In the high-stakes world of sales, where every interaction is a pitch and every pitch could seal a deal, landing your dream sales role is the first test of your prowess. It's not just about selling a product; it's about selling yourself—your skills, your experience, and, most importantly, your potential. With a myriad of candidates vying for the same positions, standing out from the crowd isn't just recommended; it's essential.
Why is it so crucial to differentiate yourself? Because in sales, the first impression is the only impression that matters. Your application is your opening pitch, and if you don't grab attention from the get-go, you're just another name in the stack, another resume in the recycling bin. But fear not, aspiring sales virtuoso, for this article isn't just a guide; it's your secret weapon. We'll arm you with the strategies and insights you need to craft an application that doesn't just speak; it sings.
From understanding the psychology of hiring managers to tailoring your personal brand for the ultimate impact, we'll navigate through the nuances of networking, the finesse of follow-ups, and the artistry of articulating your achievements. This isn't about fitting in; it's about standing out. It's about ensuring that when the hiring team discusses their top candidates, your name is on everyone's lips.
So, buckle up and prepare to embark on a journey to the top of the pile. By the end of this ultimate guide, you won't just be applying for a sales role; you'll be closing the deal on your future.
Stand out from the competition
So let’s start with the highest level. You need to stand out. The beauty is - exactly what we want to be doing once we have the job. This creates a nice little opportunity. We have the opportunity to PROVE we can do the job, just by how we apply.
Lucky for us, the bar is set low. Most candidates are lazy in their approach and go with a shotgun approach. They ‘Easy Apply’ to every job that is remotely a match, hoping they get lucky. That's it. That is all the do!
In a recent hiring round, I had 1000 applicants (that's right, 1K). This is how easy it was to stand out.
50 send a DM on LinkedIn
25 followed up in a meaningful way
2 send a video
1 tried to call me
1 got references to contact me
1 messaged others asking questions about the role.
1 engaged in the live questions on a podcast I was being interviewed on.
By now, I’m sure its obvious. The person who did all the steps was the same person. And guess who got the job? Exactly..
Now, before you make yourself stand out. There are some preliminary things to do to make sure your profile looks good. You can find those here in the SDR job hunting guide.
Steps like getting your LinkedIn polished are important. Your profile matters more than your resume these days.
Okay, lets get practical.
Here are ways to stand out from the masses and steps I highly recommend you take on
Use LinkedIn to stand out
1: Activate your free trial of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Build a list of the companies you want to apply for and 5 relevant stakeholders from those companies (everyone who might be involved in the hiring decision)
2: Show your social selling prowess by commenting and engaging on those relevant stakeholder posts and comments. Each comment will help you stand out. You can also show that you know how to social sell, ticking the qualification box pre interview.
3: Connect with your potential future peers
4: After a few engagements, DM them to ask a meaningful question about the company
Something like: “I am applying for the AE role. It looks like a fantastic opportunity, but do you mind if I ask a few quick questions about what its like to work there?”
Remember - you are selling yourself, so be strategic with the questions.
Things like, "I'm looking for a place where I can really grow as a seller. I want a strong, work hard, play hard kind of culture. Would you describe the culture as “driven”? “
You can ask them about sales methodologies and training programmes. You can ask them about their CRM and more. All of this will be useful to you later in the interview.
But more than anything, there is a great chance this person will message the sales leader, saying, “Look at Ricky - he reached out and seems like a good fit.” This step can be repeated a few times, and you will eventually have a group of internal champions supporting your application.
5: If you have people in common, ask one of them to reach out to the hiring manager on your behalf. Ask them to create a 3 way DM introducing you and saying they think you will be a good fit for the role.
6: When you eventually do connect on LinkedIn, send a video introducing yourself. Mention that you are looking forward to the interview process and hope to be considered for the role. Be short, sharp, and on point. Mention WHY them and WHY you are excited about the opportunity. Max 45 seconds, so prepare well.
7: Use SalesNav to find ex-employees in the sales team. The more senior the better. Message them saying you are applying for a role there and want to learn as much about the company as possible. Ask them powerful questions about culture and product market fit.
This person will either have left on bad terms and not support you, or left on good terms, and will almost certainly message their old colleagues to show them what you had done. Incredibly powerful play.
Cold call to stand out
Cold Call the hiring manager:
If the role involves cold calling, use Apollo or Lusha’s free credits to get their mobile number. Cold call them. Say, “I know you want every candidate calling you, but the role includes calling, and I want you to know I am up for the challenge. I'm calling out of the blue, so I want any of your time now. But I do hope you will consider my application for the next round of interviews.”
Other things to do to stand out
Research the company's competitors and mention them in the interview - Understand their unique selling proposition and their ideal client profile before heading to the interview.
Gifting - This one is controversial, but it can be a good move to send the hiring manager a book saying how it helped shape your views on sales and that someone in their team might enjoy it.
Make your Resume stand out
I am a fan of having two resumes. One that passes ATS systems well, and is your classic resume. And the second is an interactive one.
Pre interview yourself with the most common questions a person would ask. Record those into a video and embed them into a Canva, Journey, Paage.io or Notion page.
First prize if you customise each one for the role you are hiring for. This will make you stand out like crazy!
Here is what to include on your interactive resume page:
1) Why [Hiring Company]
2) Your sales superpowers, frameworks & techniques
3) Core values / culture fit
4) Track record of success (Key achievements and impact)
5) Personality profile/ user manual / sought environment
6) 30.60.90 day plan
7) Customer & coworker testimonials
8) Content samples (emails, podcasts, call recordings, etc.)
9) Sample account plan (Company research and how you'd break in)
10) List of accounts you have existing relationships at and can break into on day 1
The beauty is this is your interview prep anyway - so you are not double handling.
Your mid interview journey is brought to you by Nick Reed Smith - hit him up for more advice if you need.
Mid interview processes to stand out
1) Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn beforehand. Cold call people who wrote them recommendations or common connections to ask about their personality profile and get interview tips. Use this to tailor your approach.
2) Review website, read press releases, 10k filings, G2 reviews, glassdoor, RepVue, etc.
3) Show off your preparation in the interview by flashing portfolio slides, mentioning who you cold called ahead of the interview, etc.
4) Preemptively answer their questions so you can take control of the interview to uncover pain (why are you hiring, what happens if the role goes unfilled, cost of inaction)
5) Account map & name drop other stakeholders: "Ricky, will I get a chance to speak with peers like Richard, Sally, etc? Is Susie the best person to ask for a demo?
6) Close every interview: "Do you have any reservations about moving forward?"
7) Address any concerns on the spot and in your follow up thank you video
8) Set clear next steps, be willing to challenge them or walk away if you're not aligned
9) Send a custom thank you video. Thank you should happen across 2-3 channels (email, LinkedIn, text depending on DISC profile, gift via FedEx or Amazon next day delivery)
10) Multi-thread the company: BCC your next interviewer on the thank you, send a no action required FYI to create visibility
11) Keep the conversation going with everyone who interviewed you by dripping relevant questions and updates on the interview process
12) Consider sending a personalized thank you gift such as a book to each interviewer (pony up for next day delivery)
13) Consider updating your interviewers on external interviews to create scarcity and urgency
14) Ask for additional interviews beyond the normal process to conduct extra due diligence and create extra time for multiple offers
Negotiations steps to stand out
You have come this far, so don't lose the deal now. In any deal, they are going to expect you to negotiate the best offer you can. That is literally your job.
I would be very concerned if I hired a seller and didn't negotiate. You do need to read the room, but that doesn't mean not negotiating.
Remember the levers you have to negotiate:
- Total Salary
- Share Options
- Leave Days
- WFH Day
- Professional Development Budget
- Travel allowances
- Other benefits.
Then get into the weeds
- Negotiate on a ramped target - or fixed at 75% OTE pay for the first three quarters that is clawed back or topped up if you make Q4. There are lots of ways to negotiate this, but it is an important one as it will determine up to 50% of your pay.
Its easier to negotiate OTE than ask for a higher base.
- Cliffs, vesting period and execution periods for Shares
- Retrenchment packages (and how that relates to vesting of shares)
There are more things you can negotiate on. The point is, don’t only look at base pay.
Now that you know this, you are far more prepared toseperate yourself as a top candidate than all others. If you followed every step here, I guarantee you will come across as a top 1%er
If you found this content useful, consider sharing it with a friend. Pointer is here to lift the entire sales industry. We focus on building sales team with top talent, that are invested in weekly training to be the best. We are the Navy Seals of sales placement agencies. Okay, maybe that analogy doesn't stick, but we will roll with it for now. Speak to Pointer about being placed - but note - we only work with the top 1%.