You know how to play the game when it comes to sales. You love the challenge of working with customers to find solutions to some of their toughest problems. You’re a master at finding laser focus to close deals. And you really love the paycheck that comes with the work you do. But now it’s 2018, and you’re realizing it’s time to move on to a new role, one that will take you career to the next level.

When you’re wrapped up in the day-to-day demands of a sales job, it isn’t easy to find time to think about new jobs. We’re talking about new jobs that you can’t get solely through your network (or your impressive networking skills).

We’re talking about new jobs that involve you walking through the front door and persuading the gatekeepers (i.e. the hiring team) that you’re there on important business: to convince them—to sell them on the fact—that you’re The One for the job. You’re good at doing this when selling solutions, but you also have to be good at this when crafting the document that plays a pivotal role in getting you invited to the front door—we’re talking about your resume, of course.

Match the Right Keywords

As a sales pro, you always aim to figure out whether there is a match with your customers as early as possible so you can stay focused on the highest value opportunities. The same holds true when trying to land a great new sales role. Your resume must also demonstrate a match right up front.

But first you’ve got to get past the ATS (applicant tracking system), which is a dull beast with a very small vocabulary. When it comes time to find a new sales job, matching your resume to the job description is of critical importance. More to the point, you need to match keywords and mimic the language in the job description (word for word) to get past the ATS. ATS’ don’t pick up on nuance in language, so if a job description calls for “superior verbal communication skills,” do not write “excellent oral communication skills” in the Skills section of your resume.

Where you really stand out is in how you use keywords to customize your resume, so that you communicate your value to the company you want to join.

You want to sell, as do the people hiring you. But they also want to build a strong sales organization, one that can reach a broader set of goals quarter after quarter. You get their attention by highlighting how you can contribute to the organization and the product brand, along with being able to provide high-touch customer service to top clients.

How can you do that on your resume? New research published by LiveCareer in its 2018 Skills Gap Report gets to the heart of how to use keywords to show that your skills are a good match with not only what you will be selling, but also the kind of culture you’ll be working in.

Make Sure You Match Up on Both Hard and Soft Skills

Working in sales is like being a first-string baseball player. The object of the game is for the team to put the most runs on the scoreboard. But to do that, each batter has to perform in a head-to-head situation, independently from the rest of the team.

The Skills Gap Report demonstrates that to do so, you need to have the right balance of hard skills (e.g. scheduling, salesmanship, account management) and soft skills (e.g. customer service, communication, interpersonal skills).

The report also showed that most jobseekers, including sales reps, tend to overemphasize hard skills on their resumes at the expense of soft skills; this is a mistake, as employers across all industries are coming to view soft skills as being just as important as hard skills.

An effective sales resume needs to demonstrate the right mix of hard and soft skills in three key areas: culture, being a team player, and negotiation.

  1. Culture: Your resume should highlight your skills that benefit the whole organization, not just the sales organization. Are you expected to socialize into the new organization, or will you be treated more like an independent contractor? Will your managers give you a lot of autonomy, or instead, expect you to take their direction? More importantly, will you be generating your own leads and running your own campaigns? If so, you need to demonstrate strong project management skills. On the other hand, if you will be plugging into an existing marketing funnel, you need to demonstrate solid communication skills.
  2. Being a team player: No successful deal gets done solo. But you need to be clear on how much help from your team will be available, and in what capacity. Team player skills are especially important in large enterprise sales, or when the sales organization works closely with other enabling functions, especially marketing and product management. 
  3. Negotiation: Negotiation is fundamentally about creating value for both you and your customer. But after a few years in the same sales role, it’s easy to get a little too coin-operated. You start finding yourself being competitive with your customers instead of other sales reps. Now is a good time to take an honest look at how well your negotiation skills match up against what you want in your next role. Have you pushed for closes too fast and settled for lower value deals? Or have you let relationships go on too long, with too many conversations that ultimately didn’t lead to deals closing?

Treat Sales as a Tech Job

Sales reps do what the report deems to be tech-centric work. To get the job done you have to focus more on performing tasks than managing relationships. That’s not to say relationship skills aren’t important. Rather, it means that sales reps need to match up the right set of hard and soft skills with the hiring organization.

Four key skills that sales reps should highlight on their resumes include:

  1. Troubleshooting / problem solving
  2. Meeting deadlines / deadline-driven
  3. Project management
  4. Analytical skills

These four skills roll up to two critical soft skills that the report found to be particularly important across all occupational fields: customer service and communication.

Your Resume is Your Datasheet

By all accounts, 2018 should be full of opportunities for talented sales reps. But the way you find them is changing. Sales reps always need to be on top of their game, and that includes the game of selling yourself. Don’t go into 2018 with a 2015 resume.

And be sure to put the right keywords in your resume; that is, the ones that first get the attention of the mobilizers. Then shows them that you belong on their team.

Check out the full Skills Gap Report for more tips on making your resume your datasheet. You’ll also discover findings that jobseekers across all sales realms should take note of when dusting off—or completely rewriting—their resumes in the New Year.


Originally published Jan 18, 2018 9:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2018