Writing a strong cover letter definitely increases the likelihood your sales job application will get a response.
First, it tells the hiring manager you’re a good communicator. You don’t need to be J.K. Rowling to excel in a sales role, but you do need to be capable of expressing your ideas clearly, succinctly, and compellingly.
Second, it shows you’re invested in the opportunity. Because online job portals make it so easy to apply, postings can get hundreds of responses. A well-written, enthusiastic cover letter separates you from all the people simply blasting their resume out.
Third, it gives you the chance to add some color to your application. Maybe you’re not as experienced as they’d like, or you’re not familiar with the industry, or you’ve never used their sales tech stack before. Your cover letter helps you provide details beyond your resume -- which can often account for any “missing” qualifications.
Your cover letter should be three to five paragraphs and no more than a page.
You should use a simple, legible, traditional font, like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Steer clear of fun colors -- it should always be black.
Be professional, but not overly stiff. Avoid flowerly phrases like “at your leisure” or “please find attached herewith.”
Cover letter header
If you’re applying to a conservative company or work in a formal industry (think finance, healthcare, or law), include a full heading: Your name and address, followed by a space, the date, followed by another space, and the company name and address.
But if you’re applying to a less formal place (like HubSpot!), simply write your name and email address, followed by a space, and the company name and email address.
Cover letter greeting
Maybe you’re not sure who will be reading your cover letter. But don’t write “To whom it may concern”, “Dear hiring manager”, or any other generic title.
With a little research, you can easily find the hiring manager’s name. You’ll get points even if you’re wrong.
Let’s say you’re applying for the SMB Account Executive role at Joyfull. Google “SMB sales manager Joyfull” and see if you can find the team’s leader on LinkedIn.
When applying to a conservative company, write “Dear Mr./Ms. [Last name].” When applying to a startup or relatively relaxed organization, write “Dear [First name] [Last name].”
Cover letter intro
Your intro paragraph should highlight why you’re a great fit. It’s a high-level overview, rather than a complete overview of your work history and qualifications, so keep it under four sentences.
The standard cover letter opening line is something along the lines of:
“I’m interested in becoming a sales representative on your SMB team” or “I’m excited for the opportunity to apply for the SMB sales representative role.”
While these sentences might not kill your chances of getting the job, they certainly don’t help. You want to grab the reader’s attention and sell yourself from the very start.
With that in mind, write a personalized, compelling line that will draw the hiring manager in and make them want to read more.
Here are a few examples:
“I love working with small businesses -- in fact, I’ve helped more than 300 in the past year at my current job -- which is why I’m so excited about the chance to help SMBs discover Joyfull.”
“Every week, I write a blog post about a common SMB challenge. Helping SMBs overcome this obstacle isn’t just rewarding -- it’s also a great lead gen strategy. My passion for this type of work led me to your SMB Account Executive position.”
Do you know a current or former employee who speaks positively about the company? Mention that in your intro. Ideally, they’d be referring you (either by submitting your application or connecting you with the hiring manager), but if they’re not a close enough contact, you can still use their name.
“As a self-starter who thrives in autonomous, results-oriented environments, I’m drawn to the BDR role at Red Shelf. I’ve heard great things about the culture and learning opportunities from Sarah Grossman, who started as a BDR and now works on your L&D team.”
Cover letter body paragraph #1
In this paragraph, choose a relevant work experience. What does “relevant” mean? You’re trying to show your existing abilities and knowledge map well to the role you’re applying for, so if you currently work in retail and you want to become a business development rep, you might write:
“As a floor associate for Wilson & Co., I help 60-plus customers every day with questions about brands, fit, quality, and more. This experience has taught me how to provide a positive customer experience and be helpful while driving sales -- both skills I’d use as a HubSpot BDR. Finally, it’s made me comfortable approaching strangers and acting as a product expert, which would be invaluable when reaching out to inbound leads.”
Cover letter body paragraph #2
The second body paragraph follows the same structure as the first. Take another relevant work or educational experience, and connect the dots to the role you’re applying for. Imagine you’re currently an AE applying for a manager position. Your second section could read:
“In the past 16 months on the Pacific West team, I’ve taken several opportunities to grow my leadership abilities. I started a mentorship program for new reps, pairing them with salespeople who have been at the company for at least two years. This program has been a huge success: Half-year retention is 20% higher for participants versus those without mentors, and one of our junior reps even wrote a blog post about it… which ended up generating 10 applicants. I also began a Wednesday night call review. Everyone is welcome -- we usually get around nine people. As a sales manager, I’d continue to look for ways to support, mentor, and train my salespeople so they have access to the most current and useful resources possible.”
Cover letter body paragraph #3
If you have another relevant experience, discuss it here. But don’t add a third paragraph just for the sake of adding one -- a shorter cover letter is better if it’s more relevant.
Let’s suppose you’re applying for a sales engineer role, which is a highly technical and demanding job that likely warrants a three-paragraph cover letter:
“After spending two years in customer support, I’m in my element when answering product-related questions. There’s nothing I enjoy more than getting a challenging ticket I can dig into -- and there’s nothing more satisfying than finally solving it. As a sales engineer for HubSpot, I’d get the chance to talk to customers about the product on a daily basis and answer their most complex questions. In addition, I could use the communication skills I’ve honed as a support rep.”
Cover letter closing paragraph
This section doesn’t need to be long or flowery. Many people end with unnecessary statements like, “Please let me know if I can provide any more information” or “Thank you for your consideration.” The problem with these? A hiring manager can safely assume you’ll give more info if asked and are appreciative of their time. You’ll seem like every other applicant who’s grabbed a generic template from the internet (which, okay, you might be doing, but they don’t need to know that.)
Instead, reiterate your interest with a strong summary line like:
“The best days at work are usually the longest and most demanding — because I go home knowing I’ve helped multiple owners dramatically change the course of their businesses. Your hyper-loyal user base suggests being a Joyfull AE comes with even more opportunities to help young and growing organizations.”
Sales cover letter template
Dear Jane Doe,
I’m passionate about [helping X type of customer, solving Y goal, working in Z industry] -- which is how I found the [open position] at [company name]. The more I learned about [company’s] mission to [insert mission here, i.e. “improve the remote working experience,” “make personal finance easy”), the more excited I became. My [applicable skill #1 and applicable skill #2] , as well as experience in [field] and knowledge of [related topic], would make me an asset to the [department, i.e. “Customer Development”] team.
As a [title] at [current employer or skill], I’m responsible for [doing X and Y]. This has helped me develop [ability] -- in fact, [insert proof of your skill, e.g. “my boss recently said I was one of the most resourceful employees he’s ever had” or “I’m known for my ability to stay collected and take the lead during high-pressure situations.”] I’d use [X skill] as your [job title] to [achieve main objective].
I’m also [skilled in X/possess Y and Z positive traits], which comes from my [previous work or extracurricular experience]. [In that role, on that team], I developed a knack for [skill/traits]. This was instrumental in [hitting specific milestone/exceeding expectations]. You’re looking for someone with [X skill/character traits], and I believe I’m a good fit.
Over the past [number of years], [company] has [accomplished X goal, such as “become a leader in the CRM space” or “used creative marketing and social media campaigns to become a household name in Colorado.”] It looks like you have ambitious goals for the future -- I hope I get the opportunity to contribute.
Originally published Nov 17, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated November 17 2017