Find Your Dream Job, Episode 330:
How to write your resume like a salesperson, with Claire Davis
Airdate: January 12, 2022
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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Many job seekers treat a resume as a professional biography with a long shelf life.
You update it when you start your job search, and you don’t bother with it again.
Our guest today coaches her clients to take a different approach. Claire Davis is here to talk about why you need to write your resume like a salesperson.
She’s a career consultant and the founder of Traction Resume. Claire’s company shows high-achieving medical sales leaders how to land six-figure jobs in less than 60 days.
She joins us from Spokane, Washington.
Well, let’s get started, Claire. How do most job seekers approach writing a resume?
Hey Mac, great to be here.
Most job seekers start a resume just like this: seasoned sales professional with fifteen years of experience in the medical device industry or whatever industry they’re in. And while that is an impressive number of years, and a lot goes into that with strategy and expertise and time learning all the great stuff, it’s not an effective way to really sell yourself.
So, as a career coach for salespeople, and especially at the executive level, I help sales leaders to really harness the powers of sales that they are learning and doing every day to be exceptional at their work for their own career journey.
Well, Claire, why doesn’t it work to talk about your experience and qualifications right from the start, just as you described? Why isn’t that an effective approach?
I would say that you do want to talk about your qualifications and your expertise, but I would highly encourage anyone who is writing their resume to think about themselves in a different way.
So, when we’re in the job search role, we tend to think about this entire litany of duties and responsibilities that we have held, and like you said earlier, our resume can be a long chronology of everything we’ve ever accomplished. So, what I encourage people to do is adopt a sales mentality for themselves.
Because when you can change your mindset from all the chronological things I’ve ever done to what difference did those things make? Now you’re thinking like a salesperson. And when you do that, you can sell yourself to the opportunity at hand. So that’s where I think people need to make the mindset shift.
Well, let’s talk about that sales mentality, Claire. What does that look like? And how do you see non-sales professionals apply that to their resumes?
Unless there in sales already, the term “sales” can be a dirty word to a lot of people, and it shouldn’t be. Because essentially, what is sales? Let’s boil it down. Good selling is identifying a need and then applying our experience as a value match for that situation, and if you think about it at that core level, that’s exactly how you find an outstanding dream job. You go out there, you do your research, and you find what problems there are in the industry or what companies really, really need, and you show them how you are the ideal solution. It’s the perfect storm of how to represent yourself and promote yourself with a selling mentality.
Well, I want to talk about the concrete steps required to do that. Before we get into that conversation, Claire, what stops job seekers from applying this approach in thinking about selling themselves and adopting that sales mentality that you talked about a moment ago?
I think what really stops most people from using this sort of technique for their own career journey is because we spend all of this time learning techniques in our roles, gathering skills, and implementing things for the company where we work, for the organization, and we don’t think about the things that we’re learning and the activities that we’re doing and the results that we’re generating as for ourselves. We think about them as what we have done for the company. So, they may be great big momentous accomplishments, but we don’t tend to consider the way that we achieve those accomplishments as the same way we can promote ourselves for our career advancement.
So, that’s where I would say it’s a mindset shift. Instead of thinking, what do I do for companies? Think, how do I get these results for companies? And how can I use those same principles to launch my own career journey with those skills?
You know, it’s striking as you say that, you talk about results, and of course, people, I think, who have great success in their career when they are getting ready for annual reviews or salary negotiations at a place where they’ve been employed for some time, they will walk into that meeting with a list of accomplishments, what they’ve done for the employer.
But I don’t think what many people do in addition to that is, to your point, thinking about the principles that allowed them to make those accomplishments happen, do they? And they don’t often translate it into their job search, do they?
That’s a really common trait, and where it can be really harmful is where we only allow a company, and the results we’ve generated for our company, to speak to what we’ve done, and while that’s good because we want to gather those accomplishments if we can think about how we achieve those…
So, let me give a concrete example, so I’m not dancing around it. For example, when I was back in sales, in radiology sales, we would foster the client relationship, and we would increase our touchpoint with each physician by implementing routine surveys, which is a very common practice with a lot of service organizations. And so, we would send surveys out to the oncologists and see how we were doing. We would use that as an opportunity to touch the client just one more time and to get their feedback so we can tweak and improve our product.
So, lo and behold, the company ends up getting bought by a larger company, and my team was the first to go because they already had a sales team over there. So, I’m looking around and thinking, “Huh, I am now laid off and need to move forward in my career.” And I thought, “Well, wait a minute. Wouldn’t it be nice just to know what my oncologists felt about working with me? Wouldn’t that be a relevant thing? That’s what I used to do for my company, for my product. Why can’t I use that for myself?”
I flipped that switch in my mind at the behest of my manager at the time. He said, “Well, why not try it for you?”
And so I took his advice, and I sent out actual surveys to my clients. “Hey, how was your experience working with me?”
I included a nice thank you note and how much I appreciated working with them was in there. And I got every single one of those packets back, and they were full of commentary, and I used that as leverage to fuel my job search and to fuel this kind of approach to a job search.
So then the conversation became, okay, yes, I’ve enacted these results. But I’ve been able to harness the things that were making my product successful for my own personal career journey.
What information did you get from those surveys that you were able to apply to your search? And how exactly did you do that, Claire?
Initially, it was a lot about, you know, personality and fit. And I asked them, you know, what was your level of trust with me from zero to ten? Right? What was your level of accountability that you experienced? What kind of response time did you see? And then I asked them, too, if they cared to leave comments at the end. And this was a printed worksheet. Anybody can do this kind of thing. Right? And I highly encourage everybody to do it. Because if you really want to know how your customer feels about you, you gotta ask them.
So, once I received those answers, it was one, a really great gauge for me to know where my strengths were when I was working with these oncologists, and believe you me, these people are light years ahead of me in intelligence and savvy. But, you know, I served them to the best of my ability, and they told me where I could grow and what they loved that I did.
And then, I had it as a document. So the next time I went to interview, if any of those surgeons were applicable clients or targeted ideal clients for that company, you better believe that was in my brag book. Because then they would say, “Oh gosh, you know Dr. G. personally, and here’s a note on working with you.”
Win; it was such a win.
Well, terrific. I want to dig into the steps you recommend job seekers take to write a resume like a salesperson. Let’s do that in the second half, Claire.
So, stay with us. When we come back, Claire Davis will continue to share her advice on how to write your resume like a salesperson.
Here’s something else good salespeople do: They get expert advice.
And you can do the same with your resume.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
A professional writer at TopResume will review your resume for free.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
A TopResume expert will tell you what works and doesn’t work in your resume.
And if you don’t want to update your resume yourself, you can pay TopResume to do it for you.
Go to maclist.org/topresume.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Claire Davis. She’s a career consultant and the founder of Traction Resume.
Claire’s company shows high-achieving medical sales leaders how to land six-figure jobs in less than 60 days.
She joins us from Spokane, Washington.
Well, Claire, before the break, we were talking about how to write your resume like a salesperson, and you talked about the sales mentality and applying that to a resume, and the mind shift necessary to do that, as well as sharing some stories, examples from your own career about how to get feedback from your clients and apply that in a job search, and including, I’m sure, to your resume.
Let’s talk about the resume itself, Claire. Now, when you’re sitting down with your clients and you’re working with sales professionals, what’s the first step that sales professionals take in writing a resume that makes them stand out? What do they do?
The very first thing that salespeople should do when they’re writing their resume is research what the company is asking of them. So, we all have our pie in the sky, ideal companies we would love to work for, and so the very first step, as in any sales process, is to do the research on your lead. You know, who are your ideal leads? Who are your top ten companies, and what roles are available?
So, once you can identify what a company is asking you to do, then the fun begins because you can apply it to the experience that you have developed throughout your career. So, one example of doing this is to go through your resume and look at the job search and your resume at the same time, or I’m sorry, look at the job posting and your resume at the same time, and see what kind of keywords, and see what sort of themes you see recur in the job postings, and how does that match up with what you have done in your career? That’s a perfect first step, especially if somebody is looking to pivot industries in sales or even into another industry like marketing, or engineering, or IT.
Look at what they’re asking you to do, and then think about your career. What you add on your resume should have a direct correlation or a related correlation to what they’re asking their employee or potential employee to do.
What other steps do you recommend to your clients to do this research besides looking at the job description? What are some common steps they might take in order to learn more about the needs of an employer?
This is a double whammy. So, the next thing I highly encourage is for job seekers to actually contact and network with people at their ideal company. And, you know, I don’t want them to feel like they have to go after the hiring manager right away, but if they can check in with people who are in similar roles in the company where they want to see themselves, or even adjoining departments, and start getting curious.
So, if you can get somebody to have a conversation with you, ask them what they’re working on. What are the challenges? Where do they see that company going? And a lot of that is terrific fact-finding that can be used to form the correct and really impactful statements that can be used on a resume to make yourself very relevant to the job at hand.
Could you give an example of how to translate that research into text in a resume, something perhaps you’ve helped a client with recently or seen done particularly well in the past?
Oh, yes, absolutely. So, a lot of times, I work with folks who want to pivot into sales from other industries.
So, for example, I was working with a gentleman earlier this year, and he wanted to pivot from engineering into medical sales, which are two very different industries. However, when we looked at his transferable skills, and kind of what we were talking about before – when you distill your results down, and you think about not just the result, but what it was that you’re good at, that helps you get that result – typically those are transferable skills that can be applied to a myriad of roles.
And so that’s exactly what he did. He took his experience in engineering, and in this case, he was managing other engineers towards a common goal of producing a larger product, and so he was also doing this on a global scale. The company he was targeting was interested in expanding regionally and globally. So, then he had direct experience because he had been able to sort out the tangle of engineering over here at this previous company, and he showed on his resume the actual steps that he takes. His secret sauce for getting disjointed teams to march to the beat of one drum and to get results in a certain amount of time. And for him, that meant a job in less than sixty days, with his ideal company.
As you share that example, what’s striking to me about it is he understood what companies’ needs were. He was focused on this particular company. He was probably looking at others as well, but I’m guessing not a large number, and he took that research, and he applied it to his resume. Which was probably unique to that application, wasn’t it?
Absolutely. In fact, the gentleman who interviewed him asked him where he had his resume done. He said it was one of the most well-put-together thoughts he had seen on a resume. He’d never seen a resume that had a system included within the content, and that’s what made the complete difference for him.
Because then, this hiring manager isn’t just saying, “Okay, you have team leadership skills, you have project management skills, and you can lead teams.” That’s all wonderful. But when you have a system that works somewhere, and you identify how you can apply that system to a new company, that’s when the hiring manager can start envisioning the sort of results you’d generate for them. They can say, “Not only can he apply it there, what if he applied it here?” And that was what made the difference for him.
Now, you mentioned earlier that one of the things that salespeople do differently in their resume is focus on results. Can you give us some tips about language or ways to write texts that help you emphasize the results that you produce, and perhaps you see in sales resumes that can be applied to other resumes as well?
Yes, absolutely. So, one of my favorite exercises that I encourage everybody listening here to do is to focus on results, and the way that you can do that is look at your resume and every single bulleted line of text. Whatever text you have on there talking about your accomplishments, I want you to be able to answer this question or add these two words to the end of each section. Add the two words “resulting in.”
That instantly transforms what you have done into a meaningful, measurable, impactful statement. And it only takes two words. Anybody can do this.
So, if you look at your resume and you feel like, okay, it is like a laundry list of all these amazing things I know how to do. But I’m lacking impact. I’m lacking measurable results. Add “resulting in” to the end of your statement, if it’s not already there, and then whatever you put after “resulting in,” whatever that did result in, put that first in the bullet.
So then you’re leading with results. You’re measuring that impact, and you’re talking about things that had moved the needle in your previous roles, and that’s what hiring managers can really grab onto and form a picture in their mind of then, how you would be measurably relevant to their organization.
I would imagine that using that as a kind of writing prompt also helps your clients and people following that advice uncover accomplishments and results they might not have thought of, wouldn’t it?
Absolutely, absolutely. And it makes them think a little bit deeper about what actually went on when they were working in that role. I think, sometimes, it just takes a little extra introspection about what we’re doing in our career to really harness, like we were talking about before, the idea that, you know, we have more accomplishments almost than we give ourselves credit for, and the way that we can make them measurable is by sitting with them and thinking, okay I did this activity. What was the outcome?
And when we can, you know, describe the outcome, or why it was meaningful, that’s when you start getting traction in your messaging because people can see the results that you generated. But sometimes, it does take that little extra introspection. To sit there and think about what actually occurred.
And with salespeople thinking about their audience and the needs of their employer that they’re hoping to work for, and turning that into these unique resumes that are crafted just for that particular employer, what would you say, Claire, to someone who might think, well, I don’t have time to do that. I’ve got to send out lots and lots of applications. Why is this approach used by salespeople focusing on the unique needs of their audience the better way?
If you look at the evolution of sales, right? It started with, you know, cold calling was the way, and cold calling still has its place, don’t get me wrong. But the evolution of selling has gone from cold outreach to email outreach, to now relationship building and consulting.
So, I remember when I was going through my sales training, we started with, you know, challenger selling. Right? Where you really were kind of hard pressing and asking the tough questions to your customer. Which works for some and turns many off.
And then it was consultative selling, right? Let’s talk about pain points. Let’s see what your pain points are. How can we help you where you are at? Right? So, this evolution of selling is something everybody can harness, promoting themselves in their career.
And so, for those who feel that they have applied to hundreds of jobs to no avail, or the worst – applying to jobs and getting crickets afterward. It’s a debilitating place to be when you’re not hearing anything after all of that work. I would say, work on the quality of the content and the messaging that you have in your resume instead of the quantity. Because this kind of approach, it works, and it works quickly, or more quickly than others because it’s not throwing spaghetti at the wall or applying everywhere.
It’s a very custom-tailored approach, and if we’ve learned anything about the evolution of selling to this point, it’s that once you do that deep dive on your customer, you understand the pain points, you know what the company’s goals are, and then you show them how you meet them, then you start developing traction quicker without having to do so many applications. Each document you send out is custom-tailored for that role.
So, whereas it might have been – you might have spent hours upon hours doing online applications, with this kind of tailored approach, I’ve seen the results just tremendously improve for my clients when they switch to a more tailored approach.
I love the parallel that you’re drawing between sending out large numbers of applications and cold calling in sales. I could talk about this topic a lot longer, Claire. But we’ve run out of time.
So, tell us what’s next for you?
So, right now, I’m still working with sales professionals and executives and helping them get great jobs and make more money in less time. And if you’d like to connect with me, please do. Anybody listening, you can find me over there on LinkedIn. I’m there more than I care to admit, and also, you can find me at tractionresume.com. And Mac, you and I were talking about it earlier.
If anybody is interested in leveling up their resume and don’t want to start from scratch, I’ve now released my first template. You can find it over at tractionresume.com and download it because that way, you can start thinking about your career journey as something that you can really master, and you can use this template to set you off on the right foot.
We’ll be sure to include the link to your website in the show notes and in our newsletter as well, and if you do connect with Claire on LinkedIn, be sure to let her know that you heard her on Find Your Dream Job.
Now, Claire, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to write your resume like a salesperson?
The one thing I encourage everybody to do is to sit and think about what has made you great and how you’ve achieved results in and for a company, and then apply those things and those skills to your own career journey. You can do this.
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Next week, our guest will be Cassie Spencer.
She’s a career coach, a higher education professional, and the co-host of the “Your Career GPS Podcast.” Her clients range from college students to seasoned career changers.
You need to find a job soon. Very soon. So you start sending out lots and lots of applications. Lots of applications.
Stop right now, says Cassie. You’re only making your search harder and longer.
Join us next Wednesday when Cassie Spencer and I talk about why you need to stop panic applying for jobs.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.
This show is produced by Mac’s List.
This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.