How to write a winning CV for a sales job

OK – you know how to sell products and services. You’ve done it your whole career. Or you’ve come to sales after experience elsewhere and led your office and your field. So writing a CV is just about selling yourself, yes? You are the expert in that – so it’s easy!

This is partly true.

There are a number of reasons why selling yourself is slightly different:

  1. Writing a CV is more like a marketing strategy than a sales campaign. Your product and your messaging and your target audience are not yet fixed.
  2. The rules of the game are different. You don’t have the flexibility to do it in any way you wish.
  3. It requires a level of self-awareness before you can communicate yourself effectively.

Some things are relatively similar though; namely:

  • It’s about matching supply and demand. You can’t create an opening that doesn’t exist but you can create a ‘want’ where there is an existing ‘need’.
  • It’s about being better than your competition in ways that are valued by the buyer.
  • Timing is important. Being aware of potential opportunities and responding to them as soon as possible can help.
  • Listen first; then communicate.

Below I will focus on those things that differ:

Developing your personal marketing strategy

Like a marketing strategy, you first have to decide what your product is. That is – what do you offer your next employer that is valuable to them? This is not as obvious as it sounds. People tend to respond to a question like this by sounding the same as everyone else. They say things like ‘I am a hardworking, reliable individual who works well both as an individual and in a team’. But your CV is supposed to make you sound different from the others, not the same!

Another mistake often made is that people talk about the real basics of their skill set, rather than the higher level skills that actually differentiate them. Many senior level candidates fall into this trap because they have a fixed idea of what is supposed to be on a CV.

So, you need to focus on the right details to demonstrate what you can do.

Then, related to this, you have to decide who your target audience is: Which companies, in which sector(s)? Then you can begin crafting the key messages of your CV.

If you don’t do this you are at risk of being like a double-glazing salesperson trying to offer people benefits they don’t need.

The rules of the game

With a CV, you don’t have the flexibility to do it in any way you wish. You need to learn the rules of the game. For example – there is certain information that employers expect to see on your CV. It would be unusual if your contact details were not at the top. It would also be unusual to not have a section somewhere that lists your work history chronologically (ideally in reverse).

You have to balance this however with a level of flexibility and creativity in presenting your unique information in the way that best represents you. You have to get yourself chosen.

How self-awareness will improve your CV

Self-awareness is the raw material that you are working with to craft your ‘value proposition’ to your next employer. Knowing what is special about your offering – what you have that similarly qualified candidates don’t have is what will give you the edge. It’s the product that you are trying to sell.

You are looking for things that demonstrate your level of performance. How do you rank alongside others that do the same job? How did you perform in relationship to your targets? Did you bring anything new to the game?

So, get your personality across and get your specific achievements prominent in the CV. Don’t do ‘creativity’ for its own sake. Do it if it adds something relevant. Most of all – focus on what the employer actually tells you they want. Then provide evidence to support this.

Written by

CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.