What is Technical Presales?

Overview of technical sales personnel promoting a product, demoing functionality and offering benefits to potential customers

Sebastian Gogola

By SEBASTIAN GOGOLA

Presales provides a potential customer an overview of goods being offered in various stages of the sales cycle. After initial contact a Sales Rep will coordinate a customer needs analysis, demo of product, proof of concept, proposals or other accompanying documentation before the customer has been acquired. Once the sale is made and depending on the organization, professional services or Post Sales support will be provided for transitional support. If the product or subject matter is technical, the Sales Rep will need assistance from Technical Presales. 

What is Technical Presales? 

Those in Technical Presales are the primary technical resource for the sales force. Technical Presale personnel are responsible for actively driving and managing the technology evaluation stage of the sales process, working in conjunction with the sales team as the key technical advisor and solution advocate.

How to recognize a Technical Presales role?

Technical Presales roles have taken on various names with common job titles including:

  • Sales Engineer
  • Solutions Engineer
  • Solutions Architect
  • Systems Engineer
  • Customer Engineer
  • Pre Sales Consultant
  • Technical Account Manager
  • Applications Engineer
  • Field Engineer

The main strategy to involve Technical Presales is to solve a customer’s business problem. That is it! There is the saying that “when a customer brings in their car for repairs, they will trust the recommendations of the mechanic himself rather than the Sales Rep at the counter.” This is because the mechanic is coming strictly from a technical standpoint and can explain the reason for the recommendation. Not only this, they are not pushy and the customer recognizes that they are not involved with the actual sale. The customer feels better knowing the words are coming from a subject matter expert. The same concept can apply to Technical Presales. 

Once the sale is coming to a close the Technical Presales Engineer will assist in completing the business analyst & technical components of the proposal after the discovery phase. 

“Sales Engineers are more than just technical experts in their respective industries, they must maintain parallel expertise in ‘technical skills’ and ‘soft skills’ possessing high level of business acumen and understanding of target industry”

Are all Technical Presales roles treated equal?

At the time of this writing, Sales Engineers (SE) are in high demand. Most organizations find it difficult finding an individual who is a hybrid in sales and engineering. 

Glassdoor Salary Reviews:

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Sales Engineer
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Systems Engineer
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Technical Sales
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Solutions Architect
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Technical Sales Engineer

Employment of Sales Engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As a wider range of technologically sophisticated products comes on the market, Sales Engineers will be in demand to sell these products and services related to these products.

The issue with Sales Engineers is that once an organization increases their product suite, Sales Reps will expect the engineer to know them all. 

The result? 

Product Specialists turn into Technical Generalists. When this happens, the SE can demonstrate products, but lose their technical roots with specific product expertise. This can be dangerous in Technical Presales especially when stakeholders are needing application support specialists to answer quickly low-level, developer related questions. 

The reason? 

There are many reasons, one being there is not enough SEs to support the Sales Reps. Others include poor management of SE resources where training on a specific product is needed, Product Management making too many changes in the early stages of a product release, etc. The latter can result in Sales Reps grabbing Product Managers to demo a product, adding the benefit of a title to impress the prospect. There is no avoidance of Product Managers getting stuck on a call with an individual sale, but it is important for account reps to realize PMs define customer future needs in while the SE presents a solution to the customer needs today. To solve these issues It is important that a correct process is outlined and followed. 

 What makes a successful SE?

Companies need to employ Sales Engineers with correct personality traits required for sales and strong technical background to sell their products, which is not common. The SE ensures that technical demos and proof of concept efforts are successful while answering RFIs in a timely manner. SEs will be expected to travel up 70% of the time and IT skills utilizing web conferencing is a must. Excellent presentation skills are required so individuals must maintain proficiency with Microsoft PowerPoint and be able to articulate high level concepts in a clear, concise manner to the prospect. Successful SEs will point out key technical differentiators of their product compared to other competitors, gaining the trust of a prospect that the solution is a good fit for their business needs; or will fall short of their needs. A good SE remains up to date with the latest tech news and business trends covering different markets; being able to hold a conversation with various stakeholders on the line. 

The good news is that if you are a technology enthusiast and are able to persuade others in believing a certain product is the correct choice, then you are a perfect fit! Have you ever persuaded others after researching a device such as an iPad or Tablet that one is better than the other based off system resources, price, app compatibility, ease of use, etc with a convicted sense of belief? If the answer is yes, then a Sales Engineer role may be a possible future path in your career!