Recruiting good salespeople is difficult in any business, but most especially in the software world. Many Cloud/SaaS companies have solutions they claim are easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy and easy-to-adopt. Salespeople love to highlight simplicity as a selling point, as it can be used to generate more leads and help them to close more deals.

But if these messages are true for your product, the salesperson should be able to demonstrate the product soon after on-boarding, rather than relying on a sales engineer to handle the “techie stuff.” Salespeople are often used to having others do the demos, but a qualified sales lead will quickly recognise that if a “techie” has to do a demo, those “easy-to-use” marketing messages may not hold true.

Of course, having a salesperson do the initial demo does not suggest that the sales engineer does not have an important role; they should always be involved in more challenging discussions and trial situations, just not every early stage demo.

In my previous blog entry, “People Still Buy From People,” I talked about selling over the phone and web. Accordingly, the first stage of recruitment for a sales candidate should be a phone interview. This will gives you a good indication of how they will sound to your sales leads.

If they are successful at this stage, you should then get them to sign up for a trial of your service, then come pitch and demo a small portion of your product back to you – obviously, with the mutual up-front understanding that they cannot be expected to be an expert on the product yet. This also presents an opportunity to start exploring the sales candidate’s other key skills, such as presentation, listening, handling objections, and so on.

The “trial demo” is a critical step. It will of course verify to you, the employer, that your prospective salesperson has the ability to demo. But perhaps more importantly, it will help the candidate decide whether they like doing demos. If the salesperson’s role will involve demonstrating on a regular basis, they should enjoy it. Otherwise you’ll have performance issues down the road, and will have to start the recruitment cycle all over again.

So my suggested first step for a successful sales recruitment process is a telephone interview, followed by a demo performed by the candidate. If those two go well, then discussions on territory and demand generation will no doubt follow!