Tips for Sales Representatives – Resume, Cover Letter and Networking

by Sharon Elber

Sales Representatives

If you are looking for your next great job in sales, you have come to the right place. We will explore tips and advice for writing an outstanding cover letter and resume for sales rep jobs. In addition, if you aren’t making the most of networking in the job search, read on to learn more.

Having a hard time landing that sales interview? Make sure you are following these best practices:

1) Leverage Hard Data

Perhaps more than any other occupation, people who work in sales need to be able to demonstrate their value to potential employers by showing past results that meet, and even better, exceed expectations, quotas, or average sales figures for other sales reps in the office.

When applying for jobs in sales you should always try to bring the narrative back to your past results, and be sure to have some hard data in the form of gross annual sales, impressive lead generation statistics, and honors or awards you have earned with your salesmanship. For example, if you were the top salesperson in your office for the last three quarters, that information should be easy to find on your resume and cover letter.

Whenever possible, use actual numbers to represent your accomplishments in previous sales jobs. Use dollar amounts, percentages, and other statistics to get numbers on your application documents wherever possible. This has the effect of making your document more convincing to those who are looking for a sales rep who will deliver.

2) Relationship Building

Once you have made sure to get as much result-oriented data as you can on your resume, the next big priority for most sales jobs is related to lead generation and relationship building. These are two pieces of the same puzzle. They forge that path to long term relationships with valued customers who come back year after year. For most businesses, relationship building is the foundation of a sustainable business model.

This skill set can be discussed both qualitatively and quantitatively. If possible, include both on your resume and cover letter. For example, including a few snippets from outstanding customer feedback left with your name on the company’s Yelp page is a way to showcase your relationship building qualitatively. On the other hand, sharing that you generated 175 warm leads last year, 150% higher than the next highest sales rep, is an impressive way to showcase your people skills with data that is impossible to second guess.

3) Keywords for Jobs in Sales

Many employers these days use computer programs known as Applicant Tracking Systems to perform the first round of review on the resumes and cover letters they receive. This is particularly likely if you find yourself applying for a job using an online application portal or if you have sent your resume in electronically. These programs use keywords to rank the top applicants and may even decide which of the first set of applications is tossed before it is ever reviewed by a human.

The first place to look for keyword to use on your resume is the job ad itself. Often the same people writing the ad will choose the keywords for the ATS. Things like required and preferred qualifications are best mirrored in your resume, near the top where possible. In addition, try to use synonyms when using action verbs in your work history section, this way you are increasing your odds of hitting the types of exact wording the ATS is looking for.

Below you will find a list of likely keywords for sales jobs, although make sure you prioritize the individual job ad before drawing from this list:

  • Relationship building
  • Lead generation
  • Account management
  • CRM
  • CMS
  • Motivated
  • Closing
  • Client retention
  • Client acquisition
  • Direct marketing
  • Team building
  • Customer loyalty
  • Brand management
  • Cold calling
  • Negotiation
  • Networking
  • Pitch
  • Persuasive
  • Driven
  • Goal-oriented
  • Active listening
  • Price setting

Salesperson Resume

Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of the perfect resume for someone looking for a job in sales. This next section of our comprehensive guide will help you make important decisions about how to best format your sales resume, design tips, and how to frame important sections to put your best foot forward.

1) Resume Format for Sales Jobs

There are no hard rules when it comes to how you format your sales resume. However, usually, the best choice is a hybrid format. This style combines the traditional reverse chronological (focused on work history, most recent job first) and the functional (more of a skills-centered resume with very brief work history sections).

The key to using a hybrid format is to decide which sections of your resume will best showcase your most important attributes and accomplishments nearest the top. Note that there could be some differences as to what is “most relevant” depending on the job you are applying for. Using the hybrid format, you can slightly alter each section, and even the order it appears on your resume, in order to highlight your fit for each sales job that you apply for.

On the other hand, if you have an extensive work history in sales, and that is your biggest sales pitch for an advanced position, then the reverse chronological format is probably your best friend. The trick will be to make the most of each work history section by using impressive numbers where possible to demonstrate impressive results and strong leadership skills in your past jobs.

2) Resume Sections for Sales Reps

As noted above, the exact order of your resume sections, as well as the details you use to fill them out, can change from one job application to the next. The key is to first figure out what the employer is most interested in, and put your qualifications that match that need nearest the top of the resume and within each section, so the hiring manager won’t have to hunt for what they are most interested in.

Here are a few of the most common sections used, along with some tips on filling them out:

  • Contact Information
  • Professional Summary
  • Achievements and Awards
  • Skills
  • Experience

i) Professional Summary

This is going to be the first thing the hiring manager looks at. This is your elevator pitch. This is your big moment. Don’t waste it!

Unlike the old “Objective Statement” this isn’t about what you are looking for. Everyone already knows what you are looking for! This statement (or a sentence with a short list of very impressive stats to back it up) is about what you bring to the table. It needs to wow the reader as much as possible and draw them in to getting to know you better by taking the rest of the content on your sales rep resume seriously.

Just like you would use the name of a new potential client when delivering a pitch, you want to name the company and address the most important needs they have which you can find by carefully reviewing the job ad. This statement should leverage the most impressive results-oriented data you have to back up the claim you are making for why you are the top candidate.

If you are inexperienced with sales, you should make your case based on any data you do have showing that you are good at relationship building and that you are achievement oriented. That is, it is a professional statement that makes the case that you are a go getter who is highly motivated to succeed and are looking for your chance to make an impact at the company where you are applying.

ii) Achievements and Awards

Adding this section to your resume is a great idea, but only if you have achievements and awards that are impressive in the sales context. For example, if you grossed over $1M in sales last year, this is a major accomplishment and it has the advantage of getting another impressive stat on your resume. On the other hand, coming in first for a volunteer fun just isn’t worth mentioning.

3) Resume Design for Sales

The most important aspect of any resume is that it is very skimable with the eye drawn to the most important aspects of your candidacy showing that you are the top salesperson for the job. This means avoiding irrelevant information and carefully curating the information that you do decide to keep.

In addition, the use of infographics that can display a lot of impressive data in very little space can be an excellent addition to the modern sales resume. For example, showing your sales figures growing over time might be a way to create a visual impression on the reader that says more than words. Note that if you decide to include graphics, they are likely to be missed by the ATS, so be sure keywords are used in the text as well.

Finally, design is very important for sales jobs, particularly for advanced jobs that are likely to include a fair amount of marketing skills. Being able to showcase yourself is a case study in how you will represent the company. If you lack strong design skills, consider hiring a professional resume editor or using a strong template to be sure you are checking this all-important box.

See sales resume samples.

Sales Rep Cover Letter

Let’s take a closer look at the sales cover letter. This is your chance to introduce yourself in a way that immediately begins to sell your candidacy for the job. Here are a few tips for making an impression:

1) Use Bullet Points

Even just 10 years ago, the standard career advice was to avoid using bullet points on the cover letter because it was intended to be a more formal document. However, that is no longer the case. In fact, for jobs in sales, the opposite is true. You can almost always say more in less space with bullet points while also making your cover letter easier to read.

Here’s the thing: You cannot be generic with your bullet points or this plan will backfire. Rather, this valuable real estate should be about convincing the hiring manager that you meet their biggest hiring priorities, backed up with hard, results oriented data. Consider adding a bold font on most impressive phrases that include numbers, just to make them pop.

Here are a few examples of what great cover letter bullet points might look like:

  • Proven Track Record: Salesperson of the year 4 years in a row.
  • Outstanding Client Relationships: 95% client retention over 7 years working with fortune 500’s.
  • Excellent Leadership: Increased team sales from the previous manager by 57%, achieving 87% over quarterly projections.

2) Name Your Contacts

More often than not, sales work is people work. If you have a professional contact that recommended you for the job or who works at the company (provided you have alerted them in advance) then, by all means, include this information in your cover letter.

Naming your contacts isn’t tacky. Instead, it shows that you know how to leverage your relationships, a critical aspect of sales. And, it gets your foot a little farther in the door by potentially bringing someone into the hiring decision that can speak positively on your behalf.

3) Research First

One of the best ways to craft a memorable cover letter is to take your time to research the company and their marketplace before you sit down to write your letter. Who are their customers? What techniques are they using to reach them? What is their product and what are the main tenants of their branding philosophy? Finally, why are YOU the right person for the sales job given what you now know about them and the unique qualifications you bring to the table?

Just like working with clients, you already know that people appreciate it when you invest a little time to learn about them before you make contact. The same is true for employers. When you go the extra mile before crafting your application materials, you will find that your chances of landing the interview are greatly improved.

See sales cover letter samples.

Networking for People in Sales

If you work in sales, then you should already be a wiz at online and in person networking. After all, so much of your work involves establishing and maintaining relationships. No tools make that easier than social media and professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn.

Given that most people in sales have the basics down, we are assuming you know that you need to have complete and up to date profiles on your social media platforms, have plenty of business cards to pass out at social events and professional conventions, and also have a handle on participating in online and in person networking opportunities.

Instead, let’s focus on a few tips for how to leverage your networks during a job search in sales:

1) Expand Your Reach

During the job search you probably have more time to spend on expanding your social network. This is a great time to join new groups on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Look for opportunities to engage with new people from a variety of walks of life. Follow movers and shakers in your sector and engage with others who regularly post insightful comments on their posts.

Don’t be afraid to let people know that you are looking for your next opportunity to excel in sales. In general, people love to be helpful. Even a new contact may be aware of a great job that you would otherwise be unaware of.

2) Reach Out to Old Contacts

Spend some time reaching out to people that you have lost touch with. Ask them how they are doing and show a general interest. If you can, offer to be helpful or connect them with someone else in your network who can be. For example, if they share that they are considering selling their home, offer to put them in touch with a realtor friend of yours who only takes new clients from referrals.

Once you have renewed your connection, let them know about your current job search. Be sure to frame it in a positive way and ask them to keep you in the loop if they hear about any opportunities that would be a good fit. Here is an example of what that might look like:

So glad I could help with getting you in touch with Tim. He gets great results and he is very easy to work with. As for me, I am ready to spread my wings a bit and take the next step in my career. After succeeding in sales for 7 years, and knocking it out of the park as a shift manager over here at A1 Auto Sales for the last 2 years, I am ready to move into a sales management position. I know you have a wide network of professional contacts, so if you hear about anyone looking for someone who excels at leading a sales team, please feel free to give me a heads up.

3) Master LinkedIn

Chances are, you already have a LinkedIn profile and hopefully it is up to date. Or, you may have invested your social media time on another platform, such as Facebook, because it makes more sense for your target market. Either way, using a platform and mastering a platform are two different ball games.

Now is the time to develop some real skills in using social media platforms to both build your professional network (such as other people working and recruiting in sales) as well as your potential client network (which may or may not be on the same platform). This means researching the tools available to you, considering the value of specialized premium accounts, and investing some time in learning data management software designed to analyze traffic, engagement, and conversions.

Not only can this radically expand your reach in terms of being visible to recruiters for sales jobs, but it can also become a valuable asset on your resume while in the job search. These days, demonstrating your client reach can be one important way to show an employer that one of the assets you bring to the table is a potential client list full of warm leads. In addition, mastering the art of using social media to cultivate warm leads and customer engagement is one of the most in demand skillsets many hiring managers are keen to find in new sales reps.

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