To operate effectively in a pre-sales role detailed product knowledge is a must. You can not truly understand how a product works and it’s functionality without having some experience of it working on a real system. At the very least installing a demo or test environment will bring you closer to the capabilities of a product, but where possible get involved in real implementations, in real customer environments. Occasional secondments to the service delivery arm of your organisation can give you the opportunity to build some real world experience which can be applied to your current and future customer opportunities.
Practical experience is particularly useful in environments where you are working with multiple products and multiple product components. Understanding the underlying requirements of each component and how they will integrate with the other components can be of vital importance when proposing a solution. You may find that two of your components have conflicting requirements and simply can not fit together in the configuration you have designed. It is better to understand as much as possible about these dependencies early in the sales cycle as these can become show stopping issues which may become critical at the later stages of a sale.
Simple advice on this would be read the manuals, install your virtual machines, install the products, configure the products and run through some mock scenarios.
This article is essentially about approaching your day to day business activities with ethical core values. Fostering mutually beneficial relationships with customers based on honesty, integrity, respect and dedication will not only encourage short term success but also long term sustainable performance. This applies to any role in business. My first rule of business is:
- Always do what you say you will.
By adhering to this simple edict you will earn the trust of not only your customers but also your partners, managers and colleagues. Let’s expand on the following core values and see how they are relevant to your pre-sales activities:
Depending on the organisation or industry you work in, pre-sales can mean very different things. The main perspectives people hold when categorizing pre-sales as a role are generally polarized at opposing ends of a linear spectrum. At one end we have technical activity and at the other we have commercial. The technical-to-commercial spectrum is widely used as a frame of reference. Some organisations expect their pre-sales employees to be very technical with an ability to dig deep into code where necessary and others don’t require any hands on experience at all. In reality, the definition of the role is flexible and the expectation is that a pre-sales resource will fall somewhere in between.
My loose definition of Pre-Sales: Pre-sales provides the medium to bridge the gap that exists between a customer’s business needs and the functional capabilities of the products and solutions provided a supplier organisation.