What Is A Solutions Consultant?
The role of a Solutions Consultant is often misunderstood, not least because it goes by so many names. In fact, there’s a bit of a circus of nomenclature surrounding the role, so let’s start by defining terms.
Solutions Consultant Definition
A Solutions Consultant is a member of the Technical Sales Team who’s primary role is to support sales efforts with extensive product knowledge, answering questions and demonstrating product capabilities as needed.
Alternative titles include Sales Engineer (SE), Presales Engineer, Solutions Architect, Technical Sales Rep/Engineer, and a host of others, but the most common alternative is Sales Engineer.
The department of which the Solutions Consultant is a member has several names as well, some of which also seem to be perpetually confusing.
In mid-market to enterprise organizations, the “solutions consulting department” that supports sales with deep product knowledge and product demonstrations is usually called Presales (or Pre-sales). You might be saying to yourself, "?" and you wouldn’t be alone. Almost everyone that first hears the term presales immediately thinks of BDR. After all, it’s right there in the name, right? PRE- sales.
But in fact, the Solutions Consultant usually enters the buyer’s journey after they’ve already completed one, or even several meetings with an Account Executive.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Solutions Consultant Role
In a nutshell, the role of the Solutions Consultant is threefold:
1) Answer (accurately) all of the deep technical questions that an AE can’t,
2) demonstrate the product, and
3) use the product to craft solutions to complex customer problems.
The demands of 1 and 3 mean that a Solutions Consultant must be highly trained. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an SC to go through a full year of training before they interact with a customer. Presales guru Peter Cohan relates that it usually takes about two years to mint a fully capable Solutions Consultant, with the requisite combination of industry fluency, product expertise, and presentation skills.
This makes Presales teams very difficult to scale, which presents a problem when we get around to #2, above.
Demos are the most requested information by buyers during the buying journey. And with buying groups climbing in size from seven or eight stakeholders to as many as 14, that’s a lot of demos to give per deal, especially because you almost never get all of the stakeholders on the same call. Add to that the fact that a single SC usually supports between four and 14 AEs and the net result is that Solutions Consultants spend an inordinate amount of time giving an introductory product demo, often referred to internally as the standard demo.
Even so, buyers often have to wait weeks before they can get some of an SC’s time just to get a first look at the product in action, let alone begin to ask the crucial questions that only an SC can answer.
This creates a painful bottleneck for buyers and sellers alike, and was the primary driver behind the creation of the Consensus demo automation platform.
For more detail on the role of Solutions Consultants, see this article on Sales Engineers.