Its been more than two years since I started working as a Product Consultant for an incredible-growth-focused- cool company.
But I have always faced major turn off questions about my role. Something like — presales? Is it like working with the sales and marketing teams? Is it even a job function? What do you guys do on a day to day basis? — Aren’t you just an extension to the sales team? and what not!
So, this article is mainly focused to debunk certain myths around this lesser-known job title and also some great work that we do under the hood!
What/Who is a presales engineer?
We are often called by so many names like Sales Engineer, Product Consultant, Presales Engineer, Solution Consultant, etc that we often get confused about what to update in our LinkedIn profile to create greater visibility and for people to understand what we do. In a nutshell, all of the titles at least indicate clearly that we belong to the GTM (Go-to-market) function in an organization.
While many assume we are a sub-function to the sales team and mint equal money in the variable pay, that’s mostly not the case.
You are WRONG! T-E-R-R-I-B-L-Y-W-R-O-N-G!
We are the underdogs who run with/behind multiple stakeholders to get things done for customers.
If the support team : troubleshooting :: the Presales team: providing solutions.
So, coming to the point, What exactly do we do?
- Customer champions: We talk to the customer! You might be wondering isn’t that what all the GTM teams do? You are right and wrong. We bridge the gap between the products and the customers. All awesome features the product teams build are translated to the customer in a simple language. We also firefight and handle criticism from the customer and pass this feedback to the product/ engineering teams.
My typical day looks like this: Waiting for the customers on the meeting bridge, sending them email reminders asking them to join the call, driving the demo with the sales folks( Doing this multiple times on the same day with multiple different sales folks.) Parallelly, working on setting up demo instances to the customers and writing long explanatory emails with screenshots attached.
2. Travel around: The most “it-looks-fun-to-the-outside-world” part of our jobs is traveling. Little do you all know how dreadful and horrible customer meetings can turn out to be. Every meeting is unique both from the business perspective and also from the way how we are treated at the customer’s place!
3. Demo machines: The success of any Presales is measured in the quality of demos they take and how they advocate the organization’s vision&mission and value sell the product/service to the customer. This is the most favorite part of my job. Because I love talking and I strongly feel every customer interaction teaches so many lessons! Demystifying the tool to the customer and making them use gives the same joy as when a mom sees her child walk for the first time! (No, I am not exaggerating!)
What are Presales engineers made of?
We are made up of sugar, spice, and everything nice! ( Cliche alert)
Any presales engineer on the floor at any point will discuss ( read as a rant) about some customer who is giving them a nightmare. The intensity of the rant and the problem could vary across different geographies.
1. Patience: The Sugar
Larget part of our job teaches patience. How to handle objections, how to patiently listen to solve for the customer’s issue.
2. Listening and Customer Empathy: The Spice
“Customer empathy means walking the same path your customers are taking: living their pain, feeling their needs, and deeply understanding the solutions that will work. That’s why the best products are often built by people who are creating solutions for their challenges.”
Empathy is an art that I developed deeply as a Presales engineer. Listen to understand, not to reply. It has always worked for me. A lot of business books teach how to develop customer empathy, all of the cruces can be visibly achieved when you sit on customer calls. I have sat over 200+ customer calls and each one has always been unique in terms of requirements and expectations.
Listen to understand. Ask more questions to identify the actual problem. Asking questions is so fundamental you may feel, but when you sit on a call, the requirements, the call notes might overwhelm you that you forget to identify the real pressing need of the customer. Listening has also helped me implement the solution better and more effectively.
3. Providing solutions and Problem solving: Everything Nice
The thirst to solve for customer enquires is super addicting. Each time you come up with more than one unique way to solve, you will feel so accomplished in life. I have realized that problem-solving is not just about giving what the customer asks for but dwelling deeper into understanding if this is what they really want. Every business will have multiple problems and all of it needn’t be solved by the product that you are pitching. But if your solution can improve their time, effort or money (spent) you are already a champion solution consultant!
I hope this comprehensive guide gave more context and all the great things we are trying to do! Also just to underscore- we are not a sub-function to the sales team! :)