How to Get a Software Sales Job: Responsibilities, Salary & Types
Here’s a riddle for you: What’s one thing that Mark Cuban, Donald T. Valentine, Howard Schultz, and Larry Ellison all have in common? The answer (spoiler alert!): They all started their careers in tech and software sales jobs.
It should come as no surprise that becoming a software sales professional opens doors in a way few careers can. Selling software pays handsomely, with an average salary that runs from the high five- to low six-figure range.
And while a college degree may help you land the job, often it’s not necessary. What matters more to recruiters are soft skills, like good communication skills. It also helps if you’re trustworthy, hardworking, and flexible.
The rest of the skills, like cold calling and honing your lead generation abilities, can be learned. In short, anyone can get a job as a software sales professional with the right attitude and the right amount of determination.
What is Software Sales?
With the rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS), the software you could sell runs the gamut. For example, your job description could include helping potential clients find marketing or CRM software.
Responsibilities of a Software Sales Rep
That said, there is more to the job than just selling software. The section below highlights some of the duties you could perform throughout the course of your software sales career.
Lead Generation and Cold Calling
The difference between a lucrative sales career and a lackluster one depends on how well-developed a sales rep’s cold calling and lead generation sales skills are. As a software sales representative, you’ll be expected to call on potential customers and book meetings. The more potential customers you have in the pipeline, the more sales you’ll close and the more money you’ll make.
The tech industry changes constantly. As such, you’ll spend some of your time learning about changes to your company’s product lines. You must understand product updates, and know them well enough to answer your customers’ questions about them. What's more, you also need to understand what differentiates your product from alternative solutions and keep your finger on the pulse of important trends and developments in your industry.
Sales Team Meetings
As a sales pro, you will work closely with account managers, software sales managers, and more. Sales team meetings help you learn about company goals, how different departments contribute to these goals, and how your work furthers your company’s business development.
Your job in software sales encompasses more than just closing deals. Using CRM software, you’ll contact new and existing customers via phone, email, or Zoom. Customer care represents an important part of your sales strategy and helps you build the long-term customer relationships required to move up in your sales career. Maintaining communication also allows you to offer demos of new software products and features as they roll out and provide ongoing value to your customers. It'll not just increase retention, but also lead to more opportunities to grow the account. The best way to succeed in software sales is to help your customers succeed.
Social Media Interactions
More modern software sales strategies include being active on sites like LinkedIn. Salespeople who use social media streamline their sales process by actively interacting with their potential clients. Social platforms allow you to establish your credibility and generate new sales leads.
Qualifications to Become a Software Sales Rep
The job description for a software sales representative position varies, based on a number of factors. These include:
- The hiring company (whether it’s in the realm of startups versus established companies)
- Whether the new rep needs a college degree (a bachelor’s degree is often required for jobs requiring a deep knowledge of how the technology works)
- How much sales experience the candidate has, based on the position (entry-level sales versus sales manager, for example)
- How well the job candidate builds relationships and develops rapport with potential customers
This list isn’t exhaustive. Each job has its own requirements. In general, your best bet is to pay attention to each job description and tailor your application materials to each job.
Software Sales Earning Potential
Software salespeople usually earn a base salary plus commissions. The breakdown of this varies from company to company. Often sales reps have the option of picking a commission structure. Some software companies also pay bonuses and offer benefits, like insurance and 401K.
Whether you work for a startup or a more established company also affects your income. Big companies can pay higher salaries, but smaller companies can be agile or may offer other appealing incentives.
Zippia reports that the average salary for software sales positions runs between $51,000 and $126,000, with most salespeople earning about $81,000 per year. So-called “super earners” can earn even more.
According to The Business Insider, getting a tech sales job at a company like Oracle or HP equals big money. Many of the highest earners net between $250,000 to $500,000 a year.
Types of Software Sales Jobs
The sample career progression below is a snippet of common sales roles found in many companies. If you’re considering a career in software sales, the order of the roles listed below represents a common career path.
Inside Sales Rep
When you work as an inside sales rep, you usually work in your company’s main office, although there's been a huge shift to remote sales teams where reps work from home. Typically, you also work with other reps and spend your days contacting potential customers. You may be cold calling prospects or working with warm leads, depending on your job requirements. The average salary for the inside sales rep is almost $50,000 per year.
Outside Sales Rep
Outside sales reps sell to potential customers face-to-face: they attend industry events, show up on the premises of prospects, and meet them in person. For example, if your SaaS company is selling software to bars and restaurants, you'll often have much better chances to build up your client base by showing up on their premises than by sending cold emails. Usually, the average deal size is larger than that of an inside sales rep—which makes sense, given that there's also more time, effort, and cost required. The base salary for this job is about $82,000 plus commissions.
The account executive (AE) starts the ball rolling. Unlike the account manager, who meets the client after they’ve come on board, the account executive reaches out to potential clients to try to build a relationship with them. The AE nurses the client all the way through the sales process. AE salary runs about $91,000 per year.
Once the salesperson lands the sale, the account typically goes to an account manager. This person may follow up, try to cross-sell more services to the client, and offers ongoing tech help. The salary for this job runs about $85,000 a year.
Software Sales & Operations Manager
The sales and operations manager is one of the main support roles in sales. This position provides training for the sales force and usually reports to the C-Suite, providing a link between the entry-level, mid-career, and advanced sales and management teams. It pays a base salary only of $99,000 to $112,000 per year.
If ever you needed at least a bachelor’s degree for a sales job, this job is it. The sales engineer has the technical background required to explain the software to potential customers and be the POC for technical teams. Often they will have a degree in computer science, engineering, or some related field.
Sometimes, this is a stand-alone job. At other times, the sales engineer accompanies the sales team and provides answers to the technical questions that the customer may ask. Salary structure varies. The average pay is about $86,000 per year.
Vice President of Sales
The VP of Sales job is a creme-de-la-creme position. This position oversees the sales, and often the marketing and advertising, for the company. Working with each department, the VP of Sales defines and implements the strategies that sales teams follow. Salary for this role averages $250,000 or more.
Chief Sales Officer
This represents the pinnacle of a sales career. This person works out sales strategies over the long haul and coordinates with other department heads to implement those strategies. Implementation can include overseeing operations management, creating marketing and advertising campaigns, and ensuring business development for the entire company. The average pay for this is $221,000 or higher.
How to Become a Software Sales Rep
Now, for the good stuff: How you land a job as a software sales rep. In the following list, you’ll find our suggestions for landing the sales job you desire.
Become a Great Candidate
Most hiring managers would agree: Bringing a new team member on board is a lot like committing to a new relationship. And you don’t normally pick your partner based on their experience levels.
While it wouldn‘t hurt to have sales experience under your belt, your other natural sales skills, like prospecting and cold calling may be enough to land you the job.
If you’re friendly, results-focused, and possess good rapport-building skills, then you already possess three important qualities sales managers want. However, there are some steps you can take to become a more desirable candidate. First, tailor your application materials to each job description.
Additionally, study job descriptions to learn what types of sales certification programs your ideal sales jobs require, then do your best to gather those certifications.
Finally, research the specific industry you’re aiming to enter. Join networking groups and online forums, and be on the lookout for new software releases. Candidates who are genuinely interested in a certain software will make a better impression than those who are simply looking for a paycheck.
Get a Mentor in the Field
Good mentors have experienced all the pitfalls and promises of the job. They’ve also experienced all the workplace politics. The right sales coach will push you to be the best version of yourself, even when you don’t feel like it.
More importantly, mentors have industry contacts that can help your career. According to Payscale, as many as 85% of new hires find a job via networking.
To find a mentor, attend networking functions, industry training, and webinars. Look for chat groups on social media sites.
And when attending in-person events, use networking time to meet as many new people as you can. Get to know the speakers and audience members alike. You never know who might become a mentor to you down the road.
Update Your Online Presence
Hiring managers look candidates up online before they ever call them. Therefore, your LinkedIn profile needs to stand out. Keep your Linkedin profile page tidy, featuring your most relevant roles and accomplishments, along with all related certificates, awards, projects, and endorsements.
Additionally, make it a point to interact with people who post articles that are relevant to your field. Answer questions for those looking for help. All of these actions show that you’re an asset in your field, and give you both credibility and authority.
Apply for the Job ... Then Land the Interview
Here’s the thing about applying for jobs: It’s an awful lot like selling. You may apply to a lot of jobs before getting a bite from a recruiter. (And don't limit yourself to one job platform: there are plenty of places to find sales jobs.)
If you do get a callback, you’ll have to sell yourself all the way through the interview process. When you’re in the pre-hired phase of the job search, consider yourself in the cold calling phase sales of the process. Prepare yourself by practicing answers to common sales interview questions and doing a mock sales pitch in advance.
You’re the product being sold; don’t be shy about selling yourself. Reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn. Make a few follow-up calls to check in. Never let the hiring manager forget your name.
Use Close to Get Your Software Sales Career Started
A career in software sales is one of the most lucrative ones you’ll ever aspire to, with starting salaries often spanning $65,000-$115,000. Although you’ll have some standard activities you’ll have to perform, like cold calling, and account management, it’s likely that no two days of the job will look alike.
While preparing for a new role in software sales, we recommend you take a look at our free resources to get your industry knowledge up to speed.
It also helps to familiarize yourself with customer relationship management (CRM) software, which most sales professionals use to track and nurture leads. Try Close free for 14 days to get a handle on everything our software does to help you stay in touch with all your prospects and clients throughout their journey.
Are you looking for a sales career now? Take a look at our current job opportunities and join the Close.com team!