This is a short reflection piece that will hopefully resonate with other developers who wonder how the sales process works. Coming from a technical background, I wasn't really sure what to expect from a "presales bootcamp" (in fact, I wasn't sure what presales meant exactly). What I learnt was expanded my understanding of the field of IT a bit, and gave me a unique glimpse at what happens before all the "technical stuff" that I'm used to.
What is "presales"?
For a true definition, I urge you to look at the Wikipedia page linked to above. The way I understand it, presales is essentially communicating on a high level how the solution will meet the business requirements, and then showcasing, on a tangible level, what the system can do to meet these needs.
To obtain the opportunity to speak to the potential client CIO or other decision maker is an endeavour of its own, and involves a lot of networking. Granted that networking is an art-form in and of itself, a good place to start is LinkedIn, attending local meetup groups on meetup.com, and your existing real-life network.
After you landed a meeting, it is time to start the presales activities. I have (over)-simplified and broken it down to three sections: communicating the value, the client, and the product.
Communicating the value
How exactly do you communicate the value? The way our instructor recommended we did it was by a method called "white boarding". Basically what this means is that you visually draw out your message on a whiteboard using bullet points and very basic imagery (such as a graph or diagram).
In order to successfully white board, you would need to do a lot of homework: firstly about the potential client, and secondly about the product you are selling. Ultimately you will bring these two together in your exercise.
The white boarding exercise should be a conversation, not a lecture. You should also have the client speak so that you can obtain an even deeper understanding of their needs.
After you have had this conversation, if the potential client was interested and understands that your product indeed satisfies their needs at a high level, you will likely have to demo the system likely in a follow-up session.
The Potential Client
Before you even meet with the client, you should have knowledge about their industry, who their competition is, their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, etc. If your organization has competitive intelligence team, they would be able to provide you all the information you need (if not, at least do a SWOT-analysis). It is crucial to do your homework before this meeting. Essentially, after a couple of minutes of conversation with the client during which you learnt what the main problem and strategy of the client is, you can ask for permission to start the white boarding exercise during which you tell a story.
You need to comprehend the specific problems your product solves. The good news here is that a vendor should have some sort of presales package available if you are a partner selling their product. This greatly increases the effectiveness of presales consultants.
To explain my point, let's look an example. ABC Corp wants to increase their workforce by 8% over the next two years, and at the same time reduce staff turnover by 15% percent. As a presales consultant, you will meet with the potential buyer and have a discussion about this requirement, during which you will show that you understand their business need, and you might want to provide an interesting statistic to give credibility to your argument. You could then (after asking permission to do so), explain on a whiteboard how the solution could fulfil these needs. Using a whiteboard makes it easier to follow your argument and easier for the client to understand the bigger picture. You should continuously refer back to their requirements when talking about the solution, and also touch upon external forces and industry trends if it will help support your argument.
In conclusion, presales is a dynamic area to work in and will continuously change depending on the potential client you are pursuing and the product you are selling. From what I've learnt at the bootcamp, roughly 10% of sales pitches are successful, so don't take it personally if you felt like it went well but it doesn't lead to a sale.