I have a secret: I am a relatively new employee at Appian. Seriously, it’s true, I’m not lying. I know, I know, you read my last post on dogfooding, or maybe you’re a follower of my Twitter feed and it seems like I’ve been at Appian for years from the way I talk about it. Well, the truth is that I’ve been here a little less than six months. However, nothing in my background really prepared me for how different Presales runs at Appian as opposed to other organizations I’ve worked with. Not convinced? Well, are you doing Presales at the moment and wondering how things could possibly be different? Great, this article is for you. Are you in a related technology or client facing role and wondering what the next step in your career might be? Fabulous, read on, this article is for you!
Presales was something I sort of fell into by accident. Years ago, I was coming up on the end of my college degree in computer science and information systems. I liked programming, but I also loved system building and networking and didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into any one specialty or career path. So, I combined both for my degree. But once I left school and got out into the tech field, I found myself not really interested in sitting behind a desk all day writing code. I think the nail in the coffin on my programming future happened when I met a coder named Yuri. Yuri liked to sit in a dark room all day around three monitors, coding, with three bright lamps shining in his face, kind of like a horror movie. After that fortuitous meeting, I migrated towards more hybrid roles, usually marrying client facing responsibilities with technological skill-sets. After many years in the trenches of support, an old friend took me under his wing and said, I think you’d be perfect for Presales. Many years later, I realize he was right.
The tight end (TE) is a position in American football on the offense. The tight end is often seen as a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver.
- From Wikipedia
I’ve always thought of a Presales role as the Tight end of the sales world. A kind of hybrid role — individuals who are savvy with technology, but also very good with clients. At Appian, Sales and Presales work together to find opportunities and find ways to help clients use our technology to solve their issues. For those who haven’t been in Presales before, the idea of switching to a role like this can be daunting. It definitely was for me at first when I first made the jump. I did a lot of shadowing and a lot of reading, focusing on getting up to speed as quickly as possible. It really came down to three core areas: learning a new piece of software, learning about our sales methodology, and learning how our software could be utilized to solve a particular problem, aka solutioning. For anyone who has been in a client facing role for a while, learning a particular sales methodology as it applies to a Presales role will be almost second nature, while anyone with a bit of technical skill can learn a new piece of software with the right training and guidance. As for anyone who is already working in some kind of support or problem-solving role, news flash for you, you’ve already been doing solutioning. And so it was for me that within a short amount of time, I was up and running, visiting clients, learning about problems and solutioning away.
I can see that confused look on your face…so what did I miss? Oh yeah…what we actually do in Presales on a day to day basis. The first thing to note is that members of Presales work together with the Sales team on a project, namely to help prospective clients. For me, we usually start by visiting the client and discussing a need they have. Nine times out of ten, that need is more of a problem and is either sucking money or time, or both, out of their business. After initial meetings, I head to my computer to work on the problem; specifically, how can our software platform address those issues? I throw something together to demonstrate my solution and demo it to the client. It’s a very positive experience. The people you meet while in Presales are looking for assistance, to make their work lives a bit easier, and when you can demonstrate that, people are very happy. It can be an extremely rewarding experience.
There is nothing like a good problem to spark the synapses, is there? To open the mind to new possibilities, new ways of seeing things. Of course, one must always confront self-doubt and fear. But that is a small price to pay for the…exhilaration of finding the perfect solution.
- Quote from an episode of Star Trek Voyager
Now, I’m sure some of you reading this will say, I’ve been doing Presales for ages and this article sounds a little too positive. Fair enough. Presales can be like any other job. There are annoying parts of the job, the occasional difficulty at the office, unforeseen project delays, etc. It’s nothing out of the ordinary from any other job. At Appian, however, it’s been a different story. Appian has set up our Presales organization specifically to help teach new team members how to utilize their technology and client facing experience together, to become effective members of the department. We have a mentoring and shadowing system, we have tons of documentation and well-defined on-boarding processes (please, no BPM jokes). Most importantly, we have good people on our team who care that the new members get up to speed and help add value. Most importantly, Presales works very closely with Sales and Product, two very streamlined relationships that allow us to make our clients happy.
Appian struck me as a cool place to work from the first time I read an email from my recruiter, Kim. I gave her a call back and heard all about Appian. I think any time you hear about a company from a recruiter it sounds as if working at the company is secondary, with the employees’ primary job being having a good time. I’ve fallen this pitch in my past life, and its has kept me on guard since. However, after reading up on Appian, I became intrigued. After a few phone interviews, I arrived at Appian HQ for my final round of interviews, and boy, was I blown away.
We started with a mini-tour of the office. As my interviews progressed and I roamed the office, I was introduced to a number of people both inside and outside the Presales team. One thing remained the same: I witnessed a great deal of comradery. The people at Appian seemed to genuinely like working there. While at HQ, I participated in the Appian Ice Cream Social, checked out the video game center on the engineering floor and even met one of the founders. The company oozed style and fun, the vibe was positive and on the flight home I realized that I wanted in.
Nothing is sacrosanct; as an organization, I think we’re just really comfortable with change. Just the idea that everything can change tomorrow and we’ll just have the confidence to deal with, roll with it, and kind of reinvent. I love change; it just doesn’t bother me at all.
- Bob Kramer, General Manager & Co-Founder: Appian, Inc.
Well, as you can guess, I accepted their offer shortly after and became a new employee at Appian. I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that everything I heard, saw and read about during my interview period is true: Appian is a great place to work. The people I’ve met here really care about the making a better product. Everyone works hard, but it’s clear that maintaining our company culture is equally as important. There is a strong feeling among all the management and employees that if there is a better way of doing something, or a better way we can guide our product, we should do it.
In orientation, we were told that things work differently at Appian. Like, don’t be afraid to try new things such as walking into the office of one of the founders and inviting them to lunch. You know what, a few weeks later I was having lunch with our CEO, Matt Calkins. While sitting across from Matt at an Italian restaurant nearby, I thought to myself, here’s a guy who cares passionately about the company he has built, and especially about the well-being of the employees who work there; here’s a guy who wants to succeed but doesn’t want to lose the identity they’ve worked hard to build along the way. Even if nothing else had convinced me that things were different at Appian, Matt convinced me right there, as I munched on my fettuccine.
Day by day, what you do is who you become.
So, is Presales right for you? I’d wager that if you’re still reading this, it is. If you’re in a technology-related job and fancy yourself rather charming, Presales might be a good fit for you, and Appian is absolutely a good place to find out. If you’ve been in Presales for a while and say, you know, this is great, but I wish my company culture was more important, Appian is definitely the place for you. Want to know more? Check out our jobs page here. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you for free ice cream on your interview day.
I started a job doing Presales at Appian, and you’ll never guess what happened next! was originally published in AppianLIFE on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.