If you know your product, you can sell anything: words to live by for any sales professional. And when you are selling tech – tools that transform customers’ businesses and require an acceptance of change – understanding buyer processes is just as important. Whose buy-in you need, how to assure it, what to tell them and when to do it – it all varies from organisation to organisation and you’ll need to learn it to get results.
But learning these fundamentals is not the only challenge for newcomers to tech sales. Getting over that all-too-common ‘imposter syndrome’ is crucial for women finding their feet in this fast-paced industry, because it’s easy to feel you’re in waters you don’t belong.
Confidence in your knowledge and value is key to success, so we’re welcoming Nancy Louka, Strategic Account Director at Hootsuite and Monique Ng, Account Executive APAC at Aircall to share their advice on overcoming self-doubt and building up your sales skills to achieve your goals.
Nancy transitioned from marketing to tech sales in 2015 with experience working at a range of different SaaS leaders and Monique also has 3 years of experience in the industry to provide some answers to the sought after questions.
What you need to know to succeed in tech sales
I have three core pieces of advice for those beginning their career in tech sales. The first is to know your product inside out. This will help you translate how the product solves a problem for the end-user. It may not always solve a problem directly and rather help your prospect get to that next level of innovation, but confident knowledge of your product will allow you to speak to this.
Secondly, understand the buyer process. Remember, you’re not only selling into the end-users; you’re seeking buy-in from decision-makers and adhering to their specific procurement, legal, risk and compliance process. Get on the phone and speak to each of these stakeholders if you can.
Finally, maintain control. This leads on from the point above. You want to have control of the process and conversations, which means you set the agenda and hold yourself and prospects accountable to timelines that you have agreed upon.
I’ve learned (both the easy and hard way) a lot as I have progressed in my sales career. My first tip is stay hungry but humble. Being a freshman in tech can be intoxicating – the new people, the business acumen and the buzz you get from contributing to a greater purpose can send new starters into a complete sprint for success. Conversely, this intoxication can also leave you drained, burned out and worse, jaded. My advice here is to relish and celebrate the wins you get.
Also stay curious. You will meet a lot of people in your career who are more experienced than you. It is important to listen to them and learn from them too!
Last but definitely not least, have integrity. It is easy to attain the role of a high achiever, provided you put in the work. However, none of this means much if you need to sacrifice your own morals or principles to get there. Additionally, as your career progresses, your brand becomes your biggest weapon in your arsenal. Make sure that you do what you can to protect it, by doing the right thing by yourself and others around you.
Work on your confidence and be your own biggest advocate
We all have transferable skills. If you’ve put in the work (i.e. research, product training, role plays), you’ll build up confidence. Even if you don’t have the answer when asked a curly question on a call, you can maintain confidence by saying something like “I love that question, I’m going to ask internally to get you the best answer.”
Never forget that you can leverage your team and their specialised expertise as well. A well-established tech sales company will consist of Solution Consultants and Product and Design experts who are tasked to support YOU with providing answers directly to the prospect. I have always maintained a trusted internal network that I can work with towards our common goal of ‘Closed Won’, by staying in constant conversation with my colleagues.
Battling feelings of imposter syndrome often seems like an uphill battle, especially when newbies identify strongly with their careers and professional achievements.
When I first started, I never spoke in meetings for fear of saying the wrong thing or being judged. As a result, I was deeply unhappy and felt undervalued, using my professional achievements to compensate for my complete lack of confidence.
However, as I matured and grew into the role, I understood that there is a unique confidence that can be derived from offering an alternative perspective during meetings. Not only did my management start appreciating the different views I had about the market or role, but my anxiety about speaking up or being wrong significantly lowered.
So speak up, stay connected and have mentors. Having multiple mentors means that I can explain away or even validate my feelings towards my achievements, both big, small and personal. The best part about this is that it allows me to celebrate the work I’ve done, and the contributions I’ve made.
Working in tech sales is exciting, dynamic and rewarding. You’re in the midst of innovation and have the opportunity to help businesses reach new heights.
Focus on developing the right sales skills and boosting your confidence, and you’ll be on the right path to a very fulfilling career in this industry.