You probably think that nobody wants to work in sales. And you probably think that nobody who wants to get into the tech industry wants to be anything except a programmer.
After all, tech jobs are all about sitting at a desk slamming Red Bull while punching code into a computer, right? Or answering the phone support line and asking people if they’ve tried resetting their device for the hundredth time?
Here’s the thing, though. Tech businesses, like every other business, need to make money. Money comes from sales. So when the tech sector skyrockets—some analysts think the digital economy worldwide is now worth $11.5 trillion—the demand for highly capable sales reps skyrockets, too.
As it turns out, the demand for skilled salespeople is indeed high. Like, really high:
A recent survey of U.S.-based tech companies found that 80% of businesses intend to invest more in their efforts to recruit and hire sales talent. And that talent is among the top three hardest kinds to find.
The best part: You don’t need an engineering or computer science degree to work in sales for technical companies! So if you’re looking to land a second career in tech, sales is a perfect place to start.
Here’s how to get that ball rolling:
1. Emphasize Skills Over Experience
What, exactly, do you put on your résumé if you don’t have experience? Here’s the secret: It’s less about the specific jobs you’ve worked, and more about the skills you’ve gained.
Odds are that at some point in your career, you’ve had to persuade someone to do something, understand a customer’s point of view, explain a difficult concept, or bounce back from disappointment. Those are sales skills, and they’re just as important as direct sales experience (if not more!).
So here’s what hiring sales managers will want to see from you:
- You’re curious, and always want to learn more about the world and people around you
- You’re achievement-oriented, and measure your success against your goals
- You’re modest, because that stereotypical “sales bravado” attitude won’t get you very far
- You’re empathetic, so you can put yourself in your customer’s shoes
- You’re resilient, meaning you can handle the “no”s you’ll hear on the job
- You’re confident, and can handle yourself in potentially uncomfortable situations
- You’re a clear communicator, and can explain complicated subjects in simple ways
- You’re a good listener, and really care about what the other person has to say
All the rest is teachable.
2. Build Your Sales Skills
Of course, having a good attitude is great, but if you’re looking to make sales a second career, learning a few sales and tech tricks will no doubt put you ahead of the competition.
Even if you aren’t a programmer, you’ll still need to use technology in your day-to-day life. A good first step? Get to know the kinds of software you might encounter, and play with a free trial if one’s available. Although the company you’re interested in might use something a bit different, at least you’ll know the basics.
We recommend starting with a few of the most popular kinds of tools:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) systems like SalesForce
- Productivity tools, like Slack, that keep your team in touch and on track
- Lead generation tools that help identify good prospective customers
- Automation tools that take care of repetitive tasks for you
- Digital video tools that enable more meaningful connections
- Analytical tools that bring data together and identify trends
Here’s where we get personal – or should we say, interpersonal. Think of these skills as the art of having a good conversation. A little harder to study, we know, but pretty easy to practice.
Do you build rapport and trust? People buy from people. More specifically, they buy from people they like. If you’re good finding common ground and taking genuine interest in others, you’re already off to a good start.
Do you listen actively? Active listening simply means that you’re fully engaged in what the other person is saying. You’re not thinking of your next move, or a mistake you just made. Get some practice by challenging yourself to learn something from every conversation you have.
Do you ask good questions? If you’re going to sell to someone, you’ll need to get to know them first. Uncovering their pains and aspirations will tell you how to move the conversation forward—and that starts with the questions you ask. Remember to keep things open-ended and always probe deeper.
Build your business skills
We’re not saying you should go out and earn an MBA. But you should know a little somethin’ about the markets in tech before you go guns blazing into a tech sales interview. That means getting to know:
- The top players in the industry
- Current or emerging trends
- The latest industry news
- Corporate teams and buying processes
Knowing a few tech terms can go a long way, too. While you don’t need to cram all the lingo, you should be comfortable throwing around basic words like “SaaS” (software-as-a-service), “AI” (artificial intelligence), “the cloud,” and “big data.”
Get to know these details and you’ll have a good idea of what life in a tech company is like – which is great if you want to enter your second career with healthy expectations and avoid things like burnout and bad habits.
So don’t worry about the Red Bull. You don’t need to sign up for a coding class. Just focus on what you have going for you already, fill in a few gaps in your learning, and get ready to enter the exciting world of tech.