Would a Career in Technology Sales Be a Fit for You?

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PathMatch Intern, Shane, is a rising senior at University of Alabama majoring in Political Science. Through working with PathMatch as a client, Shane developed an interest in building his career in Technology Sales and has been gaining sales and marketing experience at PathMatch. As part of his internship, he had a chance to connect and interview with Austin Park, a Sales Development Representative (SDR) at Botify. Austin is a graduate of Amherst College with a BA in Political Science and a PathMatch alum..

Sales professionals are often the highest paid employees in the company. This is because sales people build relationships to sell products and bring in revenue and revenue is what keeps a company alive.

Are you interested in Tech Sales as a career? Learn all about Austin’s experience at Botify, what he’s learned so far in his career, and tips he was given and would like to give future SDRs.

Shane: What's your day-to-day like? Talking to clients, finding new leads, what's that like for you?

Austin: Well I guess it varies and has changed. I’ve been with Botify for almost a year now. Since I’ve been there, it has changed drastically in terms of team size, the process, our goals, and the way that we go about prospecting. When I first got there, it was very much characterized as what would be like a spray and pray kind of technique. So we would hit really anybody and everybody, a lot of cold calls, emails, and LinkedIn messages.

We had an activity quota and things like that, but slowly but surely, we actually transitioned to something a little bit more personalized where the outreach required a lot of research on the front end before actually reaching out. The core processes, such as the tasks like cold calling, emailing and LinkedIn messaging, all stayed the same, [we were] just a little bit more thorough in the way [we] did it. So for example, activity quotas kind of disappeared. We were kind of let alone to do our own research and things like that.

In terms of the day-to-day stuff though, it's a lot of that kind of stuff. There will be cold calling, there will be emails, and things you just got to do, but making sure that you have done the right research on the front end to make it as relevant as possible for that prospect is something that we've now shifted towards.

Shane: And for reference, what is an activity quota?

Austin: So it used to be 125 touchpoints. So anything like a call, an email, or a LinkedIn message was considered a touchpoint and it didn't really matter how much of each you did. For my company as long as you hit 125 or somewhere around there, you were kind of where you want it to be. It varies by industry and definitely varies by company. I’ve spoken to people who do Tech Sales at SMB and Middle Market companies and their touchpoints are 300 plus.

Shane: How many hours per week would you say you work?

Austin: Pre-Covid, I would actually say my hours were a little longer than 9 to 5, so maybe somewhere around like the 50 to 55 range per week. I think about 55 I would say per week.

Shane: I saw that you majored in Political Science. How did you get into Tech Sales? I also majored in Political Science. How did you hear about it, get into it, and start out?

Austin: The answer is actually through Nancy [CEO & Founder of PathMatch]. I don't know how much you know about my relationship with her, but I did the Career Accelerator Program with PathMatch a year ago when I was a senior in college. I took the assessment and we went through different possible career paths. Tech Sales was one of them. Similar to you, I never thought Tech Sales would be something that I wanted to dive into. I never thought sales in general was something I wanted to dive into, honestly because of preconceived notions about it in the world right now.

Ask someone what they think about a salesperson, you may get something like “pushy” or “always be closing”. These kinds of outdated characteristics will come to mind. Once I dove into what the core metrics and the core characteristics of what qualifies a successful salesperson were, it was a little easier for me to understand how I might be able to fit. My soft skills lined pretty well with some of the soft skills and requirements needed to be in Sales as a Software (SAAS) and software sales, but really, it was understanding the significant path of growth within sales.

The company that I work with right now is called Botify, very much a startup, approaching the hyper growth phase more and more. But because it’s a start-up environment, there was a lot of growth that could be attested to it. For example, after my 6 months at the company, I was already promoted to a Strategic Sales Representative. Right now I'm working on getting to what's called an Account Executive (AE). That would be the end goal for any SDR, where you can actually start to close some deals on your own as opposed to just opening up opportunities and handing them over. So the growth was a huge thing for me. Understanding that there was a lot to be learned.

Shane: What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you like and what would you wish you could change possibly?

Austin: The interactiveness of what I do is pretty enjoyable for me. It’s actually interesting to think about and something I think about a lot because I think a lot of people right now think that in order to be successful with sales you have to have this extroverted personality. I would actually characterize myself as an introvert, but despite the fact that I may characterize myself as that, I feel like I have the ability and soft skills to own the room to be able to talk to people in an engaging tone and things like that. So I think the interactiveness on the day-to-day with clients, as well as with your team members.

Being able to work cross-functionally between these different departments and tackle issues is something that I really value. If I was doing something [else] that would put me at my desk from 9 to 5 without talking to anybody, I wouldn’t appreciate that role as much. One thing I guess I would change is cold calls. When you talk about cold outreach and that kind of stuff, it's not fun, no one enjoys doing it. It's just not an enjoyable thing to do, but there is a rewarding aspect to it. If you go in with the mindset that it's a means to an end, if you just get through it you can get to a point high enough in your career eventually where you don't have to do any more. It is something that you can work through, but that being said, prospecting never really ends so you have to be interested in it.

Shane: Who do you say is best suited for this role, personality-type wise?

Austin: You definitely have to have a certain level of grit to be successful. I think there are going to be times where it's really not going to work out and you have to have that ability to be really competitive — with others, but also with yourself because there are going to be times where you do really well one month, but the next month won't be successful. And being able to envision and forecast that ahead of time, knowing that you know your numbers for the next month will depend on what you do now. So all these things and being able to keep organized are kind of target characteristics.

Shane: What’s the average salary range for entry-level going up to mid and late career level salaries? What’s the average compensation?

Austin: It depends on location. Where I work in New York, it might be a little bit more competitive in terms of salary and commission as opposed to industries in Alabama or really anywhere else. At the entry-level... so typically people will enter the role or industry as an SDR, Sales Development Representative. Base salary depends on what you're selling and who you’re selling to. I can see it ranging really anywhere from a base salary of 45K to 55K and then on top of that, of course, the commission will vary as well. It really all depends on the kind of company. Sometimes it’s capped commission, sometimes it's not. Often it's not, and that's definitely a huge plus.

Being able to control your own destiny is a huge part of sales and knowing that the harder you work, the more money you'll make is a fun and enticing aspect for a lot of people. But that I generally would say is the base salary [for entry-level]. Below 40K is rare, but I have seen it before, and usually the compensation will make up for it.

Shane: When you were getting started, did they have resources for you to use to learn about it, like blogs, podcasts to follow to stay up-to-date in the industry?

Austin: Yeah there's a lot actually. There’s some [podcasts] on Spotify actually and some really cool sales influencers on LinkedIn that you can follow. Richard Harris is one, Scott Leese is another. Sarah Brazier from Gong, she’s an SDR right now, is one of the best influencers that you can follow right now. For just getting to know what the role is about, all these different things, I would follow those people on LinkedIn. They have their own podcast.

I know that there are a bunch of recruiting firms out there like Betts Recruiting that has a ton of information and resources on the industry and as it evolves. They'll be able to send documents and materials in terms of what compensation is like and competitive things at that time.

Shane: As you said, the industry is evolving with Covid-19. How does the job outlook look like in the next 10-20 years for people who want to get into sales?

Austin: I wish I could tell you. It’s tough to predict what the sales industry will look like in the next 10 years, but it's still going to be alive, sales isn’t going to go anywhere. I will say the way that people conduct themselves for sales may change and that will change alongside the internet.

Shane: For someone starting now, what would you want to tell them?

Austin: I think something I wish I could tell myself is really just to try and be a sponge as much as you can at least for the first 5 to 6 months. I think going into it right out of college, there's a lot that you just don't know. As much as you think that you're going to kill it, and you probably will, there's just so much that you can learn from other salespeople, your manager, as well as people in marketing. All these different little tips and tricks that they would be able to provide, they’ll really be helpful in terms of success.

So I would really say just try to be that sponge in the beginning. Soak in as much information as you can from other people in whichever way that you want to go about, whether it’s having one-on-one’s, taking different people out to lunch and coffee. Just expose yourself to as much as you can. Try to be someone who is easy to work with and again kind of establishing that reputation as someone who's likeable, easy to work with. It really goes a long way in terms of internal discussions within the company. So that I would say is the best advice I could give someone.

Shane: Similar question, what advice were you given when you started out at that you still hold onto?

Austin: I would say just a lot of things that we talk about at my company is to stay competitive, stay hungry, but stay humble. So you know it's something that we instilled in our sales reps. There's this corporate sales stereotype that you really don't want to fall into. Just stay humble.

Staying humble, but having a competitive mindset — being able to balance the two is a tip I appreciated when I starting out

Shane: What inspires you?

Austin: At the end of the day, I think you have to be financially motivated. You have to enjoy seeing yourself at the top of the leaderboard and things like that. So again this competitive nature is what inspired me. It's naturally easy for me to be competitive.

I think a close second would be what I mentioned in terms of growth. You'll do well if you put your mind to it and that is the kind of mindset that I really enjoy about sales. It's definitely what’s inspired me a ton in terms of success I've seen and the progression I've made from just an entry-level sales person. Knowing that there is a ladder I can climb and that there are different stages and different titles, compensation packages, more that I could actually gain if I just do the right things. It really inspires me to know that there's more to be achieved.

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