What is pre-sales? (Definition, activities and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses use the pre-sales process to connect a potential customer with a product or service that their company provides to meet their requirements and facilitate a sale. Also known as sales support, these activities can have a significant impact on profit and business performance. There are a variety of jobs in which you'd be responsible for this process and understanding how it works may help you decide if you'd like to pursue a career in this area of sales. In this article, we define pre-sales, list elements of this process and explain the difference between sales support vs. sales.

What is pre-sales?

Pre-sales, or sales support, is the process of identifying new customers and identifying their needs, preferences and challenges. These activities take place before a business acquires customers and, in most cases, even before customers learn about specific products that the business sells. A successful sales support process leads to positioning goods as something that can effectively address customers' needs and help them overcome challenges they're facing.

Related: The sales and operations planning process in 6 steps

What are the key activities in sales support?

To support an organisation's sales efforts, it's necessary that you prepare detailed documentation about its target audience and determine what's the best strategy for contacting potential customers. The sales support process involves several key activities, including:

Qualifying leads

Typically, sales support begins with determining prospective sales leads. As a result of this step, specialists can identify new potential customers or clients. To do this, they use the company's historical sales data and information about a product or service that the business wants to sell. To approach this step accordingly, it's necessary to think analytically. Sales support professionals often use specialised software that helps them make better decisions about specific target audiences and their behavioural or purchasing patterns.

Related: What is lead generation in business? A beginners guide

Creating buyer personas

After obtaining enough information about potential customers, you can start creating buyer personas. A buyer persona, also known as a marketing or audience persona, is a detailed description of someone whose values, needs and preferences align with those of your target audience. Although it's fictional, it can be a highly valuable tool for developing effective targeting strategies that allow businesses to appear more competitive within the market.

Ideally, you may want to create several buyer personas for one product. This is because people with different life situations or needs might be interested in purchasing and using it. Here are some example elements that you might specify when developing an audience persona:

  • their location

  • age

  • native language

  • interests

  • challenges

  • purchasing patterns and behaviour

  • challenges and goals in life

Related: Why it's important to know your customers and how to do it

Conducting competition research

To better understand what solutions are available to your prospective customers, it's helpful to spend some time conducting competition research. This way, you can learn more about the company's competitors and determine what makes the product your team wants to sell unique. Competition research also helps you better understand the company's position, for example, if there are any other businesses that customers prefer simply based on those companies' reputations.

Related: What is a competitive positioning marketing strategy?

Discovering and contacting customers

Once you know who might be potentially interested in the product you're working with, it's time to start contacting those people. To do that, you'd make discovery calls, which are initial conversations with prospective customers. These calls allow you to better understand if the sales support theory and buyer personas you developed are true to reality. When contacting the target audience, make sure to concentrate on what each prospect expects out of a solution to a specific challenge they're facing. Then, you can learn if the product or service you represent can help them get that.

Related: What is a sales call? (With benefits and process steps)

Preparing proposals

After identifying, contacting and confirming a lead, it's time to draft a proposal. This document outlines the customer's priorities and the custom solution that the business can develop for them. Sometimes, the proposals you create may come in a form of visual or interactive presentations. This is especially likely if the team you're a part of concentrates on business-to-business (B2B) transactions. The sales support team may work closely with the sales team to complete and approve the proposal to move forward by presenting it to the client.

Related: What is a buying signal? (With examples)

Implementing and following up

Although a sales support representative's role primarily concentrates on identifying leads and other activities leading up to a sale, they sometimes participate in customer and client retention processes. After the sales team completes a transaction, sales support may continue to work with them to ensure customer satisfaction and account for any possible challenges or growth opportunities that arise. They can also manage customer feedback throughout the ongoing relationship.

Related: How to write a follow-up email (with examples)

What are the differences between sales support vs. sales?

To better understand the importance of sales support, it's helpful that you learn what makes this process distinct. Here's what makes it different from sales:

Primary focus

Sales support is a highly analytical process. It concentrates on conducting in-depth research, analysing data and preparing supporting documentation that the sales team can use. On the contrary, sales focus on convincing potential customers and clients that the products and services they represent can serve as solutions to their work or life challenges. This means that sales support is the foundation of sales that provides technical information for pitching clients and maintaining relationships with them.

Related: 5 sales pitch examples (with definitions and techniques)

Timing

Sales support activities always precede the efforts of sales representatives. In some instances, such as when a company chooses to implement a long-term strategy that targets both prospective and current customers, their activities may overlap. What's important is that sales professionals have fewer chances of success without the information that sales support professionals provide. Often, sales support uses historical sales data to create buyer personas and other strategies.

Do sales and sales support representatives require different skills?

Although both sales support and sales representatives work towards a common goal of confirming leads and selling goods, the responsibilities and skills that they use are different. As the more analytical ones, sales support professionals use the following skills the most:

  • Strategic thinking: Strategic thinking helps sales support representatives use the information they've researched more effectively. For example, they may use this skill to assist sales professionals in developing pitches or customer retention strategies.

  • Attention to detail: Having strong attention to detail is essential in sales support, as it allows you to notice any discrepancies in customers' purchasing patterns or behaviour that could potentially help you generate more leads. It also helps you better understand the expectations that customers have based on the information they provide during discovery calls.

  • Analyses: If you decide to work in sales support, you'd use analytical skills extensively, for example, to conduct market or competition research. These skills would also be useful for evaluating products or services you'd work with.

In their work, sales representatives concentrate more on building relationships, for which they require strong interpersonal abilities. Here are some of the most important skills for sales professionals, which aren't a necessity for sales support people:

  • Negotiation: On a daily basis, sales professionals meet with existing and potential clients, discussing deals and convincing them of their goods' values. To make sure the company makes enough revenue as a result of those deals, it's necessary that they have strong negotiation skills.

  • Rapport building: Rapport building is the process of establishing an initial connection with clients. Sales representatives use this skill to present themselves as reliable and trustworthy professionals and developing long-lasting business relationships based on shared experienced, values and views.

  • Resilience and confidence: Thanks to their confidence, successful sales representatives can effectively handle client rejection. Whenever that happens, being resilient allows them to quickly move to the next client on the list who may potentially purchase something from them.

Related:

  • What Are the Most Important Sales Skills?


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