The SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) business model is one of the fastest-growing of the last decade. Because most SaaS products are subscription-based and allow for recurring revenue, this business model is becoming the go-to for many businesses — new and old. With this growth comes tons of new job opportunities for salespeople looking to get into the tech industry.
In this article, you’ll learn some positions you can consider in SaaS sales, expert tips for getting into the industry, and how to succeed in your first sales role.
Table of Contents
- Is SaaS sales a good career?
- SaaS Sales Positions
- How to Get into SaaS Sales
- How to Succeed in SaaS Sales
Is SaaS sales a good career?
$307.3 billion. That's how much SaaS, as a global industry, is projected to be worth by 2026 — nearly double how much it was worth in 2020 ($158 billion).
This booming sector can offer sales professionals huge growth opportunities, financially and professionally. According to Glassdoor, the median annual salary for tech sales pros is $111,201 — twice as much as the average median salary of all U.S. occupations.
In addition to the great income potential, roles in SaaS tech often offer other perks, including
- Remote work opportunities.
- Professional growth.
- A valuable network.
- Skill development.
- And the opportunity to play an active role in the global adoption of technology without having to write a line of code.
What's more, you’ll likely find plentiful job opportunities in the field. Because new software is being pushed into the market almost every day, the demand for SaaS sales professionals will only grow.
Companies will need more salespeople to help them reach their growth and revenue goals. In fact, at the time of writing this article, there are over 100,000 open SaaS sales roles on LinkedIn. And that's just in the United States.
No matter how much — or how little — experience you have in tech sales, it's possible to climb the career ladder in this field.
You can start in SaaS sales as an SDR and with enough experience, you'll be able to work in roles like account executive, sales manager, and even vice president of sales.
SaaS Sales Positions
If you're looking to get into SaaS sales, here are some entry-level positions you can apply for.
Sales Development Representative
As a newbie to SaaS sales, you should try to start with a sales development representative (SDR) role. SDRs are responsible for outbound prospecting. They make initial contact with people whom they think are qualified and ready to use the product they're trying to sell.
SDRs usually do this by cold-calling or cold-emailing the prospects. The SDR then gives prospects a quick rundown of what the product is and what it can do for them. When an SDR has vetted a prospect, they'll pass the potential lead to Account Executives (AEs).
Because they'll be speaking directly with people, SDRs need to have top-notch communication skills, the ability to listen actively, and the resilience to stay positive even when a call doesn't go as expected.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for this role is $49,250 but it can get as high as $82,000.
Although this role has a lower starting pay than Account Executive, it has an upside potential for commission-based earnings. Plus, you can move on from this role to become a sales manager or AE.
When sales reps show potential for growth and get enough experience creating sales, they often take up the role of an Account Executive (AE).
The job of an AE is to close deals by following up on the qualified leads that SDRs generated. This role focuses largely on forging healthy relationships with prospects, ensuring successful product adoption, and encouraging more sales.
While it is important for account executives to have great communication skills — verbal and written — they also need to know how to negotiate new contracts and renew existing contracts.
The average annual salary for an Account Executive is $59,630, and it can get as high as $110,000.
This role comes with lots of opportunities for upward growth with commission earnings and bonuses. However, the success rate depends largely on the quality of the product/service the AE is selling.
Successful AEs can go on to sales management, enterprise sales, or even executive roles, depending on the size of the company.
Post-Sales Account Manager
After the AE closes a deal, a post-sales account manager is responsible for managing that sales account and ensuring that the client is satisfied with the quality of the product or service.
Post-sales account managers also work to renew client contracts and upsell existing contracts. They inform clients about new offers and provide excellent customer support. Some account managers are also given the task of working with developers to fix bugs that impede customer experience with the product.
Post-sales account managers handle multiple client accounts simultaneously, making project management and analytics skills integral. They should also know how to negotiate terms that make clients happy and move the needle toward business growth.
On average, post-sales account managers get an annual salary of $52,902, and it caps at $92,500. While it's possible to get commission-based earnings in this role, it is not always certain, as post-sales account managers don't work in a direct sales role.
Successful account managers can go on to become sales managers or vice presidents of sales.
A sales manager (SM) is someone that is in charge of a company's sales team. These leaders are responsible for setting sales objectives and motivating their teams to hit those goals.
SMs hire and train sales employees, execute sales strategies, and report their progress to the VP of sales or CEO.
Depending on the company, SMs also develop sales plans and perform data analysis. Everything they do contributes to the overall goal of exceeding sales targets. This role is perfect for people who prefer to lead teams rather than do client-facing work.
Since sales managers focus more on company oversight, they should possess stellar leadership and communication skills. They should also know how to manage time, solve problems rationally, and analyze data to achieve sales objectives.
This role has a great average annual salary of $71,383, and it can get as high as $141,000. When a sales manager has succeeded at meeting and exceeding sales quotas, they could advance to sales leadership, including the head or VP of sales.
How to Get Into SaaS Sales
The ease with which you break into SaaS sales depends on the steps you take before and during your initial job applications.
We’ve asked business and sales experts for some tips for people looking to get into SaaS sales. Here’s what they have to say.
1. Define your goals.
Before you start searching for jobs, take some time to think about why you want to go into SaaS sales and what you want to achieve in your career.
Do you want to get a better understanding of the SaaS industry? Do you want to earn a lot of money? Or do you want to lead a team? Knowing what you want will give you direction and purpose as you step into your responsibilities.
Your natural abilities can often help you decipher the role in which you'll thrive most. So think about your dispositions and use them to define your goals.
For instance, if you are an outgoing person that likes to speak with people, the role of an SDR might be a great fit for you. If you are competitive and are looking for a high salary, being an account executive might suit you more.
Once you have a good idea of your goals and the role you'd like to have, you can start looking for jobs that will give you purpose and fulfillment.
2. Build good communication skills.
The key to success in SaaS sales is the ability to communicate in a way that makes the prospect willing to buy what you're trying to sell.
"Strong communication skills are a must,” Sergienko says. “The ability to clearly and persuasively articulate the benefits of the product, as well as answer any objections or concerns that may arise, is key to closing deals."
Your product's features, value proposition, and pricing doesn't matter if you don't have great verbal and written skills.
The VP of sales at Juro, James Boreham, takes communication skills seriously when vetting SaaS sales candidates.
"When speaking with someone looking to get into sales, their interactions with you inform how you'll picture them interacting with customers," Boreham says. "My litmus test is to ask 'Would I feel comfortable putting this person in front of a senior stakeholder in a large deal?'"
They're right. When you get on a call with prospects, you shouldn't just reel off all the features and benefits of your products. Instead, try to understand what your prospects care about and how they prefer to communicate.
Pay full attention to them when they speak, read their body language, listen to the inflections in their tones, and be empathetic. This will help you gauge just how curious or receptive they are about your product.
3. Apply to an internship or entry-level position.
When you're just starting out in tech sales, you'll need to start with a lower position before climbing the career ladder. This means you'll need to look for an internship or entry-level job. You could even volunteer in a related role, like fundraising for a non-profit.
This will make it easier for you to get the job and gain the experience necessary to work in higher, more lucrative sales roles.
"If you're looking to move into a sales role in SaaS, it helps to have 0.5-2 years experience in a professional environment where you've built up business communication skills," says Boreham of Juro. "The industry you come from doesn't matter massively but this really helps give the hiring manager the sense that you'll pick up things and onboard rapidly."
Alvin Wei, the CMO and head of strategy at SEOAnt, explains further, "I recommend looking for any local opportunities that place you in high-pressure environments so that you can learn different closing techniques and customer psychology and refine your communication skills."
4. Build a solid professional network.
If you're gunning for a good job and a great career in SaaS sales, you need to build your professional network.
Many companies prefer to hire salespeople based on referrals and recommendations from other people in the industry. If you have a strong network, you might end up getting a job that hasn't been published yet.
Apart from networking events, a great way to connect with other salespeople and companies is through LinkedIn. With over 57 million companies and 875 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network.
Recruiters for SaaS and tech companies often peruse people's LinkedIn profiles and reach out to them if they think there might be a fit.
To use LinkedIn well, consider the following tips.
Keep your profile up-to-date and professional.
Explain, in moderate detail, your responsibilities and achievements in your previous jobs (especially if those jobs are sales-related).
Take a look around the platform.
Try to get a sense of the companies that are hiring and how they can benefit from your sales skills. Follow leading industry experts and engage with their content. This way, they'll be more likely to remember you and reply to your DMs if you ever reach out to them.
Ask tech salespeople questions.
Find people who work in similar roles to the one you're applying for. Ask them about their day-to-day activities and the sales strategies they're using to get clients.
Not only will this help you learn what the roles are like in real life, but it'll also help you build relationships with people from different SaaS companies.
Reach out to recruiters.
If you have a specific company you want to apply to, reach out to the recruiters there via LinkedIn. Even if they don't have an open role yet, they'll remember you in the future when they do.
5. Be resilient.
No matter how persuasive you are or how much experience you have with sales, you will hear more nos than yeses in your career. This happens a lot in the early stages of presenting a product or service and it can be discouraging — but it's part of the job. The key to dealing with these rejections is building resilience.
"There are two constants in any sales role: rejection and change," McGuire espouses. "You will get hung up on. You will be told no. Your territory will get smaller, and your quota will increase. The best SaaS salespeople are those that have the tenacity to keep going in spite of adversity."
For each sale you don't close, use that opportunity to learn why it didn't work out. You can do an honest self-evaluation to see where your presentation was lacking or you could simply ask the prospect why they chose not to work with you.
How to Succeed in SaaS Sales
Once you get your first SaaS sales job, you shouldn't have to make a ton of mistakes before getting a hang of it. To hit the ground running in your new role, here are a few expert tips that'll help you.
1. Understand the product.
The first thing to do once you get a tech sales job is to study the product. That's what you'll be selling, after all, so you want to know everything there is to know about it.
"Make sure you have a deep understanding of the SaaS product or service you will be selling," says James Nathan, the founder and CEO of MarketJar. "The better you understand the features and benefits, the better equipped you will be to address potential customer’s concerns and objections."
If possible, sign up for a free trial or freemium plan and get a feel of the product yourself. Note the kinds of use cases and scenarios the product will be useful for, so you can capitalize on that when you speak to prospects.
As Will Yang, Head of Growth at Instrumentl says, "It's all well and good if you can talk about what your product does, but if you don't have a great understanding of why someone would want that feature in the first place, then it's hard for them to see how they could benefit from it."
2. Understand the target market.
As you study the product, study the target market you'll be selling to. To succeed in your role, you must understand who your ideal customer is and which pain points they're trying to solve.
Geoff Cudd, the founder of Don't Do It Yourself, advises that you know your customer inside and out.
"Do research on their pain points, learn their language, and find out what makes them tick. Doing so will give you a better understanding of what they need and how to reach them,” he says.
When you understand your customer, you'll be able to craft a sales pitch that is tailored to each customer's needs so they can see the value of your software.
Cudd gives an example: "If you’re selling to mid-market companies, targeting your messaging to executives or influencers can be a powerful way to get in front of the right people."
However, just knowing your ideal customers might not be enough. You need to understand the buyer's journey, too, to create the most effective sales pitch.
"You'll need to understand your target customer's journey from discovery through purchase and ensure that you're providing information at each stage of the process," Daniel Ch8abert, the founder and CEO of PurpleFire, says. "This requires an understanding of their needs and wants as well as their purchasing preferences. You should also have a good understanding of their industry and competitive landscape."
3. Understand the SaaS industry.
The SaaS industry is constantly evolving. So in addition to understanding your product and target market, learn more about the SaaS industry as a whole. Learn what the buying process looks like in SaaS companies and how to pitch to the C-suite and executives.
Pro Tip: Try to stay on top of the latest trends, best practices, and new technologies in the industry. This way, you'll be able to optimize your sales process and make your prospects' buying experience more efficient.
4. Create product demos.
If you want to own your SaaS sales skills, focus on delivering an exceptional product demo. An outstanding demo can go a long way in closing deals.
"When you create product demos that are relevant to your customers and actually demonstrate how the product resolves their concerns, they will most likely remember you and the service you are offering," says Cayla Thurman, the business reputation consultant at Rize Reviews.
Pro tip: The key to delivering an effective SaaS product demo is to provide information that prospects can easily consume.
"Rather than overwhelming prospects with redundant information about features, a good demo should demonstrate the value of your product," says Mocca Bajao, the digital PR specialist at Thrive Agency. "Understanding what problem the buyer wants your software to solve is one of the best ways to prepare for demos."
5. Be authentic.
While on calls with prospects, it's often tempting to exaggerate the capability and benefit of the product to get them to schedule a demo. The catch is, people can tell when you're desperate or dishonest. This ends up having a counterintuitive effect.
"When going in for an interview, the person on the other end is going to respect your authenticity and will easily be able to spot any insincerity,” says Kenny Powell, the senior account development representative at UserGems. “This is the same for when you’re in the role as well. Always be yourself."
Pro tip: In SaaS sales, always remember that the job isn't just about hitting quotas. It's also about recognizing that the revenue generated from onboarding the right clients can have a massive impact on the success of the company.
Building a Profitable SaaS Sales Career
If the stats are anything to go by — and they are — the growth of SaaS has just begun. In the years to come, SaaS will grow even more dominant. This makes it a great career path for salespeople looking to work in the tech industry.
If that’s you, follow the tips that experts have suggested in this post and you’d be well on your way to landing your dream sales job and succeeding at it.