From Educator to Pre-Sales

This guide is a part of a series that explores how to break into pre-sales using your unique background and prior life experience. In this guide we focus on how to transition from being an educator into pre-sales.

Think back to when you were a kid and went to school each day. I’m sure we all have fond memories of learning, and homework, and trying as hard as possible to fit in. You know what, let’s not revisit those days. But instead, let’s look at the other side of the coin from the teacher’s perspective. We were probably too young to consider it at the time, but the amount of work they put into preparing lessons, classroom management, time management, and being super adaptable to the needs of each kid…not easy!

Being an educator is actually a huge advantage if you are considering a transition into pre-sales. Most people think that “sales” is all about selling, but the reality is that it’s about educating. Educating on the problem, the pain points that you help solve, and most importantly, on the outcomes that you can help achieve.

Before we explore how you can map your unique educator skills to your future pre-sales role, let’s have a look at the pre-sales role itself and what the job is like.

A Look into the Pre-Sales Role

For those that are just starting out in the world of (pre-)sales, they often start with a look at some current job postings to see what the role is like. If you’ve ever read a pre-sales job description before then you know how daunting these seem for a newcomer to the field. However, pre-sales isn’t as scary as it might seem and almost any technical skill can be learned once you land the role. So instead of being deterred, let’s take a look at what really matters when it comes to being in pre-sales.

At a high level, here is a list of the most common activities you’ll encounter in the role:

  • Participating in customer calls
  • Performing “discovery” to identify what a customer is looking for
  • Conducting product demos of your solution
  • Leading a proof of value (POV) / proof of concept (POC)
  • Addressing technical questions and concerns throughout the sales process

Alright, let’s break these down a little further. This time focusing on how your unique skills as a parent can help.

Tip: If you’d like a more in depth look at the world of pre-sales, have a peek at our guide on, “What is Sales Engineering?”.

Mapping Your Skills

As an educator, you might feel a little discouraged because you don’t have the technical skills that most of these roles are looking for, but that is only because they often focus too heavily on the technical skills. However it’s the intangibles, or soft skills, that often lead people to stand out above the crowd. So here are some of the key skills that healthcare professionals bring to the table aligned to the five common pre-sales activities previously mentioned.

Active Listening - When you are dealing with kids each day, there are going to be situations where someone is upset or confused. But kids don’t always know the right way to express what they are feeling. Similarly customers often don’t always know what they are looking for. Being able to listen to their concerns and listen for the deeper meaning is what will make you successful during customer calls.

Curiosity - Kids are, by nature, curious about everything. Even if you aren’t a curious person, they will shape your thinking because you have to anticipate how they think and what they might ask. Educators are really good at stimulating curiosity, through play, lesson plans, and creative thinking. Discovery in the sales process isn’t that different. You simply use different techniques to poke at a particular problem until you have discovered the underlying issue.

Adaptability - One of the things that amazes me the most about educators is their ability to adapt. In a group of kids, you will have varied learning styles, speed, and comprehension. What works for one kid may not work for another. You, as the educator, need to continuously adapt to their needs…just like you would when giving a demo to a customer. Even adults learn in different ways. Demos aren’t meant to be perfect, but they are meant to communicate the value of your solution and it’s up to you to adapt the story to make that happen.

Time Management - The number one reason that POCs go sideways is because of scope creep. Whether it’s new requirements, new stakeholders, or something completely unrelated…it always seems to happen. How do you combat scope creep? Time management. By time boxing activities and delivery of results you can prevent additional items from being introduced into the process. As an educator, you are a master at time management. From creating lesson plans that fit into a specific amount of time to helping kids transition from one topic to the next. Keeping a POC running smoothly should be a walk in the park for you.

Resourcefulness - Education isn’t done in a vacuum, it’s based on a ton of collaboration, feedback, and teamwork. From peers, to parent input, to mandates by individual states, to feedback from administrators. This is also a core part of working in pre-sales; from collaborating with other teams to understanding changes to your solution from the product team. The resourcefulness of educators will mean they are well versed in change, no matter where it comes from.

So you can see from these five examples, you actually have a lot more pre-sales related skills then perhaps you realized. Now it’s time to hone in on what’s missing and take your first steps towards your journey into pre-sales.

Where to Focus Next

To begin your journey into your first pre-sales role, there are four tasks that you need to accomplish next. Let’s look at them in order.

Choose an Industry

A common mistake I see when talking to educators that are looking to transition into a sales career is being too broad in what they are looking for. This also applies to pre-sales as well. Before you start applying to a single role, you need to have a look at the different industries that are out there and find what appeals to you.

Tip: Because you have industry experience, you can also lean into that. There are a lot of pre-sales roles where you might sell educational software or security solutions that help with COPPA compliance. Knowing first hand what educators go through each day and the pain points they experience gives you a huge leg up.

You already have a background in education, which is a hugely underserved market in sales (in my opinion). If you weren’t an educator, what would your second career path have been? That can be the second industry you focus on. Regardless of which industries catch your eye, explore some job postings and talk to a few folks in each to get a sense of if it’s really for you. You don’t have to niche yourself down at this point, but you should have one or two industries that you can target (and yes healthcare can be one of them).

Shape Your Story: Transitioning Parent

Once you know what industries you are going to target, and you’ve done some skill mapping, it’s time to start crafting your story. This should include a few elements:

  • Your “why”, what is driving you into pre-sales
  • How your unique skills can make an impact
  • Your approach to overcoming obstacles

As you start to create your narrative, imagine you are talking to a hiring manager. What tone would you use? How would you weave your industry experience to support your unique abilities? Don’t break any confidentiality agreements, but draw from real-world experiences that you’ve faced and how they would directly apply to the pre-sales role. Once you are done making notes and crafting your narrative, create two versions; a 30 second version and a 2 minute version. This will allow you to make use of each depending on the situation you are in.

Lastly, record yourself delivering your story. Make sure, above all else, that you appear confident and calm in your delivery.

Update Your Resume + Digital Profiles

While this should be the easiest step on your to-do list, it’s also the most tedious. You will need to update your resume, LinkedIn, website (if you have one), and any other digital profiles for consistency. Each digital profile should include relevant experience, any projects that will help you stand out, and your story. Make sure you have a recent photo for each profile as well.

Tip: For each position that you’ve held in the past, including your current one, make sure you list your accomplishments in terms of outcomes. You did X, which had an outcome of Y. It’s about showing the results that you helped achieve.

Above all else, remember that your digital profiles should be concise! No hiring manager, HR professional, or really anyone for that matter, wants to read a novel.

Reach Out to Hiring Managers

You are almost there! Your last task is to start assembling a list of jobs that you want to apply to. Now this isn’t as simple as applying to a job because the world doesn’t work that way anymore. From insane competition to needing to really stand out, you’ll need to be very targeted and specific for each role you apply too.

Reach out to those that already work for the organization. Make a connection with the talent acquisition folks. Finally, submit your application AND reach out to the hiring manager with a personal note on the impact you can make in the role. Remember to lean on your experience and your unique story to help you rise above the noise.

Good luck and I hope to see you in your future pre-sales role soon!

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