Recently, I posted an article discussing “Four Reasons you Should Consider a Career in Software Sales”, which received some excellent feedback, especially from Reddit. As someone who is currently working in Software Sales, I received a number of inquiries from people interested in getting into a career track towards Software Sales.
So, as a college student, recent college graduate or young professional that is interested in pursuing a career in technology/software sales, how can you get things moving in the right direction? Let’s look into what type of backgrounds are helpful to get into software sales, companies that are constantly hiring entry-level sales professionals to train into expert technology sales reps and steps you can take to get into the industry.
What is the typical entry level software sales job?
Many software and technology companies are currently following a model in which they hire recent college graduates into roles as Business Development Representatives (also called Sales Development Representatives or Account Development Representatives). These BDR/SDR/ADR positions essentially serve as training grounds for entry level software salespeople, in which you stay in this role for 6-18 months, learning the business and the sales process before receiving a promotion into a more senior role. Companies often recruiter Seniors in college for this role, as well as college graduates with 0-5 years of experience.
So what does a Business Development Representative actually do?
The primary job of most Business Development Representatives is to qualify inbound marketing leads to pass along to senior sales representatives (Account Executives) and/or set meetings for Account Executives through cold-calling/emailing/LinkedIn. BDR’s typically are not quota based, but rather presented a list of goals in which they are to hit such as the following:
- Set 25 meetings for Account Executives this Quarter
- Prequalify 15 inbound marketing leads this month
- Give a presentation on the software to management
While in the role of a BDR, you are learning the appropriate skills needed to one day, to fill the shoes of the Account Executive that you are setting meetings for, or fit into a host of other available roles in the organization such as a Sales Engineer, Account Manager, etc. It’s essentially a training program to become an Account Executive, Account Manager, Sales Engineer, where you are constantly learning product knowledge and sales skills.
What type of background gets hired for entry level software sales?
The great thing about sales, entry-level roles in particular, is that there’s not an exact background or certification needed to land one of these roles. You don’t need to be a CPA, take the LSAT, or have gone to Harvard (although that would probably help). For the large majority of these entry-level software sales roles, you simply need a Bachelor’s degree and the ability to sell yourself and your potential.
In some cases, depending on the software or technology you would be selling, certain majors are preferred, IE the company sells accounting software so a degree in accounting or business would be preferable. But most of the time, any type of degree or specialization will do, whether it’s history, business, communications, pre-law, etc.
Let’s look at an actual Business Development Representative job posting below to see the type of backgrounds required.
What we have to offer:
Our Business Development Representative (BDR) Program prepares entry level candidates for an exciting and rewarding career at NetSuite. The 12-18 month program focuses on building product knowledge and developing sales skills through training and development. We are looking to hire our next superstar sales representative or account manager and continue to build a culture of promoting from within. During the program you will make immediate contributions to the organization by:
Qualifying and producing quality leads for the Account Executives.
Interacting by phone and email with key personnel up to, and including, C-Level executives.
Analyzing prospect business needs, understanding processes, identifying projects, determining requirements and ascertaining potential solutions.
Acquiring and maintaining a working knowledge of the complete capabilities of NetSuite’s solution from multiple perspectives—support, professional services, client management and sales.
Working on ad hoc projects for various departments within the organization
If successful in the BDR role, it is expected that you will be promoted into the NetSuite sales organization with a potential 50-100% increase in income.
Why this is a (really) great opportunity:
There are too many reasons to list, so let’s start with a few:
We have awesome leadership who truly cares about your success and who you can trust to guide you through your career.
We have a vision that we are passionate about: to provide a web-based business management solution with all the power of traditional applications at a fraction of the cost. We trail blaze in everything we do, we “take the hill,” and we are committed to both our customers and our employees.
You will get training and autonomy: NetSuite provides a unique, hands-on learning opportunity that will help give you a competitive edge early in your career.
We are fun (no seriously, we are.): NetSuite is built on a culture of teamwork and innovation. Team work + innovation + awesome people = fun.
What we need from you:
BA/BS from top tier college/university; graduating class of 2013-2015.
Intelligent, motivated and competitive with a “roll-up -the- sleeves” and “get the job done” attitude.
Well-rounded individual with varied interests and experience.
Excellent communication (verbal, written, and presentation) and interpersonal skills (outgoing and personable).
Thrive on working in a fast-paced environment.
Strong work and/or internship experience; accounting background a plus.
Effective when working independently and in team environments.
Receptive to constructive criticism.
Strong business judgment and common sense.
Desire to work in tech industry with a growing company.
Send us your resume and let’s have a conversation—[email protected] -NetSuite
When looking at the bottom of the job posting, in the “What we need from you” list, you can see the only hard requirement is a BA/BS degree. The rest of it is really dependent on the candidate themselves and how well they can portray their desire to get into the role at a fast moving technology company.
What platforms/companies are hiring for entry level software/technology sales?
So know we’ve established what the typical entry-level job in software/technology sales is, but who is actually hiring for these positions and how can you apply to the roles. Well, there are a number of options in most of the major cities throughout the United States: San Francisco/Silicon Valley (duh), New York City, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, Charlotte, Phoenix, etc.
Below I’ll add a list of some of the companies that are always actively hiring for entry-level software sales careers and a link to their career page, so I would check those out. In addition to that, there are a few websites that specialize in job postings for tech sales roles; Hired, CloserIQ, TheMuse, which I’ve posted below as well.
Oracle – US/Internationally – One of the largest hardware/software companies in the world, known for extremely high compensation for sales representatives and world-class training. Oracle is a huge company, so it is easy to get lost in the crowd, but they offer top notch training, so it can be an excellent place to begin your career.
NetSuite – NYC, Austin, Denver, Boston, UK, Australia – NetSuite is a cloud ERP software company, growing at over 30% year-over-year, with an established Business Development Representative and Solutions Consultant Development program. For experienced hires, it’s also a great place to explore opportunities as an Account Executive, Account Manager or Solutions Consultant.
LinkedIn – NYC, Chicago, San Francisco – LinkedIn has one of the world’s most admired CEO’s, Jeff Weiner, and top notch benefits. The company has opportunities for sales professionals of all levels of experience, from recent graduates (Sales Development Representatives), to Enterprise Account Executives and Global Account Managers. If benefits such as free breakfast and lunch, pool/ping pong tables, beautiful offices and fully paid for health & wellness programs are up your alley, check out LinkedIn.
SAP – US/Internationally – One of the largest software companies in the world. If you’re looking for a defined training program and experienced executives to learn from, SAP is worth consideration. Like Oracle, this is a huge company so standing out might be difficult, but SAP is a great place to learn your craft and expand elsewhere.
VM Turbo – Boston, MA – Rapidly growing VC funded startup, with plenty of room for upward mobility.
SalesForce.com – US/Internationally – The largest pure SaaS company, with very strong training programs, high compensation and excellent company culture. Salesforce’s CEO, Marc Benioff is another one of the world’s most admired CEO’s and has led Salesforce to become one of the most desired places to work in San Francisco and New York.
Hired.com – Hired.com is a platform that allows software sales professionals to apply for free membership in Hired’s career marketplace, and if accepted, you have the opportunity to interview with 5-10 companies that are immediately hiring. Hired.com is a really interesting concept and I’ve heard of solid results from a few professionals who have used it.
CloserIQ – Similar marketplace to Hired.com, however CloserIQ focuses exclusively on sales talent, whereas Hired also recruits developers, engineers, product, etc. With CloserIQ, you apply for membership to the talent marketplace, and then receive the opportunity to interview with companies that “match” your experience and skill set.
The Muse – The Muse is a really interesting career platform for professionals that focuses on helping companies hire, which heavy emphasis on corporate culture. The Muse has jobs listed on the platform, as well as specific career advice to help you out in your job search efforts.
One of the more interesting things about The Muse is the company profile features, which allow you to “Meet the Team”, check out the office and browse different jobs. The Muse is perhaps one of the best places to go if you’re really looking to understand exactly what a company is like to work at and why you should consider it.
Angel.co – Angel.co is a subset of AngelList, a technology startup focused website. Angel.co is a great resource to find jobs in the software sector because it will expose you to many startups that you might not have heard of before. Angel is also fantastic because it will give you a range of salary and equity compensation for the exact position you’re applying to, so that there is transparency up-front in your search.
One thing to note with Angel.co, many of these companies are true “startups”, so there is inherently a little bit more risk when working for such young technology companies.
Glassdoor.com – Glassdoor is the Yelp of careers/companies. Before applying for a job with any company, I’d highly recommend you take the time to examine the organization’s reviews on Yelp, to see if it’s a company that is really worth interviewing with. Glassdoor makes it pretty easy to tell whether employees love, like or hate working at a company, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend interviewing or considering working with a company that has less than 3 stars on Glassdoor.
If you have any questions at all, or would like some assistance regarding your search for an entry-level software sales career, please comment below or shoot me an email at any time!
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Before you take the time required to land a job in software sales, figure out if this is really a career path for you.
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“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
Want to read the book’s first chapter? Click below
If you’d like to take a read through the first chapter of “How and Why to Start a Career in Software Sales”, absolutely free, you can click on the button below for access to the content. Take a read through the first chapter and that should help you to understand if a career in software sales is something that you’d really like to pursue, then the rest of the book covers how to do it.
Click HERE for your Free Book Chapter