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How to Get a Job in IT Sales

28 May 2018
Finlay Hutchison

How to Get a Job in IT Sales

The world of IT Recruitment can be quite a daunting one – especially if, like me, you’re about as technologically savvy as an onion. 

That’s probably actually doing me a slight injustice, but you get the idea.  I’ve never been a technical individual, so embarking on a career in technical recruitment was genuinely quite a challenge.  After months of training, learning and development, and plenty of research, I got to grips with the technical terminology and could command good conversations where I understood the crux of technical IT roles, the requirements and the responsibilities. 

However, after doing such in-depth research, I realised that there are plenty of roles within the IT industry for non-technical individuals – so I kept digging. 

Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, is home to some of the most exciting tech companies in the UK. Edinburgh has become the third most popular location for investment into tech companies, behind London and Dublin.  There is huge potential for exciting tech start-ups and there is the technical talent to match, with some of the brightest developer minds flocking here following the birth of several tech unicorns; SkyScanner and FanDuel (shout out to these guys – both initial Talent Spark clients!). 

However, although there is an array of incredible software/ tech companies, there is one vital ingredient that many need to survive; sales and business savvy minds to take the software to market.  Companies need the likes of Account Executives, Account Managers, Business Development Managers, Commercial Directors, and Sales Directors, to grow their business successfully.  These individuals tend not to be as focused on the technical aspects, but still have an understanding.

This is an area of the recruitment market that I’m personally focusing on – pioneering the desk for Eden Scott and making it my goal to become an expert in this niche area.  Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to write about the differences between recruiting for specifically technical IT roles versus for IT Sales roles. 

How to Get a Job in IT Sales

Technical Skills vs Soft Skills

When recruiting for a Developer or highly technical IT role, it’s a given that there are specific technical requirements.  Whether that’s experience developing in Java, PHP, Python, C# or JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and so on.  Regardless of the technical requirement, it’s usually specific and not particularly interchangeable. 

However, when recruiting for an IT sales role, you’re looking for an entirely different set of skills.  It’s essential that the individual has excellent communication skills and can aptly handle themselves when out of their comfort zone.  Equally, it’s often the case that drive and determination can be as valuable as experience itself (although not always).  Travel is often an important part of IT Sales roles, therefore in some roles it is essential to have a full driving license.  A track record of operating in a competitive environment is equally desirable – showing tenacity and a desire to win.  Finally, an interest in technology or previous experience of working within a technical environment is usually highly desirable.

Technical Tests vs Role Play

When completing technical tests it’s best to do your research.  Understand the company’s technologies and frameworks, or specific technologies they they’re looking for experience with.  You’ll usually be able to find this out via the job spec or online.  Additionally, make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete the test without being disturbed.  You only get one chance to impress and show your skills, so make it count.  Finally, don’t rush the test; make sure you fully understand the requirements.  It always looks good when you return the completed test to the hiring company before the deadline date.  This shows that you’re keen, proactive and are making them a priority. 

The preparation for role play is fairly similar to a technical test, except you’re looking for different indicators.  Rather than look for the technologies, look for the soft skills that they’re expecting to see.  For example, if it’s a sales-based role you would assume that good negotiation and objective handling skills would be important.  Try putting yourself in their shoes and think about the possible reasons someone wouldn’t want to buy the product or service.  Then, refute these reasons – why do the pros outweigh the cons?  This may go without saying, but go in full of confidence.  If you believe in your soft, transferable skills, the employer will believe in you.  Finally, take the role play as it comes.  In work and life, you don’t have an answer for everything – that’s okay.  Often, it’s being self-aware that’s just as important.  Knowing and accepting you don’t have an accurate answer is fine -  the important part is showing what you’re going to do to find the answer. 

How to Get a Job in IT Sales

Portfolio of Work vs Competency Based Questions  

For technical roles, it’s important to be able to show-case your developing ability.  For example, designers having a portfolio of work that supplements their application is hugely advantageous, if not essential.  While this is especially prevalent in creative industries, developers are often required to also show portfolios of work where they led the project or were part of a small team developing a larger project.  This is great as it gives the employer direct insight into your output which, paired with your tech test, gives a brilliant understanding on how you approach and complete technical challenges.

Conversely, competency-based questions give a similar insight by a completely different means.  By completing a competency based interview, you should give the employer an understanding of how you face challenges while taking into account all reasonable factors, your actions and rationale behind them, and finally the outcome.  It’s best to go into competency based interviews with pre-set example answers.  From your initial prep, you should be able to understand the competencies which are key to the company and the role – usually outlined under a ‘culture’ or ‘values’ section online.  It’s important to know your own CV back to front and know where you can evidence your experience, relating to the key competencies.  You can learn more about how to ace Competency Based Interviews here.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has given you some insight into the contrasting worlds of technical and non-technical recruitment, and the skills required to succeed in each.  At a fundamental level, similarities can be drawn from each recruitment process – preparation and research is always needed, alongside confidence and timeliness.  It’s important to know the requirements and your own profile. If you’re well-prepared you should feel relatively comfortable throughout the process! 

Author

Finlay Hutchison
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