Recruiting the best software sales staff isn’t about hiring the first person from a great brand, and certainly should not be limited to poaching only from your competitors either. Though there will undoubtedly be good candidates that fit those loose descriptions really your understanding of the traits and skills you need should be your number 1 priority unless you are in a position where you just cannot train somebody on the product, which really they should be able to train themselves on.
I often get a client seeking to recruit the unicorn, the perfect software sales guy from a direct competitor, not a choppy CV, cheap and available immediately. It pains me to watch them turn down great applicants and waste months seeking that one type of individual, when they could be in the post already bringing in deals and new customers. Especially when more often than not they come back asking about candidates they have turned down and they’ve found other roles, or get them in the process but as it’s been delayed they drop out for the same reason. The best and most successful companies out there understand this, they know what they want and that’s why they don’t procrastinate, and as a result grow rapidly.
So before you can decide what you want you really do need for your next enterprise or SAAS sales professional, you need to think about the job role. As if you have a low value subscription product that’s not overly complicated, technical understanding for example may be less important and proven closing skills perhaps better. No point getting somebody with 10 years’ experience selling multi million pound products as part of a complex team, if he can’t close a £50 a month subscription on his own, and yes he may be able to learn but do you need to pay that cost in salary if you are not going to use that experience? In fact do you even need somebody from a software background for this job it’s low value?
Additionally if somebody has sold cheap ecommerce software plugs-ins into one man band restaurants, he may not be the best person to sell big ticket software to multinationals. Think less about the brand they’re from, less about limiting to competitors and more about their skills and experience as this is what’s going to get sales over the line.
The best way to do this is to really consider what they will be doing on a day to day basis, if it’s purely online demos that would clearly be something to look for, but if the product is super simple, can somebody with good presentation skills not pick this up quickly? Having done demos before does not mean you are good at them, or that you cannot learn to do them. However if they will be presenting at events in front of 100’s of people, experience in something like this would go a long way if you need it, especially if they have videos to back up how well they do it. Other things that are important could be client meetings, technical discussions, industry discussions, events, marketing, how much cold/warm work, what level of people you’re targeting, what type of people you’re targeting technical/non-technical, how important CRM software within the sales process is etc.
Once you have your day to day requirements for the role set out, you then need to order these into the ones that are most important in terms of experience, and the ones that depend on the right personality and note down the traits you want. At this point when you plan out the type of individual you want, think about your customers, what would appeal to them, what are the important ethical views of the business, what type of personalities could fit well in your team.
Once you have all of this you plan your interview questions around this, and also your selection criteria when it comes to CVs. It’s important that you give people a chance and probe areas they perhaps don’t have on their CV at interview stage if you could be flexible, as opposed to count people out. Likewise give people the benefit of the doubt as to why they may have changed jobs, there may be truly valid reasons. Additionally if a practical skill such as doing a demo is really key, as well as looking for experience, maybe give people without it a chance to present at the second stage and prove they are good at it, or if they are capable of learning it as they might just be a natural presenter with no experience.
Moving onto CVs, don’t get blindsided by flashy brands and competitors, the sales process itself and the individual is the most important thing and if you are paying for experience is it better to get somebody from a great brand at a company with a process and ethics that are nothing like yours? Or a company that’s less well known but has a very similar set up, and selling style? Their big brand background will likely hold very minimal weight when it comes to selling your product, unless your sales processes and ethics are aligned.
It’s all very well recruiting from a competitor, but are they any good? Is their CV any good? Is it well written? OK it’s a competitor but do you rate their product, were they successful there. Probe deeper, and give people a chance who may not be obviously relevant, think more about what you need than how their CV looks. The person and how they deliver is key, as Garrison Wynn say ‘People buy from people they trust, and they trust people they like’.
Another fact that’s worth considering is that technical products will benefit from technically minded salespeople, either through experience or a degree. And if they are going to be selling to techs, it often can be better they’re a techy themselves. In fact you may find an engineer with no sales experience but a desire to get into it, is more suited than a salesperson with no technical experience. If you don’t know where to start with non-sales people that might be good, think what has worked for companies you compare yourself to? Check LI backgrounds for people in similar industry roles, or speak to a recruiter about their experiences with other businesses
In a nutshell unless you actually know what you want and analyse what has worked well for you with past employees and think about your business and product, you can’t put a really solid brief together for a recruiter internal or external. And this does apply in concept to any job, not just software. So if you don’t do this then there is a real risk you will just be making more time for yourself further down the line when people are not right, or they don’t work out.
If you do the above, brief your recruiter fully at the start and catch up within the process, give full feedback on everybody you meet then you shouldn’t have any issues. If you cut corners, don’t think about the areas I’ve mentioned, and don’t allow your recruiter be that internal or external the time they need expect an elongated and more frustrating process. Unless you get lucky!
Zero Surplus is East Anglia’s premier sales recruitment specialist, based just outside Cambridge we source business development staff for small and international software & technology businesses across the East of England, focussing primarily on Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes and Hertfordshire. We recruit everything from Business Development executives, to Head of Sales and Account Managers, and have a high success rate of delivering staff for roles other people have struggled to fill.
If you are a company looking to recruit your next top salesperson or looking for your next career move, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.