How to Get a SaaS Sales Representative Job With No Experience
By: Ashley Artrip
An entry-level sales representative job can act as a launchpad for myriad careers, not just for a career in sales. Many recent graduates break into the tech and startup world through an entry-level sales representative job and go on to careers in marketing, operations, and customer success, to name just a few. Because sales jobs provide you with invaluable business experience that’s applicable across the board, they can be highly coveted positions for people who are just starting to launch careers.
Despite competition for sales positions at top companies, the field is actually a fairly accessible field for recent college graduates or entry-level employees with no directly-related experience. Many hiring managers don’t require entry-level candidates to have backgrounds directly related to sales, and instead will look for backgrounds, skills, and personality characteristics that indicate a knack for selling.
If you can successfully leverage your ‘soft skills’ into a demonstrated aptitude for selling, then you can break into the SaaS sales industry. There are a few ways to do this without having any directly related experience, which we outline in depth below.
1. Apply to Sales Representative Training Programs
Sales training programs (often billed as BDR training programs or SDR training programs — don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of all the acronyms!) offer industry-specific training to accepted students, and access to or placement in sales representative jobs upon completion of the training. Programs vary in their outcomes, tuition/business models, and intensity, so it’s important to consider the following factors:
- Do you want an online or in-person training program?
- Are you looking for a program that does income share (no upfront tuition but the school takes a portion of your first-year income), a program that is employer-sponsored (the school charges no tuition and partners with companies to place you in jobs with them), or a traditional tuition model?
- Do you want a part-time or full-time program?
- Do you want post-placement coaching and mentorship?
- What average starting salary do you want?
Every program differs in its answers to these questions. SV Academy, for instance, offers a highly selective 12-week online fellowship with job placement at a partner company at an average starting salary of $78,000 for those who successfully complete the fellowship. The most important thing to look at is the program’s business model, the average starting salary of graduates, the testimonials of graduates, and the percentage of graduates who are placed in salaried jobs. You don’t want to invest time and money in a dud program that leaves you right where you started, minus a few thousand dollars and a few hundred hours.
2. Apply for a Sales Representative Internship
Internships are one of the best ways to break into any field. Many enterprise and startup internships pay minimum wage or better, and provide opportunities to learn, network, and build up transferable skills. Most internships will not ask for any related experience, and will instead make interview decisions based on cover letters, and hiring decisions based on interviews.
Because hiring managers are looking for soft skills, though, it’s important for you to understand what traits typically make for a good sales representative. These include grit, emotional intelligence, strong oral and written communication skills, and the ability to manage change in fast-paced environments. Additionally, if you’re applying to a position in tech, a general understanding of the tech landscape, enterprise tech tools (such as Slack, Salesforce, Mailchimp, etc.), and the technology of the company you’re applying to will go a long way in the interview.
Many interns in the enterprise tech and startup worlds are offered full-time positions at the company after they’ve completed the internship. Even if this doesn’t happen for you, though, an internship can still open doors at other companies in the field that are looking for entry-level candidates.
3. Apply to Low Base Salary/ High Commission Potential Positions
More so than many other fields, sales is a meritocracy. You will be judged on performance, and if you perform well you have higher salary potential and more opportunities. Because of this, many entry-level candidates will apply to and accept positions with low base salaries but high commission potential, in order to prove their abilities.
While this can be an effective path to take, though, keep in mind that you may not get the training and skills building that you need to succeed. Onboarding and training new employees is an investment, and different companies invest more or less in it depending on their values. If your goal is to not just land a sales representative job, but also pursue a career out of that job, you may want the opportunity to learn before jumping in so that you are set up for success.
4. Reach out to Your Network
The vast majority of successful sales representatives started out where you are today, and understand the struggles associated with getting your foot in the door. Because of this, it can be particularly helpful to contact people who are only a year or two ahead of where you want to be. Reach out to people you know who work in sales or even in other departments of tech companies and startups to ask for advice and leads. You may find out about a niche job board, an opening at a company where you already have a connection, or you may even land an interview. Sales is driven by the network effect, and more experienced salespeople are generally sympathetic to those who are just starting out.
Remember that how you conduct your job outreach will reflect on how potential employers view your sales skills. Good salespeople recognize strong outreach skills, so make sure you're always putting your skills on display.
Additionally, keep in mind that the network effect probably won’t go beyond a fast-tracked application process or an introduction. Ultimately, you still need to wow the interviewer and demonstrate the skills we described in section 2.
Be Professional, Outgoing, and Persistent
The first step in launching any career is always the hardest. However, sales as a field is all about persistence, so just look at finding your first job as the first test of many for how you will persist through roadblocks and rejections throughout your career. Once you have your first sales representative job under your belt you can use that experience to receive a promotion, pivot to a related field, or work at another company.
To jump-start your career in sales, apply to the SV Academy business development fellowship at https://sv.academy/application.
Elaina Ransford contributed to this article