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9-Step Guide to Landing a Great Sales Job

Sales can be an ideal career path for those who enjoy communicating and building relationships, can easily tell the story of a product or service, and have great presentation skills.

However, in today’s competitive job market, it’s harder than it used to be to find and land a great sales job — especially if you’re new to the job market or the sales profession. We’ve got tips to get you from square one to job interview to offer.

Finding A Sales Position

The first step to finding a sales position is to decide where your interests lie. If you have completed an internship program, you may already know which industry you’d like to focus on. If not, do your research, and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Which industries are you excited about?
  • What type of company do you want to work for, e.g. a large corporation, a start-up, or a small/medium-sized business?
  • Are you looking for an inside sales job, where you will be based in an office and selling to clients over the phone, or do you prefer to be field-based in an outside sales position, where you will be driving, walking, and taking public transportation to multiple accounts in a given day?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin your job search!

1. Starting Your Job Search

You can begin your search online, starting with the Careers page of any company you’re interested in. You can also search on job search engines (Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com) and job boards (Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Dice.com).

Check out Glassdoor.com, a comprehensive career community site where you can find job postings, company reviews, and salary information. There are also a lot of industry-specific websites.

For example, you can find entertainment and media sales jobs on MediaBistro.com and EntertainmentCareers.net, while medical and pharmaceutical sales positions are advertised on MedReps.com and MedZilla.com. And, don’t forget to search the old-fashioned way: classified ads in your local newspaper. Yes, some companies still advertise in local newspapers!

2. Outside Recruiters and Recruitment Firms

Lately, I have found that outside recruiters have too much on their plates, and candidates often get lost in the shuffle.

In addition, outside recruiters are expensive and companies seem to be shying away from them.

You may find a job faster by searching on your own and building your network. But, if you do happen to meet a recruiter you like, one meeting won’t hurt. For more info, check our guide to working with recruiters.

3. Build Your Network

You can also find a job through word of mouth. LinkedIn is a tremendous resource that can be used to reach out and make connections, join sales-related groups, and review your interviewer’s profile in order to have some conversation starters.

You can also build your network by joining relevant professional associations, which can be found online or in the Encyclopedia of Associations (available at most libraries). Most associations will offer student or recent graduate memberships at a discounted rate.

Lastly, become involved in your local chamber of commerce. You never know when you might meet a prospective employer or a prospective client.

4. Resume

When you apply for positions, make sure to send a “sales resume.” A sales resume should highlight relevant accomplishments and sales rankings.

Recent graduates can include school accomplishments, like making the dean’s list, graduating cum laude, or being promoted to president of a club or organization.

Focus on past achievements that show your ability to sell. If you don’t have formal sales experience, think about how you’ve demonstrated the competencies required for a successful sales rep — communication skills, assertiveness, focus on results, etc.  Relevant examples could involve selling an idea to others or fundraising for a cause.

Acing The Interview

Once you land an interview, make sure to sell yourself to your potential employer by being thoroughly prepared.

5. Research the Company

It’s very important to know the company, their core values, the hiring manager, the product you will be selling, its market share and competitors.

Doing your homework is a surefire way to signify your strong interest in the role — and to impress your potential bosses.

You can also reach out to your network to see if you’re connected to current or past employees who can share their perspectives on the company, the products, or the firm’s sales strategies.

6. Be Prepared to Ask and Answer Questions

Behavioral questions are very common in sales interviews. Examples of these  include:

  • Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone to do something.
  • Give me a time where you did all that you could and still didn’t accomplish your goal.
  • Describe a time you had to present an effective presentation. How did you “wow” your audience?
  • What is your greatest strength?

You may also be asked to role-play and sell your interviewer a product (the company’s product or even a handy object like a pencil or a cup). Remember to ask questions and to focus on the client’s needs.

If you don’t have experience with this, practice with a friend before your interview.

You must also be prepared to ask your interviewer questions. This will help you gain a better understanding of the company and products, and will also show your interviewer that you’re interested and paying attention. Some questions include:

  • What are you looking for in a sales representative?
  • What is the biggest challenge your reps are currently facing?
  • What is your timeline for hiring?
  • What are the next steps in the interviewing process?

7. Take-Aways

In addition to your resume, think about other things you might want to leave with your interviewers that will provide a lasting impression of your candidacy.

You may want to prepare a brag book, which is a compilation of your accomplishments. Brag books typically include copies of any awards you have won, recommendation letters, certificates, and sales ranking reports.

If you’re a recent graduate, you can also include examples of volunteer work and information about organizations in which you’ve held a leadership role. Brag books are only required in certain industries, like pharmaceutical sales, but can put you ahead of your competition regardless of where you interview.

You can also prepare a business plan that highlights your goals for the position in the first 30, 60, and 90 days of employment.

These might include information on how you plan to approach your territory, and how you will learn the product and industry.

8. Close, close, and close!

In order to make a sale, you need to close a deal. That goes double for your interview when you’re selling yourself to your employer.

If the interview is going well and it feels appropriate, close for the job. Here are some suggestions:

  • I want to work for you and for this organization. Are you in a position right now to offer me this job?
  • Do you have any concerns about my ability to excel this job?
  • Which other information can I provide you in order to demonstrate that I am the right person for this job?

9. After the Interview

Within 24 hours, you should write a thank you note to your potential boss, and all other company representatives you have met with, expressing what you have learned during the interview and why you would be a great fit. (Check out our Thank You Notes 101 for advice on how to craft a killer thank you note.)

You are likely to know the employer’s hiring timeline, so be sure to follow up when appropriate. Staying in touch with the employer will help you stay on his radar and will also give you an opportunity to showcase your follow-up skills, which are crucial to any sales role.

(Main Photo: pasukaru76)

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

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