None of the sales books can ever prepare you for the trials and tribulations of finding (and landing) jobs in sales. That is, unless you read between the lines and recognize that the product that you are selling in this case is an invaluable asset - you!
So, put your sales skills on full display as you spruce up your resume, draft a compelling sales cover letter, and prep for the interview - it is as easy as 1, 2, 3! And do you know what will act as a differentiator that sets you apart from your fellow salesperson? The sales cover letter.
Let’s take a look at how it can work its magic.
What are Sales Cover Letters? And Why Do They Matter?
A cover letter is a single-page personalized document that is a part of your job application in addition to your CV or resume. It contains your introduction, an extract of your professional background, and reinforces why you are a fit choice for the job.
Contrary to the belief that “sales cover letters are excessive and unnecessary,” these can actually tip the scales in your favor! About 83% of HR managers admit that A well-written cover letter can improve the chances of scoring an interview - even if your resume fails to impress as much! It demonstrates your interest in the position, a burning passion for pursuing it, knowledge of the company, and the impact you have had in your previous roles.
Clearly, a sales cover letter offers more value than one is led to believe!
Elements of a “Good” Sales Cover Letter
Given that a sales cover letter would be your chance to make a solid first impression, ensure that you miss out on nothing. At the same time, long and trailing cover letters will only end up unread.
To strike the perfect balance between these two extremities, make sure to include the following elements in your sales cover letter:
- Name and contact details (including residential address, email ID, telephone number)
- Date of writing the letter
- Name, title, and address of the employer
- Sales pitch (divided into an adequate number of paragraphs).
- A call-to-action
- Sign off and signature
The above details are the bare minimum, and you will have to embellish your sales cover letter in myriad ways, which we will discuss in the following section.
Dissecting Five Excellent Sales Cover Letters
The following are some excellent illustrations of sales cover letters done right. Let’s take a look at what makes them work.
Example 1: The Story Where it all Started
While everyone focuses on the “what” and “how” of the sales position, you can take the road less travelled and talk about the “why” - your primary sales motivation. You may go as deep as talking about what got you started in this particular field of work, or simply stick to the details of why you are interested in the said position.
And to make things more interesting, weave this “why” into the form of a story. You probably ran a successful lemonade stand in your childhood, which whetted your appetite for sales. Or maybe you go so influenced by Mad Men that you wanted to transform the entire sales process! Align the story according to the specific industry against which you are applying - is the company a leading cosmetics and beauty brand? Talk about how a product changed your life and drove you to become passionate about makeup!
Finally, while there is no harm in inflating your success story montage, ensure that this story is inspired from a kernel of truth. After all, if you are building up a fictional story, it will unwind at the interview stage and you will be left embarrassed.
Example 2: The “We Belong Together” Sales Cover Letter
Even before you approach the company as a prospective candidate, chances are that you may have had run-ins with them at different phases of your life. Preface your sales cover letter with these interactions.
Maybe you worked with them during a summer internship. Or maybe you were a customer before you decided to gain entry into the internal operations. Or you had an interesting exchange at a trade event or a webinar that resulted in the sharing of a valuable life lesson that has stuck with you to date.
The point is to draw attention to these serendipitous meetings and use it to build a personal connection. Pivot these commonalities and encounters to build a relationship with the employer that screams “I am fit for this job” without having to rub it in their faces. Such subtle sales strategies will help you stand out from the crowd.
Example 3: Ask What You Can Do For Your Company
Every recruiter is looking for that ‘it’ factor that speaks about the value one can offer to the job position. So why not add the same flair to your sales cover letter? In this case, rather than talking solely about your accomplishments, customize the sales cover letter to talk about what you bring to the table.
One of the ways in which you can demonstrate your value is by elaborating on how your personal beliefs and values line up with the mission and vision of the company. Given that company culture is of growing importance to organizations, businesses would be keen to onboard someone who is the “right fit” as it promises employee lifetime longevity.
A little homework and research on your part can help you cover your bases so that you can align your skills and experiences with the company’s demand. Apart from learning about the company, you can even apply this knowledge to practice and offer solutions. For instance, you can study the company’s existing sales strategies and propose ways through which you can bring about a positive change in it and boost sales. Such an approach would garner more attention than talking about your “problem-solving skills.”
Example 4: The “I Mean Business” Sales Cover Letter
In some cases, beating about the bush can only dilute your sales cover letter. So how about getting straight to the point?
While drafting the sales cover letter, in this case, follow the KISS principle - Keep It Simple, Silly! Start by displaying your excitement or eagerness for the position, then briefly touch upon the qualifications, skills, and experience that you possess, and finally tie it all together with a clear call-to-action as a conclusion.
A great way to actualise this example is by populating a list of skills and characteristics advertised by the company. Sort through these and echo the ones that you possess within your sales cover letter. If necessary, list these out in bullets so that it attracts attention to your sales persona without any distractions. It will reflect that you have thoroughly gone through their advertisement and understood the requirements of the job.
Example 5: The Out-of-the-Box Approach
Modern-day rich media content has unlocked new opportunities for making sales cover letters unique and creative. And taking this road less traveled can help you capture the recruiter’s attention in the best possible ways.
Plus, you don’t have to go out of your way to create an interactive cover letter. Simply whip out your smartphone and record a tried and tested sales pitch where you sell yourself. For the camera-shy salespersons, you can create a smart, concise, and witty presentation that walks the managers through how your skills gel with the role, why should they pick you, and how can they contact you. Do remember to add tags and meta tags so that recruiters can copy-paste relevant information conveniently.
Tips for Writing a Killer Sales Cover Letter
Feeling inspired to craft your next sales cover letter? Keep the following tips in mind:
Keep it Short and Sweet
When recruiters sort through piles and piles of resumes, they lack the time and patience to process the barrage of information. Restrict your sales cover letter to a single page with a maximum of three paragraphs totaling 200 to 400 words. The first paragraph should create a hook, the second should be your sales pitch, and finally, extend your thanks in the third.
Tailor the Sales Cover Letter
A resume talks about the candidate, a cover letter fits that candidate within the company. As such, customize your sales cover letter from the company’s perspective rather than rehashing your resume. At the same time, refrain from sending a template cover letter to all organizations. Putting in the effort to personalize your sales cover letter will pay off in several ways.
Make Your Achievements Tangible
While recalling your past achievements and results, make them tangible or emphasize their impact. An excellent way to do this is to quantify even the vague entities. For instance, if following up more often during the sales cycle improved results, then make it real. Pull in the numbers corresponding to the gross sales or talk about conversion rates to quantify the sales boost.
Make it Easy to Read
What is the point of creating a sales cover letter when it is absolutely illegible (or worse, unprofessional)? Make your cover letter readable and attractive by choosing a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica. Set the font size between 10.5 to 12 points and maintain an adequate margin of 1-1.5”.
Highlight the Relevant Sections
While standardising the entire sales cover letter, highlight the relevant portions as it will make it more scannable. Throw in some formatting styles, such as bold, underline, and italics to help them pop out. Adding pointers like bullets and illustrations like pie charts and bar graphs, albeit unconventional, may also gain attention.
Choose a Tone
The tonality that you will adopt while applying for the post of National Sales Director at a Fortune 500 firm would not be the same as the one employed while applying to an entry-level position at a startup. And so, pick a tone that suits the job that you want. Match it up with the tone and voice adopted by the company in its job description to get the best results.
Discard the Clichés
Hiring managers see several applications during their careers. So, don’t get your hopes too high if you plan on wooing them with garden variety words like “go-getter,” “problem-solver,” “self-motivated,” peppered throughout the sales cover letter. As always, make these more concrete through data and numbers than shooting arrows in the dark. Use a variety of spell-checking services such as Grammarly or essay writing help.
Read, Edit, Repeat
Once you have written down the first draft of the sales cover letter, hold off pushing the “send” button until you have read through it at least three times, preferably in different fonts. If necessary, read it out loud so that you can get a sense of how it reads. Finally, run it through tools like Grammarly or StudyBounty to eliminate any grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Get a Second Opinion
Getting a fresh set of eyes to read through your sales cover letter can also offer you perspective. Share it with a trusted friend or colleague to check for errors and typos. At the same time, you can use it to capture their feedback on the readability, clarity, and effectiveness of the document from a third person’s point of view.
Give it a Final Runover
Once you have the final draft of your sales cover letter ready, read through the job requirements and ensure that you have followed all the instructions. Ensure that your application meets the submission requirements stipulated by the company before you press “send.”
Salespersons often treat drafting a sales cover letter as an afterthought to submitting their application. However, it needs to be viewed as an opportunity to ensnare your employers right at the first contact - do not let it go.
Now that you no longer have to print and affix it along with your resume while mailing the set to prospective employers, it becomes easier to send effective cover letters at virtually no extra expense! Plus, the pay-off is excellent as you will be improving your chances of securing an interview.
Keep your sales cover letter simple and to the point to drive its effectiveness.
You can write your sales cover letter in various forms, some of these being:
- An origin story,
- The "perfect fit" pitch,
- Focus on value proposition,
- No-nonsense cover letter, and
- Interactive cover letter.
Once done, follow it up with some basic writing hygiene practices like:
- Stay brief and to the point.
- Draft custom sales cover letters.
- Quantify your achievements.
- Make the content readable.
- Highlight the key points.
- Adopt a suitable tone.
- Skip the cliches.
- Write once, edit multiple times.
- Consult a colleague or peer.
- Cross-check with the job requirements.
Following these tips can help you draft a compelling sales cover letter that helps you stand out from the crowd of resumes. Capitalize on this opportunity to sell yourself right off the bat and you will come off as an excellent salesperson deserving of the job.