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Common Tech Sales Roles: Understanding Key Positions, Skills, and Compensation in the Industry

RepVue Editorial Team
RepVue Editorial TeamDec 7, 2023

When considering a role in tech sales, it’s critical to understand the terminology used within the industry for different jobs so that you can evaluate which role best fits your skill set. 

There are several different factors to consider. but the most important is to understand the responsibilities of each role and what level of experience is required. It’s also helpful to understand the range of compensation at different levels, as well as the typical quota that you’ll be expected to hit.

Below is a list of common tech sales roles with high-level summaries of what they do, how much they make, and more.

Sales Development Representative (SDR)

  • What do they do: Create opportunities for the sales organization
  • Experience needed: 0 to 2 years, any job
  • Median total compensation: $80K
  • How is success measured: Opportunities or appointments created
  • Typical quota: 10 to 25 per month

An SDR role is often an entry level position. Some orgs will hire for this role as a first job right out of college,  and some don’t even require a college degree. Other orgs will want to see some experience in sales — but you can get creative with that. Maybe you have experience selling advertisements for your school newspaper, or even raising money for a community organization. If you can tell a good story about what skills and traits helped you succeed in this type of sales role, you can likely use that as material for your SDR interview. It’s a sales role,  so sell yourself!

See Sales Development Representative Salaries

Small-to-Medium Business (SMB) Account Executive

  • What do they do: Close new business for the sales organization
  • Experience needed: 1 to 3 years, some kind of selling experience
  • Median total compensation: $130K
  • How is success measured: Signing new logos/customers
  • Typical quota: $650K annual contract value (ACV) per year 

Once someone has proven that they have the basic skills needed to be successful in an SDR role or other junior sales roles, they can then interview for an SMB Account Executive (AE) role. The main difference between an SDR and an AE is that instead of having a goal of scheduling meetings, an AE’s job is to close deals. 

For SMB, deals will usually be relatively small — and often you’ll be selling to other smaller organizations. Of course, deal size depends on the company and the type of product that you’re selling. But for a software company, an SMB deal is usually on the order of $10–$25K per year. 

If quota is $650K per year and average deal size is $15K, then you’re looking at closing roughly 40–45 deals per year — or roughly one per week. That means that you’ll need a steady pipeline of deals, with sales cycles that are relatively short (30–60 days). When interviewing for a role, make sure to ask about these factors as they’ll be critical to your success.

See SMB Account Executive Salaries

How AE Quotas are Set

In SaaS your OTE, or on-target earnings, will typically be about 20% of your quota. That makes the economics of SaaS work. So in a role where you make $150K OTE, you’ll likely have an annual quota that’s somewhere around $750K.

Learn more about how AE quotas are set here.

Enterprise Account Executive

  • What do they do: Close new business for the sales organization
  • Experience needed: 4 to 8+ years, closing experience
  • Median total compensation: $250K (can exceed $350K)
  • How is success measured: Signing new logos/customers
  • Typical quota: $1.2M ACV in a year (annual contract value)

The main difference between SMB and Enterprise Account Executive roles is the size of the deals that they work on. For an Enterprise Account Executives, average deal size is usually $100K–$250K annually. This means that you’ll be working on a smaller number of larger deals, with longer sales cycles. 

To be successful in this role, you’ll need to be able to manage your pipeline over a much longer timeframe. This means building and nurturing relationships over the long term. To be successful in this role enterprise sales executives need to be able to deliver value to prospects throughout the sales process to earn their trust and nurture opportunities. This is a much less transactional role than an SMB Account Executive role. Success still requires consistent activity. However, at the enterprise level the best sellers differentiate themselves with their discipline and patience. 

Another factor that is absolutely critical to success in an Enterprise Sales Executive role is what accounts or what territory you can work. Oftentimes the longest tenured reps have a stranglehold on the best accounts — this allows them to hit or exceed quota quarter after quarter — whereas newer reps with less-desirable territories will struggle. This is a key question to ask about in interviews if you’re considering joining a new org as an enterprise rep. How are accounts assigned? What does lead flow look like? How are other new reps doing at 6, 12, or 18 months? What kind of ramp period is provided for reps as they get started to help them get up to speed?

See Enterprise Account Executive Salaries

Account Manager (SMB and Enterprise)

  • What do they do: Manage relationships of key accounts
  • Experience needed: 2 to 8 years, selling experience likely required
  • Median total compensation: $125K
  • How is success measured: Growing an existing customer set
  • Typical quota: Structure will vary but account “basket” growth + upsells are common

Customer Success Manager (SMB and Enterprise)

  • What do they do: Grow, retain, support existing customer base
  • Experience needed: 2 to 6 years, relationship or support role
  • Median total compensation: $125K
  • How is success measured: Renewal and satisfaction of existing customers
  • Typical quota: Structure will vary, but net revenue retention (NRR) quotas for a customer set are common 

Account Manager and Customer Success roles are similar in that they are primarily responsible for retaining and growing existing customer accounts, as opposed to signing new customers. As such they tend to have slightly higher average quota attainment figures compared to account executives. 

These roles tend to be more predictable/less volatile than account executive roles. In most cases, they also have less upside — as evidenced by lower top-earner amounts. If you feel more comfortable delivering on established commitments and nurturing relationships over the long-term  rather than trying to break into new accounts, then an Account Manager / Customer Success role might be a great fit for you.

What’s the difference between Account Management and Customer Success? 

In many cases, Account Manager and Customer Success Manager are just different names for the same role. Customer Success is a newer role. This job title rose in popularity along with the rise of the SaaS industry after 2010. Account Management roles have been commonplace in enterprise software and other industries for decades. 

In some orgs, Account Management is more focused on developing large enterprise accounts and finding upsell opportunities, whereas Customer Success roles often focus on trying to drive adoption of a solution with the primary goals of expanding usage and ensuring annual renewals.

See Account Manager and Customer Success Salaries

Sales Engineer

  • What do they do: Provide technical pre-sales support to sellers
  • Experience needed: 2 to 6+ years, technical/product skills typically required
  • Median total compensation: $200K (can be higher)
  • How is success measured: Overall success of territory supported is common
  • Typical quota: Structure will vary but could be tied to a territory or set of AEs

Sales Engineers are product experts who are part of the go-to-market (GTM) team. They help account executives answer detailed and more complex questions. They will often help an account executive to map out how a solution would apply for a specific prospect. 

Usually sales engineers have their variable compensation tied to the success of a team of AEs who they are partnered with, so they don’t have their own quota that they are responsible for hitting. Given that, this is a great role for someone who likes helping others and enjoys being part of a team, but would prefer not to have the stress of carrying their own personal quota or prospecting.

See Sales Engineer Salaries

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