June 26, 2015

3 Reasons to Work in Sales for a Tech Startup

GroupWhen Fliptop CEO Doug Camplejohn looks at the state of Silicon Valley today, he’s reminded of earlier times.

“To me, it’s no different from what I saw back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, in terms of the funding, the companies, and the competition for talent,” Camplejohn says. “That just makes everything across the board difficult.”

According to AngelList, there are currently 18,403 startups in Silicon Valley, and a very good chunk of those startups are in the tech world. Because of the sheer number of startups all jostling for the same space — as well as the continuing recovery of the U.S. economy — competition for talent in Silicon Valley is fierce.

“It’s a candidate’s market today,” Camplejohn says. “Most technology positions are hard to fill in general, and especially in Silicon Valley.”

But it’s not just the laptop-wielding, hoodie-clad “techies” that companies are vying for. As it turns out, tech startups are having a particularly hard time finding talent to fill their technical sales and sales management positions. According to a report issued last year by the Harvard Business Review, Burning Glass, and Accenture, these roles are among the hardest to fill — not only in Silicon Valley, but across the U.S.

All of this is to say that there are plenty of tech startups looking for salespeople out there.

Are you a fresh college grad looking to start your career? An experienced salesperson in need of a new challenge? A mid-career worker looking to make a change?

Here are Camplejohn’s three reasons why you may want to think about pursuing a sales role at a tech startup.

1. Sales Is a Great Place to Start Your Career in Tech

If you’re a young worker who wants to start a career in tech, Camplejohn says taking a sales role is the best way to dive into the world.

Even if you don’t want to stay in sales all your life — maybe you want to move into the programming side of things or start your own tech company someday — sales gives you what Camplejohn calls a “front-row seat into what customers are looking for.”

“Today, sales is not about just wracking up a bunch of transactions,” Camplejohn says. “It’s really about acting as a trusted advisor to companies, customers, and prospects.”

TripIn technical sales especially, potential buyers often come to the table with a lot of research under their belts. They aren’t looking for sales pitches — they’re looking for strategic partners who can help them decipher all the information they have on hand.

Because technical salespeople get to act as strategic advisors, rather than pitchmen, they really get a feel for who the customers are in the tech world and what the market looks like.

“I think that [a technical sales] role really puts somebody in touch with real customer problems and real customer pains,” Camplejohn says. “Understanding that is key for any [career in tech].”

2. Technical Sales Give You a Chance to Stretch Your Intellectual Muscles

You can pick up important sales techniques, like cold-calling and followup, from pretty much any sales role. According to Camplejohn, however, technical sales offers more than just a chance to sharpen your sales chops.

“Generally, [in a technical sales role], you’re going to have a lot more intellectual challenges, and you’ll get to work with some really smart people,” Camplejohn says.

Because of the nature of technical sales — learning about specific and sometimes complicated products, acting as a trusted advisor to customers — the role can really challenge employees to become more creative and to think outside the box more often.

Plus, Camplejohn says, selling tech can really help you build a better understanding of customers. Knowing what customers want and how to work with them are key components of pretty much any role in the tech world. Even the software engineers who never speak directly with customers need to know about the people for whom they are building their products.

3. Technical Sales Offers an Opportunity for Major Professional Growth

TeamIf you join the sales team at a quickly growing tech startup, you’ll of course have the potential to earn some serious commission checks — probably more commission than you would earn at an established company in the later stages of its existence.

But in a technical sales role, your bank account’s not the only thing that will grow.

“If you really have the initiative, you can quickly advance in your career [at a tech startup],” Camplejohn says, “You have the opportunity to come in, volunteer to take a lot of responsibility, and learn a lot in a very compressed period of time.”

Technical sales roles at startups can offer workers at all stages of their lives the chance to learn valuable skills that will serve them well no matter where their careers take them. With so many opportunities out there, job seekers may want to think about finding a role in technical sales.

At least for now.

Read more in Career

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com.