Most interview processes for presales (and sales) positions explore candidates’ abilities to “tell” and “show” – and accordingly we are missing the critical elements of also assessing their ability to “ask”, “listen” and “respond”.

How do we typically evaluate the skills and competencies of applicants for presales positions?

We look carefully at resumes, but there is a wonderful expression that “you are perfect twice in your life:  once when you are born and the second time on your resume…”  References are important, of course, as are typical interview questions.   However, I like to ask candidates for three additional evaluation opportunities:

  1. Ask them to do a presentation on a subject near and dear to their hearts to evaluate their ability to present and “tell” (many hiring managers do this today).
  2. Ask them to perform a Discovery session with you, on a topic they know intimately (such as their current company’s offerings), to evaluate their ability to “ask”.  This helps to uncover presales people that are particularly strong at doing Discovery.
  3. Finally, ask them to present a demo based on what they learned in their Discovery session with you, to see how well they listened and incorporated what they learned into their demo – and to evaluate their demo-specific delivery skills (extra points for structuring their demo in a Great Demo! format, of course!).  This also affords the opportunity to see how they handle and respond to questions during a demo.

This strategy gives us an opportunity to evaluate candidates’ ability to “tell”, “ask”, “listen”, “show” and “respond”.

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