How to Write a Great Sales Resume

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the recruitment industry my entire professional career and have spent virtually all of that time helping clients hire sales, marketing and professional services staff at all levels, so I’ve read through a few sales resumes during that time.

I remember my first manager in recruitment telling me, “A resume is a tool to get to a first interview, nothing more.” While that was quite some time ago, I still completely agree. A resume should provide the reader with enough information to make an assessment as to whether or not it resumewould be worthwhile including you in the process (assuming you get it into the hands of a human being). It should answer the question “Is this person someone I should talk to?” This means that if you’re looking for a new job, you probably need to change elements of your resume for each position you apply for, just as you would a cover letter. It is widely suggested that a resume should be written in the first person and the writer should eliminate any unnecessary verbiage and make clean, declarative statements.

At the top of resumes, we see a lot of objectives– such as “Looking to join a forward-thinking company, where I can continue to develop my skills.” Sound familiar? Most of the objectives I read all sound pretty similar to one another and a little generic. Rather than call it an Objective, consider changing it to Career Summary.

The aim of the Career Summary is to provide a brief overview of what you do, what you have done and who you are – this summary needs to highlight why you may be the person who is the solution to the hiring company’s problem. You have a short window to attract the reader’s attention (current thinking is somewhere between 25-35 seconds!), so think about what content you could include which should generate the reaction you are looking for. For example:

“An accomplished sales professional with a track record of achieving revenue goals (from $1.3-$4m annually) through diligent territory management practices and high activity levels. During the last 10 years, has built commercial relationships with C-level executives across the retail industry, focusing on big box retailers.”

For a company that sells payroll services to the SME market, this summary might not work – sodata change it! One size does not fit all and you’ll need to review your resume for each application to ensure it presents you in the best way. Format your resume so it reads easily and grabs the reader’s attention (layout, font type, font size and bullet points make a huge difference).  One thing rings true – generic statements not backed up with data can kill your chances of getting an interview. For example:

  • Increased sales pipeline 200% during the first 6 months– 200% of what? How do you define pipeline? What percentage of the pipeline did you subsequently close?
  • Generated multiple opportunities in new named accounts – What does this actually tell me? Does an “opportunity” mean a sale?
  • Closed business with 3 companies in one month – Who were they? What was the value of these sales? If you’ve been there 12 months, what about the other 11? Is everyone else closing 10 deals per month?

Some simple tips to help your resume stand out include:

  • A hyperlink to every company you have worked for. Rather than highlighting the name of the company you worked for, make it easy for the reader to find out what that company did by hyperlinking the company name to the company website. If the company is out of business, a one sentence line such as “$25m provider of payroll services with 25 sales people’” will suffice. Listing your employer as J. L. Watts doesn’t help me as a resume reader. J.L. Watts (www.jlwatts.com) does.
  • What do you do for that employer?
    • “Hired as part of a new team to help expand sales of new product into existing account base.”
    • “Tasked with generating new business revenue in the states of TX, OK, LA, and AK as part of a team of 12, reporting into a VP Sales.”
    • “Joined an inside sales team of 10, selling to clients over the phone, utilizing WebEx demonstrations.”
  • Provide some meaningful data and highlight accomplishments. Most sales people have goals. In some instances, companies do not set goals, so you should set some of your own:
Year Goal Achieved %
2014 $400,000 $360,000 90%
2013 $400,000 $418,000 105%
2012 $350,000 $372,000 106%

Talk about companies you have sold to (or markets they are in), how long a sales cycle tended to take, what kind of sales approach you adopted, your biggest order value and your average order value. Do this for each company. An example might be:

‘”Selling to automotive suppliers, I built long-term relationships with Procurement Directors and CFO’s. Sales cycles ranged from 2 – 8 months and I was successful in closing business with a range of companies including a tier one audio provider ($450k), a GPS manufacturer ($180k) and a linings manufacturer ($220k).”

You could then add a table, like the one above, to highlight annual performance. Highlight any training you have had on your resume – some companies like to see what sales training you have received. Challenger, SPIN, Miller Heiman, etc. and consider including your LinkedIn profile link on the resume (it will probably be viewed anyway). Just make sure it mirrors your resume!

Be brave with your resume, stand out, follow-up and focus on how you can use it to make sure you get that first interview.  Good luck!

Written by: Douglas FowlerDouglas

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