If you are applying for an inside sales position, remember: while your skills and experience are extremely important, hiring managers are also looking for candidates who are the right fit.
Candidates who are well qualified on paper, but lack some of the intangibles, may struggle with landing an inside sales job.
Some of those candidates who look great on paper don’t do that great in the interview. Others just don’t understand how to sell themselves with the right information on their cover letters and resumes.
In either scenario, the usual problem comes down to a lack of appropriate preparation.
Before you apply for an inside sales position, take the following advice to improve your chances of getting the job.
- 1. Inside Sales Rep, Know Thyself
- 2. Research, Research, Research
- 3. Put Together a Stellar Resume and Cover Letter for THIS Job
- 4. Know Who’s Who in the Hiring Process
- 5. Know Your Sales Philosophy and Be Ready to Share It
- 6. Be Ready with the Numbers
- 7. Ask Questions and Listen to the Answers
- 8. Request the Opportunity to Shadow a Rep
- 9. Remember: Sales is About People
- 10. Follow Up. Follow Up. Also, Follow Up.
- Now it’s your turn
1. Inside Sales Rep, Know Thyself
Carving out a fulfilling career takes work. Part of that work is uncovering the details around the profession you want to pursue and understanding how your skills and interests align with the realities of the job and industry.
Before you start sending out inside sales cover letters and resumes to any company with an open position, do a little self-reflection.
Are you a good fit for an inside sales job?
Not all sales positions are created equal, and not every candidate is suited to inside sales.
To determine if you’re a good fit for an inside sales position, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you comfortable with hearing “no” and handling rejection?
- Do you enjoy talking to people on the phone and via email?
- Are you persuasive, friendly, and concerned with helping people find answers to their problems?
- Do you enjoy competition and meeting goals under pressure?
Is an inside sales position a good fit for you?
If you feel like you’ve got the right characteristics for inside sales, you need to take the time to identify what will make the job most meaningful and exciting to you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What industries appeal to you most?
- What companies represent your dream employer?
- Who are the people you want to help — the target customers you want to serve?
- What types of products or services do you think you may have a passion for selling?
- If you’re looking to switch careers, what do you love about your current or last job and how can you translate that into a career in sales?
2. Research, Research, Research
When it comes to applying for an inside sales position, you need to do your research first.
Never go in unprepared.
If you’re lucky, you will uncover a section of the company’s website dedicated to specific jobs and what to expect. If not, you’ve got to do some research.
- Learn about a company and its products or services before you go in for the interview. Read the website, annual reports, press releases, trade articles, and more.
- Do your homework on the typical customers the company sells to. Try monitoring social media for mentions to see what customers say about their experiences with the company for additional insights.
- Check out Glassdoor.com to see what other employees have said about working at the company.
- View the LinkedIn profile of the person with whom you will interview. Learn about that person. Look up the profiles of other sales managers and executives in the company. You could end up meeting with them, too.
3. Put Together a Stellar Resume and Cover Letter for THIS Job
The days of blast resume submissions are over. You have to differentiate yourself — your personal brand — from every other candidate vying for the position.
You’re going in to win a sales job — put your best foot forward with a well-crafted resume and cover letter packaged as a solution to the interviewing manager’s problems or pain points.
Resume writing tips
Here are some inside sales resume tips:
- Make sure your resume is one page in length.
- Include keywords listed in the job description in your resume.
- List your sales volume, quota attainment, and other sales metrics on your resume.
- Include a paragraph describing your sales achievements and successes.
- Include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your resume and take a little time to optimize your LinkedIn profile and online brand so that they reflect your qualities and what you’re looking for in your career.
- List your education, certifications, and professional development on your resume.
- Don’t list references on your resume.
Cover letter writing tips
The cover letter is often an afterthought, a last-minute attempt to demonstrate your writing skills and interest in the job. But without a strong cover letter, you miss the opportunity to prove to the hiring manager that you are the perfect fit for the position.
Here are some inside sales cover letter tips:
- Address your cover letter to the appropriate person. Don’t use a generic “To Whom It May Concern” opening.
- Keep your cover letter to one page in length.
- Use bullet points in the cover letter to showcase your sales skills and achievements.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the job description and requirements.
- Show how you can help the manager.
- Include a call to action.
4. Know Who’s Who in the Hiring Process
Know the difference between the interviewing manager, the hiring manager, and the direct manager roles. Sometimes the person who interviews you will cover all three.
If one person doesn’t cover all three functions, then you need to be ready to address the needs of each. They are all looking for something different during the interview process.
…and who expects what
The interviewing manager and the hiring manager will look for skills that align with the job requirements.
On the other hand, the direct manager will be more concerned with how your personality matches the culture of the company.
The interview with the hiring manager will be about skills and experience, while the interview with the direct manager will be about personality, motivation, and fit.
5. Know Your Sales Philosophy and Be Ready to Share It
You’ve done your self-reflection, researched companies for the job you want, and created an incredible cover letter-resume combo. An interview may indeed be in your immediate future.
So what are you going to say when you get there?
Don’t go in without being able to articulate your sales philosophy. When you can articulate your personal sales philosophy, the interviewing or hiring manager understands that you see your role as more than just “getting people to buy stuff.”
A well-conceived sales philosophy helps your potential employer understand how you view and value the sales process.
6. Be Ready with the Numbers
Inside sales is all about numbers. There is no way around that — numbers drive success.
When you can talk numbers, you have validated your qualifications.
Unfortunately, candidates often don’t discuss their numbers. Here are some numbers you should be prepared to talk about:
- Actual sales versus quota
- You versus your team (your ranking in the group)
- Revenue created
- Revenue saved
- Number of dials per day
- Any other metrics that demonstrate how YOU make a difference
What if you don’t have numbers behind you?
If this is an interview for your first job in sales, you don’t have these types of data. However, you may have other information that can demonstrate why you might be worth the chance.
In everyday life, people must persuade — sell — other people.
Have you volunteered for a nonprofit where you spearheaded fundraising or volunteer recruitment efforts?
Do you have project management experience that required you to effectively negotiate with vendors and internal resources to help you meet deadlines while balancing workloads?
Share your success metrics and how you achieved them. Tell the hiring manager what persuasive (sales) techniques helped you gain success.
7. Ask Questions and Listen to the Answers
Don’t be the candidate who comes in with no questions at all. What that says is that you either don’t care about getting this job, or you think you already know all the answers.
Ask intelligent questions that demonstrate your interest and the research you’ve done.
Not only does this signal your actual interest in the job, but it also indicates that you might be a good sales rep who cares about understanding the customer to help him make the right buying decision.
But be careful – t’s very easy to get so focused and “in the moment” that you don’t actually listen to the answers to your questions. You could easily miss a detail that would help you understand if this job is right for you.
8. Request the Opportunity to Shadow a Rep
A terrific way to get a feel for a job and the corporate culture is to shadow someone in the position you are interviewing for.
If you can spend a day — or even a few hours — shadowing a current employee, you can get a glimpse into what day-to-day life might be like for you at this company.
Plus, this request shows initiative and demonstrates your desire to win the position.
9. Remember: Sales is About People
Sales is, without a doubt, a people business. Your ability to connect with people and discover their needs and concerns is what will propel your career forward.
Being personable means more than just being friendly. It means showing genuine interest in the other person. It means sharing stories. It means listening to the other person and trying to understand his/her perspective.
You should treat the interviewing manager, the hiring manager, and the direct manager as your customers. You are trying to earn their trust and their business.
10. Follow Up. Follow Up. Also, Follow Up.
If you don’t get the importance of following up with the person who just interviewed you — the person to whom you are trying to sell yourself — then don’t pursue sales any further as a career option.
Persistence in selling is essential.
- Send a thank you letter or email immediately after your interview.
- Follow up on the interview a week after your meeting, then two weeks after your meeting, then three weeks after your meeting.
- Ask the hiring manager for feedback.
- Send additional materials that might help the hiring manager remember you, such as an article you read about the company, or research you conducted on the company.
Now it’s your turn
Landing an inside sales job takes work and preparation. You need to understand what companies are really looking for in an inside sales rep.
If you don’t, then chances are you will be eliminated from consideration before you’ve had a chance to demonstrate your value to a company. Don’t let that happen.
Understand what companies are looking for in a candidate, and be prepared to sell yourself accordingly.