Sales jobs are filled with high highs (hello, commission checks!) and low lows (looking at you, high quotas and unreasonable customers), but most sales representatives derive great satisfaction from their work. If you love the thrill of the hunt, the art of negotiating, and the sense of accomplishment that accompanies a freshly signed contract, sales might be the perfect industry for you.
Sales is a diverse space, spanning a variety of roles, levels, mediums, and organizations. You could sell directly to consumers or to businesses, close all of your deals over the phone or in person, specialize in finding new leads or sell exclusively to enterprise-level organizations. And virtually every company across virtually every industry employs sales representatives. So your options are practically endless.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro in the market for a new account executive opportunity or a relative novice looking to break into a business development role (also called a sales development role, depending on the company), you’ll need a compelling sales resume to capture a prospective employer’s attention. Here’s how to write yours.
Include These Key Sales Facts
While the sales industry is vast and varied, there are a few essential elements that every standout sales resume should feature prominently. They include:
- Where you have sold/regions you’ve managed (e.g. San Francisco, southwest, EMEA)
- The types of products you’ve sold (e.g. SaaS, office supplies, employee benefits packages)
- The types of customers you’ve sold to (e.g. consumers, emerging businesses, healthcare organizations)
- Who you’ve worked with (e.g. developers, managers, C-level executives)
- Deal sizes (e.g. $50K, 13 locations, 125 users)
- Length of an average sales cycle (e.g. four weeks, six months)
- Quota achievement (e.g. 104% quota achievement for Q3)
Recruiters will, of course, be interested in your work history, career progression, education and training, technical skills, and achievements, too (more on that below), but your resume will be strengthened immensely by including the above details first and foremost for each of your past sales roles.
Use the Right Lingo
Like every industry, sales has a language all its own (think prospecting, territory, quota). And that means recruiters will be keeping an eye out for specific terms as they read through your resume. Tailoring your resume for each individual job description is an excellent strategy for ensuring that you’re hitting all the right keywords (more on that here). Remember, if you have experience performing a task listed in the job description, be sure to include it on your resume!
Another compelling reason to tailor your resume? The applicant tracking system (or ATS for short). This program scans your application for certain keywords to determine whether your experience is a good match for the job. If you don’t have enough relevant terms on your resume, the ATS might discard your application before a recruiter has a chance to review it. In other words, you could be screened out if you didn’t take the time to keyword-optimize your resume—even if you have the right experience.
You can use the common keywords listed below as a starting point—but again, be sure to emphasize the most relevant ones. For example, if the role you’re applying for is focused on new business and doesn’t include ongoing client relationship management, you’ll want to downplay your account management experience and lean into your prospecting and business development experience.
- Account Management
- Business Analysis
- Business Case
- Business Development
- Cold Calling
- Consultative Selling
- Customer Relations
- Executive Relationships
- Lead Generation
- Overcoming Objections
- Pitch Decks
- Relationship Management
- Return on Investment
- Sales Cycle
Highlight Those Numbers
Quantifying your experience—whether direct or transferable—will be incredibly important as you’re writing your sales resume. Because sales is ultimately about results, prospective employers are going to want to see proof of your ability to deliver. Assigning numbers like percentages or dollar amounts can help to bring your sales accomplishments to life. Here’s what it might look like:
- Reached 99% quota achievement for FY 2018
- Delivered 115 new, viable sales leads resulting in $220K in new revenue for Q2
- Called 150+ donors each day, bringing in $13K in contributions in just three months
If you’ve been in the same role for a number of years, you might prefer to detail your day-to-day responsibilities (like prospecting, presenting, and negotiating contracts) separately from your accomplishments. This might make your resume easier for a recruiter to scan and, even better, make your dazzling achievements easier to spot. Take a peek at the example at the end of this article to see how it might look in practice.
Don’t Ignore Training and Technical Skills
There are a variety of popular (and effective!) sales methodologies that prospective employers will likely consider to be highly valuable. So if you’ve attended a training or seminar or earned a certification in a particular methodology, like Sandler or Challenger, be sure to feature it on your resume. Even if these trainings aren’t a must-have for a certain job, hiring managers will probably be impressed by your commitment to fine-tuning your expertise.
Sales representatives also rely on a combination of customer resource management (CRM), business development, networking, communication, and tracking tools to perform their jobs effectively. So if you have experience with tools like Salesforce, PowerPoint, Yesware, OrgChartPlus, LinkedIn InMail, or LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you’ll want to include them on your resume. Better yet, be sure to read through the technical requirements section of every job posting so that you can include all the relevant skills on your resume.
If You’ve Never Had a Sales Job Before
Breaking into a new industry as an entry-level candidate or a career changer can feel intimidating. But it’s a very attainable goal, so long as you apply for the right types of roles and tailor your resume accordingly.
The first thing you’ll want to do before you start writing your resume is identify your most relevant transferable skills. Experience interacting with customers, making phone calls, drafting emails, fundraising, coordinating events, or conducting internet research (just to name a few) are all highly transferable. Soft skills like an upbeat attitude, persistence, and adaptability will be important too.
If you’re having a tough time determining what’s relevant (and what’s not), pull up a few job postings and read through the descriptions to get a feel for what will be most important. And remember to think big picture: You might not have experience cold calling prospective customers, but you probably have experience calling companies, asking questions and gathering information over the phone, leaving voicemails, and following up. And that counts!
A resume summary, while totally optional, can be a fantastic way to tie seemingly unrelated experiences together. It’s also a great place to (briefly) answer the question, “Why sales?” Here’s what a summary for someone looking to transition into sales might look like:
Ambitious, persistent, and goal-oriented people person with three years of experience managing public relations in the startup space. A skilled and persuasive communicator eager to leverage expertise in cold calls, presentations, and research in an entry-level sales role.
Whether you’re a career starter or a career changer, for a sales resume it’s important to quantify your resume bullet points as much as possible. Try thinking about your past responsibilities in terms of goals and achievements. Were you tasked with sourcing and hiring vendors for an event? You might write a bullet point that reads:
- Sourced five vendors and negotiated contracts in just three weeks, staying within $7K budget for a 100-person event.
A Few Additional Things to Keep in Mind
- Stick to a single-page chronological layout. This rule applies to virtually every job seeker (though super-seasoned executives might have longer resumes and career changers might consider an alternative format). Tailoring your resume for each job and cutting experience that’s more than 10 years old should help you keep the length down. Follow this handy guide to writing a chronological resume for more details.
- Create scannable sections. Organizing your resume into clear, easy-to-identify sections (like sales experience, education, and technical skills) will make it much easier for recruiters to read. They’re busy, so scannability is key. Even better, it’ll help your dazzling achievements stand out.
- Write vibrant bullet points. Breathe life into flatlining bullet points with this simple formula: compelling verb + job duty + tangible number or outcome. So Cold-called prospective customers becomes Targeted and vetted prospective customers through 100+ daily cold calls, resulting in 400 new leads in Q2.
- Proofread! Even if you’re positive that your resume is totally error-free. Or ask a reliable friend, family member, or colleague to give it a look. You might be surprised by what you’ve missed.
Allow Me to Sell You on an Example
When a recruiter receives a new sales resume, they’ll primarily be interested in learning about the products you’ve sold, the customers you’ve sold to, the industries you’re familiar with, and whether or not you’ve successfully reached your sales goals. As you read through the below resume, take note of the way it incorporates all of this information using succinct sections and easy-to-read bullet points.
Just as a sales pitch deck serves to sell your prospective customers on the benefits of your products, your resume should sell prospective employers on the benefits of adding you to their team. Featuring relevant details about your role, quantifying your achievements, and tailoring your resume to include the right keywords will help you to stand out and land those sales interviews.
Photo of person sitting on a couch with a laptop courtesy of Georgijevic/Getty Images.
Jaclyn Westlake worked as an agency recruiter and an HR manager in the startup, tech, and finance space for nearly 10 years before branching out into resume writing, freelance recruiting, and career advising. These days, you can find her sharing job search insights on The Muse and blogging about boat life on The Wife Aquatic. She's also an avid paddleboarder, proud plant-based eater, and doting dog mom to a 10-year old dachshund mix named Indiana Jones.More from this Author