A Career in IT Sales

More than selling software

Internal components of a computer, fan, CPU, and power supply

TimeStopper/Getty Images


Go to most any business office, from the very small to those with a global reach, and you will find at least one thing in common: Computers. They are in every office, in most homes, hidden in pockets in the form of smartphones and carried in the form of tablets. And over 95% of these computers are connected to a network. That network may be the internet, or it could be connected to a LAN, WAN, MAN, or a MAN. They are part of topologies known as token rings, meshes, buses, and stars. And they represent a tremendous opportunity for technology-minded sales professionals.

A Brief Overview of IT Sales Positions

The world of computers and networks can be a confusing world. There seems to be no end to rapid changes that seem to "change everything" in the IT world. But there are some constants and consistently emerging trends that have created several IT-based sales careers.

In general, IT-based sales positions fall into the categories of hardware, software, and services. And while each is connected to the others (kind of like being part of the same network), they are unique from each other.

Hardware Sales

In the often confusing world of IT, the easiest parts to understand is the hardware. Essentially, if you can touch it, it is hardware. Hardware includes things like computers, switches, routers, hubs, monitors, servers, racks, blades and on and on. While the industry may be moving away from all this hardware, it is still a long way away from being "hardware-free."

The hardware sales industry is a very mature industry, meaning that there are many competitors selling the same things, with different price tags, different "value adds," and different bundled services. (More on services later.) What this competition and maturity have created is a selling environment that yields very little profit. When computers were first popularized, adding 25 to 30% profit to a deal was the norm. That profit margin has continued and continues to contract. Since very few individuals can earn an income selling hardware alone, most manufacturers either have inside sales forces that "dial for dollars" and sell their equipment at whatever price point that the market will bear, getting into a career as an IT hardware sales professional is probably not the most attractive option for many.

Software Sales

Computers would be useless if not for the software that ran on them. Whether the software is operating systems or accounting software, software sales are a billion dollar industry. And beyond the software that can be downloaded from the internet or purchased at your local big box store, are software sales professionals.

Software sales professionals are responsible for selling one specific type of software, often to a very specific industry. Software designed for the management of a dentist office is an example of industry-specific software. And most likely, the salesperson selling the software to the dentists of the world just sell software to dentists.

The reason for this specialty is to make sure that the sales professionals know the software inside and out. These custom designed software packages are almost always considered expensive and having someone who also has to have a full understanding of several software packages would limit their effectiveness.

Though not always the case, software sales professional earn significant incomes. That is as long as they sell! The challenge with these positions is that sales cycles are usually quite long, making the time between commission checks equally lengthy. But if you can live on the salary alone and have confidence in your ability to deliver, software sales may be a perfect choice for you.

Selling IT Services

Unless a business has an IT expert (or a team of experts) on staff, they are going to need help navigating their way through the world of IT. It is where an IT Services sales professional comes into play. And this is where a good sales professional can earn an incredible income.

Services come in many forms, from the simple service of running network cabling through a building to providing consulting services to a corporation as they consider virtualizing their data center. Services range greatly, as do the income potential of those selling the services.

Services are the glue that pulls the IT Sales world together. Those in IT Service Sales sell hardware solutions, coupled with software and often bundled with installation services. One rep that sells it all. Most IT service sales professionals work with a team of professionals who are experts in certain areas of the IT world, thus eliminating the almost impossible task of having to be an expert in everything.

Final Words

The world of IT sales is an every expanding one that is well suited for those with the technical aptitude, are willing to work in a rapidly changing world and who are money motivated. If you focus on just hardware, you may make plenty of sales, but your profits will be low. Sell nothing but hardware and your profits will be high but your sales will be infrequent and complicated. Sell services and combine the best of both hardware and software and open up a whole other world to explore and to earn income in.