How to Write a Simple yet Powerful Cover Letter (Part Two)

Did you know that over 85% of resumes received by hiring managers arrive without a cover letter?

While that may not mean much to you, it means a lot to the people reviewing and vetting resumes for the job you are applying for. Resumes that are sent in without someone taking the time to write a cover letter appear to the hiring manager to be submitted almost blindly. It is as if the job applicant has sent their resume in to lots of jobs – shotgun approach – hoping someone might call them back. It shows a lack of preparation and even implies a lack of interest in whether the person gets the job or not.

This is NOT the kind of first impression you want to give a hiring manager.

On the other hand, those resumes that do arrive with a cover letter get extra attention and are often the first resumes an HR person reviews. A cover letter tells the hiring manager that you care enough about the job you are applying for that it is important for you to stand above the competition. When you take the time to write a cover letter, it also shows initiative and evidences your ability and willingness to go that extra mile. It signals that you are someone who is attentive to detail and that you are willing to do what others applicants (and workers) are not willing to do.

In essence, it shows that you are organized, capable, and professional. A well written cover letter tells the hiring manager that you are serious about getting the job, and it gives you the best chance (along with a relevant resume) of landing an interview and ultimately the job you really want.

While a cover letter is a huge benefit for job applicants, there are both things to avoid and some definite best practices you can use to insure your cover letter is heads and tails above anybody else’s.

How to Address your Cover Letter:

Let’s start first with what to avoid. The most obvious thing you want to avoid is writing a generic cover letter that is unspecific to the job you are applying to. Doing so erases any benefit of putting one together to begin with. The first thing you want to avoid is addressing your letter to the generic: “To Whom it May Concern.” This, once again, just lumps you into the generic cover letter pile, and doesn’t differentiate you from the other applicants.

To avoid this, try to find out the hiring manager’s name or job title, and direct the cover letter to him/her. If this is not possible, then the following addresses are best:

1) Address your cover letter to the department head you are applying to. So if it is sales, use: “Dear Hiring Sales Manager,” or “Dear Hiring Marketing Director,” or “Dear HR Director.”
2) If you don’t know the department, then a good address is: “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Human Resources Director.”
3) If you do know the name of the hiring manager, then always use their name as such: “Dear Mr. Brooks,” or “Dear Ms. Collins.”

This is the kind of detail that takes just a minute or two to customize, but it makes a huge first impression on the hiring manager. Again, it evidences that you care enough – and are resourceful enough – to take the time to go beyond what the majority of job seekers are not willing to do. The inference is that you will also be more organized and detail oriented on the job as well. And this is the kind of person hiring personnel are looking for.

Next, the content of the cover letter is where you will make or break a good impression. Now, don’t be intimidated here. The hiring manager is not looking for a college essay, nor are they looking for a sample of your writing skills. What they do want, however – and what you want to give them – is why you are uniquely qualified for this particular job. In other words, they are looking for relevant experience that matches up specifically to the position you are applying for.

Let me say that again because this is key: What the hiring manager is looking for is relevant experience of yours that directly relates to the specific job skills and duties they are hiring for.

And the good news is there are some easy, sure fire, best practices you can follow that will immediately give them what they are looking for. Here is how to go about it:

Number One: Carefully review each employer’s ad description and pick out specific words and phrases that describe the skills and day to day activities they are advertising for. An example would be the phrase:

“Relevant experience in prospecting by phone, candidates should be prepared to make between 50 to 75 cold calls per day. In addition, the ideal candidate should also have experience in contacting existing or non-active accounts to expand and grow client base.”

Once you see something like this, it is telling you exactly how to write your cover letter. What you need to do next is match up any (or as many as possible) of your past positions where you performed similar duties. And then include a brief description of that in your cover letter. For example:

“The skills and duties which you are seeking – specifically prospecting by phone and calling into non-active accounts – are exactly the kind of work I did at Sherman Rentals and ABC Financial. I am highly adept at cold calling and regularly average 68 prospecting calls per day.

“In addition, I was also responsible for calling into existing accounts and even won awards for my ability to reactivate and up sell existing customers.”

Now how easy was that? By taking just a few minutes to highlight specific words and phrases and repeat them in your cover letter, you will be doing what 98% of your competition simply won’t take the time to do. Your effort will get noticed and it will move your resume to the top of the stack.

By the way, if you didn’t win any awards, then don’t make it up! Instead, talk about the achievements you did accomplish and the results that you did get. Your goal here, again, is to match up your relevant experience that directly relates to the specific job skills and duties they are advertising for. Remember, the key is to use their exact words and phrases when describing your experience in your cover letter.

Taking this simple step is 75% of writing a powerful cover letter. The other part is to show a sincere interest in their company and job opportunity, and to keep it brief. Here is a complete, best practice cover letter that you can use as a template:

Dear Sales Hiring Manager,

My name is Mike Brooks, and I was very excited to find your job listing on Monster.com. I have always been interested in the online advertising industry (whatever industry their company is in), and feel that I have the relevant experience you are looking for that would enable me to be highly successfully with your company.

The skills and duties which you are seeking – specifically prospecting by phone and calling into non-active accounts – are exactly the kind of work I did at Sherman Rentals and ABC Financial. I am highly adept at cold calling and regularly average 68 prospecting calls per day.

In addition, I was also responsible for calling into existing accounts and even won awards for my ability to reactivate and up sell existing customers.

I would enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the position of account manager you are advertising for, and look forward to exploring how my career experience can be an asset to your company.

I have attached my resume for your review and would be happy to discuss my experience or any questions you may have.

The best way to reach me is by my cell phone: (515) 555-1234. Alternatively, you can email me here: Mike@youremailaddress.com

I hope my experience meets what you are searching for, and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Mike Brooks

Use this template for any sales job you are applying for. (Or any other kind of position as well.) Simply change the name of the company and type of job where appropriate and match up your skills and duties as discussed previously.

By taking just a few minutes to customize a carefully worded cover litter like this, you will instantly become one of – if not the very first – candidate that gets a call back. You will be very much in demand and soon you will have your pick of which opportunities to pursue. And having many companies who are interested in hiring you gives you the leverage to ask for and get things like a higher salary, a better commission structure and even a possible hiring bonus. But we’ll cover these in a little while.

Once you have perfected your cover letter, the next step to landing the job of your dreams is to make sure your resume matches up with what a potential company is looking for. You also want to make sure not to make the common errors so prevalent with most resumes that are submitted – errors that often get resumes rejected right away. All of these points will be covered in next week’s Ezine, so make sure and be on the lookout for it next week.

In the meantime, try practicing a few cover letters and see for yourself how easy it is!

How to Apply For and Get a Better Paying Job (Part One)

According to a PNC survey, almost two-thirds of millionaires say their wealth is largely attributable to their jobs. Furthermore, these six figure earners are much better at applying for and landing better paying jobs and are far more inclined to negotiate better salaries and over all commission plans than their peers (says a study by PayScale.com). In contrast, nearly 60% of their competition (all U.S. workers, in fact) simply settle for the first offer they get.

So what are their secrets? How do these top earners go about applying for, interviewing at and landing these better jobs? The good news is that, as always, success leaves clues, and by simply following some of their tried and true strategies, you, too, can begin applying for and landing not only better paying jobs, but also better positions at those jobs.

Now don’t be worried if you’re not a six figure earner – yet. By following the strategies and techniques below, you can begin making yourself more valuable at your current job, and more marketable to your next employer as well. In fact, if you are in the job market right now, using these proven tips will move your resume to the top of the list and get you an interview above everyone else who is applying.

How can I be so sure of this? Because my experience in hiring tells me so. Over the last 30 years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes of potential inside sales reps, admin support people, marketing people, etc. And as a consultant, I’ve worked with my client’s hiring managers, recruiters, HR Directors, V.P.’s of sales, sales managers, etc., helping them vet and interview thousands of more candidates. I can look at a resume for one minute and tell you whether a company would be interested in speaking with you or not.

And after all that experience, sadly, I can tell you now that we (myself, hiring managers, etc.) throw away about 95% of all resumes received for an inside sales position. Ninety five percent! That’s a horrendous statistic, and it just shows how unprepared (or uninterested) most sales reps are about applying for and getting a new job. It tells me that the majority of job seekers carelessly put together their resume, and then rapid fire it out to as many potential jobs as are advertising. It’s the shotgun approach to landing a job. And it does not work.

Lucky for you that with just a little bit of time and effort ahead of time, you can create a cover letter and resume that will make hiring managers anxious to call and meet with you. By just putting in a little bit of work before you attach or upload your resume to a job posting, you can all but be assured that you’ll be sitting in front of the hiring manager for the job you’d really like to get.

Moreover, if you follow some of the other tips you’ll read in this Special Report, you’ll also be able to negotiate things like a signing bonus, a performance bonus, higher salary and/or commission schedule. And, with just a little bit of planning, you can even begin applying to and landing positions in management. And all of this will mean more money, more prestige, and more opportunity in your future.

In the following Special Report, I will walk you through, step by step, the ways that you can:

1) Write a cover letter that will separate you from 90% of the resumes a company gets.
2) Easily develop a resume that will put you into the top 1% of what a company is looking for – and ensure that you get interviewed first.
3) How to make yourself more valuable to your current company, as well as future employers as well.
4) How to ask for and get higher positions in management and so make more money.
5) How to get the largest starting pay – including asking for and getting a signing bonus.
6) How to negotiate for salary and bonus reviews which will keep your earnings going even higher.

You can apply for and get a better paying job, but you must know how to do it first. In next week’s Ezine, I will teach you the secrets of crafting a simple, yet powerful, cover letter that will immediately separate you from the hundreds of other resumes a hiring manager receives each week.

This tip alone will move you, and your resume, above the competition applying for the job you want!

The Three “Real”’ Secrets of Hiring Top Sales Reps

Ask any manager, V.P. or business owner what one of the biggest challenges they face in making their revenue numbers and they’ll tell you it’s in identifying, hiring and retaining good sales reps. If you are familiar with my management philosophy, then you’ve heard me talk about the 80/20 rule in sales, and all you have to do is look at your own company or industry to know it’s still true – 80% of the sales and revenue are made by the Top 20%.

So how do you identify who the Top 20% are BEFORE you spend all that time and money on hiring, training and then hoping they perform? There are many ways to try to identify the characteristics in advance, and in fact a whole industry of profiling and assessment testing has sprouted up to help you make the right choice. I have used some of these tests and have found them to be quite accurate and valuable.

I have also found an easier way to identify who the potential top producers are, and I’ve boiled it down into three “Real Secrets.” If you are responsible for identifying and hiring sales reps in your company, then I recommend you use these techniques to help you find the right sales reps before you spend all that time and energy training, managing and hoping you’ve made the right choice.

Real Secret #1) The best predictor of future behavior and performance is past behavior and performance. This is a well known fact in psychology, and it’s one you can use to predict how a new sales rep is likely to perform for you. The bottom line is that however much your candidate earned in income in their last job, and the job before that, is mostly likely the amount they are going to earn working for you as well.

What you must determine is exactly how much money that was. Ask your candidate to provide you with pay stubs or verification of income for the last 6 months, and, in addition, ask them what they earned in income each of the last three years. Find a way to verify this.

Finally, determine how much of your product or service your candidate would have to sell to generate that kind of income again, and ask yourself if you would be happy with that level of performance – because that’s most likely what you’re going to get.

Real Secret #2) Determine what is really motivating your candidate. What we exposed in the first real secret was your candidate’s comfort zone. We all have comfort zones, and sales reps in particular will always live up to – and most likely down to – their comfort zone especially in terms of income.

So if your candidate is really looking to your company and opportunity to better themselves and earn more money, find out what is driving this need and desire for more money. Have their life circumstances changed? For example, have they recently gotten married, had a child, purchased a home? If so, then they may have a real motivation to work harder, make more money and enlarge their comfort zone.

If their situation hasn’t changed, then you can be pretty sure that they will not be motivated to work harder, learn more skills, and make more sales. In essence, they will continue to live down to their current comfort level and you may once again be hiring another 80% producer.

Real Secret #3) Access their sales skills and previous training. This is one of my favorites. During the interview, I ask my candidates how they think they would do selling my product. They all say, “I’d do great!” I then do two things:

1) I ask them to sell me on the product. What I’m looking for is for them to ask me qualifying questions rather than just start pitching. Those who just dive right in and start pitching reveal themselves as middle to low 80% producers. Top 20% producers, on the other hand, start asking me questions and gathering information. They are the ones I’m interested in.
2) Next I give them a couple of objections and watch and listen to how they handle them. You can immediately tell how much training someone has had, and how successful they were, by listening to them handle age old objections like “The price is too high,” and “I’ll have to talk to someone else first.”

These techniques have saved me hundreds of hours of poor hires, and they have often revealed who the real top producers were. Use them, and you’ll love how they will work for you as well.

Three Interviewing Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

As the economy slowly recovers, companies are beginning to expand and hire sales reps again. If you?re looking for a job, or looking to change jobs, no doubt you will be sending your resume out, talking to hiring managers, and, if you?re lucky enough to get picked, even going on interviews.

Over the years, I?ve looked at thousands of resumes and interviewed thousands of sales reps. In fact, right now, I?m recruiting for several companies, and I?m amazed by how sales reps keep making basic, horrible mistakes that often times immediately disqualify them for any chance at landing a position. Often times, these mistakes even prevent them from getting an interview!

Here are the 3 worst interviewing mistakes sales reps are making, and what you can do to avoid them:

#1) Filling your resume with every job you?ve worked at for the last 10 years. The first mistake sales reps make ? and that hiring managers look for first ? is listing five to seven jobs (or more!) on their resume within an eight to ten year time frame.

Nothing will disqualify you faster than a history of job hopping, or a history of staying at jobs for less than a year. (One resume I saw last week listed 3 jobs this year alone!)

Obviously, the reason this is a red flag for companies is that they see themselves investing thousands of dollars hiring and training you only to think that their company will be the next one on your resume.

The Solution: Omit jobs you?ve stayed at less than a year, and never list more than four jobs in a ten year period (it?s better to have only three). You can disclose other positions once you move forward during the interview process ? in person ? after you?ve earned a change to wow them with your personality, experience, and obvious qualifications for the job.

#2) Talking for too long when asked a question. Whenever a hiring manager calls you and begins asking questions, make sure your answers are direct and short. You?d be amazed at how so many sales reps will go on and on and on?..

What the hiring manager is thinking is that you are a sales rep who will talk past the close, never listen to your prospects, and never close any business. ?No wonder they?re looking for a job,? frequently goes through my mind?

The Solution: Listen carefully to what you?re being asked, think about how to answer it directly, then answer it and shut up! This one technique will separate you from 80% of the sales reps interviewing for the same position.

#3) Don?t interview or interrogate the hiring manager. I know that you have questions about the job, and you should ask a few, but don?t interrogate the hiring manager! Nothing makes us more irritated than being grilled about every aspect of the job, especially about the pay and comp plan. You?re the one being interviewed, not the other way around.

The Solution: Ask some basic questions but save the majority of them for the END of the in person interview. Believe me, the hiring manager will appreciate it and be much more likely to bring you in.

If you?re serious about getting a new position or moving up in your sales career, then avoid these 3 interviewing mistakes. Your chance of getting the new job will increase 100% if you do!

Good luck and happy job hunting!

How to Hire Successful Sales Reps

Many business owners and sales managers ask me if I have a proven system or a way to identify and hire top sales reps. They have tried everything, they tell me.  They check references, review similar work experiences, talk to ex co-workers, hold multiple job interviews, and sometimes they even spring for some high priced fancy sales aptitude matrix tests.

Even with all that however, many sales managers still haven’t found a way to identify who will actually perform well and work hard versus who will merely show up, take up space and drive up costs by sending out brochures, running up phone bills, squandering leads etc.  “How can you tell?”  They ask me.

Well I’ve got good news for you.  There is one technique that I’ve used successfully for years that will immediately separate who is for real and who’s not.  It doesn’t require any special tests, it can be done on the first interview, and it will always tell you what kind of sales rep you’ve got in front of you.

Here’s what you do:

During the course of the interview simply describe the service or product you’re selling, and ask them if they think they would do well selling it.  Almost all that will say, “Oh, of course!”  (Those who don’t dismiss immediately!)

After that, tell them you want to get an idea of how they would handle some of the common objections you get for this sale, and then give them three or four objections (one at a time, of course) and let them respond to them.  That’s it!

Several things happen here — all of which accurately reveal what kind of sales rep you’re dealing with.  They usually fallen into three categories:

The “A” Players — The top reps or sales reps who are well-trained and confident, will handle each objection with a recognizable rebuttal, and the really good ones will even ask for the sale at the end.  You will instantly know who they are.  You hire these reps right away.

The “B” Players — This group of sales reps will also answer the objections, but their responses will be less polished.  With this group the lack of any formal training will show through, and you will be faced with the decision of whom you think can or can’t be trained.  Part of this group will be uncomfortable with the objections and you will be able to tell that they probably never will be comfortable with them.  Your choice of who to hire from this group should be pretty clear.

The “C: Players — A common response from this group will be something like this:  “Well, I really don’t know your product so I really wouldn’t be able to answer these objections.”  What they’re really saying, of course, is that they have no idea how to respond to an objection, they have no confidence, and the reason they are here looking for a job will be glaringly clear to both of you.  You pass on this group altogether.

Try this powerful technique during your next interview.  You will be amazed by how well it works.  Simply give them an objection, then sit back, listen and observe.

You will know instantly if you’re dealing with a real closer or someone who is just going to fill a chair.  Happy hiring!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.