If you’re looking to move up the ladder into a sales leadership role, your resume is key to getting your foot in the door.
And I should know. I’m the founder of iCareerSolutions, a 20x award-winning resume-writing company, specializing in executive and C-suite level resumes that get my clients high-level interviews.
In this article, I’ll share my 3 ground rules of resume-writing, cover the parts of a leadership-level resume, and share a sample resume that will help you take your career to the next level.
3 ground rules of resume-writing
Whether you’re a director looking to become a VP, or a VP looking to become a CMO or CSO, there are several best practices to follow when writing a resume:
Be consistent, keep it simple, and highlight your diverse skills.
The first is to ensure consistency across all sections of your resume.
Furthermore, the content on your resume should match the information on your public profile. Any inconsistencies in these areas will erode your credibility.
Keep it simple
Keep it simple with your sections — a resume is a summary of your credentials and experience.
In most cases, I prefer having these basic sections:
- Branding Title
- Summary/profile, Skills
I read many resumes that summarize over and over. Summary. Relevant experience. Skills. Key Achievements. Leadership skills. Other experience. Volunteering. It’s just too much!
While you might be tempted to pack your resume with as much information as possible, this is not an effective strategy.
Instead, respect recruiters’ time by showing them only enough information to secure the interview. Show them the highlights. If they like what they see, you’ll have your chance to say much more in an interview.
Highlight diverse skills
Your sales leadership resume should highlight your diverse skills and dedication to excellence.
When applying for an executive-level sales role, you’ll want to highlight your ability to:
- Do market research
- Identify market trends
- Manage large teams, both in-office and remote
- Lead change in your organization
- Manage pipeline
- Analyze financial reports among others.
Key traits to highlight on a sales leadership resume
To make the leap from a manager or director level to executive, you’ll want to highlight these three things:
Ability to handle the current economic climate
Sales leaders looking to get a job now will be asked how they balance costs with growth.
The “growth at all costs” model of the past several years has transitioned to “efficiency at all costs” as businesses navigate the current economic climate. Sales leader applicants will need to demonstrate their understanding of the field, their strategic approach, and experience implementing it.
Point of view & ability to manage a growing tech stack
Sales leaders now will be asked their approach to building a tech stack without breaking the bank.
(Editor’s note: An all-in-one solution like Outreach, which promotes success at every level of the org, is a winning option.)
Experience leading change
Leading change is the key difference between managing a frontline team and becoming a leader.
Frontline managers manage a process, and their goal is adherence and coaching. Leaders work to change and improve the processes.
Parts of the sales leadership resume
Every resume should have a “branding title” or “headline” at the top of the page, after your contact information.
The point is to tell the reader, in a very short amount of space, what it is you want to do. If you’re looking to transition up the ladder, then you must put the position you are targeting (not the one you currently hold).
Sales Director with 10 years experience increasing revenue and market share
VP of Sales who excels at mobilizing teams to achieve objectives
If you’re not sure what your branding title should be, try this:
For the next week, every time someone asks you what you want to do, pay attention to how you answer. The words you use to describe yourself will give you a good idea of what keywords and phrases to use in your branding title.
You can also find these keywords in the job descriptions of positions you are interested in.
Counterpoint: Want a Sales Job? Burn Your Resume: Send a Video Instead
Parts of the sales leadership resume: Professional summary
The professional career summary is the first section of your resume and should highlight your qualifications for the position.
Your summary should be short and to the point, and it should also demonstrate how you will be able to add value to the organization. Include your years of sales experience.
This summary should be personalized for each position you apply for. The objective is to highlight your strongest qualifications and skills, and make the hiring manager want to read more about you.
Here are three different examples of summary statements. You can see that the first two are structured in paragraph format while the last uses paragraphs and bullets to highlight key results. What you do will depend on your situation and the position targeted.
In your own summary statement, make sure to highlight your leadership abilities and proven track record of sales success.
Use specific examples and numbers to demonstrate your accomplishments, and include any additional relevant skills or language fluency. With a strong resume, you can show potential employers that you’re the right person for the job.
Parts of the sales leadership resume: Professional experience
The professional experience section of your resume is a great place to highlight your achievements in sales. In addition to including your achievements, include any additional skills you may have, such as foreign language skills. Ideally, you will include at least three accomplishments in this section, three for each job you’ve held.
You should also include examples of programs you’ve implemented that have helped the company increase its profits. If you have experience managing employees, your resume should list this as well. For example, if you have a strong interest in customer service, include your experience in this area.
In this competitive economy, action speaks louder than words. Show them that you’ve reached targets and exceeded goals. Don’t make the mistake of using hypothetical skills when describing your abilities. For example, if you’ve managed a business that has grown from $250M to over 1.2 billion dollars in three years, you should highlight the fact that you achieved this growth by creating a global distribution system that increased your market share from 21% to 53%.
Sales resumes are metrics-driven, but don’t forget to include context as to how you achieved those quantifiable results.
Parts of the sales leadership resume: Skills section
The skills section should feature the most relevant skills for the job that you’re applying for.
The list will vary depending on the type of sales position you’re applying for, but some common skills to highlight are customer service, delegation, virtual leadership, and strategic thinking. You should also be able to communicate effectively and quickly with clients and manage your time efficiently.
And don’t forget soft skills — i.e., the way you work with others and your attitude. These count for more than you would expect.
Parts of the sales leadership resume: other sections
As I said above, I like to keep it short and simple. But the job you’re applying for may call for additional sections. You might consider including:
- Recent graduates will list this first; more experienced professionals tend to list this after their professional experience.
- Professional training
- Relevant volunteer experience
- Include only if the skills or area directly pertain to the job you’re applying for
You could also use call-out boxes to highlight notable achievements — think accolades, testimonials, and awards.
Pro tip for seasoned professionals: If you are a more seasoned professional, you may want to include a section for Additional Experience. If your older experiences are in a separate section, then you don’t need to follow the consistency rule of structuring your work experience with dates. This helps combat ageism.
Sample sales leadership resume
This sample sales leadership resume demonstrates executive skills and ability to make a positive impact on the operations of a company.
I’ll call out a few things for you to pay attention to:
- The top third of the resume highlights the Branding Title (again this is the position targeted, not the one currently held). The Branding Title has a tagline of three keywords that are pulled from the job description. This makes the resume highly targeted and unique.
- There is a strong Summary Statement, followed by a Skills Section – keywords that are again pulled from the job description.
- The Professional Experience section has a little blurb about the company and then a short description of duties and responsibilities. Bulleted results are bolded and begin with strong action verbs. We group these achievements into categories to make them more scannable.
- Because this is a leadership role, relevant community leadership activities are noted in a separate section.
Pro tip: Use templates
Don’t start from scratch unless you know what you’re doing. There’s enough excellent data and example resumes available that you should do some research before creating your own resume.
I read a lot of resumes and ask myself, “Have you ever seen an actual professional resume before?” While it’s not necessary to come up with something entirely new, you should consider what others have done before making your own decisions.
In your own resume for a VP level sales position, make sure to highlight your leadership abilities and proven track record of sales success. Use specific examples and numbers to demonstrate your accomplishments, and include any additional relevant skills or language fluency.
With a strong resume, you can show potential employers that you’re the right person for the job.
Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2022