Are you considering a career in PreSales? As someone who has been in this space for almost 30 years, I strongly encourage you to consider going down this path, but here are some things to think about as you prepare for the journey ahead.
The fact that you are connected to PreSales Academy (and PreSales Collective) is a great start. It shows that you are doing your research and that you are curious about what to expect. Research and curiosity are great parts of this job. Be prepared to learn all you can about your customers and look for new and creative ways to solve their problems. Your job is not just to educate your customer about your solution, your job is to show your customer how their lives will be better if they invest in your solution. You must understand what problems and issues they are trying to solve before you give your first demo. Many times, this will require you to innovate new ways of using existing functionality to make the most impact.
Here are some other important qualities and aspects of this role.
Welcome to being part of a team! Even if you are a salesperson that demos, you will have to work with people from sales operations, sales leadership, and your customers. Most likely if you are a solutions/sales- engineer/consultant – you will be working with a salesperson (Account Executive) and possibly (but not limited to) your RFP team, solution architect team, professional services, demo build & support teams, as well as your customers. If you prefer to work solo – then this may not be the right career for you. But it’s the perfect career if you enjoy collaborating with other brilliant people to help customers solve hard problems.
"People buy from People."
I am sure you have heard this before and be prepared to hear it again, ‘People buy from People.” PreSales is a career for friendly, outgoing, people that genuinely like to meet new people. It is also your job to connect and engage with your audience. It is even harder to make real connections in the virtual world, but even more important that you do so. It takes real effort and genuine interest and enthusiasm on your part. If this sounds exhausting, well then this might not be for you.
Do you like regular 9(ish) to 5(ish) hours? If you do, make sure you understand your schedule before signing onto any PreSales jobs. Most PreSales roles have the potential for early and/or late meetings to accommodate customer schedules/time zones, and most may require travel – both domestic and international. Travel (to me) is a reason to try this career. I have been to China (3 times), India (twice), all over Europe and the United Kingdom, and all 50 states (including Alaska and Hawaii – but not yet to Puerto Rico (although I could have gone there this year.) One of my favorite parts of this job is seeing how and where people work. Granted, travel during COVID is not like it used to be, but it is amazing to work with people, in person, and not be in a Zoom meeting. If the thought of travel and a flexible schedule sounds good, then this might be a good move for you.
Finally, are you willing to continually work on improving your skills? Athletes, musicians, and actors train and practice, and to do this job correctly, you will need to as well. Just like you never get a chance to make a first impression, you rarely get a second chance at a demonstration. It is very important that your meeting be well-rehearsed and that you are prepared for any scenario. Fear not if you dread public speaking, there are courses and coaches galore to help you, you will get better, and you will learn to like presenting.
There will always be new ways to present and new technologies to learn. A key to this role is continuing education and listening to those that are trying to help you. You must be open to taking feedback with a positive mindset and willing to continuously improve. One great new aspect to this job, PreSales Collective is here to help you throughout your career. Most of us learned this by trial and error and through internal networks. I would have loved to have PreSales Collective to help me when I started my career.
I hope this article provides you with balanced insight to help you decide whether PreSales would be a good career for you to pursue. If you have questions about any of this, please contact me through the PreSales Collective. If you are truly interested in a role in PreSales, I encourage you to try it and give it your all. You may find that sales is not right for you, but there is nothing that you will learn in PreSales that will not help you in any career (and in life.) Future hiring managers should give you credit for challenging yourself and hopefully, you too will land in the best career possible – that most people still don’t know about!
Tom Banton did his first demo in 1995, has had every title known to PreSales, and has been lucky to work at companies like Epicor, Oracle, and Apttus. He is currently the GVP of Solutions Engineering at Eightfold AI, where he has grown the SE team from 3 to 30 in under 3 years.