$100,000/yr seems to be a magical marker for a lot of people. Most of my friends are ecstatic when they break that point and I was exactly the same. Unfortunately, for people who aren’t in tech, it can seem like an impossible goal to reach. For others, they waste years trying out different jobs before settling on one that actually has decent upward mobility. This post will outline how a star sales performer would get a $100k/yr job in tech sales in 2 years.

I’ll be using my past and data to back up this post. My tech sales salary + bonus compensation equaled $110,000 after 2 years of experience. Here’s a typical progression for a great salesman:

6-12 months, Entry level salesperson (aka sales development representative).

According to Glassdoor, there are over 40,000 positions open alone. This is the entry level sales job where you’ll be contacting potential buyers of your company’s software to meet with the closers of the company. Average comp is $72k [1].

If you’re good, there’s usually two ways to progress from here:

– You get moved internally moved into a closing role.

– You interview for and land a full cycle sales position (explained in more detail in the next section). This is what I did. I moved to a full cycle closing position in a different company after 9 months.

1-2 years, Full cycle closer or SMB (Small to medium business) account executive.

A full cycle closer is somebody who finds new customers and does the legwork needed to close them. Closing is typically much more difficult than simply finding the customer and getting him to agree to a meeting. You have to be prepared to educate the customer, help him fight internally to get buy-in / budget, learn to negotiate, and more.

You’ll have an advantage competing for the full cycle role after a successful stint as an SDR because a lot of people competing for the full cycle role don’t have strong entry level sales skills. Similarly, you’ll have a disadvantage because you have no closing experience. It’s up to you to sell the company on your hunger and desire to learn.

An SMB account executive typically just focuses on closing deals for small to medium businesses. The reason SDRs normally only get allowed to close small to medium deals is because companies normally don’t want newbies working with multi million dollar deals  with no experience.

The SMB account executive path is usually only open if you get promoted internally. Most external companies won’t give you a chance to jump right into closing without experience.  If you want to get promoted internally, it’s important to join a company that is growing quickly. These companies can’t hire fast enough and will promote their best people quickly. Companies doing okay or worse rarely have the budget or open roles to promote their best talent. This may force you into relying on a manager leaving in order to get promoted, which definitely isn’t ideal.

Comp wise, you’ll likely start in the $80k [2] range and get in the $100k – $120k range at the end of your 2nd year. My personal experience was that I had an $80k role at the end of year 1, and a $110k role at the end of year 2.

Beyond – Enterprise Account Executive.

Oh boy, here’s where the big money is. Here, you’ll be closing six, seven, and even eight figure contracts. Many of the companies you’re dealing with will have over a billion dollars in revenue, and you’re going to be talking to C level executives and helping them solve huge pain points. And you’re going to get compensated like a champion. Enterprise account execs typically make $200k+. [3] Of course, the best enterprise account executives can make $1,000,000+ per year. I’m currently an enterprise account executive.

To be completely honest, becoming an enterprise account executive takes a lot of work and some luck. It’s not for everyone.There is absolutely no shame in becoming a great SDR manager or SMB account executive making $120k-$150k/yr. The best part is that this is totally achievable in 2-3 years.

Beyond knowing your role’s progression, I would make sure that the companies I joined were selling expensive and valuable software. Who do you think can pay their salespeople better: a company that sells software for $1,000,000 a year or a company that sells software for $5,000 a year?

If you’re interested in learning more about tech sales, check out another post I wrote on the 3 myths of entry level sales jobs. In it, I go into detail on:

  • How you don’t need to be extroverted to succeed in sales
  • How you don’t need sales or technical experience
  • How you don’t need to trick people to succeed.

Notes: .

[1] According to the Bridge Group’s Research. It’ll likely be $60k-$70k range if you’re just starting out. Also, Glassdoor may have lower numbers because they don’t calculate salary + bonus together. Obviously, performance based bonuses are a large part of a salesperson’s salary.

[2] Zenefits lists $80k for their SMB Account Execs on Glassdoor, Glassdoor lists a similar total comp. Salesforce lists $113k,  LinkedIn lists $188k. I would guess that LinkedIn’s SMB account execs generate much more revenue and have much more stringent requirements than other SMB execs.

[3] Salesforce lists Enterprise AE compensation at an average of $233k, VMWare has an average of $230k, Glassdoor has an average of $207k, Marketo has an average of $198k, etc etc.