Sponsored by Earlywork
“Uhhhh, look, yeah nah, sales isn’t for me”.
Hang on a sec, champ.
When you hear the word “sales”, you’re probably thinking of sleazy used car salespeople, door-to-door raffle ticket schmoozers, or shady Wolf-of-Wall-Street-style call centres trying to sell steak knives to your mum.
But with tech sales, we’re not talking about cold calling old mate Gary to flog a $200 life insurance package.
In the past two decades, most software companies have begun to hire sales roles that look worlds apart from these old-school Hollywood stereotypes.
Selling complex software products to complex organisations is f*cking tough stuff.
Tech sales reps are responsible for building long-term relationships with executives at Australia’s fastest-growing companies, to demonstrate the value of detailed, technical products and ultimately, sign partnerships that can be worth millions of dollars.
That’s why it’s now one of the top three most demanded early-career roles by tech employers, with some of the highest average compensation levels of any entry-level tech role.
Typically, we’ve seen total packages in the range of $80,000 to $100,000 per year for an entry-level sales role in tech. And that’s just starting out.
As you progress in the role, average base salaries across the broader tech sales field hover around $140,000 to $160,000, with commissions and equity that can bring total packages well north of $200,000 (Think & Grow).
Not too shabby.
Isn't now a bad time to move into tech?
As major tech layoffs are appearing regularly on the news you might be wondering about whether a leap into tech is too risky.
Here’s the thing.
Even with the overall tech market slump, tech sales roles are still growing.
In Sydney alone, our mates at Earlywork have seen 25+ new job listings appear every week on Linkedin for entry level tech sales positions since the start of the year and here’s why:
- The two goals of a tech company are to build and sell: software engineers handle the build part, tech sales rep handle the selling part, making tech sales a future proof role that’s always in-demand for fast growing tech companies.
- Sales is a revenue generating role: as tech companies look to drive greater efficiency in their hiring, there’s no better role to hire than a tech sales rep due to the objectivity in performance.
- Sales reps are required for larger enterprise deals: as Aussie tech giants such as Atlassian and Canva look to sell into larger companies, tech sales reps are the best touchpoint to help these customers understand, test and buy software.
But I haven't seen many corporate mates make the leap into tech sales...
Tech sales certainly isn’t the default corporate exit opportunity in Australia today.
But as one of the major roles in our fastest growing sector, the next few years are going to look quite different.
Here are three amazing folks who spotted the opportunity in tech sales early and made the leap from corporate.
Within two years of starting their careers in tech sales, they all work closely with C-suite leaders in some of Australia’s fastest growing companies to sign strategic partnerships on a day-to-day basis.
For the rest of this guide, we’ll cover three key misconceptions they had about tech sales before making the transition and also cover the downsides of the career.
But let’s introduce them first:
Jess Ji (Associate Enterprise Account Executive @ CloudBees) – In early 2021, Jess began her career in tech sales after working as an Actuarial Analyst at IAG for 2 years.
Santiago Vazquez (Senior Sales Development Representative @ Okta) – Santiago began his career working in communications at Macquarie Group before transitioning to tech sales in late 2021.
Chris Lam (Commercial Account Executive @ Miro) – Chris worked his way up to an Assistant Manager role at EY after 5 years in audit and assurance before making the leap to tech sales.
Misconception #1: Working in tech sales isn’t a strategic position
👉The reality: working in tech sales can get you working closely with C-suite leaders at some of the fastest growing companies in Australia within just a few years of starting.
Working in tech sales isn’t about making 200 cold calls a day and giving the same pitch to each person you connect with.
It’s about building long term relationships with senior decision makers who make the big picture strategic decisions, whilst having a sound understanding of business commercials.
To ensure a successful partnership, a tech sales rep must be proactively thinking in the shoes of their potential customer, the decision makers in the business, through each milestone of the 7 step sales process.
- What do they care the most about in their role?
- What problems are they dealing with in their organisation?
- How are they thinking about allocating their budget this quarter?
- Which part of my software product best meets their needs?
Santiago further comments that when he first learnt about tech sales he wasn’t too excited about the proposition of going into a direct selling role.
However, after working in tech sales, he views his level of “strategic thinking” as years ahead of where it would’ve been if he was still working at Macquarie Group.
The significant business decisions that he plays a role in shaping today were previously only privy to executive teams who had 20+ years of experience.
Hmmm, but I don’t think I have the personality for sales…
Well, you might be right. Like any job, there are certain personalities that will be better suited to perform the responsibilities of that role well.
However, all three guest contributors comment that the key to successful sales is not to convince someone why they should buy from you, rather, it’s to understand if they have a problem you can solve.
To discover the latter, you need to be a great listener who asks great questions. Not just the loudest and most confident person in the room.
If you’re curious, empathetic, love self-improvement and have a great attitude, then a career in tech sales could potentially be for you.
Keen on learning more about what you’ll be selling as an SDR? Then check out Earlywork’s in-depth article on the day-to-day responsibilities of the role.
Misconception #2: Working in tech sales would limit my career progression
👉The reality: sales has one of the highest career progression ceilings of any role in tech that can be obtained as quickly as you want
Despite receiving a promotion each year he was in corporate audit and becoming a Chartered Accountant, one of Chris’ reasons for making the change to tech sales was the career progression.
Chris notes that sales is one of the few positions where he could clearly see where he was able to go in the next 2-5-10 years, both in terms of compensation and day-to-day responsibilities.
Starting off with smaller SMB segment customers and quickly moving up to the enterprise segments, it’s ultimately in your hands how fast you want to grow and learn.
Zooming out further, Australia is also a key sales outpost for global tech companies, as such, the country managers for these companies will often come from a sales background (see the examples below).
- Steven Worrall – MD of Microsoft ANZ, 20+ years experience in enterprise sales
- Karl Durrance – MD of Stripe ANZ, 25+ years experience in enterprise sales
- Rianne Van Veldhuizen – MD of AWS in ANZ, 25+ years experience in enterprise sales
Colin Timm – SVP & Country Manager of Salesforce ANZ, 35+ years experience in enterprise sales
Sales is a good skill to have, but I’m not sure if I’d want to do it forever…
Sales is one of most in demand roles for tech companies and they look favourably on Aussie Corporates due to their experience and acumen working in professional services. Making the role a great foot in the door for a longer career in tech.
After landing your first job in tech sales and building your wider network in the Australian tech ecosystem. It’s easier to branch out into other non-technical roles such as strategy, operations, marketing, product management or partnerships relative to open market applications without experience.
Misconception #3: Tech sales isn't as lucrative as other tech roles
👉The reality: base salaries range up to $425K in a sales leadership role, with commission levels as high as 200% of base salary (Think & Grow Salary Guide, 2023)
On average, tech sales is one of the 3 highest paid roles in tech.
The reason? Commission.
This means that on top of already high base salaries ($50,000 to $80,000 for the most entry level role), your earning potential afterwards is directly correlated with how hard you work.
Both Jess and Chris commented that during busy audit seasons in their previous roles, they’d often work from 9am until midnight but with the same amount of compensation, or an additional bonus that wasn’t tied back to the personal outcomes they achieved.
By working in tech sales, your level of performance and results directly controls how much you’re compensated.
Jess also raises the concept of accelerator programs for commission. These programs are where you generate the highest compensation as a tech sales rep. Depending on the company, you can be paid 1.5x, 2x, 3x, 4x of your commission after you achieve 100% of your pre-determined quota.
Check out the rough ranges we’ve seen for the SDR position in the current market based on the offers our Earlywork Academy graduates have been receiving
How exactly do sales commissions work?
***Commission is calculated differently depending on your company, always ask in the interview process. This section acts as a guide to commission in tech sales.
Sales Development Representative
How? Commission is usually based on a set dollar value assigned to a meeting booked, regardless of deal size. For instance, if you’re selling a freight logistics software and book a meeting with DHL or a small five truck company you’ll still be compensated $250 (arbitrary figure).
Why? An SDR is responsible for generating and qualifying potential customers for a business. Usually, a good measure of this is the number of discovery calls or demos booked (depending on the company).
How? Commission is usually based on a set percentage of a deal size/value (eg: 6%). Most commonly, the higher the commission percentage, the higher the annual revenue target. Making the role a high risk but high potential role if targets and quotas are achieved.
Why? An AE is responsible for closing new deals (that SDRs generate) or upselling into existing accounts that they own.
What are the biggest downsides of working in tech sales?
As a target based role, it can be stressful when times are quieter and targets aren’t being met as it impacts your take home income. For some, this level of stress may negatively impact your mental health due to the cyclical nature of the role and transitioning from a purely base salary corporate role.
Holiday time can be difficult to find as your quota will remain the same even regardless of any annual leave being taken. Whilst this doesn’t mean you’ll never take a holiday for the rest of your career, it’s an important point to be aware of before jumping into a tech sales career. Plan your trips and take leave accordingly with your targets.
Be ready to receive plenty of “no’s” throughout your tech sales career. If you’re going straight into an SDR role that operates in the SMB segment, it’s likely that your role will be more quantity based regarding leads and as such greater rejection will occur. If you choose a career in tech sales it’s definitely something to be aware of and understand, unfortunately you won’t be closing 3 deals a day, everyday.
Ultimately though, if you’re someone who’s organised, enjoys working towards targets and is driven by improving your workplace performance. Then the prior cons in the more day-to-day of the role are outweighed by the high career progression and salary upside associated with tech sales.
If you’re open to opportunity and want a change from your current day-to-day then it may be worth giving a tech sales career a go. Knowing that if it’s a field you dislike, a corporate career is something you can always come back to.
How do I get my first tech sales role?
That’s where Earlywork comes in. They’re building the fastest, fairest pathway to begin a tech sales career in Australia.
What does this pathway actually look like?
Presenting, Earlywork Academy, a tech sales bootcamp designed to land applicants a guaranteed* role in tech.
Earlywork Academy gives you 1:1 job search coaching, essential tech sales skills, and direct introductions to top tech companies hiring right now.
The majority of students who go through the program land multiple tech job offers within two months of graduation.
All program sessions and 1:1 job search coaching are delivered virtually outside of work hours, so it’s a great way to consider exit opportunities alongside the security of working your existing job.
*Earlywork Academy is Australia’s only bootcamp with a job guarantee. If you don’t land a tech job offer within 6 months of graduating, Earlywork will refund you the course fee and you keep all the tech sales and job search skills. Bit of a no-brainer really!
Aussie Corporate Reader Exclusive Freebie!
The team at Earlywork have given all Aussie Corporate readers a free preview of the first session in Earlywork Academy on all things tech sales careers.
In the session they cover:
💸 Startup and tech company fundamentals (eg: business models, software as a service)
😍 The role of sales reps in tech companies
🗓️ Day-to-day responsibilities of a junior software sales rep
💰 How compensation packages work in software sales (eg: what is OTE)
📈 Where your career go progress to after starting in software sales
See if a tech sales career is right for you at the link below 👇