On average it takes about 5 months to find a job. You have to consider personal factors such as your long term career goals, the type of company culture you’d like to work in, and technical components such as how to organize your resume and how to stand out in your interview.
Luckily, there are lots of ways you can prepare yourself for the sales hiring process. This article will take you through how to find a job with the right fit, organize your sales resume, and most importantly, nail the sales interview.
Start by Finding Companies You Love
Successful people like what they do and are passionate about the company they work for. Given you will spend 90,000 hours of your life working, you don’t want to settle for just any job.
Before you send out any applications, you want to research the companies you may be interested in working for. Look into their company culture, current management team, and general history. By doing a quick Google search, you can find any recent or past news about the company, as well as articles that will give you a better idea of the company culture.
To learn more about the people currently working there, use networking sites such as LinkedIn and check out their page on Glassdoor.
Prepare a List of Sales Skills
Once you have an idea of the places you’d like to apply to, you have to start working on your resume. When preparing your sales resume, you want to include a mix of soft and hard skills.
It’s helpful to have more skills than may be needed for each job because you want to customize your resume to what each company is looking for.
The skills you list are meant to highlight what makes you an exceptional salesperson. Here are a few traits that you’ll want to showcase on your resume:
At the end of the day, sales is all about closing deals. Therefore, your success will be measured by how many deals you are closing, whether or not you’re making quotas, etc.
If you’ve had a sales job in the past, you want to have clear examples of how you met your past sales goals. Including numbers is especially important because it makes it easier for managers to understand the direct impact you had.
Don’t have any past sales experience? No need to worry. You can still mention a time in your professional career when you have achieved or exceeded desired results. While it may not be a sales-related example, it still shows that you have a strong desire to make your goals.
Possible Skills to List: Results-oriented personality, ability to persevere
Example to Include in Resume: Increased revenue of my division by over 35% in 7 months.
Good Communication Skills
Communication is an extremely important part of sales. As a salesperson, you have to think of communication as a two-way street. Your ability to listen to your prospect is just as important, if not more important, than talking.
It’s your job to effectively communicate the value your prospect will receive by using your product. When you listen, it’s easier to understand your prospect’s pain points and goals and ultimately address them.
Possible Skills to List: Proven written and verbal communication skills, industry knowledge, attention to detail
Example to Include in Resume: Ability to analyze customer interactions and customize the sales process to their needs
Successful salespeople are constantly learning. Being naturally curious about your company, the products, customers/prospects, the industry, will drive you to improve upon your skills.
Additionally, as a salesperson, prospective customers will ask many questions and you’ll be expected to have the answers. Without curiosity, anticipating the questions you may be asked will be quite difficult.
Possible Skills to List: Willingness to learn and improve
Example to Include in Resume: Drive to continue learning new sales techniques and increase product knowledge.
Ability to Close Deals
In sales, you have to have the desire and perseverance to close deals. It’s your job to determine when you can overcome objections and when you know a prospect is unwilling to buy (regardless of how great your product is).
Understanding the best way to follow up with prospects will significantly increase your odds of closing deals. Regardless of your skills, you won’t be able to close every deal, so having the motivation to move forward and continue to pursue leads is very important.
Possible Skills to List: Experience in client acquisition and retention, proven ability to close deals
Example to Include in Resume: Outperformed quota by an average of 18% during 3 years at my previous company.
Writing and Formatting Your Sales Resume
The goal of your resume is to show your prospective employer you are the best candidate for the job. You can effectively communicate this by including the right information and organizing it in a way that’s easy to read.
The meat of your resume will be detailing past work experience and framing it in a way that is applicable to the jobs you’re applying for. Aside from the typical resume information (educational background, current job title, previous job start and end dates) you’ll want to include some sales-specific information.
Here are the things recruiters will be looking for on a sales resume:
Sales Metrics: sales revenue, quota percentage, closing ratio, profit increases, new customer acquisition, customer retention, etc.
Relevant Keywords: For example, if the job description mentions “Proven written and verbal communication skills” include that phrase verbatim in your resume.
Skills Related to the Job: Customize the skills you include to each role you apply for. Every job will want something a little different and including relevant skills is one of the best ways to make sure your application gets noticed.
Past Career Wins: There’s no such thing as bragging on a resume. Feel free to mention relevant sales honors such as awards, recognitions, and certifications.
Key Differentiators: Remember that you are one in a pool of applicants. Highlight any unique skills or job experience you have.
There are a lot of great resume templates available online. These are really helpful because they give you an idea of how best to organize your resume.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to steer away from anything flashy or colorful. Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple and uncluttered.
Your resume should be organized, clear, and easy to follow. Properly formatting your resume will show that you have an eye for detail. Here are some general tips for formatting your resume:
Font: The bulk of your resume should be in either size 10, 11, or 12 font. Feel free to make your name and section titles slightly larger. Stick to professional-looking fonts, there is no need to get too creative here
Margins: Your margins should be no less than half an inch around the page
Reverse chronological order: You want to put your most recent job experience right at the top so it’s the first thing a recruiter sees
Sections to include: You must include your contact information, work experience, skills, awards/certifications, education, and language skills
Break up the text: Use bold, italics, and underlining to separate the text and make the document easier to read
Less is more: Try to keep your resume to 1 page. Having a resume that is multiple pages long will not do you any good.
So your resume made the cut and now you’re on to the interviewing stage. Congrats! A sales interview is your opportunity to sell your personality, prove your skills, and express how you’ll add value to the company.
While interviews can cause a lot of anxiety, there’s plenty of prep you can do before so you can go into the interview with your best foot forward.
How to Mentally Prepare for an Interview:
For your interview, it’s best to go into it like a sales pitch. Instead of pitching a product or service, your goal is to effectively communicate the value that you will bring to the company.
It’s natural to be a bit nervous before going into your interview. But you’ll want to do what you can to combat those nerves. In your role as a salesperson, you’ll be required to interact with a lot of people, so your interviewer will want to get a good idea of your personality. The last thing you want is for any anxiety to get in your way.
Here are a few quick tips to calm the pre-interview nerves:
Visualize the interview going well
Take a few deep breaths
Imagine you’ve already got the job
Practice before the interview
Sales Interview Attire:
According to a Harvard study, it takes just 7 seconds to make a first impression, and 55% of that judgment is based on your appearance. So whether you’re doing an interview in person or over Zoom, what you wear matters.
Starting with a top, both men and women should stick to solid colors. White, blue, and pastel colors look best. You want to make sure your shirt isn’t too baggy, doesn’t have wrinkles, and is tucked in properly.
For men, depending on which industry you are interviewing for, you may want to wear a tie. Choose something simple that goes well with your shoes and top. When you put your tie on, check that it’s the right length. A good rule of thumb is the tip of the tie should sit at the middle of your belt buckle when you stand up straight.
When it comes to bottoms (women can opt for dress pants or a simple pencil skirt) stick to a neutral color like black or grey. Pair your outfit with a simple brown or black closed-toe dress shoe.
Lastly, keep the details in mind. Check to make sure you have no stains, wrinkles, or scuffs on your shoes. If you wear a belt, make sure it matches your shoes, and keep accessories to a minimum. An interview isn’t the time to display your flashiest outfit, so keep it simple and tailored.
Success Starts by Taking Action
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The great thing about an interview is that you can do a lot of prep beforehand. While you may not be able to predict every question you will be asked, there are some common types of questions you can expect. Here are some examples of questions you may be asked, and how you can answer them:
1. How do you keep up with the latest industry trends in sales?
At its core, this question is not just asking about your industry knowledge. The question is meant to gauge your level of interest in sales, and your commitment to learning. Is sales just a job you think about during work hours, or are you improving upon your skills in your free time as well?
You should anticipate a question such as this and do a bit of research so you have examples that demonstrate you are proactive in your training. Come equipped with a great statistic or relevant news article that relates to the company or industry you are applying for. You can also bring up some sales books or podcasts that help you stay informed.
2. With your last job, how much time did you spend between acquiring new business and account management?
In sales, it’s important to both maintain and cultivate customer relationships. This question is asking how you use your time management skills to balance the two.
Some companies may place a higher value on acquiring new business compared to maintaining accounts, or vice versa. Even with research, it may be difficult to tell which the company you’re applying for prefers. The best thing to do is to come prepared with an honest and clear explanation of the percentage of time you spend on each.
3. What are three important qualifying questions you ask every prospect?
For this question, there isn’t one right answer. The goal of the question is to gain a better understanding of how you qualify your prospects. Your answer will give your interviewer an idea of your natural sales instincts and the kind of sales training you may have received in the past.
By doing some background research on the company you are interviewing with, you can get an idea of the types of questions you are expected to ask in the industry. And to really impress your interviewer, you can even narrow it down to what questions you would ask your prospect when selling a particular product or service.
4. How do you build trust with your prospects?
Building trust between you and your prospect is a crucial part of the sales process. People don’t do business with people they don’t trust. Your prospect needs to know that you understand their needs before you present your product or service.
In your answer, you want to show that you have a strategy to gain your prospect’s confidence. You should mention that you will build trust by asking questions, actively listening to their needs, and framing the product in terms of the value they will receive.
5. Name a time when you overcame an objection and how you did it?
Objections come up often in sales. Your interviewer will want to be certain that you can counter any push-back and drive the sale home, even with the most reluctant prospects.
Since objections come in many forms (price, time, value objections) feel free to talk about an objection you feel most confident combatting.
Important things to mention include are: the kinds of follow-up questions you ask your prospect when they express hesitation, how you reinforce the product's value, and how you have helped clients in similar situations.
Getting a job in sales can take a lot of time and effort.
While it can be frustrating at times, know that the effort you put in will help you find a job that is the perfect fit for you.