This is a post that I have been meaning to do for a while now, infact since last year! It follows on from the topic I started in a previous blog post, ‘What’s in a Job Title‘ and also ‘What’s This Pre-Sales Thing All About?‘
So the question is who is better? To answer this, I will go over a number of categories that are used during a customer engagement to determine the winner.
I will be using the following two job titles, one each for pre and post sales.
Solutions Architect – Assist sales people across a broad range of products and are subject matter experts in a particular field. They help translate business needs into technical solutions. Commonly Solutions Architect guide the customer to use a particular piece of software or technology to meet the business requirement. Some Solutions Architects can Lead Architect a project if required.
Technical Architect – Are focused in a particular discipline and are often the subject matter experts in this area. These are the people who are engaged to create the ‘low level designs’ in there area of expertise, such as networking, storage, Exchange, Active Directory, System Center, Windows Desktop, vSphere, View etc.
Disclaimer: This is from my experience in which pre-sales and post-sales roles are clearly separated. Your own experience will naturally differ depending on the size of the environment you work in and your own skill set.
1. Initial Customer Engagement
This is when the sales person engages a consultant to understand the business requirements and then translate them into a technical proposal.
The consultant will most likely be pre-sales. They will qualify the opportunity to determine if this is something that the company they work for should spend their time on. Ultimately, even though the pre-sales person is seen as a ‘cost of sales’ they take on the responsibility of what opportunities to pursue.
Responsibility: Pre-Sales 10 Post-Sales 0
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 10 Post-Sales 0
2. Customer Meeting
The opportunity is qualified and a meeting is held which is attended by the pre-sales person. The purpose of this is to understand the business requirements of the technical solution in terms of Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security. Also they gather details on the existing environment along with any issues that the customer is experiencing.
At this stage, a number of factors come into play and I’m afraid these are all pre-sales.
- Understand whom you need to engage with at the customer as what IT want isn’t always what the business needs!
- Rapport building with the customer, I know it sounds corny, but they have to believe in your ability to deliver the goods/services you represent.
- Soft skills, are you able to listen and put across your point to C level and or technical people?
- Can you understand exactly what the business issue is and what the customer is asking you to solve?
Responsibility: Pre-Sales 10 Post-Sales 0
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 20 Post-Sales 0
3. Technical Proposal
The creation of a proposal to match the requirements gathered in the customer meeting. This document dictates the hardware, software and professional services effort that will be used to deliver the solution.
The pre-sales person is responsible for putting together the proposal ensuring that everything is interoperable and supported in the proposed configuration.
The proposal should be validated by multiple post-sales individuals to ratify the proposed solution and confirm the professional services effort (normally ends up in a tug of war with post-sales wanting more and the sales person wanting less. With pre-sales being the referee!).
The solution is then presented to the customer, usually by the pre-sales person.
Responsibility: Pre-Sales 8 Post-Sales 2
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 28 Post-Sales 2
4. Customer Workshop
Depending on the size of the project which has been won will determine the number of workshops that will be held with the customer. The initial workshop is usually to determine the ‘project definition’ and is attended by the Project Manager, Solution Architect, Technical Architects and customer.
The Solution Architect takes the lead and covers items such as whom the customer is, what they are trying to achieve, the overall vision for the solution detailing Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security requirements along with existing infrastructure. It’s important to note that the post-sales people who reviewed the proposal are not usually the same ones in the workshops.
The Technical Architects will then lead their own workshops based around their subject area such as network, storage, anti virus, backups etc.
Responsibility: Pre-Sales 5 Post-Sales 5
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 33 Post-Sales 7
5. Low Level Designs
Each Technical Architect will create a low level design for the area that they are responsible for. The document will include every aspect of the implementation such as firmware versions, diagrams and test plans. They will also confirm exact requirements for the bill of materials.
The Solutions Architect generally reviews these documents to ensure that they are in the same format, the customer is referred to in the same name, the overall requirements are met and that any mistakes are rectified before customer release.
Responsibility: Pre-Sales 2 Post-Sales 8
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 35 Post-Sales 15
This really is the realms of post-sales, who install and configure the solution and test it with the customer for sign off.
Not much more to say, apart from either it does what it is suppose to or it doesn’t!
Responsibility: Pre-Sales 0 Post-Sales 10
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 35 Post-Sales 25
7. Technical Ability
Expectations should be that post-sales technical skill set should be higher than pre-sales, although pre-sales will often have the same level certification with a vendor. Pre-sales often lack the implementation experience, meaning that even though they could perform the installation and configuration it would take them a couple of days longer compared to their post-sales comrades.
Ability: Pre-Sales 4 Post-Sales 6
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 39 Post-Sales 31
8. Hidden Ability
I wasn’t entirely sure what to call this section, but these are the hidden things such as appearance, timekeeping, getting back to people, being able to word an email without offending the recipient and communicating to a customer when they are wrong without calling them a plonker!
This part is very subjective. It is my personal experience, that pre-sales dominate in this area. Not to say that post-sales are not good, they just seem to be far between. Overall I have encountered far more post-sales people who are awesome technically, but you would only wheel them out in front of the customer when the deal is done.
Ability: Pre-Sales 7 Post-Sales 3
Overall Score: Pre-Sales 46 Post-Sales 34
So the winner is pre-sales, why is that?
Pre-sales are the key to obtaining, winning and keeping customers. Without pre-sales we wouldn’t need post-sales. However if we take this full circle the actual winner is sales as without them we don’t have a requirement for pre or post sales.
Have your say, who do you think are better?