The Sales Development Representative (SDR) job is one of the best entry-level positions for salespeople looking to break into the software sales industry and receive high compensation.
Often, one of the most challenging parts about applying for these roles is creating a resume and cover letter that stands out from the crowd, especially if you have limited or no sales experience.
In this article, we’ll show you how to create SDR cover letters and resumes that get the hiring manager’s attention, regardless of your past sales experience, college education, or technical acumen. And if you have those things, we’ll show you how to leverage them to your advantage.
Best Practices for Creating a Strong SDR Resume
Before we go over best practices, it’s important to discuss what most sales managers want in their SDRs. Typically, they’re looking for someone sharp, entrepreneurial, outgoing, hardworking, and skilled at initiating and growing personal relationships.
That said, even if you lack sales experience, you can definitely still show these qualities through the life experiences you’ve had. For instance, maybe you haven’t ever built relationships in a sales setting, but you may have served as recruitment chair at your fraternity or sorority and achieved one of the highest conversion rates to date.
Or maybe in your last marketing job you created and led a new marketing strategy for your company that led to a 30% increase in web traffic. That proves you’re entrepreneurial and sharp without saying anything about sales.
The reason I’m going off on a bit of a riff here is that I do not want you to feel discouraged by your lack of sales experience and give up on trying to be an SDR. It’s an entry-level position. Hiring managers don’t expect to attract sales experts to this position. They expect to hire great people who they can teach on the job.
That said, let’s dive into some best practices you can follow to create an amazing resume.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have sales experience, apply to software jobs within your industry. For example, if you work in construction, apply for SDR positions in construction software. If you work in finance, try for a job at a financial software company. Hiring managers love hiring insiders because they can talk shop so effectively with their leads in the industry.
Mirror the Job Posting
The job posting should be your guide to creating your resume. Do your best to show in your resume that you have the qualities, skills, and experiences the post says it wants in its applicants
Often, it can help to even include the exact words the job posting uses. If they say relationship-builder in the posting, put that phrase somewhere in your resume.
This works because many HR teams use some sort of resume scanning software that analyzes a big stack of resumes and looks for ones with a high concentration of relevant keywords, then prioritizes them.
If you’re creating a template SDR resume that you’ll adjust slightly for each job posting, here’s a nifty list of the most common skills mentioned in job descriptions:
Include a Professional Summary
For SDR resumes, it’s a smart idea to write a professional summary at the top of your resume. This is a 2-5 sentence paragraph highlighting your most relevant skills, experiences, and goals. This gives the employer a nice overview of your profile. It can also capture their interest and serve as a great first impression.
Obviously, if you have sales experience and numbers to back up your performance, focus on that. If, however, you lack experience, think of other things that can demonstrate your entrepreneurial, social, and hardworking side, and include that in the summary. And be sure to tailor it to the company.
Play Up any Customer-Facing Experience
If you have any customer service experience, like working at a retail store or a call center, be sure to include these jobs in your resume and really focus on them.
Even if you were a lifeguard, consider mentioning how you formed relationships with the parents to ensure their peace of mind while you watched their kids swim. Get creative here and use your job description bullet points to show off your ability to work with people and to make them like you.
Highlight Software and Sales Experience if You Have It
If you have experience working in a technical field like engineering or systems analysis, try to show how this will help you easily learn the software, and in sales conversations quickly think of ways a software solution can help the company’s clients solve a variety of problems.
And of course, if you have sales experience, show how well you performed. Share your numbers. What was your average percentage of quota? Did you regularly rank in the top 10 or 20% of your sales team?
Maybe you brought in the largest account your company has ever had or pioneered lead generation in the Midwest region. Mentioning your sales accomplishments provides the hiring manager with evidence that you’re capable of excelling at the SDR role. Someone who truly knows how to sell can learn to sell anything.
Example SDR Resume
Below is an example SDR resume by Kick Resume that you can use as a guide for creating your own:
Best Practices for Writing a Persuasive SDR Cover Letter
There are some best practices you can follow to write an SDR cover letter that hook, intrigue, and win over potential employers, including writing a strong introduction, personalizing it to the company, and highlighting SDR-related achievements and skills.
Make Your Introduction a Story
Tell a story about why you became interested in software sales as a career. Stories grab the reader’s attention better than any statement of fact, so this is a good way to hook the hiring manager.
A good introductory paragraph cover letter story should follow the below framework:
- Status Quo: Describe where you were before. Was it a bad fit? If so, why? And what did you feel you were missing?
- Inciting Incident: How did you learn about sales, the SDR positing, and/or the specific company? What about the opportunity that struck your interest?
- Segue: Lead into the next paragraph where you’ll talk about the experiences and credentials you have that make you a perfect fit for the role.
For example, when I was writing my cover letters for SDR roles I was coming out of college with an economics degree. My only sales experience was a summer job junior year where I sold spring break tickets to students.
So I wrote about how I learned a lot through my economics degree but felt that what I really wanted to do was spend time talking with people and building relationships, a feeling that was proven accurate when I took the ticket sales job.
I then started riffing on how the company was a perfect match for my personality and temperament, before segueing into listing my sales achievements in ticket sales and other summer jobs.
Personalize Your Cover Letter to the Job Posting & Company
Before writing, do some research on the company and learn a few things about them that you can include in your cover letter to show that you’re truly interested and that you are skilled in research, a necessary component of the SDR role.
For example, you might tell them how their mission statement aligns with your personal goals or why you would fit into their company culture.
Further, you might try to figure out their strategic plans and list ways in which you can help them achieve those targets. For instance, you might see on their product page a new software solution that was also mentioned in the job posting.
Perhaps include a sentence demonstrating your understanding of the product and how you believe you’d be able to sell it to their target audience. Even better, you could include a story about a time you helped a company find those first buyers for a new product.
Share SDR-Related Achievements & Skills
The SDR role requires that you can articulate value, hold your own in a difficult conversation, overcome objections, and deal with rejection. Try your best to give anecdotes of times when you have demonstrated these abilities. That could’ve been during a past sales job, some other job entirely, or in a class or volunteering experience.
For instance, if you were part of the debate team in college or high school, it would help to include this in your cover letter to prove you are well-spoken.
Example SDR Cover Letter
Below is a cover letter that for the most part follows the above best practices and can therefore be used as a template as you write your own:
For more help, and a breakdown of the structure of an effective cover letter read through this step-by-step guide on how to write a cover letter. Though it’s not geared specifically towards aspiring SDRs, it should help you with your composition.
So You Want to Be an SDR?
If you tailor your SDR cover letters and resumes to the company and job posting, while sharing experiences and credentials that demonstrate your ability to build relationships with and sell to cold leads, you should be well on your way to winning an interview for a software SDR position.
Of course, there’s still work to be done at that point, and interview preparation is a necessary next step. To get a head start on that, check out our guide to the ten most common SDR interview questions, where we break down how to create answers for them that wow employers.