Interested in Working in Sales at a Startup?

Working in Sales at a Startup

If you have a competitive drive, an aptitude to learn quickly, and a passion for conversing with all sorts of people, sales may be the field for you.  Successful salespeople excel at building rapport with clients and educating them on their product—which means that salespeople are often on the phone from the time they get into the office to the time they leave. Salespeople may make over 50 calls a day to people they know really well and to people they have never met before.

Startups are one of the fastest growing areas of sales with high technology companies sometimes doubling the size of their sales force in a given year.

Background Required

If you are interested in working at a tech startup but do not have a technical background, don’t let that stop you from applying. One of the most important aspects of being a salesperson is knowing your product extremely well and then believing in its usefulness to your client. So, whether you have a background in marketing, business administration, or even sociology or art history, if sales sounds like it is a good match for your outgoing and challenge-seeking nature, go for it!  Just make sure to do your research to understand the problem a company solves, and how they solve it for their customers.

The Interview

After you have discovered that sales is a great fit for you and have gotten the interview, there are some important things you should know about the interview process. Usually, you will first have a phone screen and then one or two rounds of in-person interviews so that you can meet the team with whom you will potentially work. For sales positions, the personality and culture fit are very important—think of the in-person interview as a test to see if you and the employer would enjoy each other’s company at a social gathering.

Hiring managers will engage in a discussion with you to learn about your personality and to hear about your enthusiasm for sales as well as your adaptability. They may ask you questions just to see if you are a good conversationalist to get a feel for how you may interact with clients.

Interview Questions

Some interview questions include:

  • What is one problem that you faced, and what steps did you take to solve it?
  • Explain the value that you added to a company from prior sales experiences (the number of sales you made, the amount of appointments you booked…)
  • Describe a time when you wanted something and how you got it.
  • What is the last thing you sold to someone? (this can be a matter of convincing a group of an idea, your parents to fund your spring break, or your friend to help you move out of your dorm).


Did you know that within three years of working as a sales representative, it is possible to earn a six figure salary? As a salesperson, you have the potential to earn more than the CEO of your company over time! The base salary for business development representatives at startups ranges from $35,000 to $60,000 for the first year, but with a strong work ethic and a penchant for taking initiative, you can quickly move up in the ranks and eventually earn commissions that comprise up to 50 percent of your overall pay.

Where you’ll be in 5 years

After working in sales for a couple of years, where will you go from there? That largely depends on your interests, since experience as a salesperson can lead to multiple career options. Many salespeople choose to pursue sales leadership roles, gaining increased responsibility within a company. As a position in sales provides you with a great overview of business, you may choose to go into finance or marketing, or even start your own business. Beginning in a startup can give you the foundation to take your skills to a variety of industries, from food service to technology.

To learn more, check out what professionals from Acquia, VM Turbo, Toast and others think here!

By Phil Strazzulla
Phil Strazzulla CEO