When I was in my early twenties I visited a career counselor who took one look at my resume placed it on his desk and say “Well I found your first problem.  Your resume.  It doesn’t work”.   “Why?” I asked, quite taken back.  The head-hunter, who used to be state judge, passed his sentence:  “Because, Michael, it reads like an obituary.”


He went on to say that I’ve fallen into the same trap that most young, and/or inexperienced job-seekers before me fall prey to.  That my resume was nothing more than a historical record of my career.


In hindsight – fifteen years later – the head-hunter’s judgement was spot on.  My resume, however nicely it fit on one page, was indeed quite cumbersome, and painfully reactive.


Michael did this.

Michael did that. 

Michael passed this test.

Michael went to this college.


A resume that simply serves as a record of job history, is far less likely to secure you a meeting with a sales manager.


Before we dive into what makes an effective resume, we must first define its purpose.  A resume is a ticket to entry.


It alone will not get you the job.  Your series of meetings and your interview will accomplish that.  Your resume gets you in the door.


When I receive a resume from a experienced sales person, I look for the following:


Has the candidate carried a quota?

Quotas are the lifeblood of a sales job.  Hiring a sales rep who’s not carried quota is like recruiting a basketball player that’s never played a competitive game in his life.  It’s certainly impressive if the player sinks ten three pointers in a row, but if he’s not done so when the score is tied with thirty seconds left in the game, his value proposition goes down.  Likewise, a candidate can be an excellent communicator and possess natural charisma, but if he or she is unable to apply that to quota attainment, I’ll likely pass.


 No quota?  Then take the ‘team player’ angle.


Though many retail organizations carry quota, however it’s worth noting that there are some who do not.  I recently purchased a sectional from a large national furniture chain that does not quota their sales people.  I know this because I had no less than seven sales people helping me with a single purchase, all of whom made the point say, “We aren’t on commission, so you can ask any one of us.”   If you’ve found yourself in such a situation, then promptly leave your job for one that pays you on a basis of what you sell.  Joking of course.  If you don’t earn a commission, you better believe your manager does!  If he doesn’t then the branch certainly does.  (If the branch doesn’t, then you work for a charity, and God bless you, you are a better person that I!).


If you would like to advance your career, then simply ask your manager how he’s is doing against his sales quota.  This will do two things.  First, it will shock the hell out of your manager.  Second it will give you a bullet point on the resume.


If so, has he or she consistently performed well against it?

If quotas are the lifeblood of sales, then the act of consistently attaining is the heartbeat.  The key word here is consistent.  More times than not, I’ve received resumes that claim multiple years of sales experience, yet I can find only one reference of over-attainment.  I’m not suggesting you paste in thirty years of performance history, however I do recommend a short bullet list of three to four recent quota periods.  Emphasis on recent.  There is very much a statute of limitations on quota attainment.  Why?  Because people change.  And though we’d like to think everyone changes for the better, it does happen that people lose their touch.  If you were a great salesman in the 90s yet you’ve somehow ‘slowed down’ in your recent years, that is a consideration for all sales recruiters.


Did they attach results to claims? 

Similar to the above example, it’s important to avoid empty claims on a resume.  It’s not enough to state: Routinely cold called twenty five new contacts a day.  When I read a phrase like this I want to say, ‘And… what?”  You made 125 calls a week and… nothing happened?  Did everyone hang up on you?  A better way to convey your daily activity is to attach a result:  Routinely cold called twenty five new contacts a day resulting in an average of 5 new appointments a week. 


The ability to communicate, in writing, how you will add value to an organization, is very powerful weapon in your tool belt.



A resume is sales collateral.


Think about the last time you made a significant purchase.  Did the sales associate provide a brochure?  If so, was the brochure a comprehensive, 1-inch thick instruction manual?   Of course not!  Brochures are sales collateral, and therefore are concise, easily palpable and are designed to pack a tremendous punch using the least amount if paper possible.   A resume serves this same purpose.  It answers the question:


  1. Who are you?
  2. What challenges did you take on, and what were the results?
  3. Can a recruiter picture you thriving in this role?



A resume focuses on results.


Lastly, an effective resume needs to be a healthy combination of what you’ve done (focusing on results), and what you’ll inevitably bring to the table.   But remember, the resume alone will not land you a job.  It is a door opener, and should be treated as such.


Long gone are the days of applying cold to requisitions found on job-seeking website.  I’m not opposed to including those sites in your job search strategy, but they shouldn’t be your primary strategy.  In fact, the old adage, ‘it’s all about who you know’ is perhaps more true today than when it was first spoken back in the early twentieth century.  Think about it.  Sales managers have a demanding job, and time isn’t always an affordable luxury.  In other words, we haven’t the time to parse through countless resumes sent to us by the countless Job Posting websites.  I rely solely on word-of-mouth referrals for external hires, and my pre-existing network for internals.  Many of you will cry foul, and you’d be right.  By implementing a referral-only recruiting strategy, I’m sure I’ve inadvertently passed on my fair share of superstars, and perhaps even the next Zig Ziglar. But I have to be okay with this, because time is precious, and (perhaps more importantly) I’ve worked very hard to establish a strong bench of candidates, all of whom have earned my trust.


Finding Your Way on a Bench.


The phrase, ‘On the Bench’ has an origin in sports.  During a game, you have players on the on the field, and you have players on the bench, and fans in the audience.  Players on field are playing the game.  Both the players on the bench and the fans in the audience are watching the game.  Now imagine a scenario if of these superstars has to leave the game, and  a member of the audience runs down to the sidelines begging a coach to let him in.  He would be escorted from the stands by the police.  If a player on the bench, however, asked the coach to get him in.  He would stand a much better chance.


The thing about players on the bench is that they are waiting their turn to join the game.  Put more plainly, they are on the bench because they’re on the team.  They’re on the team because they’ve spent a great deal of time demonstrating their capabilities to those who have the power to put them in the game.    So that’s what you need to do. 


To find the best sales jobs, you must be on a Bench.


The first step to hopping on a sales manager’s bench, is, well, to find local sales managers in your area!  Start with what’s called your natural market.  Your natural market includes friends, ex-coworkers, ex-managers, family members, or anyone else you can leverage for introductions.  Craft an email to these folks stating clearly that you’re a sales professional seeking an inside sales position at local organization.  Depending on the size of your natural market, someone is bound to respond with helpful information.


Another effective way to is to utilize LinkedIn.  Far too much ink has been spilled on this topic, so we won’t spend much time here.  Linkedin is today’s gold standard for information on who does what for any given company.  If other words, if you’d like to secure a sales interview with Acme Solutions, Inc, all you need to do is conduct a search for Acme and browse through the contacts until you find someone with the title ‘Sales Manager.’  Add them as a contact, so can contact them directly.  If  she doesn’t accept your invitation, at least now you have her name, which could help you with their email address.  First.Last@companydomain.com and FirstInitialLastName@companydomain.com are the most common email addresses.  If those fail, experiment with  others.