Job hunting can be a minefield. One wrong step, and your chances for a great job can go up in smoke. This is part 3 of our sales hiring series that teaches how to get a sales job.
In Part 1 we had just begun our journey to fill one of our positions at Sales Hacker, and we shared how we got over 375k views on our job posting. In Part 2 we shared our selection process. In this part, I’ll share the do’s and don’ts to follow on your LinkedIn profile that I learned from going through the 150+ applications. Then I’ll explain how to get a good sales job in 2021 from a hiring manager’s perspective.
But first a word from our winning candidate…
How Can I Get Into Sales With No Experience?
Don’t fret! You don’t necessarily have to have formal sales experience to start a career in sales.
Hiring managers of sales jobs do understand that some people start from square one and still thrive within a short time. Plus, you’d be surprised to learn what counts as sales experience.
Getting into sales can be a lucrative career move. The average sales job salaries may vary widely depending on where you live and work, but the top tier can make up to $300,000 per year.
Here are a few things you can evaluate within yourself to see if you have what it takes to succeed in a sales job.
1. Show how your existing skills are transferable
You may have more transferable skills than you might think. For example, if you’ve ever sold something — like a TV at Best Buy — that’s sales experience you can count.
Even selling lemonade at a roadside stand as a kid counts, too!
If you’ve ever worked in retail or have held a customer-facing job, you may have an in. You’ll have a pretty easy time connecting the dots between your skills and what the job entails.
Finally, if you’ve taken classes in communications or marketing in college, that’s another “selling point” you can put in your resume and cover letter to the hiring managers.
Even if you’ve never sold a thing in your life and never taken a marketing course, you still have a chance if you are goal oriented with strong time management skills. Just by reading this article, you already have some good ideas on how to get sales experience.
2. Be willing to start from the bottom
In the beginning, you might have to swallow your pride a little bit, start from the bottom, and grind it out the first few months. But if you study up, learn some human psychology, work hard, and are willing to take the initiative, the sky’s the limit!
It is important, however, that you stay resilient, confident, and not allow rejection get you down. Top sales candidates are always pursuing self-improvement, practicing active listening, developing rapport-building skills, and maintaining a positive attitude even in the face of adversity.
With persistence and some entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll be hitting your numbers real quick.
3. Do your homework
To be good at sales, you need to learn about your customer and know them well before you even talk to them. Dig into their needs and pain points, and offer them a solution. Explain how you can help them with their biggest challenge facing them today.
A job interview is no exception. If you do your homework, you would come to the interview armed with information about the hiring manager, their company, and their challenges.
At the interview, pretend your hiring manager is your customer, and that you are offering to help solve their problems. If you’ve read up on sales techniques and brushed up your communications skills before that interview, you should do well.
You might not get the job at the very first interview, but it will be great practice and an opportunity to do even better next time.
Whatever you do, be honest about your sales experience. Don’t lie or fudge the truth. The last thing hiring managers for sales positions want are candidates who take shortcuts or make promises they can’t keep.
Here are some steps on getting a sales job, as well as some specific Do’s and Don’ts.
Follow These 5 Steps to Get a Sales Job
Step 1: Update your resume and LinkedIn profile
Before going on the hunt, make sure you update your resume with the latest skills, sales experience, and accomplishments you’ve obtained. If you have a specific sales job (or type of job) in mind, you’ll want to include some important keywords and optimize the resume for that specific sales role.
Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile, too! (see one of the Do’s below).
Step 2: Find where to look for sales jobs
- SalesJobs: Nothing but sales jobs and only sales jobs. As of November 2020, it boasted more than 800,000 listings.
- Rainmakers: Describe your sales experience and set your salary, and let employers come to you.
- The Ladders: Has the most lucrative sales positions promising more than $100k job opportunities.
- SalesTrax: While this focuses only on sales job, this site takes more of a social networking approach.
Above all, make sure you use LinkedIn as one of the main tools in your job hunt. More on this in the Do’s and Don’ts sections below.
Step 3: Connect with the hiring manager
Once you have dibs on a particular sales job, make sure you find who the hiring manager is and reach out. LinkedIn makes it very easy to do this, especially if you have a premium account. Send them a connection request and let them know you’re planning to apply for the sales job.
Bonus tip: Ask them an intelligent open-ended question that gets a conversation going, which gives you an inside track that might pay off later during the formal application process.
Step 4: Apply for the job
Whether or not you use the backchannels, many companies require you to go through the application process. Send them a personalized cover letter along with your resume explaining why you want the job and why you’re a good fit.
Step 5: Follow up and be patient
Once you apply, be patient and politely follow up every now and then until you get an answer.
Make sure you are aware of these specific Do’s and Don’ts (derived from our personal lessons) as you navigate through these steps to getting your next sales job.
How to Get a Sales Job: The Do’s
If you’re looking to get a good sales job (or just get into sales), here’s what you need to do…
Do connect and write a thoughtful LinkedIn message to the hiring manager when responding to LinkedIn posts. Use short paragraphs and plenty of white-space so it’s easy to read on mobile.
Do have credible friends tastefully plug you in the comments if you’re responding to a LinkedIn post.
Do use backchannels! Get an intro from someone who knows the hiring manager or the owner and who is credible in that space. One person got an intro to me from a highly regarded VP of Sales that we work with a lot. That immediately gets you to the top of the list.
Do work on your LinkedIn profile. This is your public resume. In our search, I didn’t even ask for resumes. Your LinkedIn tells the entire story of your career, especially in sales.
In sales, you use case studies and testimonials to sell your product. Selling yourself is the same. If your numbers are good, display them. If you have reviews, share them. If not, go and get some. Customers want to see this too. Get them from your colleagues, now! Don’t wait.
Share anything else that stands out, your attention to detail, stats, experience, social presence, network, etc. From a hiring manager’s perspective, this is a dream, because this is all the information we’re looking for in the first step of the hiring processes.
Do get active on LinkedIn. Hiring managers want to hire people sharing relevant content that shows their passion for the industry and their practice, especially if that overlaps with their sales process. They want to see people who are engaged on a social channel where their customers are.
Do show your passion and eagerness. Hiring managers only want to hire people that are dying to work there. We want people who are so passionate about it that it’s clear to see. These people will go above and beyond. I’ll take a passionate person that wants THIS job, over someone slightly better on paper 99% of the time.
Do get a proper profile pic. A proper pic means proper business attire, with a smile or friendly facial expression, and without hats or sunglasses. You want to look like you’re a fun person to talk to, while still being professional and credible. Remember, you’re likely going to be reaching out cold to people.
Do get a Gmail account, personal email, or an email for your personal LLC. Hotmail, Yahoo!, and AOL are signs of someone who is out of date with technology, even if it’s not the case. SBCGlobal, Earthlink — no chance. Sorry, maybe I’m an email server snob.
How to Get a Sales Job: The Don’ts
Just as there are things you must do to get the job, there are things you need to avoid if you want to get a good sales job. Here are three things you absolutely shouldn’t do…
Don’t rush. A few people messed up putting in the link to their LinkedIn in their applications for our position. If I can’t access your info, how can I hire you? Take your time.
Don’t get upset if I don’t respond to you right away. I had a London conference coming up and was traveling when I put out our job posting. One person pinged me on my Instagram (which is an underrated channel), and when I didn’t respond in 48 hours decided to tell me they were going to unfollow me for not responding. I’m pretty sure I’m not missing out on anything there.
Don’t take it personally, or even worse, burn bridges. Hiring is always a really hard decision to make, with many good candidates. There’s often only going to be one person hired. That being said, don’t get upset if it’s not you or if you don’t get a follow up from the hiring manager.
The best thing you can do when looking for a sales job in 2021 is to follow up and ask for feedback. Tell the hiring manager that if they ever need anything, they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out. This will build goodwill, which is a long-term currency.
Bonus: Special Follow Up For Our Candidates Who Didn’t Get The Job
I didn’t know what to do with the rest of the candidates I had to turn down, but as a leader in the space, I couldn’t just write a generic “sorry, not at this time” email.
So I posted a note on LinkedIn, asking the community for help. I knew tons of great companies were hiring, so I had them nominate their company and tell me which titles they were hiring for.
Here was the LinkedIn post:
“Hey Folks, I have a really good problem and I need some assistance.
We have over 150 applications (good ones) for our Sales Hacker – Partnership Sales Exec position, but I can only hire 1 person.
This means I’ll have to pass on some very solid salespeople. Since I can’t make the hire, I’d like to help them find a good home elsewhere.
So, if you’re hiring for Inside Sales positions, please comment with your company name and what positions you’re hiring for. I plan on giving them the options to follow up with you.
Hope it works out to be mutually beneficial!”
The next day the post had over 70,000 views and over 100 comments plugging their companies and open positions. A week later, it had over 350,000 views and 218 comments.
I took these 200+ comments, filtered them for qualified companies, and had my virtual assistant pull the company name, sales roles, locations, and LinkedIn profiles for the person who posted, into a spreadsheet.
My follow up email to the candidates that did not get the job, had plenty of other options and the right people to contact.
I’ll continue to monitor to see if this translates into employment with any of them.
This is something we do out of generosity and is something that sets us apart, but I wish it didn’t.
I encourage other companies to do the same, and pay it forward. As the CEO of a sales company, I’m the only one that can make this hire.
So, if I can do it in the middle of running a 450-person conference in London and conducting the entire interview process from Europe, there’s no reason why your organization can’t too. We hope this series has given you some actionable takeaway on how to get a sales job!
Also published on Medium.