As a recruiter I primarily focus on Technology professionals, however, I have personally hired several salespeople and seen many resumes from people seeking sales positions. I'm often amazed at how many of those resumes don't address the one, most important question that any sales manager would ask…
Can this person sell???
In sales, that one question is the "Elephant in the Room" when evaluating a resume or interviewing a prospective new hire. If that one question doesn't get answered, it's unlikely the process will move forward.
So, whether it's on the resume, or in the interview… here are mistakes I see that are made, and how the question can best be addressed…
Sales positions are different! As opposed to perhaps most other positions in an organization, performance and measurable results in sales roles are key. If a company is hiring a new sales person, it's for one reason… to bring in new revenue. It's easily measured, and the sole reason for having someone in that role at all. If it's unclear whether someone can bring business into the organization, there's no compelling reason to hire that person. It's the one thing a hiring manager wants to know, and it's by far the biggest thing that matters.
There's no question that the sales person should share the companies values, fit their culture, be able to exude the image the company wants to portray to their customers, and be able to articulate the company's products or services. However, even if someone matches all those requisites, they won't succeed if they can't sell!
Past performance is the best predictor of future success. These words are the predominant concept most sales managers live by when hiring a new sales person. Certainly there are exceptions, and for various reasons many sales managers will take a chance on someone because of a gut feeling. However, most understand, that the safest new hire, is one that has performed well before. That's what they are trying to determine. Has this person proven that they can generate new business in the past?
Metrics are key! Many sales resumes I've seen give great detail on the type of relationships they build well, the sales processes they've employed, examples of satisfied customers, and the types of organizations they've pursued. However, they state little to nothing about the results they've achieved in bringing in new business.
It's critically important to provide actual numbers to show the results you've had, as well as a frame of reference to judge whether those results were good or not. To simply state you generated $600,000 in new business in the last year says very little about your success. $600,000 of new business in a year if you're selling multi-million dollar capital equipment may not be good at all, while $600,000 in business last year selling office supplies may be great. Help the reader or the interviewer understand the context of your sales figures.
$600,000 of sales, while the rest of the company salesforce averaged $1.5 million in sales would be a poor reflection on you. While $600,000 of sales that made you one of the top 5 out of 50 sales people would be a strong indicator that you have what it takes.
Present your strengths. Perhaps you weren't a top sales person. However, you have other successes that still show you are a viable candidate. Always show what your successes have been.
If you've had significant growth in sales year over year for the past 3 or 4 years, that's a compelling case for your future success. If you've had 100% retention of your customers, it shows you can build a base that's enduring. If you brought in a significant number of new customers that have yet to maximize the revenue they will generate, it shows that you've been building success that simply has yet to blossom. If you've moved up in rank among other sales people in the organization each year, it shows you're one that is likely to continue to grow and improve.
Whatever your individual strengths and successes have been, it's critical to show it with actual numbers in your resume and in your interviews.
Don't ignore the elephant! It's imperative that you include actual figures in your resume and address them in your interview. For many, perhaps most, sales managers, if they don't see actual facts and figures in a sales resume, it's assumed the person wasn't very good and they are hiding that fact with less relevant information.
The burning question that any company has when hiring a new sales person is always…
Can they sell???
Make sure you answer it in your resume, your interviews, your Thank You notes and in every contact!