Are you a whiz at selling products and services but stumped when promoting yourself for a new sales job in a cover letter? Approach your letter as if you were writing to a sales prospect, and you could land more job interviews. Career experts show you how.
First Paragraph: The Hook
You need to grab the reader’s attention from the first line of your cover letter. “Lead with a brief introductory paragraph that states what you can do for the employer,” says Sally McIntosh, owner of Advantage Resumes in St. Louis and a Nationally Certified Resume Writer.
McIntosh says sales professionals should avoid stale introductions, like, “I’m responding to your job ad,” and instead recommends creating a “value proposition that communicates why the employer should interview you.”
Karen Hofferber, a Certified Professional Resume Writer and former Monster contributor based in Plano, Texas, used this opener for a senior account rep’s cover letter:
If seven-figure profit growth, global business expansion and stagnant account turn-around are among your organization’s goals this year, my credentials will be of interest to you. I am one of ABC Company’s top 10 sales reps with a 12-year history of quota-surpassing results, and I can deliver equally strong results for you.
You can write an effective introductory paragraph by first researching the employer and learning about the company’s goals, plans and challenges. Mary Storms, technology sales recruiter at Storms Associates of Supply, North Carolina, stresses the importance of research and tailoring your letter. “Include some tidbit about the company that shows you’ve done your research,” Storms says. “Know as much about the job as you can, and include specific reasons why you are qualified based on what the company wants.”
Middle Paragraphs: The Meat
The paragraphs or bullets that follow your introduction are where you prove you have the qualifications required to do the job. One caveat, though: Be brief. “We are in the byte generation, so the shorter, the better,” says McIntosh. “No one wants to read more than they have to.”
Storms, whose company receives around 30 resumes a day, also stresses the importance of a concise letter. “Think of the cover letter as a 10-second commercial rather than a thorough critique of the show,” she advises.
The body of your letter should demonstrate how your experience and skills will benefit the prospective employer. “Sell benefits, not features,” says Storms. You can show the potential benefits of hiring you by including examples of past performance. “Sales people eat, live and breathe numbers,” McIntosh says. “Quantify past sales results so employers see that you are a top performer.”
Try using bullets instead of content-rich paragraphs -- your key points will be easier to skim and absorb. Think about the top reasons you should be hired, and present them in bulleted format. Hofferber offers this example for a finance industry salesperson:
My comprehensive knowledge of financial services is reinforced by proven success in:
Last Paragraph: The Close
- Relationship Management: By deepening relationships with my client base, I have acquired 93% of clients’ asset commitments within 18 months of landing them as clients (more than double the company average).
- New Business Development: In my current role, I have secured numerous major accounts and generated $1.2 million in total net sales.
- Territory Startup & Growth: I have repeatedly demonstrated my strengths in new territory development during a period of change within XYZ Company, when territories were realigned 3 times in 3 years. Despite this challenge, I consistently achieved revenue targets and earned President’s Club honors.
- Business to Business (B2B) Sales: I excel in B2B environments, providing consultative support to financial intermediaries to help them grow their practices and optimize returns for their clients.
Closing the deal is paramount in sales, and the final paragraph of your letter should help you close the deal: Landing a job interview. Think about what you want the hiring manager to do, and ask for it. Instead of using the old standby, “I look forward to hearing from you,” request a phone call and state that you will be following up.
Hofferber offers this example of how to ask for a job interview:
Although successful in my present sales position, where I have doubled sales for my employer in a single year, I am relocating to Memphis, and I am very interested in joining your sales team. I would welcome the chance to learn more about your territory expansion goals and outline how I can help you achieve them. I will follow up with you to discuss this opportunity, and in the meantime please feel free to call me at 555-555-5555.
An aggressive cover letter will show that you are an aggressive salesperson and could lead to more calls for interviews. Although cover letters don’t always get read, Storms says to “make it compelling enough for the reader to want to review your resume, and be sure to end with a call for action.”