It’s an exciting time to be in any technology sales position, but only if you are set up for success. When aligned with the right position, most sales people find some level of prosperity; however, many sales professionals who struggle are simply in the wrong position for their skillset. Part of that is picking which sales job is right for you, which we touched on earlier this year.
Once you have figured out the company and opportunity that is the right fit, you’ll need to navigate the interview process. Now, you’ll need inside information on the company to present yourself in the best light.
Who is hiring and why?
Is this company expanding headcount and in growth mode after having a successful year? That sounds great, since it means everyone is doing well enough that they have more than enough to spread around. Is this company back-filling a seat due to turnover? This is fine, but you should look into what happened to the last person. Was it voluntary and regrettable turnover, as that may indicate a problem with the product or sales organization that you should ask questions about? Was someone not hitting their quota? This is also a time to ask questions, as you want to make sure you wouldn’t have the same struggles. Hiring managers that are filling a seat due to attrition usually have an idea in their head about exactly what they need, so you’ll want to know the details of what happened to know if you are the right fit.
However, it doesn’t always go to plan. Which leads me on to point no. 2…
Resume vs LinkedIn Profile
Being in sales, your LinkedIn profile is more for clients, customers, and prospects than for impressing your network of fellow sales professionals. Leave the stats off your profile, and add a short summary of what your company does. A prospect doesn’t care about you hitting 160% of quota or growing MRR from 2MM to 10MM in one year. In fact, that may turn them off to connecting with you, because it looks like you’re just interested in making the sale.
It’s okay to add things like your industry (Government, Financial Services, CPG, Information Security, etc.) or market (SMB, SME, Enterprise), as that will let prospects know that you’re an expert in their area. Be sure to add your skills at the bottom of your profile, as that is one of the ways recruiters will search for you. Be sure to not include terms that are not in your core wheelhouse, or you’ll be contacted for positions that are not a good fit. Your resume is definitely where you what to brag about your sales achievements.
Not only that, but this is where you want to break down your impact on a granular level. You want to add more than just general skills (CRM, territory management, sales leadership, etc.) but also list any training or specialized software too, (Solution Selling, Challenger Sale, SFDC, Salesforce, HubSpot, Outreach.io, ToutApp, etc.). Be sure to add your stats and note when you were the top earner.
Also, if you have any short stints, this is where you explain what happened. If Acme Startup was acquired by Compu-Globo Corp 9-months into your position, note that on your resume, so it doesn’t appear that you are job hopping.
You are in luck if you’ll be interviewing with a Sales Director, VP of Sales, or the Chief Revenue Officer, as they understand the right questions to ask. They will also have many of the answers you need, such as team size, percentage of team hitting or above quota, competitive landscape, growth targets for the next year, etc. Here are some questions, but you need all of these answered in the first round of interviewing.
- What level of support do they receive from Marketing and how integrated
- are they with the sales team?
- Does Marketing primarily handle Lead Gen, or is there and SDR team too?
- Are there relationships with Channel Partners or Strategic Partnerships that
- conflict with your ability to cover a territory or vertical?
- Is their CRM properly setup? Do they have data sources like Discover.org,
- RainKing, InsideView, or are you expected to hunt this down on your own?
- How about Sales Enablement tools through training, buyer personas,
- competitive intelligence?
- Does Sales Operations have dashboards and reports built out already, or are
- you responsible for managing all of this?
Often times, especially with an early stage startup, you’re interviewing with people who don’t know anything about sales organizations. In this case, you may need to present yourself in a different way and lead the conversation. Demonstrate your domain knowledge on the product and your ability to sell, but don’t go into to weeds on sales jargon that only another Account Executive would understand. In either case, be prepared. You should have read every corner of their website, blog, PR releases, whitepapers, etc. before walking into that interview. Also, know the profiles of everyone you’re meeting. If you don’t have that information, your recruiter can provide you with an agenda. Aside from what you want, keep in mind that the other side of the table has wants too, and a talent expert with a recruiting agency such as 80Twenty can help you sort that out.
You’ll learn to communicate effectively
This is one of the absolute most important skills to being a successful salesperson. Both verbally and in writing, you will need the ability to communicate with your audience in an engaging and persuasive tone. Salespeople have seconds to capture the attention of their audience, be it with their opening intro on a call or the subject line of their email. Having the ability to quickly get to the point in a way that provides detail and intrigues your client is a skill that will serve you well in your professional and personal life.
You’ll have amazing career advancement opportunities
Whether you choose to pursue a career in sales as an individual contributor, move up within your company into a management role, or go down another path altogether, the skills you learn as a salesperson will stand you in good stead for a successful career. You’ll learn how to communicate effectively and concisely, as well as closing and having the confidence to ask for what you want. You’ll be able to handle and overcome rejection and negotiate a solution that works for all parties. You’ll understand businesses as a whole, how they function and get an overview of what every department needs to operate successfully. With a salesperson quickly amassing such a broad range of skills, it’s no surprise that a LinkedIn member study this year found that of 12,000 CEO’s in their network at companies with 50 or more employees, the overwhelming majority had started their career in a business development or sales role.
This isn’t to say the typical salesperson will work their way up to become a CEO, but the incredible range of skills you will gain early in your career will allow you to go in many different directions. Not to mention it will allow you to be in charge of how big your paycheck is and allow you to wave goodbye to the Top Ramen and Cap’n Crunch diet (or beans on toast, for any fellow Brits reading this) you’ve been on for the past four years!