How to write a resume for a sales job if you have a non-sales background

With over 1.8 million new sales job vacancies every year, many opportunities are available to aspiring salespeople.

Switching to sales could be a smart move if you have the core skills and potential to succeed, and many positions offer outstanding flexibility and exceptional power over your own income if you perform well. 

If you’re considering a career in sales without a sales background, creating a compelling resume is key to securing that all-important interview and landing your first position. 

Let’s explore how to write a stellar career transition resume for sales. 

1) Identify your transferable skills

Whatever your previous work experience, chances are you already have many of the skills needed to succeed in a sales career. Before applying for your new role, identify your existing traits and skills that can help you in your new career and think about areas where you can upskill and grow.

One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the most in-demand skills for salespeople is by checking job ads and following industry-specific publications that will give you a better idea of what employers look for in a new hire.

It’s also helpful to explore sales roles in your current industry so you can leverage your existing knowledge and make the process easier on yourself. Transitioning to a sales role is often more manageable if you choose a niche you understand.

Alternatively, consider working in an area related to your hobbies or interests. If you’re unsure whether you know enough about a particular industry to deliver results, researching common customer questions can help you assess your expertise and fill gaps in your knowledge before starting your new career.

Finally, learn as much as possible about successful sales techniques to develop the core skills you need to present a product or service convincingly. Talk to people in sales roles about what works for them, and consider shadowing an established salesperson in your desired niche. 

Attending networking events can also help you build the relationships you need to generate leads and referrals while gaining valuable insights from industry experts.  

Some examples of transferable skills applicable to a sales role include:

  • Communication
  • Active listening
  • Storytelling
  • Collaboration
  • Product knowledge
  • Customer service
  • Problem-solving
  • Negotiating
  • Time management
  • Rapport-building

All of the skills listed above can be developed in a number of roles. For instance, teachers often possess excellent listening and communication skills and are used to building rapid rapport with new students and their parents. Meanwhile, project managers often have strong organizational skills and are adept at solving problems to meet tight deadlines.

Your non-work experience can also help you develop crucial sales skills. For example, your experiences as a consumer of certain products could give you an advantage if you have detailed knowledge of their features and common pain points.

2) Consider using a functional resume format 

Most resume formats feature work experience bullet points listed under each job in chronological order. While this format makes sense when moving jobs within the same industry, a functional resume could be more compelling when switching industries.

Unlike a traditional resume, functional resumes have experience bullets organized by relevant skills. For example, you could group examples of your relationship-building skills under the same header. 

Functional resumes are ideal for switching industries because a hiring manager can instantly see how you meet the job requirements by glancing over the headings. Furthermore, the format makes it easier for employers to identify examples of your key skills instead of searching through your resume to find relevant experience.

3) Highlight your career goals in a resume objective

Resume objectives aren’t mandatory, but they’re an excellent opportunity to explain your reasons for changing careers and to focus on highlights that make you a strong candidate. Distilling your most compelling points into a single paragraph demonstrates how you fulfill the core requirements for success in sales.

The job description can help you decide what to prioritize in your resume objective (and what to leave out). Highlight any skills or traits you possess from the job description, paying particular attention to mandatory skills or points mentioned more than once. Include these skills in your introduction, emphasizing how they can help you transition smoothly to a sales role.

4) Emphasize your personality strengths

When evaluating a potential new hire, hiring managers typically look for hard skills and on-the-ground sales experience. However, emphasizing your soft skills shows your potential and helps convince an employer to invest in training you if you don’t have relevant experience. 

The following soft skills are particularly relevant to sales roles:

  • Empathy
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Resilience
  • Flexibility
  • Persuasion
  • Confidence
  • Adaptability

When writing your resume, specifically focus on any soft skills that are mentioned in the job description. This shows hiring managers that although you may lack sales experience, you still have the qualities they want.

For example, if you’re looking for a remote job, showcase your communication skills and ability to work independently. Include specific examples and performance metrics to provide evidence of your abilities whenever possible.

5) Tailor your resume to the company’s values and mission

Hiring managers want to see that your working style aligns with the company’s core values and goals. While submitting the same resume for every application saves time, it denies you the opportunity to demonstrate your aptitude for specific roles. Focus on tailoring your resume for each job application to show how you can add value to each sales team.

First, research the company to get a clear picture of its priorities. Sometimes you’ll find the company’s mission statement in the job description. Otherwise, check the website for their mission statement and customer service philosophy. 

Then, research their products and services to understand the business from the customer’s point of view. Some companies will even allow you to talk with an established sales rep to gain a deeper understanding of their style and values. 

Having a solid understanding of the company will help you decide what to emphasize on your resume and prepares you for answering job interview questions.

6) Show how you’re prepared to tackle challenges

Understanding pain points and overcoming challenges to meet goals is crucial to any successful sales career. Therefore, hiring managers want to determine whether you understand the challenges facing the company and how you’ll overcome them. 

Research the industry to learn about obstacles the company faces and consider how your existing skills can help the business achieve its objectives.

Emphasize instances where you’ve overcome similar hurdles in your previous roles in your experience bullet points, detailing which skills you used and their impact.

For example, imagine you used active listening and problem-solving skills to resolve customer complaints, resulting in positive feedback or some other result that added value to the business. Highlighting the outcome of your actions on client retention paints a compelling picture for hiring managers and helps them visualize how your skills can benefit their company.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to write a strong resume or ace your job interview, visit Resume Genius.