Pre-Sales is a very widely appreciated team in the IT/ITES Services sector for all the back end help/knowledge they build for winning large scale bids. The Business Analysts talk to the customer and capture the requirements. Both teams function in tandem and contribute significantly to win big deals. In Contrast, when you look at a product company ( We are talking of B2B ) the BA/Pre-Sales is clubbed into the same team and not necessarily separate functions. Especially in early stage firms, when the product is new and you are building a process to sell, Pre-Sales stands to be the most important function to stabilize Product Management, Product Delivery, Training & Product Support with a role in all these functions and much more.
Now coming to the most important role of Pre-Sales - To Support Sales, Here is a quick check on what your Pre-Sales need to know or the skill set they need to have:
- Can you show and explain any and every feature in your product?
- Can you explain to the customer in simple terminology how your product works?
- Can you differentiate between must have requirements and good to have requirements of the customer?
- Can you explain customer requirements to your product team ( if they are already not available) in the language they understand?
- Can you listen to the customer requirement and then show how it can be fulfilled using your product?
- Can you improvise on what the customer wants and show them how to do it in a better fashion using your product?
- Can you help your sales team win a deal with your strong industry knowledge & product experience?
- Do you know what goes in the back end to enable a customer?
- Do you understand the architecture of your product and its limitations it has?
- Can you estimate how much time is needed to deploy the product based on the requirements?
- Last but the most important part, are you in line with the company vision on the product roadmap?
If most of your answers are Yes, then you have a very strong pre-sales person else the other way. Quite often, your team will be a mix of people who can cater to only part of these questions - that is when you have to segregate the team into Business Analysts and Pre-Sales ( proposal building,solution document etc).
Most often than not Pre-Sales needs to also get involved in Delivery so that you deliver exactly what is discussed at the time of sale, Also Training which is done mostly by Pre-Sales for a considerable time, Product Management - so that the road map of your organization is not peddled with the requirements of customers, but at the same time you create a balance where customer / market requirement is given priority and is delivered in the product version releases. Product Support - If pre-sales is involved in the above 3 functions of delivery,training and management - the number of queries to support will be considerably less and also customers will be more reasonable since they understand the product and also know its limitations.
But till your product becomes a hit, you will need a strong pre-sales who can manage customers, train them, support them ( even if you have a support team, still the personal touch matters a lot in India) and also manage your internal product releases in sync with the market requirements.
Also, with a strong Pre-Sales in place, your delivery & customer support will face a lot less issues / complaints since there is a dedicated person who hand holds the customer from Sale to Go-Live and takes care of any minor changes,configurations etc needed.
As the company grows and you scale up, the following roles can be removed or diluted from Pre-Sales in the order of priority
- Support - Support definitely needs to be a dedicated team and multi-tasking is definitely not the way to go when you scale. More on this in our next blog.
- Delivery Management - A separate team is needed to manage the huge deliveries you will get when you scale up
- Product Management - A dedicated product manager is definitely needed by the time you are ready to scale to manage the large list of product requirements.
- Training - This can always be under Pre-Sales but if you can afford, definitely a dedicated team to build and maintain product documentation.
In short, your Pre-Sales will be the "Sun" of your Organizational System and all departments supported and backed by it after you scale up. But unlike the Sun, it will never be a role to be in lime light and will always remain the backbone system. Your customers will Love it and so does your Sales team.