Important Sales Skills for Resumes & Cover Letters
Sales positions exist in nearly every industry. Because pay is typically performance-based (often without caps), sales jobs can be lucrative while also offering a high degree of personal satisfaction and flexibility. Most employers use a combination of salary and commission or salary and bonus.
Some jobs require a particular educational background, and there are college programs that are helpful for people interested in a sales career. Often, knowledge of the specific product or the industry is helpful—if you are aware of the trends and issues confronting customers in an industry, you'll generally be more successful at selling to them.
However, you can pick up many of the necessary skills on your own, through on-the-job training or even volunteer work. In fact, some of the skills that are essential to being good at sales are more like personality traits, such as being a good listener and having strong emotional intelligence.
Look through the descriptions for roles in sales; you may find that you 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 service skills.
The list of associated skills is lengthy, 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.
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.
In sales, 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 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 term 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.
- Personal Ethics
- Highly Driven
- Emotional Intelligence
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
- Delivering Goods
- Demonstrating Products
- Directing Customers
- Displaying Samples
- Event Coordination
- Identifying Target Audience
- Inventory Management
- Lead Generation
- Microsoft Office
- Monetary Exchange
- Order Processing
- Planning Meetings
- Composing Proposals
- Price Setting
- Time Management
- Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Software
- Social Media Management
- Consumer Behavior
- Data Analysis
Related: Best Resume Writing Services
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. Look to the job advertisement to know which specific skills an employer is seeking.
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.