How to get into enterprise software sales
June 12, 2019 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in starting a career in enterprise software sales (ie. work at Salesforce), or any other B2B sales job. I have no sales experience, the only thing I can get is telemarketing. I'm unsure if that will lead anywhere.

So, what's a good entry point for a person with no sales experience?
posted by catbird to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What is your prior work experience? It's hard to say specifically what you should do without knowing your background, but generally enterprise sales jobs require some knowledge of the product you're selling. Since you mentioned Salesforce, do you have experience using the product? Or any enterprise-level product?

If you have no sales experience, companies of that size will also look for you having experience with their product, or with fluency in any enterprise-level product that you can translate into sales jargon. If you have neither, it's a tougher sell but not impossible - just looking at a random Salesforce sales job from their website (albeit this one's in Buenos Aires), their entry level requirements are:

- Fluency in written and verbal English and Spanish
- Bachelor's Degree from a 4-Year University preferred
- 1-4 Years of corporate experience, outside of undergraduate graduation (Software sales is a plus)

I would assume US-based jobs don't have the Spanish requirement, but if you do speak a second language, it's definitely a plus.

If you know someone at an enterprise software company, leverage that someone; take them to lunch, ask them if they'd be willing to set up an informational interview with a manager or sales director or something, and get more info that way.

Are you open to/eligible to taking an internship role? That might be something to explore. Otherwise, if you have no industry experience and no sales experience, it's probably going to be a lot of just shipping resumes off to companies and seeing who bites.
posted by pdb at 8:16 PM on June 12

Lots of companies will hire entry-level salespeople with no sales experience. And telemarketing is sales, too. And a lot the places who will hire someone with no experience use Salesforce. So I'd concentrate on getting experience in any sales before you try getting into the specific field of sales you want. Aside from building your resume, you'll see if you actually like doing sales. And, you'll most likely get experience using something like Salesforce (if not Salesforce itself), which will help a lot when you're applying to companies who sell the stuff.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:23 PM on June 12

One thing you can look for in job listings is companies who are hiring "SDRs". Basically, it's a sales job (you're getting on the phone and talking to interested customers, not cold-calling), but the accounts tend to be smaller or earlier in the sales pipeline, so companies aren't yet willing to assign them to traditional Account Executives. These jobs will pay less than other sales jobs, but there should be a natural path to a traditional sales role for high-achievers (be sure to verify this with the employer before you start!).
posted by bbuda at 9:34 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Take the telemarketing gig! If you can talk on the phone & have a thick skin, you can easily move from there to an inside sales role, and boom you're an enterprise software sales exec already.

I say "easily" because it's a high-pressure, high-turnover role that's always advertised because people are always leaving. People who are good at it, and who enjoy it, are pretty rare & they do well.
posted by rd45 at 2:22 AM on June 13

Sales in general (not just B2B software) are jobs that don't require a lot of experience. The key things with sales is to show that you're not lazy and that you have people skills. The former is why so many former athletes work in sales: they can prove to the employer that they're competitive and hard-working in a way that a simple resume can't.

I used to work for a small B2B software company. We had four sales guys. One of them came to the company from doing door-to-door sales for AT&T U-Verse. You know the dudes who knock on your door seemingly at random and want to "discuss" your current cable situation? But he did pretty well at that, and leveraged that into a more traditional sales role. He ended up really doing well in the software sales role, and was promoted to account management (existing accounts), and then ultimately to manager of the client relations team (including support). The second was a college football player whose previous job was at a staffing agency, where he worked with a guy who eventually left to work for the software company, and when another position opened up, that guy recommended him. The third was the second guy's brother-in-law. The fourth guy, I have no idea about his background. He actually got good results, but he was kind of odd, and so he got fired.

Two lessons to draw from this: Any sort of sales background, even telemarketing, is helpful, because it demonstrates your willingness to put in the time to succeed. Networking is important - if you can't make connections with your co-workers, employers will wonder how you can do so with potential clients.

One thing I would suggest is to target smaller companies than Salesforce itself. There are innumerable small, niche software companies. The one I worked for made software specifically for home/auto/business insurance agents, which I found because I'd worked elsewhere in the insurance industry before. I have a friend who works for a company that makes software for doctor's offices. If you've got some previous work experience, think about the software you used there and check to see if they've got sales positions, and if they don't, check their competitors. Another option is to find local software companies (browse programming or networking jobs on Indeed), then check to see if those companies have sales openings. Even if they don't, remember that a huge part of sales is taking initiative, and so sending an email to a Sales Director explaining who you are and why you want to work for them would go a long way. Finally, get on Linkedin, look up all your old co-workers and classmates, and see if any of them work for software companies and would be willing to recommend you for a position.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:40 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]

sent you a memail
posted by askmehow at 5:43 AM on June 13

If you want to get into corporate sales without prior sales experience, have you considered a job in training? These roles typically involve working on-site at clients to present seminars to your clients' staff about how to use your product. Experience here is transferrable to various sales-related jobs once you have positive work experience with in-person client handling and experience in using the product.

There are different kinds of sales jobs, many of which involve first-hand client contact. There are inside sales (as rd45 notes) and account management (which in many companies is responsible for supporting a client after the sale is closed; it's a very sales-like job in that your agenda not only involves helping the client but also nudging the client towards buying more upgrades/features/support). Support engineer is another sales-related job in tech industries, involving designing the recommended service package, tech requirements, etc., and/or being the principal contact for the client for technical issues. This job usually involves a technical background and strong interpersonal skills.

Enterprise-scale systems and services usually have sales teams that collaborate on single clients. These sales are millions of dollars at the low end and in some industry segments can take years to close. Your company's salespeople are executive-level and are hired preferentially because of who they know rather than what they know. The purchasers are going to also be executive-level people because of the cost involved. When the system-or-service is infrastructural, the purchaser's team will be involved in planning costs, service integration, staff transitions and so on.
posted by at by at 6:49 AM on June 13

Sales Development / Business Development / Inside Sales and even Customer Service typically are entry-level roles in the enterprise software world. Turnover is high too so there are always openings. Get in and do well and the promotion path to outside/enterprise sales will be there, either via promotion or job change.

I've been doing enterprise software sales (mostly software development but the sales process is very similar) for over 20 years. Feel free to MeMail me with any questions.
posted by COD at 9:46 AM on June 13

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