space is not a requirement, but it goes to show your genuine interest and commitment to the space during your job interviews.
- Join your college’s sales program/team (or business fraternity). Due to the rising prevalence of sales as a career, many colleges have created sales programs within their business schools. If your college has a sales program in place, I HIGHLY recommend you immediately join it. If not, look into starting a sales team to compete in national competitions or joining a business fraternity on campus.
Question 2: Account Executives versus Sales Engineers
Found your software sales video on YouTube, and wanted to know if you could share any of your knowledge on the differences between salesmen and sales engineers, as I have a technical background but am unsure which field to pursue (or where to even begin!).
Thanks in advance for your input!
Another great question and something that can be difficult to understand from outside of the industry. Quick side note to this question, I’m an Account Executive (salesmen) and my wife is a Sales Engineer, both at large software companies, so I feel well equipped to answer this one!
To understand the difference between an Account Executive (or Sales Representative) and a Sales Engineer, one must understand the complexities of an enterprise sale cycle. What do I mean by that? Account Executives and Sales Engineers are basically business partners, functioning as a team to win business for the company.
The Account Executive is responsible for finding potential clients that can utilize the company’s software solutions and qualifying them as a legitimate prospect. Once qualified, the Account Executive will work with a Sales Engineer to build a customized software demonstration that shows how the company’s solution can meet the needs of the organization. The Sales Engineer often serves as the technical resource, responsible for the complexities of the technology being sold, but not necessarily responsible for selling it.
For more information, check out an excerpt from one of my previous posts below, on common roles in the software sales industry.
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.
If you have questions on your mind for next week’s feature, please send me an email at [email protected] and you might see your question on Wednesday!