What is sales experience? Resume + interview examples
Not sure what counts as sales experience? Learn how to gauge your level of experience, what you can do with it, and how to develop your skills.
By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer
Last updated March 8, 2022
You’re looking for a sales position and scouring the job postings. But it seems like every role requires at least one year of experience, which you might not have.
Before disqualifying yourself from a sales career, you should know that your experience doesn’t have to come from an actual sales job—you just need to understand how to transfer your current skill set to the position you’re applying for.
In this article, we’ll cover what counts as sales experience (and how to get it), provide examples of transferable skills, and offer tips on how to describe sales experience on a resume.
What is sales experience?
Sales experience is any amount of time an individual spends convincing someone else to make a purchase.
Those Girl Scouts selling cookies outside your local grocery store? They’ve got experience in sales. So does the server who convinced you to buy that one (slightly more expensive) cocktail at dinner. Even cashiers in the fast-food industry gain sales experience by pointing customers toward pricier menu items or suggesting they add a drink to their order.
Essentially, sales experience can come from any profession that uses and develops sales personality traits.
Sales experience examples
Other jobs that provide sales experience include:
- Insurance agent
- Retail sales associate
- Travel agent
- Real estate agent
- Event or product promoter
- Customer service agent
- Sign spinner
It can be frustrating to see a sales representative job description that seems like a perfect fit, only to realize you don’t have the exact experience it’s asking for. But if you’ve ever worked a job where you had to interact with another person and persuade them to buy something, you’ve got skills that are transferable to sales.
Hiring managers look for candidates with certain skills that will help them succeed as sales professionals. If your prior work experience includes practicing skills like problem-solving, negotiation, communication, empathetic listening, and goal setting, then you’re a promising candidate for a sales position.
Hiring managers also want to ensure their investment in an individual is worthwhile. They like it when a candidate can potentially shift into a sales management role in the future. So if you’re looking to become a sales manager, it’s invaluable to develop your leadership skills and gain experience managing or mentoring people.
Types of sales experience
When hiring a sales rep, hiring managers are often looking for particular skills and work experience. If you’re applying for a sales position, it’s important to understand what is needed for the following types of roles:
Every sales job—no matter which type—will require the essential sales skills mentioned earlier. But certain roles require a unique and specific mix of qualities for success.
What is B2B sales experience?
B2B stands for “business to business.” This means that in B2B sales, you sell your product or service to other businesses. (In B2C sales, you sell to individual consumers.)
B2B sales requires more specialized skills such as handling higher-value deals, using proper sales technology, and managing longer sales cycles. B2B sales reps must understand how to handle more complex sales processes and how to persuade several stakeholders as opposed to just one. They also need to adapt their sales pitches to different audiences to convince every decision-maker at a company to agree on a purchase.
What is inside sales experience?
Inside sales is the process of selling remotely. Whether they’re talking to prospects on social media or a video call, inside sales reps interact with clients and process their sales via telecommunications.
Inside sales reps must be comfortable using digital forms of communication and navigating different software platforms. They also need to possess solid phone manners, strong written communication skills, and an ability to handle large volumes of correspondence.
What is outside sales experience?
Outside sales reps spend most of their time interacting with customers face-to-face instead of through a phone line or computer screen. They should know how to read body language, communicate with a range of personalities, and problem-solve on the spot. They also need to be confident about managing deals in various settings.
While inside sales reps mostly work at a desk behind a computer, outside sales reps work wherever the clients are. They might conduct business over dinner, at conferences, at offices, and during big events. For this reason, outside sales reps must be flexible, outgoing, and proactive.
What is inbound sales experience?
Not to be confused with inside sales, inbound sales entails building relationships with consumers who come to you already knowing a lot about your company. Inbound sales reps don’t reach out to customers directly. Instead, reps advertise and market to clients’ pain points in a way that convinces them they need a product or service, prompting them to reach out.
This form of selling requires time management skills and knowledge of marketing strategy. Hiring managers for inbound sales also prioritize skills that illustrate a candidate’s sales productivity, such as:
- Sales automation experience
- Relationship management
- Customer service
- Online marketing proficiency
What is outbound sales experience?
Outbound sales involves a more aggressive approach than inbound sales. Outbound sales reps utilize tactics such as cold calling, cold emailing, or social media outreach to secure a sale for their company. They must know how to be persistent without being pushy, and they can’t be shy about reaching out. They should also be familiar with the best sales force automation systems, as these tools make it possible to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Outbound sales reps are more direct with their selling tactics. If you’ve ever worked a job that included a fair amount of rejection—and you didn’t let it negatively impact your productivity—then you may have what it takes to succeed in an outbound sales position.
When you have no sales experience
If you’re applying for a sales job but don’t have experience in a professional sales environment, you can still convince hiring managers you’re the right candidate for the role. Here are some ways to show them you’re a good fit, even if your sales resume doesn’t include all the requirements listed in the posting.
Justify your skill set
As we mentioned earlier, there are countless ways to gain sales experience from other types of roles. When you’re applying for a sales position but don’t have experience in sales specifically, consider your previous work experience. Do you have communication skills that you can transfer to sales? Are you a great problem-solver? Can you demonstrate that you know how to build connections and manage relationships?
While hiring managers prefer candidates with actual sales experience, being able to justify your skill set can persuade them to consider you for the role.
Enroll in a training program
Make yourself a viable candidate by completing a training program. There are numerous sales certifications and online classes that offer valuable training for aspiring sales reps. Including them on your resume can help you stand out because it shows you’ve taken the initiative to develop your skills.
Some companies even provide in-depth training programs for new sales reps. If you need a way to gain proper experience, look for businesses with those perks. And if they offer upward mobility, you might have the opportunity to become a sales leader in the future.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 85 percent of jobs are secured through networking. So if you’re looking to land an entry-level sales job, networking can play a huge factor in your success.
Companies use job fairs to discover fresh talent and connect with aspiring employees. You can attend these events to meet hiring managers or recruiters, which can give your name a competitive edge when you apply for a sales job with the company.
You can also use LinkedIn to connect with companies and interact with their content. If hiring managers consistently see your name, they may be more inclined to learn more from your resume. But to land the job, it’s important to know how to make your experience and skills shine on a resume.
Emphasize your sales skills
Communication, relationship building, negotiation, and active listening are all skills that you should highlight in your resume. Mention your sales skills in your resume summary, but also include them in your work experience section. Describe the skills you possess and how they helped you perform your duties.
Keep it short
You should be able to describe your work experience without writing a novel. Avoid walls of text that look jumbled, and organize your experience in a way that’s easy on the eyes so you don’t risk getting skipped over.
Strip your resume down to its core components, and include only the skills that are necessary for the job you’re applying to. This allows hiring managers to see your qualifications clearly and get all the information they need quickly.
Include sales statistics
If your accomplishments sound vague on paper, hiring managers will assume you did the bare minimum. So if you have sales experience, show off your achievements with hard numbers. Statistics back up your claims in a way that an anecdote or personal reference can’t—they provide evidence that you have what it takes to crush your sales goals.
How to describe sales experience on a resume
Having experience isn’t enough to secure a sales job. You need to display it in a way that makes it easy for hiring managers to process. Here are some tips for writing the best sales resume and showing hiring managers what you’re capable of.
Sales experience examples for an interview
The hiring manager may start a sales interview with a statement like, “Give me an example of a time when you…” This is an opportunity for you to describe your sales experience in a way that aligns with what they’re looking for—even if it doesn’t match up on paper.
Before the interview, prepare a few sales experience examples that illustrate what you’ve done in previous roles and how you can transfer your knowledge and skills to the position you’re interviewing for. Make a list of examples that demonstrate times when you had to be persuasive, practice active listening, manage negotiations, conduct research, and perform other tasks associated with selling.
And keep in mind: how you sell yourself in the interview is the best sales experience example you can provide.
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