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High pay, High autonomy; but sales is still a secret to many graduates

Salespeople in tech are among the best paid professionals. They also enjoy lots of autonomy on the job and feel high personal satisfaction from helping customers solve problems on a daily basis. Yet, few people, especially young graduates, aim for a career in sales. Why?

The reasons are twofold

  1. Firstly, there is no educational path preparing for a career in sales. Whether you are in school, university or vocational training – operational sales is nowhere to be found in the curriculum. It’s not surprising that with this lack of awareness, graduates don’t actively pursue sales, but rather stumble upon it at some point in their career when they really find out what it is all about. It may be that our educational systems just haven’t caught up with the fact that in the last 15 years, sales has become a craft using validated scientific principles. Consequently, “sales roles have become much more consultative.”, as Keith Wolf puts it in a recently published Wall Street Journal article.
  1. With no authority teaching sales, naturally people don’t know what sales is really about. Even worse, they have a completely wrong perception of 21st century sales – especially in tech. Images of sleazy car salesmen, insurance brokers and Wolf of Wall Street come to mind. Images of pounding the phone day and night with a tie wearing boss standing behind you ready to lash his whip. It’s for this image “convincing customers to buy with high-pressure tactics”, that young people are turned off, so Wolf, an expert recruiter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Both factors have contributed greatly to the immense shortage of qualified salespeople that especially high growth tech companies suffer from today.

So what is tech sales really all about?

Before we answer, it’s important to know some context. When you join a tech company in sales, you will most likely do B2B sales. This is, selling to companies and individuals acting as corporate buyers as opposed to private individuals. B2B tech companies only exist because their founders have experienced or recognized a problem that they know companies have. These companies therefore offer solutions to such problems and do not or only rarely cater to nice to have needs. Look at companies like Doctolib (digitizing work processes for healthcare professionals), Personio (digitizing HR processes) or Hubspot (automating marketing processes). They exist for a reason. Knowing this is key for salespeople: your product or service solves real problems. This completely changes the context of conversations, doesn’t it?!

Additionally, the buyers you are talking to are more informed than ever, thanks to the transparency the internet has provided. They know about your competitors, pricing, product quality and reputation. What this means is that the old days of pushing them to buy something that doesn’t add value are over. They know better. Conversations, luckily, are way more eye-level. And no, you don’t need any technical knowledge for that.

What does this mean for salespeople?

Your role in sales has therefore shifted towards being a trusted advisor and consultant. It’s all about adding value and being helpful throughout the buying prprocess – anythingther than that just doesn’t work anymore. You first help them recognize that they have a problem and then show them how it can be solved. You need to discover your customer’s pain points by asking the right questions and listening carefully. In order to do that well, “you have to be empathetic and deeply curious about clients’ businesses”, as Chris Kaufield, CRO at software company Alitheon puts it. You need to apply both well-developed people skills as well as analytical thinking. All in all, sales really uses a wide mix of right and left brain cognitive processes.

What does sales really offer?

Anyone that has worked in sales knows how fulfilling it is when a customer thanks you for having helped them solve a problem. After all, it’s you that builds the relationship, and it’s you who they say yes to. This feeling is extremely rewarding. Besides being an entrepreneur, there is no other profession we know that offers this much direct feedback and recognition for your work than sales. Often, it's this specific moment of realization when business professionals working alongside sales – customer success, marketing or support – decide that they switch into a sales career.

Luckily for all salespeople, customers’ trust is greatly reflected in your paycheck. And it should, as sales is the lifeblood of any company. Besides personal satisfaction and high salaries it also offers a fast track to job promotions. Especially in larger corporations, it is not rare to be promoted 3 to 4 times in 4 years. Corporations know: good salespeople need to be offered more opportunity to grow and shine, otherwise they will be hired away in no time by other corporations offering more of that paycheck and opportunity.

Good news: Since sales has become a craft using validated scientific principles and skills, it’s something that can be learned. Since it can be learned, it can be taught. Bootcamps like the one we offer at Hyrise fill in the gap that educational institutions have left behind. We are now looking for talented people open to learning and growing, taking a conscious decision to enter a career in tech sales.

Curious to find out if pursuing a sales career after graduation is right for you? Apply here.

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