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- My candid thoughts about being in tech sales
My candid thoughts about being in tech sales
The myth of easy money and good worklife balance
I was reflecting on this Bloomberg article about my previous company, Salesforce and the End of the Cushy Tech Sales Job
While the article is specifically about Salesforce, it also applies to other software companies.
I sent this to a friend and he responded:
“Great summary of what we also went through in the last couple of years. Honestly, I could just change the SFDC name to UiPath, and the story applies just as well😅.”
Many people joined Tech sales over the past few years. They were lured by the illusion of “easy money” and “good work life balance”.
The hype got so serious that some have became Tech Sales influencers while others have launched courses to teach people how to break into the industry.
At the same time, companies thought hiring more reps was the best way to grow fast. During a time of ‘free money’, several lowered their bar in hiring. It became much easier to become an Account Executive than pre-Covid days.
In the past 1.5 years, things have taken a down turn.
I’ve read a few earning calls transcripts of larger SaaS companies including Zscaler, Asana, Nutanix and Salesforce. The trends points to longer sales cycles, macro headwinds and increased scrutiny on budgets.
Many people got let go. Some had to settle for a lower paying job.
If you have friends thinking about joining or leaving the tech sales sector, I thought I’d share two myths, specifically around being an Account Executive.
Myth 1: Easy Money
There is a lot of survivorship bias in tech sales.
For every 1 success story of AE who crush quota quarter on quarter, there are thousands of people who fail. They only draw a bit more than their base salary per month.
In several companies, many do not meet their on-target-earnings or achieve their numbers. In my previous role, there were only two Account Executives out of 10 across EMEA and APAC exceeding their targets.
There have been low points for me too. In one year, I had to take a pay cut of 14%. This was in 2020 where the sector I looked after was heavily impacted by Covid.
Myth 2: Good work life balance
The nature of a job with monthly and quarterly targets is that the pressure is real.
You have a lot of ups and downs at work; it is an intense job and things move really fast. Despite being super optimized and disciplined about my time, I cannot avoid long hours at times. I also personally have never ever had a holiday in my life where I did not bring my laptop and was not working.
If you do not set up systems and learn to regulate your emotions super well, you can succumb to illness; lose your hair really quickly or end up with addictions.
Many professionals end up being dependent on alcohol to reduce stress. If you go to Suntec bars on a weekday evening, that is often what you’d see.
Having said that, the idea of worklife balance is all relative. Based on what I see from family and friends, in Investment Banking, Private Equity, Law, things are much more tiring and time intensive. However, on the bright side, society definitely thinks more highly of you.
💰 If financial freedom and money is your main motivation, join the financial sector. You have a much higher chance to make more money in finance versus Tech Sales. The average finance person also makes way more than average SaaS worker. Tech sales only will pay well if you are the cream of the crop.
⭐ You don’t have to be an Account Executive. Not everyone should be. There are many other roles under the umbrella of tech sales. You will earn more than a vast majority of AEs who do not hit target. They typically come with less intensity and more free time: Sales development manager; partner manager; customer success manager.
📈 Before learning from someone or seeking their advice, look at the results they achieved and track record of promotion within organization. If no results, it usually means this person did not do well. The second thing I’d look at is tenure. A consistent < 2 years tenure with no results usually means this person did not perform well. Numbers do not lie.
🏃🏼♀️ The most important thing for success in any role is your mindset and habits. This takes massive amount of discipline. I am really strict with diet; fitness; time spent; social media usage and everything really. I operate on a structured calendar; exercise 4x a week; don’t watch shows much and journal weekly.
While the tech market is no longer as glorious or easy as before, this is a tremendous opportunity to double down on building our skill set.
Those who are serious about honing their craft, stay disciplined and focus will be successful in this environment.
Please whatsapp this article this to friends who might find it helpful.
The most underrated quality for success
One quality that I find absolutely essential for success but is often overlooked is inner strength.
Life has many challenges ahead which are all unpredictable.
If someone cannot take small hardships in life well, they will not be able to withstand bigger challenges in life.
For example, if your partner is not mentally and emotionally strong, how can you have a relationship that is built to last?
Many people have the wrong idea about strength.
They deal with setbacks via suppressing feelings or escaping (addiction to travel; alcohol; partying; food etc).
However, the foundation of strength is the ability to face and handle emotions well.
These are the very seeds that grow into discipline and resilience to ride through the many challenges we inevitably face in life.
The second misconception is not realizing that it is equally important for women to be strong.
As 杰耀 pointed out to me, there is this Chinese saying: 为母则强 (wei mu zhe gang).
To be a good mother; wife; important employee; leader or basically any important role in life requires immense emotional strength and discipline.
That is how we ride the ups and downs in whatever we set out to do; stay committed to our goals and serve as a stable foundation to the people we care for.
In my view, there are three steps:
Emotional strength basically begins with self-awareness.
In this world, it is hard to be self-aware with multiple distractions from our devices. Having time alone enables us to rest; connect with oneself and understand our own emotions and thoughts.
Writing is a great tool that many business leaders use to connect with themselves and organize their thoughts.
Having gratitude and keeping track regularly of the things you’re grateful for help keep your mind positive even in hard times.
I try to cultivate the habit of daily gratitude and think of three things I am grateful for. Sometimes, I write it in long form. Here is a snippet from my gratitude journal:
Invest in preparedness, not in prediction
We cannot predict every single risks. However, what we can do ensure we are prepared by building ourselves and ensuring a margin of safety.
Margin of safety is something we give to ourselves. As I shared in my post about my layoffs, a bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.
I once asked someone how come he had the confidence to keep giving so much to romantic relationships despite many setbacks.
He said in quiet confidence "I always give my best because if things fail, I know I can take it.”
I did not expect this answer at all and it really impressed me. I felt it really showed massive amount of strength to love bravely.
Reliance on others is often seen as a bad thing by some. I have a different view.
Leaning on others makes us stronger. When we try to break one chopstick, it is easy. However, bundle 100 chopsticks together and breaking them becomes difficult.
A few weeks ago, I had an accident. I was in a lot of pain and could not even do simple tasks like change my own shirt; cough or sneeze without feeling pain.
Someone came over to help with housework; another bought me dinner and my best friend also offered to deliver food to my house.
I am truly blessed to have people like this in my life. Relationships truly serve as a shield or safety net during hard times. During good times, they double our happiness.
I have been using the Remarkable for almost two years. Here is how I use it:
✏️ 1. Whiteboard: I prefer to whiteboard instead of using slides. With Remarkable, I can share my screen and whiteboard during meetings.
✏️ 2. Read pdfs: I read a lot of documents like fact sheets, quarterly reports, white papers etc. Reading them on Remarkable has been better for my eyes.
✏️ 3. Take notes during meetings: I try not to take notes with my phone as it does come across as rude. Using this device is usually a good conversation starter too.
I write for Millennials focusing on topics like work, money, relationships and health.
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