The compensation plan changed again. The revolving door of company executives spins out of control. You look at the corporate direction and you'd like to give the CEO a compass so he can find his way. Concerned, you've decided that today is the day that you will peek your head over the cubicle wall and see what other opportunities are out there. After all, you've been successful. No need to go down with the ship.
The morning you wake up with the inspiration to begin a job search is a little scary. There is the factor of the unknown. Yet, you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone to open the doors to new opportunity. It's been a while since you last looked for a new sales home. How do you go from where you are today to a new, fresh opportunity?
Know what you want. In sales, you often work with the profile of your ideal client. The same applies when looking for a job. You need to know what the ideal fit is for your sales pedigree. If you don't know what you are looking for, how will you know when you find it? This introspective exercise is the subject of another article of mine titled, "Finding the Right Home For Your Sales Skills." That article walks you through the exercise of defining your ideal sales role. Don't go another step in the process until you have read that article.
Develop your marketing tools. Marketing tools? Yes, that is what a cover letter and resume are all about. When you think of marketing, you also think of messaging. Many forget this when they develop their cover letter and resume. However, these marketing tools communicate a message, a story. The key is to make sure they convey the story you intend.
While the easy thing to do is to create one cover letter and one resume, it is not the most effective way to pursue a new job. As someone who has screened thousands of these documents from sales candidates, I can share with you a little nugget of insight. Hiring managers ask themselves a simple question when they first peruse your cover letter and resume. "Do they want my job or just a job?" We know when you are mass emailing your marketing tools just like prospects know when you mass email them.
In sales, you are taught to make sure your message matches your audience. Sales is not taught as a one-size-fits-all, but rather a template that is adjusted to match the need and circumstance. When prospects feel that they are the sales call of the day, they don't respond. The same applies to hiring managers. Hiring managers are looking to hire people that want to work in their organization. They can feel when someone just wants a job, not necessarily theirs. Thus, when they get that feeling, your candidacy for the job goes into the trash.
The cover letter is one of the first ways it becomes obvious that you are treating this as a mass event. The sales person applies for a specific job, but the cover letter communicates a message that says they want a different job. It is not intentional on the part of the sales person. After all, they paid a copywriter a thousand dollars to create this masterpiece. Copywriters are very helpful to those in need of assistance in creating the story of their background.
However, the effective cover letter recipe has three ingredients to it, making it somewhat difficult for the copywriter to unilaterally assist you.
- Share what you know about the company. Hiring managers want to see that you have at least done a little research about them. This is easily done by visiting their website, performing an online search, and studying them on Hoover's.
- Present your relevant qualifications/accomplishments. The keyword here is "relevant." We've all done a lot of things in our lives. Pick the ones that you feel are most relevant to the reader based on what you read when you researched the company. You can also ascertain this from the job posting.
- Show the synergy between the opportunity and your background. Connect the dots for the reader. If the company is looking for a sales person that has developed a new territory and you are an expert at doing that, make sure the message comes out in the cover letter. Don't expect the reader to see the synergy. You need to map it out just like you do for sales prospects. When presenting the synergies, use their language. If they call the position "a hunter," refer to yourself as one. If they call bringing in new accounts as "territory development," you are in expert in territory development, not hunting.
When the objective, isn't the objective. The same holds true for the resume. Many sales people write an objective at the top of their resume. Yet, they fail to adjust the title based on the position for which they are applying. My favorite is when someone writes as an objective, "To get a sales or sales management position." I can assure you that approach is a guaranteed way to get yourself removed from consideration in an instant. Those are two completely different jobs. "I want to be a pitcher or the manager of the team. It doesn't matter to me." Again, I just heard you want a job, not necessarily my job.
What you've done. The resume is an extension of the cover letter. The message should be the same. Highlight the results and areas of expertise that are most relevant to this opportunity. I'm not suggesting that you leave certain jobs or employment off your resume. However, package each one as best as you can to convey the synergy between you and the company.
From the job posting, you can usually infer what is most important to the sales manager. Those usually can be found in the section of the job description that highlights the candidate requirements for the job. Include bulleted descriptions and statistics that map back to those elements.
While the work to customize these marketing tools may seem huge and painful, it really isn't. Earlier, I mentioned that you should start the search process by identifying the right home for your sales skills. The reason for that recommendation was to give focus to your search. It allows you to laser-in on those opportunities that best match you. Thus, isn't it worth the time investment to customize your marketing tools for those job prospects that are best suited for you? Wouldn't you do the same thing in pursuit of a major prospect? I certainly hope so.