10 key actions to win your next sales job
The 2016 sales job market is improving. Companies are optimistic and hiring, and good salespeople are being contacted by recruiters with new opportunities. However, companies are more willing than ever to release underperformers and hire better talent. Salespeople are becoming more mobile and changing jobs more frequently, often looking for better career opportunities and higher earning potential.
The good news is that competent salespeople are securing better jobs, with higher income opportunities and career advancement based on goal achievement.
The less good news is that many managers and executives have considerably improved their hiring techniques of salespeople.
Here are 10 critical things you need to focus on to win your next job in sales. Review your CV Only provide truthful content on your CV. Many CVs of sales people do not accurately represent the facts about the candidate. This can include incorrect titles, incorrect employment dates (normally to cover gaps in employment), incorrect sales claims (team accomplishments attributed solely to the candidate). CV misrepresentation is an immediate rejection if identified. How should you handle a period between jobs? The answer is to address it and explain it. Why did it happen? What did you learn from it? What will the benefit be for your next employer? It's your job as a salesperson to effectively position yourself. Review and edit your CV, leave no inconsistencies, holes, or doubts as to what you really accomplished. Ask a friend or associate to review your CV and highlight any queries. Always include hard sales data on your CV. The absence of performance probably means that the salesperson is not in possession of a credible sales record.
CV presentation is very important, just like sales presentation. There should not be any typos, clever graphics, or anything irrelevant. Your CV should be bespoked for the job you are applying for.
Be clear what role you are seeking A common sales candidate mistake is not being clear and specific regarding the role they are interested in. Your Profile section, at the top of your CV, should identify you as targeting either a sales role, account manager, business development, sales management, channel management, or related job. Trying to position yourself as interested in all roles will not work. Companies do not want to hire generalists, they want salespeople who are specialists for their vacancies, who can be productive immediately and de-risk the hiring process. If you do have a wide range of experience, position this as added value which can make you even more qualified for the job for which you are applying.
Plan a campaign Finding a new sales job is a sales opportunity (with you as the product), and so should be treated in a similar manner to a planned sales campaign, to maximise your chance of success.
Qualification: What are your skills, your experience, your USPs and your past sales performance against quota? What industries (or companies) do you want to work in? Which of these are hiring? What are the hirer's expectations (will they expect several years of proven expertise selling £1m+ agreements)? What compensation level is realistic for you? What are your decision criteria? What are theirs? How are they running the recruitment activity (does it involve individual interviews, or a ‘selection day’ where you will be tested and reviewed with other applicants? You will also need to research your prospective employer's industry and company, just as you would a sales prospect.
Objective: To be offered two positions at a minimum OTE (on-target earning) potential.
Strategy: How are you going to compel that interviewers to offer you the job you want for the pay you deserve? What is your campaign strategy?
Tactics: How are you going to manage the process? The interviews, differentiating yourself, timing, your current job, negotiations, reference checking, due diligence and employer research, preparing responses to the most common objections?
Remember that the outcome of the interview is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend planning and preparing for it. Research the prospective company Competent salespeople would never dream of making a sales call without having researched the company, their industry, and the person themselves. This equally applies to an interview. Do not believe that even if you are being pursued by a potential employer (or headhunter), this research is unnecessary. It is critical to research the company, their industry, their competitors and the person or people performing the interview. This due diligence will advise you in other ways, as you will not want to join the wrong company. Deep dive into the company history, management team, financial performance, culture, products and services, alliances, sales staff, marketing capabilities, reputation. Joining a company that folded shortly after you started highlights an uninformed decision to your next potential employer. Time the interview A very important aspect of timing is to start your search for a new job while you are still employed in your current one. Sales people are significantly more marketable if they are currently employed; an unemployed salesperson will always appear to an employer as someone who did not make the decision to leave their last job. Prepare and practice Interviewing requires preparation and practice. If you have not been interviewed recently, arrange a friend or mentor to interview you, or even take an interview with a company that you do not really feel that you want to work for. The more interviews you do, the more polished, confident, and accomplished you will be, ready for the interview for when the ideal job arrives. Prepare references Reference checking has become more rigorous. You can fail to secure a new sales job, and ruin your reputation with a recruiter, if a reference disputes claims you made on your CV or during the interview process. Employers will call the references that you have provided, and often speak to other industry contacts that can access information on you through their networks.
Companies know that you are only going to provide references who will give a positive recommendation.
Be honest on your CV and in your interviews to avoid any problems.
Understand the selling/buying balance There is frequently a balance between interviewer and candidate and selling and buying. If you are at the start of your career, or have an average CV, you may be selling a lot more than buying. If you can convince the interviewer that you are the best fit for the role, you can move to more of a selling mode. However, if you've been regularly earning £300k a year in sales and are being recruited into a Technology start-up, you are certainly starting out as the buyer. That could finish when the interviewer tells you that there are several other candidates being interviewed. If the job is very attractive (maybe including shares or share options), you are more likely to move into selling mode. Decide which mode you should be in at any given time. Be ready to position your weaknesses A favourite sales interview question is ‘tell me about your weaknesses’. Positioning a strength as a weakness will not normally work, e.g. "I think that I am too determined when it comes to winning business". Statements like this are likely to antagonise the interviewer. Everybody has some weaknesses. Consider and plan what weaknesses you will identify prior to the interview, and create a response to show what you are doing to improve yourself in those areas. A good response to this question could be "you can see from my track record that I'm a consistent performer. However, I am always looking to improve. Currently I am focusing on improving my ability to understand and interpret financial information and company reports. I know that this will enable me to be even more credible in front of board level executives." Add value at every opportunity It is essential to do your homework and prepare thoroughly for any interview.
Differentiate yourself by telling the interviewer something they don't know. Provide observations and specific recommendations regarding how the company can enhance the positioning of their product or services in their market, or how they could sell more.
If you are looking for a new sales position, the core point is to plan and prepare properly.
Doing this will make a significant difference to your job offers, your career and your income.