Let’s say you’re ready to look for your next sales position. Maybe you’re totally fed up with asking for permission to try the things that will get better results. Or maybe you’ve just outgrown your current role and you’ve got your sights set on more. Or maybe you’re just not sure how to get a sales job.
First of all, good for you!
But what do you do when you’re ready to get down to business with your job search? How do you actually make the pivot from where you are to where you want to be? How can you secure interviews at companies you’re excited about, ace them and navigate your way through the negotiation process?
Sales consultant Richard Harris of The Harris Consulting Group has some ideas. And spoiler alert: They’re really good!
With 20+ years of sales training, operations and leadership experience with technology and SaaS companies, Richard has a well-rounded view of successful job hunting in sales. He frequently discusses sales job search and other career-related topics on the Surf and Sales Podcast.
“I love interviewing and I love all the parts of it,” Richard says during our conversation on the INSIDE Inside Sales podcast. He’s particularly passionate about the job search topic. I’ve rounded up the gold nuggets based on our chat. Read on to learn how to position yourself for amazing roles, do smart interviews and negotiate better job offers.
How to Get a Sales Job: Create resume clickbait (and get interviews left and right)
It all starts with your resume and your LinkedIn profile. “You can’t start asking for interviews until you have something to show,” Richard explains.
Make sure they’re updated, especially your LinkedIn profile. It’s 2020, guys. Plus, you don’t have to worry about getting the frickin’ thing onto a single page. “Nobody cares how many scrolls it takes on LinkedIn,” Richard says. “But when they get the three-page resume, that feels old school, too much — I’m not going to read all that, I’m not gonna digest it.”
Of course, if a company asks for a resume, you should have one ready and available. That’s still required for some traditional sales roles in certain industries.
When it comes to what to include on your LinkedIn profile or resume, forget the buzzwords. Lead with your accomplishments — and quantify them. Did you exceed your sales quota? State that. Increased the number of new hires? Give the percentage increase over time.
“Every bullet point is a number showing an increase, always,” Richard advises. “Particularly in sales because that’s all the leader cares about.” Show them the numbers and they will absolutely want to bring you in to talk about it and find out how you did it.
“It’s total clickbait,” Richard adds.
Don’t wait for them to come to you, grasshopper
Want to get the sales job you deserve? You have to actually go out and pitch for it. Don’t wait for the leads to come to you.
Once your resume and LinkedIn profile are in tip-top shape, here are Richard’s recommendations for what you want to do next:
- Find the 10-12 companies that interest you most.
- Study up on them — read their website, check out their company page, etc.
- Add your LinkedIn profile or resume to their job application website.
- Identify the HR people at the company and send them a message to let them know you applied, express your interest and ask them to point you to the right person to discuss the role.
- Reach out to introduce yourself to the hiring manager — he or she is most likely to be in the sales department, Richard notes.
Now here’s the next-level move: Pick up the phone. Call the people you’ve connected with and leave them a message. Acknowledge that it’s shocking that you’re calling — who calls anyone anymore?! — and tell them they need to at least call and talk to you.
Richard swears by this approach. “I promise you, you will start to get first interviews,” he says, adding, “I have coached other people in marketing and engineering to try this strategy — and every time, it works.”
Another recommendation: leverage recruiters. “Let them be the tentacles of your octopus,” Richard says.
Don’t worry if you’re working another avenue with a company at the same time — that’s not your issue. “That is the recruiter’s problem to solve,” Richard notes.
Quick and dirty tips for interview and negotiation success
Remember to keep this in mind: “They’re not interviewing you, you’re interviewing them,” Richard says.
“That doesn’t mean you walk in cocky — you absolutely walk in with empathy. You’re very grateful to be there,” he adds.
Ready for some sales job interview tips? Once you’ve got your mindset and attitude right, you should come prepared to ask these three questions in your job interview:
1. What percentage of your team hits quota every month or every quarter?
This question will help you get a sense of if you can actually succeed in the role. If fewer than 60 percent are hitting quotas, “you’re going to walk into a very, very tough spot.”
2. If you could change three things about the sales team, what would they be?
Follow up question: What’s preventing that from happening?
3. Why should I want to work here? What are you going to help me do?
You want to be careful not to sound disrespectful when asking this, but including this question can give you some insightful answers.
Asking questions like these will help you evaluate the role and your likelihood of success in it. You absolutely want to treat the interview like a two-way conversation. Take this approach and you’ll very likely move to the next phase: getting a job offer.
But here’s the thing: An offer is not an obligation.
“You don’t have to accept a bad deal,” Richard says. “You can walk away at any point if you don’t like what they have. You’re in control, people.”
That’s what makes the negotiation stage fun — and there are lots of other benefits and work perks you can bring into the negotiation conversation. Richard says any and all of the following is up for discussion: work from home or remote work, vacation time, as well as company shares or equity.
You can even negotiate your exit in the event that things don’t work out. But if you use these smart approaches, I’m thinking that isn’t likely to be the case.