Whether you’re just starting to look for a career or are a seasoned pro looking for a change- knowing where and how to find your next sales job requires a unique set of skills.
Going into a job hunt like Officer John McClane vacations around the holidays is a good way to end up underutilized, underpaid, and unhappy.
On the other hand, a little planning and preparation really goes a long way- especially when looking for a new sales position. Here are a few steps to plan like a pro:
- Decide your industry. What are you passionate about? If you’re like me, and the answer is “everything,” then decide one or two similar industries to focus on. Do some research, learn what you can and then commit. This is an important step because it will focus and guide your efforts in the next steps and give you a clear advantage in a competitive situation later on.
- Once you’ve decided and committed to searching within an industry, it’s time to look at your resume. First thing’s first: a resume is NOT a list of job descriptions for positions you’ve held. It’s not a place to write everything you’ve ever done that you’re proud of (looking at you, Eagle Scout Award). What it is at its core is an executive summary of your overall value proposal. Your resume should give a summary of what makes you valuable as an employee, nothing more. There are countless great articles on how to do this (and countless terrible articles, too), but here’s one that I’ve found to be generally helpful from the Rockport Institute: http://rockportinstitute.com/resumes/
- The final piece of preparation has to do with mindset. To help you understand what value you have to offer, you need to put your personal value proposition into words on paper. Don’t have one? Get one. Craft it to be succinct, yet persuasive- really hitting the reason someone would want to hire you. Tweet me @chrisrussmccall to get mine.
Especially in sales, it’s all about who you know. Having the inroad with the boss makes everything easier- just like having a relationship with your customer makes it exponentially easier to close the sale. If you don’t have a network, start today.
LinkedIn is by far the best professional networking tool available when it comes to building, maintaining, and leveraging your network. You can find a few best practices for what your profile should look like here. Use the advanced search features to connect yourself with relevant people in the industry you’ve selected. Recruiters, sales managers, InFluencers, and HR managers are a good place to start. Once you’ve filled out your network somewhat, you can identify professional groups to join an contribute to- further increasing your sphere of influence.
One word of caution when working with recruiters- not all opportunities are created equal. Recruiters are paid to put qualified butts in open chairs- this might mean the the perfect opportunity for you, or it might mean you get screwed. Ask questions, assume nothing, and above all else- speak up if you feel uncomfortable.
Take a deep breath- it’s finally time to search. In the same way you would open up a new sales territory- strategy comes first. Remember to play to your strengths. Are you great in person but struggle a little on the phone? Look for ways to maximize your in-person impact over that of a phone conversation. Be sure to plan out the logistical goals of finding a job as well- how many applications can you fill out (and do a good job) with the time you have? What connections can you leverage to find out more information?
Once you have a plan of attack- don’t hold back. Use the resources that maximize your time and impact. LinkedIn, Indeed, TheLadders, IdealCandidate, Monster, and many other websites will give you a leg up in your search. Reach out to your network of recruiters to see what opportunities they might be able to come up with for you. Get creative- set up a website detailing your experience (Wix is perfect for this). If you really want to stand out- do a little online marketing. Nothing gets the attention of a hiring manager like your name popping up on their Google searches with paid search. Think outside the box and really seek to impress. Personally- I job hunt using a sales-funnel method. It works well for me.
During your search, you will soon discover some red flags. Things like an unknown salary (aka “unlimited earning potential”), overly general job descriptions or benefits, and poor glassdoor reviews should raise questions in your mind. Ask them. Your dream job will have full explanations for things like commission processes, expectations of performance, and reasonable management. Especially if you’re working with a recruiter- ask, ask, ask.
Finally: Land the Job
Once you’ve taken the steps to prepare, establish/leverage your network, find, and apply- all that remains is to land the job. As with every step thus-far, strategy comes first. When you get called for interviews- having a general knowledge of the companies you’ve applied to goes a long way at the start. Knowing your personal value statement and being able to describe your experience in terms of value should get you past the phone stage and on to an in-person.
Do the basics well for your in-person interviews. Professional dress, grooming, and good hygiene will be sure to keep the focus on the interview and off of you. Professional courtesy dictates that when you are asked if you have questions, you should have some. Come prepared. Especially in sales- the hiring manager wants to see what you will be like with customers as much as they want to know how well you’ll work with the team. Present yourself accordingly. Don’t forget the post-interview follow up.
If you’re this far- you will probably begin to see offers start to roll in. Once you have them, be sure to confirm with the sender that you’ve received the offer and are reviewing it. Remember they put a lot of work into the whole process as well- don’t be a scumbag. If there are points that you wish were different about the offer, ask nicely for further explanation or negotiate from a position of common understanding.
Remember- sales is a profession that relies on people skills as much as it does on strategy, business sense, and communication. Using these skills in your job hunt will not only help you land your next gig, but is a great way to really test your mettle. Good luck out there!