How Hiring a Solutions Consultant Can Revolutionize Your Sales Process

In a world where growing at all costs is no longer accepted, pressure on sales teams to make the most of every interaction is at an all-time high. Companies and sellers no longer have an abundance of opportunities to sell into — every interaction with a potential prospect makes the difference between success and failure. 

While companies scramble to restructure and reevaluate their go-to-market motions, one role continues to unlock a better sales experience for buyers and sellers alike: solutions consulting.

Solutions consultants, or solutions engineers as they are often referred to, play a central role in organizations, yet this role is often misaligned or misunderstood. Once known as “technical experts,” if applied correctly, these professionals have extensive product knowledge, are both technical and business savvy, and are at the forefront of building trust in your sales process.  

I define a solutions consultant as a customer-centric problem-solver. The best organizations have moved this role away from the traditional tech expert or demo jockey and toward a more impactful part of the sales and buying process; this move produces an impact on revenue, productivity and customer experience. 

How the SC role has evolved

Historically, there were numerous clunky steps within the sales process — many of which were created by the organization without buyer thoughts or preferences in mind.

Sales teams have always, and will likely always, be responsible for generating leads, leading discovery calls, showing the product via demos, negotiating and having the customer sign on the dotted line. In these instances, solutions consultants handle much of the legwork associated with building and showing a standard or customized product demonstration. In more sophisticated or complex organizations, the role has expanded to discovery, whiteboarding, proof of concept and other strategic activities. 

Sales has been changing over the past five years and is wildly different today due to the remote-first acceleration brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors. Most enterprises (more than 90%) are moving to hybrid-selling models. Mix in a tightening macro climate resulting in a decrease in travel expenses, and you have buyers and sellers — again — operating in a remote-first environment. 

Further, buyers are more informed than ever before, and are doing most of their research online before speaking to a salesperson. In fact, they spend only 17% of their time with potential suppliers. If they are only spending 17% of their total time doing this, imagine how much time they are spending with each vendor. Maximizing every interaction is absolutely critical to your organization. 

Together, these factors have transformed the entire sales process. What was once a linear buying journey now has a major influx of touch points that require more sophisticated revenue teams.

As a result, the best organizations are employing the SC role as a more dynamic function that drives value to both internal and external stakeholders. Yes, SCs may still perform the traditional activities that lead up to a close-won. But these solutions professionals are now taking on more of a strategic seat at the table and are more integrated into both the end-to-end customer experience and implementation.

What is the difference between presales and solutions?

Traditionally, the role of a solutions engineer has fallen into the bucket of presales. While we agree that this has historically been the right term for this role, the growth of SaaS has expanded the role into supporting the entire customer journey — not just presales. Further, PreSales Collective research shows that the terms “sales” and “engineer” are massive blockers to bringing nontraditional talent to the solutions profession. 

With the emphasis on post-sale engagements, including adoption and usage, solutions consulting or solutions engineering are the more appropriate terms for this profession.

Who does solutions work with?

Who does a solutions consultant work with

While many SC organizations are measured and compensated on sales, the reality is that sales is just the tip of the iceberg for this role. Solutions consultants have their hands in many departments, both internally and externally.

In addition to performing activities leading up to a closed sale, SCs are an integral part of the larger go-to-market team. With extensive product and technical knowledge, their value to the organization extends well beyond the sales teams, collaborating with marketing, enablement, customer success, professional services, product and engineering. 

But to understand potential buyers and their unique business needs, they must also communicate with external stakeholders, such as:

  • Executive sponsors
  • Decision-makers
  • Champions
  • Influencers
  • Blockers
  • Security and compliance
  • Information technology
  • Partners
  • Administrators and end users

Ultimately, solutions consultants are on the front lines of business, supporting and empowering teams across the organization to be successful across the customer lifecycle.   

Where solutions goes from here

The sales process is changing, with buyers doing much of their own research before speaking with a salesperson. Organizations must shift to better align to customer expectations and experiences — putting SCs front and center.

This also means that traditional solutions organizations need to evolve. No longer can solutions leaders stay “in the technical box” without proper accountability and responsibility within an organization.

With a macro environment focused on efficiency and cost of sale, organizations should invest more time in upleveling and upskilling their solutions consulting teams to be true business partners to the organization. With increased pressure on sellers, team selling may be the most important aspect for every go-to-market organization in the 2023 fiscal year. 

James Kaikis is the co-founder of PreSales Collective, the largest global community for presales professionals with over 35,000 members worldwide, and PreSales Academy, a career-launch program that provides the underrepresented with access to highly sought after solutions consulting careers in the tech industry. Driven by his passion for helping others and his own experience in customer engagement and solution engineering at companies like Showpad and Salesforce, Kaikis created PSC to provide resources and opportunities for networking and mentorship to individuals in presales roles. 

  • Originally published May 17, 2023