Tech sales is a dynamic field with plenty of unique benefits, challenges and opportunities. Understanding them can help you break into this incredibly rewarding space and thrive in your role.
In this article, we explain what tech sales involves, why it’s worth getting into and how to secure your first tech sales job. We also run through some simple tips to help you achieve long-term success in your new career.
What is tech sales and what does it involve?
Tech sales is the process of selling technology in the form of hardware, software or related services (e.g., data storage or cybersecurity).
Pipedrive sells software-as-a-service (SaaS) products to businesses – this is an example of B2B tech sales
Apple predominantly sells hardware to consumers – this is B2C tech sales
Google sells hardware, software and services to businesses and consumers – this is both B2B and B2C tech sales
Another, slightly more complex, model to know about is B2B2C, which stands for business-to-business-to-consumer. B2B2C is when two companies partner to sell identical or complementary tech products to the same end users.
For example, Samsung sells its tech to cell phone companies like Verizon and AT&T, which then sell to customers – this is B2B2C retail.
In B2C tech sales, companies often sell to users via stores and resellers. Many have reps to help and engage customers in their brick-and-mortar stores. Best Buy’s Geek Squad team members and Apple’s Geniuses, for example.
However, salespeople play a more significant role in B2B tech sales as it typically involves longer sales cycles. They bridge the gap between innovative tech companies and their clients by selling such products as:
Software applications and licenses
Cloud and hosting services
For example, for a B2B company to sell a cybersecurity service to an enterprise buyer, it’d likely need to go through a process involving tendering, pitching, demonstrating and negotiation. A B2C seller targeting the right audience can complete a single sale much faster.
The product scope of tech sales continues to expand to keep up with the ever-evolving tech industry.
For example, many sales teams now also sell products related to artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and machine learning, which weren’t in high demand 10 years ago.
Tech sales vs IT sales: what’s the difference?
Tech sales is a broad field that involves selling technology products and services to various industries and end-users, including consumers.
IT sales is a form of tech sales focusing more on selling intangible services to enterprise buyers, including products like IT support, consulting, cybersecurity and transformation programs.
B2C and B2B
Focuses on selling hardware, software and various related services.
Focuses on selling services and expertise, such as support and consultation.
Sells tangible and intangible tech products on single-purchase or contract basis.
Sells mostly contract-based or project-based managed services.
Many IT sales organizations also offer hardware and software, typically as part of packages catering to business clients. For example, an IT salesperson may sell a consulting service to a digital marketing agency and provide new laptops for employees as part of the transformation process.
Needs assessment. Analyzing customers’ needs and challenges in order to recommend the most suitable tech products. Many reps use social listening and build buyer personas to better understand their ideal customers’ requirements.
Nurturing leads. Delivering valuable information at the perfect moments to keep leads moving through the sales pipeline toward a buying decision. It’s typical for reps to follow up on pitches with calls and emails, for example.
Maintaining CRM data. Updating contact information, deal statuses and more in customer relationship management (CRM) software to ensure accurate records. The resulting database helps the team deliver more valuable customer engagements and streamline sales processes.
Product demonstrations. Showcasing the features and benefits of various tech products to leads and customers, in-person or online. It can involve pitching to potential enterprise customers and bidding for ongoing contracts.
Sales negotiation. Strategically discussing deal details like price, contract length and add-ons, all with the goal of converting leads into customers. Negotiation can also involve upselling (encouraging the purchase of a more expensive item or service) and cross-selling (selling supplementary products).
Closing deals. Obtaining purchase orders or signed contracts to complete deals and progress toward individual and team sales goals.
Post-sales support. Helping new customers get optimal value from their tech products. Common support tactics include making follow-up calls, delivering helpful content (e.g., product-focused blog posts and e-books) and making personalized recommendations.
Given how frequently the products they sell evolve, tech sales professionals often dedicate more time than other salespeople to learning about trends. More to come on the best ways to keep up below.
Why work in tech sales?
Whether you’re a sales veteran needing change or a beginner looking for an entry-level role, steering your career path into tech sales is a clever move.
Here are four main reasons to enter tech sales:
High earning potential
While exceptions are inevitable, tech sales roles often pay more than less technical sales positions in other fields, usually because they require candidates to have some technical knowledge on top of their sales skills.
For example, tech recruiter Betts Recruiting reports that the US market rate salary for a sales development representative (SDR) in tech with at least six months’ experience is $60,000. Meanwhile, ZipRecruiter puts the national average for all SDRs just below $54,000 (10% less).
Moving into other tech roles can lead to much higher sales salaries.
For example, the reported market rate for a tech-industry account executive with three to five years of experience is $100,000, which is almost 25% higher than the general average of around $76,000.
Moreover, with higher commission rates, people in this role can reach $200,000 OTE.
Note: OTE stands for “on-target earnings,” which measures how much a salesperson can expect to earn in one year upon hitting their quota, including salary and commission. Learn more in our beginner’s guide: What is OTE in sales?
Growing demand for tech talent
Companies are investing more in technology, which means they need tech-minded employees, including salespeople. It also means there are plenty of opportunities to enter the field and move between roles.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment in computer and IT occupations to grow 10% between 2022 and 2032, much faster than the average for all fields (and sales in general, which sits at 4%).
More specifically, roles for sales engineers are predicted to grow by 5%. BLS describes these as people who “sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.”
The demand for technology sales professionals will remain high and keep salaries up as long as companies keep investing in technology like this.
A constant stream of new products to sell
Innovation is a priority to most tech sales employers, meaning when you take a role in the field, there’s likely to be a constant influx of new products, services and features to sell.
The marketing tech space is a prime example. Chief Martec reports that there are more than 11,000 marketing tools available in 2023, up from 8,000 since 2020.
Working with cutting-edge solutions rather than continuously selling the same unchanged products or services helps keep the role fresh and exciting. You’re less likely to want a change in the future, so you benefit from more career stability.
It’s also a challenging test to keep up with the latest trends and learn about your company’s ever-evolving portfolio. The continuous need to understand new products and features will exercise your mind and help you stay adaptable, a valuable quality in sales.
Transferable skills provide a solid entry point to other tech roles
Working in tech sales requires you to build and hone a range of versatile skills that are valuable in many other tech areas.
Here are some tech sales qualities that’ll help you build foundations for a broader tech career:
In-depth industry knowledge. By working with products and speaking to buyers daily tech salespeople get to know their industries in detail. Technical knowledge like this is highly desirable to employers across the sector.
Customer-centricity. Constantly working to understand and meet customer needs, as tech salespeople do, is a responsibility shared with many other tech roles. A customer-centric mindset can help you in product development, customer support, marketing and more.
Communication skills. Tech salespeople become adaptable communicators by interacting with buyers of varying tech proficiency. Such skills are vital in areas like account and project management, where discussing technical concepts with both non-technical stakeholders and tech-minded development teams is key to productivity.
Problem-solving. A tech sales career can get anyone accustomed to fast-paced, ever-changing environments. The resilience and adaptability you’ll learn along the way are incredibly valuable in tech fields that rely on continuous problem-solving, like software development.
Networking. The relationships you build with clients, partners, colleagues and managers while working as a salesperson can be leveraged when transitioning to other roles in tech. Use your network to learn new skills, gain valuable insights into different fields and find job opportunities.
If you plan to use a tech sales position as a stepping stone for your career, look at job ads for your ideal role to learn which skills you’ll need most. You can actively work on these while selling.
How to get into tech sales
There are a few entry-level positions in tech sales, making it relatively easy to transition from another industry. The two jobs that typically require the least sales experience are business development representative (BDR) and sales development representative (SDR).
However, this accessibility means you may have competition when applying for your first role. Here’s how to get a sales manager’s attention and a head start in your new career.
Build up your knowledge in advance
Stand out from other entry-level applicants by proactively building your knowledge of the tech industry and the products or services you aim to sell.
For beginners, this process can involve reading technology and sales books, taking online courses or gaining industry-relevant certifications.
However you choose to learn, highlight your progress in covering letters and applications. Demonstrating your commitment to understanding the intricacies of your chosen industry and the solutions you’ll represent can make a strong impression on potential employers.
Building relationships with seasoned tech salespeople can provide valuable insights and sometimes even lead to mentorship and job referrals.
Before landing your first job, attend industry events, connect with professionals on LinkedIn and show interest in their online activities to grow your network.
The main aim is to keep your name in people’s minds for when new opportunities arise so you already have your foot in the door.
Bolster your resume with relevant certifications
Seek out certifications related to sales, specific tech products or industry-relevant skills. These enhance your knowledge and signal to employers your commitment to professional development.
If you don’t have sales experience, work toward a beginner-level certification with a reputable course provider. GoSkills’ Introduction to Sales program is well-reviewed and led by customer success expert David Brownlee. It has modules on sales psychology, outreach, personalizing interactions and more.
If you already have some high-level sales knowledge, get more specific with a dedicated technology sales program. Coursera’s Fundamentals of Technology Sales course is taught by University of Maryland’s Dr. James V. Green and covers topics like using technology in tech sales, prospecting, assessing customer needs and pipeline management.
Note: There’s no shortage of great sales courses to consider, so knowing which are worth your investment can be difficult. Check out our guide to the best sales courses for seven great options.
Focus on familiar areas of tech
Highlight any previous experience or expertise you have in tech-related areas when applying or interviewing for jobs, even if they’re not directly sales-related.
For example, if you have a background in IT services or have worked with tech products in another capacity, let recruiters and hiring managers know. These experiences could give you a head start in the role you want, making you a more desirable candidate.
Other technical skills and expertise that could support your applications include:
Coding and development
Using or buying enterprise software
Treat hiring managers like leads
In tech sales, you’ll learn to nurture leads and build relationships. Apply these skills to your job search by treating hiring managers as if they were potential clients. Craft tailored, personalized applications and follow up professionally after interviews.
Showing you understand the principles of relationship-building and salespersonship lets employers know you’re likely to hit the ground running, making you a more cost-effective hire.
Following potential employers and managers on social media can give you valuable insight into what they care about, whether around specific industry trends or sales in general.
6 simple tips for thriving in tech sales
You’ve finally secured your first tech sales job. Your first day is when the hard work really starts.
Here are six simple tips to help you build fruitful relationships, stay on top of trends and contribute to as many closed deals as possible.
1. Know your products inside out
Read company marketing materials, talk to other salespeople and use the products if possible to get to know what you sell. Regular use will let you see it from a buyer’s perspective so you can fully understand how your company delivers value to buyers.
Once you know a product well, stay informed about updates and consider how those changes benefit customers. Up-to-date knowledge will help you to keep communicating the value of your products.
You’ll likely receive product training from your sales manager but you can dig deeper by building relationships with development and support teams. They understand your target market’s needs better than anyone, so they should have plenty of valuable insights.
2. Never stop networking
Networking is a lifelong practice in tech sales. Attend industry events, webinars and conferences to keep expanding your network.
Instead of just interacting with other salespeople, aim to cultivate relationships with professionals in various positions. Connections with colleagues, suppliers, mentors and even competitors can all provide valuable insights and may even lead to job opportunities in the future.
If you’re mainly office-based, events may be difficult to attend. Instead, join online communities on sites like LinkedIn and Quora to network from anywhere.
3. Be your clients’ supportive tech partner
It’s important that tech salespeople can build long-term relationships with their clients. Especially in B2B sales, where the aim is always to be your client’s go-to for certain types of products.
Say you sell cybersecurity services with one-year contracts. When your client’s 12-month agreement is winding down, they’ll base their renewal decision on how well you and your company have looked after them.
If you’ve been friendly, available to answer questions and helpful with updates, they’ll have had a better customer experience and will be more likely to sign a new deal.
A lack of care in client relationships has the opposite effect. A 2023 CX study found that 86% of buyers will switch brands for a better customer experience. So if your customer has struggled to get hold of you or feels uncomfortable asking you questions, there’s a strong chance they’ll look elsewhere.
While tech sales has its unique challenges, fundamental sales skills remain essential. Understanding basics like effective communication, active listening, objection handling and negotiation provides a solid framework for long-term success.
Sales courses and books can always help with fundamentals but don’t be afraid to take advice from other salespeople in your field, too. Being open to a range of perspectives, even from less experienced people, can help you stay fresh and build a well-rounded skill set.
5. Work on your soft skills, too
In tech sales, soft skills such as empathy, adaptability and problem-solving are just as vital as technical knowledge. These competencies allow you to build rapport with clients, navigate complex deals and overcome objections.
Some soft skills come naturally, but that’s not to say you can’t work on the most helpful. In our 2020-2021 Sales Report, we found that sales professionals who work on their soft skills are more likely to hit their sales quota than those who don’t.
How often do you hit your regular sales quota?
Here are some ideas for improving soft skills for use in tech sales:
Build your sense of empathy by listening carefully (i.e., actively listening) to buyers’ problems
Work on your problem-solving abilities by reflecting on your handling of sales objections, considering what you could have done better
Become more adaptable by taking on sales tasks outside of your usual remit
Other soft skills that help tech salespeople include honesty (e.g., owning up when you can’t answer a technical question), time management and collaboration.
6. Be prepared for tech sales’ inevitable setbacks
Tech sales often involve addressing buyers’ technical concerns. Practicing clear, concise responses to the most common objections can help you keep prospects interested and deals moving forward.
There are two ways to build a list of typical client concerns:
Note down any objections you hear in your own sales conversations and record how many times each one comes up, then highlight the most frequent
Ask customer support staff and other salespeople about the issues they encounter most often and how they overcome them
As an added benefit, you can use a list like this to guide your self-development. Use the most common buyer concerns to identify skills gaps and seek useful information about your company’s products and services.