Job Hunting Tips for the “mature’ sales professional

My weekly SalesBrief this week centred around the topic of age – from whether salespeople do have a “sell-by date” for themselves, to understanding how older sales folks and younger sales managers relate. 

As a guide to those older salespeople who are currently in the marketplace for a new job, the very first suggestion I’d make is to take a brutal, long, hard look in the mirror to ask yourself if you are “the best you” you can be right now. The question is, would you employ you?

In sales, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the overall image of the salesperson – as we all know, first impressions count. We also know that research proves that the salesperson plays a vital part in whether or not a client decides to buy. So being up to date with the latest developments, keeping yourself current with the latest sales training available, looking professional, being enthusiastic and having the right attitude are baseline requirements – even more so when you’re looking for a sales position in a highly competitive marketplace.

My second suggestion would be to apply sales process thinking to finding a new sales position i.e. you are the product and then first the recruiter, then the employer needs to “buy” you. [Note: if you don’t clearly understand the term “sales process” then your selling skills knowledge may not be as up to date as you think.]

Your very first step in your sales process is to prepare your CV – which is your marketing material – your “lead-generator”. How does it look? Is is professionally presented, perfectly laid-out and proof-read? Or does it look more like a dog’s breakfast that has quickly been thrown together? Think like a buyer (i.e. the recruiter and/or employer). Your CV is their first impression of you, and that CV has to “work” to get you in front of the right person. If your CV doesn’t send the right message, you are drastically reducing your chances of even being interviewed telephonicially

Does your CV indicate the value you can offer a company as a sales professional? Or is it more of an outdated “features and benefits” type of CV?

Remember – we’re applying sales process thinking. What is important is to move the “sale” along from step to step.

Your first step is to get the positive attention of the recruiter and/or employer, it is NOT to try and “close the sale” ie. get the job.  That comes much later in the process.

Then you have to target your potential prospects with that CV. Where do you start looking?

A must-do these days is to list your CV on PNet and Career Junction, along with all the other online job sites there are. My estimate is that 90% of recruiters and employers are using these career portals to find potential applicants.

Remember, most job sites allow only recruiters who subscribe to their service to search CV’s. Employers are generally not given direct access to CV databases. Employers are able to post their job adverts, but they can’t search CV’s so don’t be too concerned about your current employer finding your CV there. Check out the job portal’s terms carefully before posting your CV.

I’d also recommend that you create your profile and load your CV up on the LinkedIn networking site too. It’s a popular site among professional recruiters.  

When applying for a sales position, do take the time to read the job specs to make sure you are a potential match for the position. If your CV doesn’t “speak to” the job spec, then you need to make the connection for the recruiter or employer in a cover letter. If it means taking the time to write a specific cover letter for that specific position then do it. 

As early on in the sales process as possible, explain the current structure of your salary package too and what your expectations are. There not only needs to be a match with your selling skills, there needs to be a remuneration match.

Think of the advertised job spec as a “tender specification”. In sales, you wouldn’t dream of submitting your proposal for a tender unless it matched the tender’s requirements, would you?

I hope you see where I’m going with this line of thinking. In basic terms, if the recruiter is looking for an apple, make sure they can easily see that you are an apple from your CV. Otherwise you’re just one of hundreds of people who apply for every job they see listed and that will ensure you’re overlooked.

As a sales recruiter, even when I post a job ad with extremely detailed job specs, I get on average 150-200 applications, 90% of which are not even remotely a match but I still need to send a regret letter to each person (this is why many recruiters battle to get back to everyone with a reply – not justifying a lack of response, just giving a possible explanation). So in order to find 4 or 5 potential candidates, I need to open and read 150 CVs – you can imagine the hours and hours of my time that involves.

As I mentioned in the SalesBrief, if you are an older salesperson and feel that your personal image is a “selling feature” then you may want to consider adding a professional photograph of yourself to your CV.  If you are very active then list your sporting interests too.  But never lie on a CV, about anything.

If a recruiter or employer uncovers deceit in a CV in any way – from listing incomplete qualifications as complete to increasing dates for length of employment to make your CV read better, they may begin to question your personal integrity.

Rest assured, there are great sales positions out there, it’s just a matter of finding them. Much like prospecting for new business – if you know where to look and have a great product or service to offer, you will successfully close that sale.

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