The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Sales Resume

As a salesperson, it’s critical to have a sales resume that showcases your unique value proposition, details the quantifiable impact you’ve had throughout your career, and compels a recruiter or hiring manager to bring you in for an interview. This guide is meant to give sales professionals the actionable tips to create a resume that helps you take the next step up the sales ladder.

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In theory, a great salesperson should be able to write a convincing resume that ultimately gets the reader to take action. After all, that’s what sales is – understanding your audience and creating a pitch that showcases the features and benefits of your product or service. In the case of your resume, the product is YOU.

However, most of us know that writing your own resume isn’t easy. Knowing what format to use, how to structure the content, and what keywords to use can be difficult, if not down-right frustrating. Plus, writing about yourself can feel a little awkward as it’s not something most of us do every day.

An Overview of the Guide

This online guide will help you . My goal is to give you valuable insights from an experienced resume writer (me) as well as some of the industry’s best sales recruiters who are on the front lines every day sourcing resumes. Additionally, I hope to change your idea of what a sales resume should and provide detailed tips to help you get started.

You can click on the links below to take you directly to the relevant sections.

10 Tips To Help You Write A Sales Resume

These tips are meant to serve as a general guideline. Everybody’s resume will have its unique set of nuances, so not all of my tips will apply to 100% of people reading this guide. These recommendations are derived from the hundreds of sales resumes I’ve reviewed.

Let’s dig in.

1.  Think of your resume as a sales piece

Your resume, like everything else, is designed to serve a purpose. In its simplest form…your resume is a sales brochure.

Yes, you read correctly. Your resume is a sales brochure. Brochures and resumes are not life stories. The customers who look at brochures and the recruiters who look at resumes are focused on what they need at that moment. In the case of resumes, the focus is on finding the right person to fill a specific position.

Marketing yourself effectively ensures that the value you can add is obvious and clearly defined for your audience. This encourages prospective employers to interview and hire you, and ultimately requires that they provide adequate compensation for your time and talent.

Action Plan: Forget the idea that your resume should a glorified career history. You want the reader to get a sense of your story – who you are, where you’ve been, and what you can do – and it should be tailored sell you to your target audience.

2.  Know your audience

Resume readers have limited time and an almost unlimited number of candidates to review, and it’s a good idea to use this knowledge to your advantage.

If you want to write a great resume, start by paying attention to the way employers describe their hiring goals in the job descriptions they write. Read as many of these as you can, paying particular attention to the words, phrases, and titles used by the people who are searching for individuals with your skills and experience.

Understanding what they’re looking for and using the right language on your resume will help you attract more viewers, more interest, and more interview activity.

Action Plan: Spend some time browsing through LinkedIn and sites like Indeed.com to review positions that you think are a good fit. Look carefully at the buzzwords that appear in the postings and make sure that you’re matching up your content with what they are looking for in a candidate.

3.  Identify your personal value proposition

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a recruiter or hiring manager will want to take action, and it’s a critical piece of resume. People will only take action if they understand and want the value that you offer.

Bill Barnett recently outlined a four-step approach to developing a personal value proposition in a Harvard Business Review post. It goes as follows:

  • Set a clear target. The personal value proposition (PVP) begins with a target, one that needs what you have to offer. You’ll prefer some directions, not others. Targeting will make you most effective.
  • Identify your strengths. It may sound obvious, but what you know and what you can do are the foundation of your PVP. Hone in on what those are.
  • Tie your strengths to your target position. Don’t leave it up to the employer to figure out how your strengths relate to what she needs. Let your PVP tightly connect you to the position. Connect the dots for her. Consider her perspective and know why she should hire you or promote you.
  • Provide evidence and success stories. Your strengths may be what an employer is “buying,” but your achievements are the evidence you have those strengths. They make your case convincing. Some people prepare a non-confidential portfolio to showcase that evidence in a vivid way. They collect reports they wrote that had impact. They pull together facts on measurable achievements such as sales growth or cost reduction.

Action Plan: Your personal value proposition is the foundation for everything in a job search and career progression — targeting potential employers, attracting the help of others, and explaining why you’re the perfect candidate to hire. The more narrowly defined and unique you can make your PVP, the more likely you are to be recognized with your target audience.

4.  Integrate your PVP into a strong opening profile

Gone are the days of the good old objective statement. Employers don’t care if you’re “looking for a position in an industry that will utilize my communication and interpersonal skills.” That statement says is vague, unoriginal, and talks about what you want rather than what the employer wants.

Take that value proposition that you just created (see #3) and expand on it to give the reader a clear understanding of who you are, what unique experience and skills you have, and how you can add immediate value in the specific position they’re hiring for.

Action Plan: The first third of the first page of your resume is incredibly valuable real estate and should be used wisely. Open your resume with an Executive Profile or Summary of Qualifications that is centered around your PVP.

5.  Stick with the reverse-chronological format

There’s no need to get cute with the format when it comes to your experience. Our research indicates time and time again that recruiters and HR managers want to see a distinct career timeline that details where you worked, what your role entailed, and what you accomplished.

Breaking out your experience in a functional (skills-based) format almost never makes sense and often says to the reader that you’re either trying to hide something or your career hasn’t progressed the way you had hoped.

Action Plan: In the Experience section, start with your current role and work backwards. I typically advise that you don’t go back much further than the last 10-15 years of experience. If you have earlier experience that you believe is relevant, consider adding it in a brief Early Experience section.

6.  Break each position into two separate sections

In the Professional Experience section, I like to break each position into two parts:

  • A clear scope of the position
  • Major contributions and quantifiable achievements

Separating the job description from the accomplishments is critical as recruiters and hiring managers need to be able to differentiate 1) what the job entailed and 2) what you were really able to achieve in the role.

The scope of the role: Quite simply, this should tell the reader what you were hired to do. In a three to four sentence paragraph, you need to clarify what your primary responsibilities were and how your role fit into the organization as a whole.

Sometimes it helps to imagine that you’re explaining what you do to 10-year old. Describe your role in simple, easy to understand terms that anybody can understand. This helps to avoid including too much “industry speak” and extraneous details of the role that many not be necessary.

The impact you had in the role: The real gold nuggets within a resume are the bits of information that demonstrate the true value you brought to a role and how it impacted the company. If you can’t show that you can perform and consistently exceed expectations in your previous roles, why would a prospective employer have any incentive to bring you into their company.

Take a look at this example below (click on it for a larger viewing area):

SalesPositions

Action Plan: Don’t make the common mistake of mixing tactical, day-to-day activities with major accomplishments. Provide a concise description of your role in a short paragraph and use bullet points to highlight your biggest contributions.

7.  Focus on benefits, not features

The employer wants to know what you can do for them. Try to avoid just listing your areas of expertise (features). Instead, state very clearly how these areas of expertise will enable you to immediately add value to their organization (benefits).

This is Sales 101. Your resumes needs to clearly demonstrate how you can help an organization solve a specific challenge such as penetrating a new market or reviving an underperforming territory.

This is a feature: Experience managing key accounts in the consumer product goods vertical.

This is a benefit: Leverage key account management experience to drive double-digit revenue growth within existing CPG accounts.

Action Plan: Always think in terms of “results” and write your content in a way that clearly articulate the “benefit” that the company will receive if they bring you on board.

8.  Quantify your achievements

When you do get to your career chronology, make sure that the entire section is packed with results. Spend very little time on your job responsibilities – everyone knows what an account executive or sales manager does. Instead focus on what you actually achieved in each position. Show things like:

  • Sales increases
  • Market share growth
  • Sales rankings within your company (or industry, if you know)
  • Client base growth
  • New accounts signed
  • Awards received

Use numbers to quantify your achievements whenever possible. Examples include:

  • Increased year-over-year sales by 36%…
  • Closed two of the company’s largest sales, representing 20% of…
  • Recognized as a President’s Club Award winner for six consecutive years…

Action Plan: Saying that you “increased sales” isn’t good enough. Quantify your metrics the best you can and briefly detail what actions you took to achieve that results. For example: “Increased sales by 32% by launching a new reseller program”

9.  Don’t forget about your soft skills

Numbers are important, no doubt about it. However, employers also want to know about your ability to build relationships, gain customer loyalty, and penetrate accounts. Your tenacity, sales discipline and solution selling skills can make you stand out even if you didn’t always blow away your sales quotas.

Also, “fit” is a big thing with employers, and it’s important to provide signals that you’ll make a good colleague or manager and represent the company in the best possible way. People tend to hire candidates they like and would want to hang out with outside of work, so let your personality shine through.

Action Plan: Avoid over-used clichés such as “visionary leader” or “excellent communicator”. Most HR managers see that and roll their eyes. Instead, consider integrating a quote or two from a co-worker or even a major customer that provides some social proof of your personality and/or impact.

10.  Keep it brief

You’ve probably heard that you only have 7-15 seconds to impress a recruiter or hiring manager with your resume. Meaning, it’s pointless to try to cram in every tiny detail from your work history into the resume. Focus on the most impressive details that differentiate you from other candidates and design it in a way that is easy to scan.

“Brief” doesn’t mean that the resume needs to be kept to one page. In fact, the vast majority of resumes I write are two pages, rarely three or more. Two pages seems to be the appropriate length for most sales professionals as it gives you enough space to develop a strong Summary of Qualifications, provide a concise job description 3-6 accomplishments for each position, and list all relevant related information such as Education, Professional Affiliations, etc.

Action Plan: Ask yourself as your read through your resume if every piece of information is relevant to your audience. This is the best way to determine your appropriate length. Avoid redundancy and focus on the last three or four roles (or 10-15 years) and you should end up with two pages of content.

What 8 Top Recruiters Look For In A Sales Resume

I’m working with eight of the top sales recruiters in the country to gather and synthesize their feedback on what they look for in a candidate’s sales resume. Check back soon for my findings!

Sales Resume Samples

Attempting to lift the copy from the samples and use them in your own resume usually does more harm that good as the copy in the samples was written for specific clients who have a unique set of skills and experience that will invariably differ from yours.

Mary Sample

The Next Step

I hope the information in this guide was helpful and has given you some. However, we always welcome the opportunity to provide you with a free 15-minute consultation to review your resume and tell you how we can help you take it to the next level.

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    Resume writing is a blend of art and science and you may be better off using an experienced sales resume writer to help you. Same goes for LinkedIn profiles – it’s a science too. Strong content, clean design and strong branding are a must if you want to be successful.

    You’re busy in your career and you don’t need to be a sales resume writing expert. You need results, and someone else to take care of getting the resume right.

    Questions From You

    I want this guide to be fluid and interactive, so I encourage you to post any questions, differing viewpoints, or additional tips in the Comments section. I, along with the other readers in the Resume Mastermind community, will do my best to respond to each question or comment.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

    • Brandon

      This site is an absolute new favorite of mine! (and I don’t have very many) Wish I would’ve discovered this informative site prior to sending out nearly two dozen resumes! However on the bright side (Always follow up any type of negative comment with a positive one!) I do have one new employer I REALLY want to land a position with more then any other opportunity I have been presented with so hopefully I am able to properly implement a good majority of the above advice because the only way I won’t be offered this job I’m referring to is if my resume is lacking because I am 1000% (yes I actually used 3 zeros) qualified for the opportunity considering I was extremely successful working for this very same company a few years ago, only this time it’s located in NYC rather then Las Vegas (Wyndham). Fantastic company to work for/with.. Wyndham Vacation Resorts to be exact for any of you go getters out there who go and find the good opportunities as opposed to the many who are content with waiting for the right opportunity to be hand delivered to them ;c) On a sidenote, my previous comment is not to ridicule others, it’s more towards in hopes of lighting a fire under at least one person’s behind who wouldn’t have made the extra job search effort if it wasn’t for reading this very comment simply because it’s a great feeling to know that everyday even if in the littlest ways, it’s quite simple to positively affect other’s lives, with or without them knowing who helped light the fire beneath them. The praise will catch up with you so allow it to come naturally. In other words, don’t do it just to be praised because the real excitement comes when these positively effected people aren’t even aware of your tiny and brief impact you unselfishly provided in hopes of helping to nudge their life’s path closer, even if just a bit towards success then what it was. I promise you a few years into it, it will all come back to you. I guess this can be referred to as the… nevermind.. I cannot decide on what to call this….. positive, impacting, helpful hand, silent, karma, circle, passing on the spark, etc thingy. Any suggestions?!

      Onwards & Upwards,

      Brandon Lee

      SuccessfulDetermination@Gmail.com

      Successful Determination LLC

      P.S. I find it hard to believe not one person has contributed a comment to this site considering how incredible it is! I strongly suggest getting this site’s link posted out in the Facebook world a few thousand times, which thru the proper avenue can be accomplished in just one day!