From Raising Kids 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 a stay at home parent into pre-sales.

Anyone who has kids knows that raising them is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. From picky eaters, to potty training, to endless tantrums…each day is a new challenge when it comes to raising tiny humans. But those daily challenges also build a unique set of skills that can be tapped into when transitioning into the world of pre-sales.

As a parent there are no sick days. There is also no manual. Each kid is different and it requires you to experiment with different parenting techniques till you figure out what works. Being in pre-sales isn’t all that different. No two customers are the same and it’s a lot of listening to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Before we explore how you can map your unique parenting 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

Many people looking to transition into a career as a pre-sales professional will start by reading the job description of a few open pre-sales roles, see a list of all the technical requirements, and then immediately get discouraged. 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

Contrary to popular belief, and 90% of the job descriptions for the role, pre-sales is not about having the most technical skills. It is in fact the intangibles, or soft skills, that often lead people to stand out above the crowd. So here are some of the key skills that parents bring to the table mapped to the five common pre-sales activities previously mentioned.

Active Listening - When you first have kids you can’t wait for them to talk. Then when they can talk, they never stop talking! But amidst the rambling and endless questions, they also tell you what they need. Being a good listener is critical in customer calls. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Knowing how to ask a question and then actively listen is a key skill when it comes to pre-sales.

Curiosity - There will come a time in every parent’s life where their kid will ask a question, you’ll provide an answer, and they will follow up with a “but why?”. And so begins the vicious circle of you trying to provide an answer to each “but why” until you finally acknowledge there is no winning move for you in this game. At some later point in time (when you can think clearly again), you’ll realize this (demonic) game is just your child’s way of being curious. Many times in pre-sales, we also need to ask “but why” to uncover the deeper meaning…this is more commonly referred to as discovery.

Adaptability - As I mentioned earlier, there is no manual for raising kids. You have to adapt as you go for each kid and their individual needs. This translates well when performing demos because no one wants to sit through a boring generic demo. Customers want you to adapt it to their needs based on what you know about them.

Outcome Focused - Have you ever ordered groceries for delivery? What about Target curbside pick up? You were probably crunched for time, but still needed the items so you leveraged what services were available to you to make that happen. Here’s the thing, customers don’t buy products for a specific feature or technical capability. They buy because you are helping them achieve a specific outcome. You were trying to save time with curbside; they might be trying to save time using your solution. The POV/POC is just a technical exercise to prove that your solution will produce the desired outcome.

Resourcefulness - Let’s face it, we all took math and science a long time ago. A lot has changed since then and we probably didn’t commit everything to memory. So think back the last time your kid brought you a math problem from their homework that you didn’t know the answer to. Maybe you read the textbook. Perhaps you watched a YouTube video. Whatever method you tried, you were able to find the answer and help guide them towards a solution. Addressing technical questions as a pre-sales professional is no different. You will never have all the answers, but you should be able to find them.

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 parents that are transitioning back into the workforce is being too broad in what they are looking for. The same is true for pre-sales. 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.

For example, I work in the cybersecurity industry (which in and of itself is huge). Perhaps you have an interest in healthcare or manufacturing? Maybe you have an affinity for the public sector? 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.

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 in life stories to support your unique abilities? 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: LinkedIn recently added a job type for parents that stepped out of the workforce to take care of kids. Make sure you include this amidst your other professional experience.

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 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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