Career transition: Breaking into SaaS sales

Getting into the software sector is a smart move, and potentially very lucrative for salespeople. Software as a Service (SaaS) is booming, and as a sector it continues to grow, with global revenues already over $105 billion, according to Gartner.

In 2020, SaaS increased in overall revenue even more than many expected. A sudden essential switch to remote working meant many companies needed a whole load more SaaS solutions to keep operating. And this trend is expected to continue for many years to come, with projections for SaaS revenue in the $300 billion range in 2026.

As a salesperson, if you are looking for a sector with huge potential, then SaaS is worth considering.

Why do SaaS companies need amazing salespeople?

With the right salesperson, or sales team, a SaaS company can grow exceptionally well. SaaS companies are all about growth. As a business model, it’s more profitable than service-based businesses, which is why investors are so keen to put money into them.

SaaS founders are usually entrepreneurs. Growth often requires seeking investment, which is why so many founders turn to venture capital (VC) firms and angel investors to fund this growth. But with this funding comes the expectations that growth will be relentless, exponential, and exceptional.

Investors are looking for a 5 - 10X return on their investment within 5 years, ideally. Hence the need for high rates of growth, more so than what you would expect with other types of companies and business models. Of course not every company is like this. Not every SaaS company has taken investment, or if they have it was a small amount early-on. Whereas founders who are onto a Series C raise and have received $150 million in funding have completely different sorts of pressures.

As a salesperson, you need to pick the right software company for your career goals and personality. Go where you can make a difference. Not where you feel under pressure to hit wildly unrealistic sales goals.

Salespeople are in demand in the software sector. SaaS companies can afford to pay well and offer attractive commission and compensation packages to the right candidates. Career progression is also exciting, because depending on the stage you join a company, you could end up running a whole sales team.

Experience with one SaaS company is also worth its weight in gold, especially if new opportunities with other companies appear on your horizon. If you have sales experience, but haven’t worked in SaaS before, you might be wondering: How can I break into this sector? It sounds exciting and potentially highly lucrative, but how could I secure a sales role in a SaaS company?

How to break into SaaS sales?

#1: Sales experience is pretty essential

In some cases, you don’t need experience. Training can be provided. As long as you’ve got the sort of personality that suits sales: outgoing, talkative, a good listener, and able to convince people.

However, for most roles, prior experience in sales is pretty essential. It doesn’t matter if the experience isn’t in software. If you can demonstrate sales skills, have a track-record, and can back up that experience with examples of how you’ve won customers in current/previous roles, then you will be an attractive candidate for a sales role.

#2: Know the market

Who do you want to work for?

It’s worth making a list, whether that’s a specific niche within SaaS, or companies in your area. Remember, in SaaS it’s easier to work remote for a company anywhere in the world.

Even before the pandemic, remote working was normal in the software sector. So you could find yourself working for a company based in California, New York, Waterloo, Reykjavik, or anywhere else, regardless of where you live.

This potentially massively expands your options. Even if you’d prefer to work in an office with colleagues, most cities and towns have a wide range of SaaS companies, at every scale and size. If you are new to this sector, it pays to get a sense of who’s in the area, who their competitors are, the markets they operate in, and any other information you can find before you start applying for jobs.

#3: Work your connections

Who do you already know in software, technology or related sectors? Chances are, you know someone. Ask around. Get a sense for who’s hiring, who’s growing, what’s going on and identify which companies or sectors would benefit from your sales skills and experiences.

Most companies prefer to hire based on recommendations and referrals. If they can, some jobs are advertised through networks rather than advertised online. You could end up getting a job that hasn’t even been published. Even if a job has been advertised, then referrals and recommendations go a long way with SaaS founders.

Some companies will turn to recruiters for help filling a role. Sales is a mission-critical function within SaaS businesses. So make sure your CV and LinkedIn profiles are on the radar of several recruiters that source talent for tech and SaaS companies.

SaaS companies are usually on a high-growth trajectory. Therefore, they need the best salespeople possible. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have experience in SaaS sales, as long as you’ve had some sales experience. When looking for work in SaaS, you could potentially work for companies all over the world. Get to know the global and local markets.

When you are actively looking, start with your network and connections, and then go from there.

If you are wondering how you can improve your sales skills, check out our comprehensive guide on telesales. If you are looking to break into SaaS sales, we hope this article was helpful, and best of luck job hunting!

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