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Here are the main differences between sales and pre-sales in a B2B setting:
Responsibility: The responsibility of a sale lies with the sales rep. Yes, her pre-sales partner has to pull her weight but in the end the person carrying the quota is the sales rep. Therefore it is her neck on the line.
Quota: A sales rep carries an individual quota. Say a B2B sales rep may carry an yearly quota of $1.5M. However a pre-sales member will be mapped to a bigger pool. For instance, in North America there are 10 sales reps and each is carrying a quota of $1.5M. The pre-sales member will be mapped to a group quota (also called pool) of $13M (generally it is not just 10 X 1.5M. There is some percentage taken off based on the expected target at a group level, also referred to as street quota). Due to this, the pre-sales member does not really care which sales rep makes the money as long as at the group level they make enough money. And there are other pre-sales members who will be attached to the same group target. But sales rep is only (and ONLY) interested in her success. So this can result in some interesting dynamics in a sales/pre-sales relationship, especially in scenarios where there are specific pre-sales members who are a cut above the rest of their pre-sales peers. They are most coveted by all the sales reps and can lead to tension in the team when there are conflicts.
Product Details: A sales rep depth in the product or offering that he is selling is high level. It does not mean that this knowledge is not important. But a sales rep is interested to know about 3 key value props of the product and not what every field or button on the screen does. On the contrary a pre-sales member is supposed to know the details. She is also expected to understand the value props too.
Negotiation: A pre-sales member seldom engages in negotiations. Sales rep may take his advice (again a rarity) but usually negotiations involve the sales rep and his manager (or management).
Contracts: Here too a pre-sales member will not engage. Once the prospect tells you that you are the selected vendor and now it is up to the negotiations and formalities of the contract, the pre-sales member sort of disappears and the sales rep carries it to the deal line.
Compensation: A successful sales rep will make more money than an equally successful (in terms of quota attainment) pre-sales member. So a sales rep who hits 100% of her target (say $1.5M) will make more money (as a percentage of his base) than a pre-sales member who hits 100% of her group target (say $13M).
Accelerators: Many sales organizations have accelerators which kick in when a sales rep hits her target. This means that the rep makes money at a faster rate (assuming she beats her quota) once she hits her quota for that year. This is not usually the case for pre-sales team member. They will get more money but at the same rate as they did before they hit their target. There is no exponential growth in their bonus.
Tenure: Turnover in a sales organization is always much higher than turnover in the pre-sales organization.
In nutshell the sales rep's job is that of high risk and high reward. A pre-sales member has to perform but it is not the same as a sales rep. However all these disparities are usually a non-issue because everyone is vested to win and make money. So here are some similarities:
Transaction Oriented: Both sales and pre-sales team members are very transaction oriented. They look at the deal in front of them and work towards maximizing their chances to win the deal.
Tendency to Oversell: Both groups suffer from tendency to oversell. It is quite common for the sales and pre-sales team to be critical of the product development team and vice versa.
Base and Variable Pay Structure: Both, sales and pre-sales, carry a variable pay structure. They have a static base component of their salary and then they have the variable component. And though between sales and pre-sales this number may differ a lot, it still is a substantial percentage of the base.
They are a Team: They are indeed a team and and the alignment (or lack of alignment) between a rep and a pre-sales member is evident in a customer event. There are some pairs who are so good and so comfortable working with each other that they really do not need anyone's help to close business. And then sometimes there could be clash in personalities and that can be evident to the prospect and also in their internal disagreements.
In my opinion a pre-sales role in a B2B setting does not receive the necessary attention in the industry. There is so much written out there about sales optimization, improving rep productivity, training the reps etc, but very little on pre-sales enablement. They are a very critical bunch of people in your company. They are in a unique role where they are not only responsible for the first impression about your company and your product, but they are also very much tuned to the market (customer needs, competitive differentiators, etc).