12 Skills You Need to Thrive In a Startup Sales Job

Posted by Michael Pici



It is no secret that working at a startup requires a special skill set, but according to Mashable, a startup might be your best shot at a new job in 2013.  87% of tech startups plan to add seats during 2013, and most will surely looking to turn their developer man hours into revenue.

You would think with a still lagging overall economy and droves of college graduates entering the job market, startups would have an easy time finding suitors.  Interestingly, 9 out of 10 tech startups said it was challenging to find employees that “fit their needs”.

The list below details my personal startup sales experience, and what I believe to be the most important skills a salesperson can possess (or be working to improve) to get serious love from HR departments. (If startups had HR departments)


Be willing to learn every day


First, learn your product inside and out, and make sure you keep up with the constant changes to the UI and functionality.  Next, take on projects that require you to learn a ton about your industry and truly become an expert in the field.  Before you know it, you will have wisdom beyond your years.

Have the desire to make a difference

Startups love making money, but the best startups (and ones that make a LOT of money) have a mission to change something big.  

Inspire everyone you speak to

When you are on a mission to change something big, you are going to have to brush up on your persuasion skills.  But in order to be able to truly inspire someone, you yourself need to be inspired.  Aim to work with a company that you wholeheartedly believe in.

Resist the urge to sell....just be helpful instead

Times have changed.  People can sniff out a salesperson like never before, but are not adverse to having a passionate and educated advisor listen to them and point them in the right direction.

Be able to connect with the right people

C-Level executives don’t just accept unsolicited emails and LinkedIn invites.  How do you plan on getting them on your team?


Embrace and be comfortable with change

Time is counted in dog years at a startup.  Get ready to have your world flipped upside down at least once per quarter.  Whether it is moving offices, changing seats, having new co-workers, managers, or investors; the only constant will be change.    

Know how to generate leads

I know you don’t want to cold call, and you would probably rather cold call then go to a trade show.  Here is some really great news...there is this thing called Google, and people go there to find answers to their questions.  Learn Inbound Marketing.

Be a consultant

Yes, I know you sell a product, but you need to forget about your product.  Be the human Wikipedia in your space, and give people real advice and help.  That’s what your prospects are really interested in.

Differentiate from the pack

Chances are that other companies will do similar, or possibly the exact same thing that yours does.  Why should we go with you?

Have tough negotiation chops

People can smell a startup a mile away....it smells like....half price!!!  It is generally understood that tech startups are looking to grow at any price, so be ready to negotiate.  If you care to brush up on your negotiation skills, check out this article.

What does 9 to 5 mean?

This really is not a skill, but worth mentioning anyways.  Working in a startup requires dedication, passion, and downright will power.  Generally if you are passionate about what you are doing, this should not be a problem.  But before you take the plunge, you will need to decide if you are really up to the challenge.

Tell a great story

In my experience the one thing that separates good salespeople from the great, is the ability to inspire through storytelling.  Nail your story.


Most of these skills are interconnected.  The most important thing a salesperson can bring to a startup is dedication, passion and energy.  If you believe in your cause and act as a consultant, the sky is the limit.