Perfecting Your Sales Job Search

My father, when I was getting out of school and hitting the job market for the first time, gave me some advice that has stuck with me.

I was slaving over my resume and he told me “make your resume about your accomplishments, not your responsibilities.”

You want accomplishments because it proves that you have made an impact and done something at your job, not simply taken up space. You’ve helped move the business forward, not stagnate.

With modern CRM systems, you are tracking so much data about yourself as a sales person. All your emails. All your calls. All your meetings. All your successes. All your failures. With salesforce reporting, you have so much data about yourself. When you hit the job market, to stand out from the crowd of mediocre sales people, you need to use this data and measurements about yourself. Pepper your resume with your accomplishments and prove those accomplishments with measurements.

Of course you will know your overall sales performance: how much you booked, whether you hit your number and so forth. But you need more than those simple numbers. Here’s how to use sales metrics about your accomplishments to execute the perfect modern sales job search.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A classic interview question is “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Don’t give one of the classic bullshit answers to this like, “I work too hard”.

Your strengths and weaknesses are measurable. Your current and past companies have sales processes, with conversion rates from stage to stage. Know what your personal conversion rates were from stage to stage and how you compared to the rest of your team and company on these metrics.

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That way you can answer qualitatively these questions and then you can back them up with proof. It might go something like this:

“What is your weakness?”

“I’m great at converting an initial consultation to a demo. My meeting-to-demo conversion rate was 5 points higher than anyone else on my team’s but I’m not as strong in providing demos. My demo conversion rate was middle of the pack for the company. It was 24% and the company average was 26%”

Nobody is perfect. It’s ok to admit to a relative weakness. That said, you still need to mitigate this weakness you just exposed.

Show that you are coachable

To mitigate this weakness, you need to show that you’ve been working on it. Discuss the concrete steps you have taken to improve this weakness. Be sure to include the fact that you were working with your manager on it. You and your manager found the weakness in the data and took concrete steps to improve.

“We found my conversion rate coming out of the trials was weaker than the rest of my peers after about 3 months. It made sense because I had never done online trials before and had always been doing more enterprise style sales. I worked on my follow up tactics, studied the product a bit at the expense of some prospecting effort and started to improve. We tracked my conversion rate month to month after that and I went up from 19% to 24%. I’m pretty confident that I’ll continue to improve in this area given my personal efforts and the help my previous manager gave me.”

The message you’re giving here is that you used metrics to identify your weakness, you used metrics to track your progress against that weakness and most importantly, you are open to coaching. A sales manager’s main job is to coach and mentor her team members. A hiring manager wants to see that if she hires you, you’re going to receptive to the coaching she is going to give you. Don’t just say you’re open to coaching, show you have a track record of accepting it.

Activity ratios to figure out if its a good fit

What will the work be like at this new job you’re contemplating? How do they spend their days? Will it match what you’ve been doing? Will it be different? You can use activity ratios to help make this determination. When I recently wrote about sales activity ratios, I said this on the matter:

One way to reduce the surprises about a new job after you have walked in the door is to compare your activity ratios up front. Just as you can benchmark yourself against your current peers at your current job, you can use your activity ratios at your old job to understand how they operate at this potential new job. How much effort do they put into the phones vs. the emails? Are you cranking through lightly researched consultations in bulk or are you doing in depth research in advance?

If you can compare your current ratios to your future employers’, it is one extra factor to help figure out if the new company is going to be a good fit for you, your style and your long term happiness.

Not only can you use your metrics to impress in your resume and interview, but it can help you feel good about the jump you are about to make.

Understand your impact on the rest of the company

If you want to truly impress your next employer, you can show them that you’re not just concerned about your own personal performance. You as a sales person are mostly concerned about booking new businesses. But the CEO has other concerns. She has the customer service team sounding the alarm about unhappy customers. She has the account managers worried about cancellations. She has the product development team trying to innovate and create the next big thing. She has the marketing team struggling to increase lead flow.

When sales leaders create a compensation plan, they try to fashion one that encourages sales behaviors that are in the best interests of the company. Clawbacks and the such are there to discourage selling to the wrong types of customers. But creating incentive plans for you as a rep that perfectly align to the best interests of the company is hard, if not impossible. So you might not be directly measured on these types of factors.

Even if you aren’t being measured on these metrics, walk into your interview by knowing how your own actions as a sales person positively impacted the company overall.

What was the churn rate for your customers? How long did they stay with your company? Did you “hire” customers that tended to have lower or higher rates of customer service problems? What was your customers’ NPS? Did you effectively sell the cheaper lead sources?

The list of metrics you could use here is endless and shows that you can have a positive impact on the business well beyond simply closing new deals. It will show that you will have the long term best interests of the company at heart. And that will turn you from a normal candidate, to an exceptional job candidate.

Want easy reporting to get these metrics about yourself?

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