Careers advice

Writing a sales CV - advice from a recruitment expert

Hone your CV with these insights from a top recruiter.

Think of your sales CV as a personal elevator pitch. You need to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’ve got skills, experience and personality that their current team is lacking, but you’ve only got one to two pages to do it.

Wondering how you’ll manage to get all of that information across, in so little space, while still catching the reader’s eye? Fear not, we’ve sought out some expert advice on how to write a great sales CV.

We spoke to Sindy Ward, Associate Director at Robert Walters recruitment agency for her tips on what your sales CV absolutely should, and shouldn’t include.

What are the must-haves in a sales CV?

First up, Sindy says a sales CV needs to explain the type of sales experience you’ve had so far in your career. This includes:

  • Whether your expertise lies in B2B or B2C sales.
  • The type of customer or clients you’ve sold to previously – without giving away confidential information about them, provide some details of who they are, and the relationship you had with them.
  • The portfolio size you’ve managed in terms of revenue and profit per annum. Again, you need to be able to do this without compromising customer or client confidentiality agreements at your current workplace. This puts a value on your ability to manage large key accounts or smaller fragmented accounts, both of which have specific skills that may suit another workplace.

You also need to break down some key aspects of your day to day experience. For example, how you’ve facilitated your client relationships through on the road field sales experience vs. the head office relationships you’ve managed with key accounts.

Similarly, have you played a part in new business development? If you have, provide some facts and figures about the amount of new business you were able to drum up, and what this meant to your company in terms of commercial value. If your role focused more around maintaining existing relationships, retention statistics can be a good way to show how effective you were.

Sales managers out there should certainly think about highlighting the number of direct reports managed, staff retention rates and their management style.

Another way to make your sales CV stand out to hiring managers is by including specific information about CRM and ERP systems you’ve used...but more on that later.

The hiring manager will want to know about the type of customers you've sold to before, and the size of the portfolio you managed.

What will make a hiring manager's eyes light up?

Sindy has two key pieces of advice if you really want your sales CV to be the one that lingers in the hiring manager’s mind after hours of reading through applications.

  1. Give clear commercial successes or results in a ‘key achievements’ section under each role

“It’s not enough to simply describe what you did in past roles,” Sindy tells us. “You need to make it easy for the hiring manager to see the impact you’ve previously had, and therefore what you could bring to their business. In addition to commercial wins or product launches to market, even internal projects you led or delivered matter.”

  1. Provide customer/company names of the portfolios you’ve managed

Again, this is about making it easy for the hiring manager. By telling them who you’ve worked with before, you’re giving them a really clear indication of the experience you have, and the type of industries and customers you’ve sold into. Any specific examples of projects delivered for customers will top this off!

What are some common mistakes you see people making on sales CVs?

Sindy commonly sees too much jargon and a soft-skills focus, with not enough space dedicated to “commercial, fact-based scopes”. While she believes there’s space for soft skills on a sales CV, Sindy advises that these should be mentioned in moderation, and contained within an objective or small summary paragraph at the beginning of the CV.

She also appreciates that talking about professional success isn’t easy if you’re applying for a junior role, or starting out in sales as a graduate and don’t have much professional experience to draw on. Her advice, if you’re in this situation, is to talk about achievements outside your work experience that demonstrate your hunger to succeed and win in whatever you do.

If you don't have previous work experience to draw on, highlight life experiences that demonstrate your hunger to win.

What specific technical skills can further bolster a sales CV?

Firstly, Sindy recommends highlighting CRM and ERP packages like Salesforce, Hubspot, and SAP which all have great transferable benefit and, as such, are used by a host of different NZ companies.

At the same time, the ability to read and interpret data is in high demand, and should be mentioned where possible. Sales roles are becoming more analytical by the day and customers expect a sales person to add value not just have a great relationship with them. Sindy gives the example of an FMCG sales role, where an understanding of IRI research and scan data from supermarkets is crucial for selling into grocery accounts like Countdown and Foodstuffs. In this vein, even seemingly simple things like proficiency in Excel or Access or similar would be beneficial to add.