Sales is the single most important factor in the survival and growth of a tech company (just don’t say that to your CMO). Yet compared to other functions like engineering or product – it’s relatively rare for people to actively consider sales as a career.
So why is sales a less desirable job type and what drives people to start their tech sales career?
Whilst a perception of sales as being ‘sleazy’ will always exist amongst some; the tech and startup industry has been attracting a new breed of sales professionals that are of complete contrast to the stereotypical boiler room salesman.
The new generation of technology sales professionals are an intellectually curious group, driven beyond pure monetary incentives, but out of an unequivocal passion for their product and a desire to improve the status quo.
As a talent matching platform that’s helped some of Europe’s fastest growing tech firms like Uber and GoCardless grow their commercial teams, we interact regularly with tech sales teams and professionals — from entry level Sales Executives to Account Managers or Business Development Managers, to name a few — as well as those on their job search, looking to get into the sales industry. One thing we’ve been fascinated by is the broad range of backgrounds and reasons that drove people into starting a career in tech sales.
That’s why we reached out to leaders and emerging stars at 18 of the UK and Ireland’s leading startups and tech firms to ask them one simple question: ‘what drove you to start a career in tech sales?’
And here were their responses:
JustPark gives drivers instant access to parking spaces, taking the hassle out of parking and making it easier than ever.
“Tech sales was a natural progression from running my own side projects on the web during high school and university. When done correctly, it’s a great combination of social interactions, project management, negotiation and analytics. Every day is an exciting challenge which impacts the growth trajectory of a startup in a very tangible way.”
Beamery is sourcing, CRM, candidate engagement and employer branding platform built with machine intelligence.
“Coming to work to a tech startup was by no means a straight path for me. Having come to London for my Masters in political science I could have easily left without even coming into touch with the startup scene. Helping to build a business from the ground up is always special, but meeting the guys at Beamery showed me exactly how special it can be. Combining a highly adaptive and disruptive work environment with the professionalism you would normally only find in an enterprise were key drivers for me. In short: endless learning opportunities.”
Pusher is a hosted real-time messaging service with APIs, developer tools and open source libraries that greatly simplify integrating real-time functionality into web and mobile applications.
“In one word: impact. The key driver for all business’ is revenue generated. Irrelevant of what level of sales person you are, the function, role and responsibility of generating new money into your business, is as important as any other.
You can positively impact the speed of which your company can grow. Close one big account or ten small accounts, that can be the difference between a new feature being released or another month of runway. The ownership of revenue generated is one of the most exciting ones in tech.”
Relay42 is the leading tag and data management vendor in Europe.
“Before I started at Relay42 I was already familiar with their technology. I was responsible for the implementation and adaption of the Relay42 Data Management Platform at UPC (Liberty Global). I really enjoyed explaining the benefits of the technology to customers and what it could do for them. Working at Relay42 gives me the opportunity to explain the benefits of our technology to more advertisers, which I enjoy doing the most.”
Adzuna is an online social search engine for job advertisements.
“As someone who is pretty passionate about what I do, I love that the tech sector is always evolving and moving forward. If you stand still in tech, you quickly find you have become the next walkman and are likely to be consigned to the bin. Speaking personally, I wanted to be involved in an area that means more than simply selling products or services to people. In technology, you are leading the change, and are right on the cutting edge of innovations that can change the way we live – and that’s something I love being part of. It also helps that I thrive in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment, which comes with the territory in this industry!”
Gousto is an online web application that delivers ingredients of user-selected recipes, enabling the users to cook meals oneself.
“I fell into tech sales a couple of years ago after starting at Gousto in a part-time promotional role. Whilst working within the company I began to get involved with our sales teams before eventually taking over the management of them. What really spurred me on and made me want to become involved with the team was the huge rates of expansion that we have gone through over the last 2 years. We’ve been consistently challenged with larger targets and further stretch goals to increase our acquisition numbers. This means I can see the results of the work I’m doing, because the sales and acquisitions that my team has made directly contributed to the rate and size of the company. There aren’t many jobs that give you such a clear picture of the contribution you have made towards the company.”
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miDrive is reinventing learner driving with technology.
“I was initially drawn to the tech world as I wanted to work for a company that is expanding rapidly and making a difference. I love bright ideas and reducing inefficiencies so miDrive appealed to me a lot as that’s exactly what they aim to do within the learning to drive journey. Working in tech sales means that you get to follow the sales process all the way through from beginning to end, from the initial call to a flourishing long-term partnership, rather than simply making connections and then passing them down the production line. Working in a startup there is never a dull moment, everyone’s job roles are really varied and the team feels like one big family all working towards the same goals.”
Ravelin is reinventing fraud detection and prevention for the on-demand economy and beyond.
“I kind of got into tech sales by accident. I did an internship at a bank and hated it. Then I went on a year abroad where I worked for a small French tech company. This gave me the startup buzz, and as I couldn’t code, sales was the only choice. I love the feeling you’re working for a company that is the best in the world in what it does. Being the one to get customers to use your product is really exciting.”
SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with the most innovative CRM solution in the market.
“I decided to make the move into tech sales primarily due to 3 things:
1. It’s the most innovative area of the economy, so an exciting area to be working in.
2. The rise of Open Source and the creation of industry standards allowing for greater diversification of vendors and increased choice for customers.
3. There’s good earning potential too.
The software market is in constant flux, and embodies some great aspects– innovation, competition, the drive to improve on how things are now to make a better tomorrow – these are the traits that help to attract people like me and are probably central to succeeding in the market. Compare that to some other industries where old technologies are being hung on to for no good reason aside from personal interest (i.e. investment in fossil fuels). There’s something more ethical about software.”
Jessica Nordlander, Head of New Business Development (Nordic countries), Google
Google is a multinational corporation that is specialized in internet-related services and products.
“To a certain degree it was a coincidence. I am an impatient person whose interests span from physics to gardening (via action sport) and it took me a while to find my perfect career match. The combination of technology, business and relationship management speaks to my diverse range of interests and my personality thrives in the ambiguity that comes with both the entrepreneurship in tech and the fast pace of sales. I found my match :)”
Adbrain is the customer ID mapping solution for marketers looking to deliver a personalised customer journey across devices, channels and platforms.
“I had been working in media sales for 10 years – which required a relentlessly high energy approach, closing 2-3 deals a day. At 33 years of age, I was starting to feel I needed a new challenge, and saw tech sales as logical progression which encapsulated the truly consultative side to selling, with longer sales cycles and far higher order values.
In tech sales, the product you are selling may well be extremely technical and complex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your client needs (or wants) to know all the technical complexities. The challenge is to have the technical knowledge at your disposal and know where and when you should use it. Ultimately, it’s all about answering the all-important question – “so, why should I care?” But answering that question to an engineer is vastly different from a client services director at an agency.”
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Huddle is an enterprise content collaboration company that builds network for secure cross-organization collaboration in the cloud.
“The technology sector has been one of the most exciting, innovative and inspiring industries for the last 20 years, it has given us legends like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Marc Benioff, who have reshaped our world and were my inspiration to pursue a career in tech sales. In recent years, the industry has grown and evolved thanks to the “cloud” and the consumerization of technology, this shift has turned sales into trusted strategic advisors to companies, customers, and prospects. Tech sales roles are now more important than ever, full of intellectual challenges and competition but they are incredibly rewarding. Nothing beats closing a deal and Hitting the Gong!”
Pobble shares children’s writing with a worldwide community of 30K active users, to make writing exciting and raise classroom performance.
“Somebody had to prove that Pobble could sell to schools and, as a co-founder and rather an excitable teacher, I thought that might as well be me. The doubters told me ‘teachers can’t sell’ and that startups should keep away from the education sector. But they didn’t know something that I knew: Pobble works. I mean, it really works – all that’s required is children, a classroom and a basic level of technology. Pobble makes writing ridiculously exciting for children and I knew that I could communicate this to schools. So I did and haven’t looked back since.”
SpaceWays is the new, quick, convenient, safe and affordable moving and storage service for both business and private customers in London.
“When I was studying at university I asked myself “what do I want out of a career?” The more I thought about it the more the same three thoughts emerged, and those were:
- I wanted a career where I could one day become a leader.
- Where people notice your achievements and being the best at what you do is recognised.
- Where I could work hard and be challenged and of course be rewarded financially for my hard work.
This is why I chose tech sales.
Now, after working in tech sales I can conclude that nothing beats that feeling when you rise up to a challenge and close a big deal. I love the highs and lows, I managed to gain a head of sales position, where I can help lead others to get to the same place as me and finally – nothing beats the feeling of being number 1.”
Qubit gives marketers the tools to understand their visitors, and personalise their online presence to drive conversions in real time.
“By the time I was making my first serious career decisions, new technology giants such as Google and Facebook were emerging. I knew I wanted to be a part of this exciting industry and set my sights on Google. I was lucky enough to work there for five years and had one of Google’s top salesman as my mentor and line manager. Tech sales was my true calling and in 2012 I joined Qubit as their first sales guy. Five years on and nearly 300 people later I now run the UK commercial operations. What I enjoy the most about my role is developing and coaching the next wave of superstar sales reps.”
iwoca combines the growth of e-commerce, scarcity of credit and emergence of innovative data sources to create an exciting investment opportunity.
“I’ve always been fascinated how tech companies, more specifically fintech, are reinventing traditional products. What attracted me to iwoca was their revolutionary technology which has simplified the way small business can access additional cash flow within hours. It’s so rewarding being able to introduce our product to a small business and see them take advantage of growth opportunities and achieve their dreams, something they wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do with traditional lending.”
HelloFresh is the leading global company in the expanding online recipe kit delivery market.
“I started working in a large corporate firm straight after university and quickly became disillusioned by the lack of autonomy and progression opportunities. I wanted to work in a more dynamic, fast paced environment where good results would be transparent and help me build a more exciting and rewarding career. The opportunity to work with an exciting young team and with a product I could be truly passionate about made the move to HelloFresh a no brainer.”
Etsy is the marketplace where people connect to make, sell and buy unique goods.
“Having founded a retail and e-commerce business early in my career before joining Etsy I was able to gain a great understanding of how to act as a trusted advisor to customers. This really drove my progression into a more technical sales role which has a lot more intellectual challenges and you get to surround yourself with some really smart people. You not only get to learn about specific and sometimes complicated products but get to act as a trusted advisor to companies, customers and prospects with the ability to stay creative and to think outside the box.”
This article was last updated in May 2018