Important Sales Skills for Resumes & Cover Letters

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There are sales positions in nearly every industry. Because pay is performance based (often without caps), sales jobs can be lucrative while also offering a high degree of personal satisfaction and flexibility.

Some require a particular educational background, and there are college programs that are helpful for people interested in a sales careers. However, you can pick up many of the necessary skills on your own, through on-the-job training or even volunteer work.

Look through the descriptions; you may have more applicable skills than you thought.

What Kind of Skills Do You Need for a Job in Sales?

Selling is a multifaceted and demanding line of work. In addition to being able to sell, salespeople must have excellent communication, interpersonal, and customer services skills. The list of associated skills is almost infinite, but the good news is that so are the circumstances under which you can apply those skills.

Types of Sales Skills

Sales skills fall into several broad but partially overlapping categories.

Illustration by Catherine Song. © The Balance, 2018

Position-Based Sales Skills

These are skills that include job titles and tasks specific to a sales position, such as sales manager, accounts manager, territory manager, public relations, marketing director, and client acquisition.

To a certain extent, these skills overlap. For example, you might be able to apply your experience in client acquisition to public relations or marketing. Do not assume you lack relevant experience just because you have not held a given title yet.

  • Leadership
  • Account Management
  • Bidding
  • Client Acquisition
  • Client Retention
  • Team Management
  • Direct Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Public Relations
  • Territory Management
  • Pitch Creation
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Advertising
  • Scheduling
  • Public Speaking
  • Presentation Software

Communication

In sales positions, you will need to communicate with potential and current customers, clients, suppliers, and vendors. Some of these skills are very distinct, even technical, such as being fluent in a second or third language, knowing how to write clear and accurate reports, and being comfortable with public speaking.

Others are more like character traits that they can be learned; these include creating rapport, listening attentively, and building relationships. Still, others are a mix between those two, such as negotiating, pitching products, and networking.

Personal Mastery Skills

These are personal habits, qualities, traits and values that you can use on the job. Like other skills, you must practice these in order to develop them, but they do not require training so much as personal willingness.

An older word for many of these might be “virtues.” If you didn’t have them, clients and colleagues would soon become unwilling to work with you.

Virtues particularly applicable to sales include diligence, initiative, integrity, and sincerity. Some people do attempt to sell by means of dishonesty and manipulation. In addition to being unethical, such methods are ineffective in the long run.

  • Diligence
  • Engagement
  • Personal Ethics
  • Initiative
  • Highly Driven
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Branding
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Authenticity
  • Teamwork

Customer Service

Finally, you’ll need complex skills, such as customer service, the ability to forecast how the market will change in the coming months and years, and the ability to identify target audiences and appropriate pricing for your products.

  • Critical Thinking
  • Oral Communication
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Active Listening
  • Telephone Etiquette
  • Email Management
  • Data Entry
  • Information Management

More Sales-Related Skills

  • Achieving Results
  • Consulting
  • Contracts
  • Delivering Goods
  • Demonstrating Products
  • Directing Customers
  • Displaying Samples
  • Event Coordination
  • Estimating
  • Forecasting
  • Identifying Target Audience
  • Inventory Management
  • Lead Generation
  • Microsoft Office
  • Monetary Exchange
  • Order Processing
  • Planning Meetings
  • Composing Proposals
  • Price Setting
  • Quotas
  • Recordkeeping
  • Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Software
  • Social Media Management
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Confidence
  • Data Analysis

How to Make Your Sales Skills Stand Out

Add Your Most Relevant Skills to Your Resume: When you apply for a job, you can tweak your resume to showcase the skills your prospective employer is looking for. 

Highlight Your Skills in Your Cover Letter: Include your most relevant skills in your cover letter. It may also help for you to review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Use Skill Words During Job Interviews: In your interview, be prepared to show how you embody each skill. It is often appropriate to discuss sales goals you’ve reached in your previous sales experience.

Show Your Sales Skills: Use the interview as an opportunity to sell your candidacy to the interviewer.