My name is Rob a software sales veteran who has written this article for CareerDreaming.com The No.1 Resume Writers For Sales Professionals.
So, let’s kick off this conversation with the fact that I work in Software Sales. Quite frankly, I wish I knew about the career potential in software sales when I was in college, which would have adjusted the course of my studies and my first job out of school (I went into IT recruiting instead).
But since many of you are looking to kick-off your career following college graduation, or trying to break into a better industry, I thought I would shed a little insight into the world of software sales, and more generally technology sales.
To do this, I’d like to present four reasons why I think a career path in technical sales, specifically software, is something that any college student or recent graduate should consider getting into.
1. Software Sales Pays…. Very Well
When selecting a career path, especially one at a young age while in college or having recently graduated, an important consideration is the potential money you can make in the field.
Yes, money is not everything when it comes to a career, but it’s a huge point of concern for the vast majority of job seekers. And in this respect, software sales has some of the highest earning potential out of any career path on the job market.
In the field of software sales, compensation is typically done on a 50/50 basis, 50% of your compensation being your base salary and 50% being your “variable”, or money earned on commission. So if you have a $50,000 base salary, you are also expected to be bringing in another $50,000 by hitting your sales quota, in the form of variable commission.
For those seeking a very steady paycheck, perhaps technology sales isn’t the ideal career path, but for those who are willing to learn the trade and put in the work, the risk/reward factor is certainly compelling.
There are not too many fields where a 22-25 year old has the immediate earning potential of well into the six-figures, however, technology sales is one of those (Finance, engineering, etc are others).
2. Demand for technology sales professionals is sky high
As someone who was formerly in recruiting and currently in a software sales position, both my personal experiences and the data back up the sky high demand for technology sales positions.
There was recently an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal discussing the demand for software sales reps, which I’ve included some information and thoughts on below.
Sales reps who peddle technical and scientific products earned a median annual wage of $74,970 in 2012, more than twice the median for all workers, according to the Labor Department.
Technical sales and sales-management positions play a critical role for U.S. businesses, but they are among the hardest to fill, according to a 2014 report from Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project. Employers spent an average of 41 days trying to fill technical sales jobs, compared with an average of 33 days for all jobs for the 12-month period ending in September 2014, according to Burning Glass, a labor-market analysis firm that worked with Harvard Business School on the report. – WSJ
Above you can see two huge factors that determine why software sales can be a strong industry to concentrate your career on. The median annual wage is TWICE the median for all labor workers and the positions are among the hardest to fill. Having a longer fill rate means that there is less talent on the marketplace and an area where you can potentially fill the void.
3. It’s not an impossible field to break into
Typically, you are required to have a Bachelor’s degree to target a position at many of the technology giants like Oracle, Microsoft, etc, and many of the hot venture backed startups as well. Aside from that, you don’t need significant formal training in school like an engineering or finance degree to find a way to break into the software sales industry.
Many companies, both large and small, have created training programs for recent college graduates where they are trained on the software they will be selling and the overall sales process.
The programs will typically carry the job title of Business Development Representative, Account Development Representative or Sales Development Representative.
In these sales development roles, you will be tasked with qualifying inbound marketing leads and setting meetings for senior sales reps (Account Executives), not directly selling anything to customers. These BDR/ADR/SDR typically have a length of 6-18 months and at the end of that time, pending strong performance, the BDR/ADR/SDR is promoted into a direct-sales position with an increased salary and higher variable commission.
Below is an actual job description for a Business Development Representative position from NetSuite, a cloud ERP software provider.
4. Career progression is rapid and continues that way
One of the incredible aspects of software sales is the rapid career progression that can occur if you are having success in the field. While your base salary and variable compensation might start somewhere around $50,000/$50,000, after 1-3 years of hitting your quota, you can realistically be making a base/variable of $75,000/$75,000 and so on.
As your career continues to progress, it’s not unheard of for technology sales reps to be pulling in total compensation of $200-500k and above.
So, just how much money can someone make selling enterprise software? Top performers get up to $400,000 a year, year after year, our sources say. (Bear in mind that the average salary in the U.S. is about $46,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
“On average, an Oracle sales rep has a base of $110,000 and earns $250,000 a year, but there will be people at Oracle this year who earn over $500,000,” says headhunter Paul McEwan, a partner for technical sales recruiter, Richard, Wayne and Roberts.
Overall, at top-paying enterprise software companies like Oracle, SAP, HP, Microsoft, and IBM, the “top 20 percenters” — the 20% of salespeople in the company who consistently sell the most — make $250,000 to $350,000 a year, headhunters and enterprise sales people tell us.
The top 10 percenters “make from high the $200s to low the $400s, and are cranking in that zone, year after year,” McEwan says.
In a really good year, a top salesperson at these companies can even earn $1 million, says Eliot Burdett, CEO of headhunting firm Peak Sales Recruiting. – Business Insider
So what’s the catch?
In conclusion, I think software sales is one of the better kept secrets on the job market as far as overall earning potential and career path development. There are certainly risks associated. Most obvious, if you don’t sell, then you don’t hit your variable commission and you run the risk of getting let go from your role.
Losing your job is a major risk, but in my mind, it’s the same as any other job. If you don’t perform up to standards, you run the risk of losing your job. In sales and particularly technology sales, it’s just more obvious if you aren’t performing.
If you’re interested in looking into a career in software sales, I’d be happy to help! I’m writing a follow up post on where you can go to start a career in software sales, companies that are often hiring, job searching websites that specialize in young sales professionals, etc.
As always, if you have any questions please comment below!
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