What is Pre-Sale and Its Life Cycle
Pre-Sales Consultants are an integral part of the sales team. They act as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in a particular field – e.g. business area, market or technology. They add value to an organization by providing their expertise throughout the sales process and ultimately influencing sales.
They can report to a Head of Pre-Sales but usually report to a Sales Director.
They are also known by other names, including:
- Consultant (e.g. Risk Consultant)
- Sales Engineer
- Sales Support Consultant
What Does a Pre-Sales Consultant Do?
- Accompany salespeople on visits to prospects and clients.
- Deliver presentations and product demonstrations that require more in-depth or credible knowledge than the salesperson is able to provide.
- Liaise with Product Managers to provide feedback from clients about product requirements; or ideas to help them innovate or stay ahead of where the market is going.
- Carry out research to stay ahead of their particular area of expertise – including understanding the current & future market, product and competitor landscape.
- Manage the sales bid process, responding to RFI’s & RFP’s when a client or prospect puts an opportunity ‘out to tender’.
- Respond to technical questions about the product or related infrastructure.
Who Can Do Pre-Sales?
Pre-Sales Consultants will often have a background within the market they are now ‘selling’ to. This is so that they are able to present themselves to clients as a credible subject matter expert in that market or product. For example, a Pre-Sales Consultant ‘selling’ Risk Management solutions to Investment Banks may have previously worked as a Risk Manager within a similar Bank.
Business Analysts sometimes enter into pre-sales due to the expertise they have developed implementing specific products into specific customer environments.
People who works in advisory divisions of consulting firms usually make ideal Pre-Sales Consultants.
What are the Responsibilities of Presale?
In a typical sales cycle the stages are:
- Lead / Suspect
- Prospect / Opportunity.
The task of a presales person starts from the initial contact phase and often ends once the customer is acquired i.e. sale is made. In some cases, presales also provide some initial or transitional support post sale.
The responsibilities differ from organization to organization but in general include:
- Solution Preparation / Management Proposal based on Customer’s Requirements.
- Product demonstrations
- Proof of Concept Creation
- Creation of Marketing Documents
- … and any other activity required to generate business
The Software Industry and IT Services Industry provide a vital and significant role for presales professionals. The role of presales falls right in the middle marrying the customer needs to the (provider) company’s services or products. This role is especially crucial in these industries because the products and services are often heavily customizable and also because the requirements of different customers are often unique. The presales professional thus understands what the customer needs, develops an initial view of the solution the customer needs, then tailors the product or service of his company to meet what the customer needs, explains (or helps sell) this solution to the customer, helps close the deal or sale and often stays on to ensure that the delivery team or product specialists that follow him provide the intended solution. Areas of specialty of Presales include:
- Discovery – a means to uncover details of business problems that the prospect has. The presales person will understand and closely analyses the prospects requirements.
- Preparation – tailoring a prospect specific presentation or software presentation that precisely meets the needs of the prospect.
- Demonstration – A demonstration of the vendor product that specifically addresses the prospects business problems. It will be done in a manner that highlights an easy method to solve those problems using the tools available within the vendor’s suite of product.
- Request for Proposal (RFP) – presales have a detailed knowledge of the product suite, in addition to its application to business problems. As such, presales are frequently involved in technical details in RFP preparation.
- Marketing assistance – Typically the marketing department and presales department align closely. Given presales is directly in touch with the market, they can share market feedback with the marketing team. Presales will often create the technical detail for use in marketing collateral.
- Product management assistance – Presales are able to provide unparalleled market feedback to product managers that can be used to influence or provide feedback on product roadmap items.
- Proposal assistance – Given presales were involved in the sale since the discovery of the prospect business problems, presales will often complete the business analysis and technical component of a sales proposal.
What Makes a Good Pre-Sales Consultant?
- Typically, a Pre-Sales Consultant should have the following skills & experience:
- Subject matter expertise in a required field (ideally gained working within the market they are now ‘selling’ to).
- Strong client-facing skills, e.g. meeting & presenting to clients (ideally with experience dealing with similar types/levels of contact).
- Strong commercial skills including an understanding of the sales process (ideally gained within a similar, commercial environment).
- Strong communication skills, written & verbal.
- Strong problem solving skills including an ability to think ‘on their feet’ when faced with challenging questions in the sales environment.
- Experience managing the bid or proposal process including responding to RFI’s/RFP’s.
- (Technical Pre-Sales Roles Only) Technical skills
How Are Pre-Sales Consultants Paid?
Pre-sales Consultants are usually paid a base salary and a bonus or commission. Bonuses are more common that commission and, on average, tend to vary between 15-30%.
Pre-sales Consultants tend not to carry sales targets. Instead, they are usually responsible for influencing sales and supporting the sales targets of dedicated sales executives. Their bonuses are dependent on the company – or specific solution revenue streams – meeting set targets.