#GoToGetsIT: This article is part of an ongoing series from GoTo’s thought leaders on the frontlines: Our Solutions Consultants deeply understand our customers’ unique challenges and connect the right solutions to meet their goals using GoTo technology. Here, they share their industry knowledge on what it takes to help businesses everywhere thrive in a remote or hybrid world.
The fast-changing reality of today's world brings a lot of challenges to organizations, which is why solutions consultants, also known as presales consultants, sales engineers, or presales professionals, have a key role to play. But what is a solutions consultant anyway? Here’s an inside look at what we do, our approach to helping organizations like yours connect goals and solutions, and strategies we use every day that you can apply to your business.
The very nature of presales work makes it impossible for professionals like us to isolate ourselves in departmental silos. Presales professionals aren’t part of the sales or marketing teams. We’re not tech support, engineering, product management, or implementation either. Yet we have a critical role to play in each of those departments.
While we don’t really fit in neatly anywhere, we feel like we belong everywhere as the bridges and weavers of networks inside our organization, our clients’ organizations, and external partners and suppliers when needed. All for the benefit of our customers.
Our mission is to bring our holistic knowledge to the table – every aspect of the business from top to bottom – and figure out how best to navigate and connect it all. We are constantly connecting needs and problems to solutions anywhere we can.
In today’s world, specific skills are needed from us to be the bridges that organizations (both ours and our clients) need most: working with paradox and network weaving.
Working with paradox: Going from “or” to “and”
Presales is a kind of paradox in itself: we’re the most technical among salespeople and the most commercial among technicians. We often find ourselves between two totally different positions.
For example, presales bridges:
- The commercial team that has pressure to sell – and the support team that needs all processes and technical requirements to be obeyed
- The customer that wants a tailored product – and the engineering team that can’t realistically make bespoke changes according to the wishes of each customer
In these scenarios, we’re mediators striving to seek the best agreement for each party while using our experience and creativity to find innovative solutions.
The best solutions will be those that shift mindsets from “or” to "and” to meet the needs of both sides. To find these solutions, solutions consultants need to play a game.
We ask the wicked questions
Wicked Questions is a brainstorming game and an idea-liberating structure that helps engage sharper, strategic thinking by revealing both entangled challenges and unexpected possibilities. These questions bring to light paradoxical yet complementary forces that are particularly important during change efforts. We play this game alone and in groups, inviting everyone to contribute.
The idea is that we allow ourselves to embrace the tension that exists between seemingly opposing forces, and instead of choosing sides, we start with a simple question, like:
- “If it were possible to meet the needs of X and Y at the same time, what could be a solution?”
- “How is it that a solution can be ____ and ____ simultaneously?”
- “What opposing-yet-complementary solutions do we need to consider simultaneously in order to be successful?”
We play both sides
Another useful exercise to understanding other perspectives while broadening our own is something called “Two Sides” (from the Institute for Zen Leadership):
Select a person (or department) you’ve been in conflict with or want to influence to find a solution, such as a customer or another department (sales, finance, technical support). We’ll call this person/department “X”. Make an axis diagram on a piece of paper. Label the horizontal axis with you on one end and X on the other.
- Focus on the left side. What’s the value you’re trying to create that in some ways involves X? What’s right and good about your perspective on this matter? Write that in the upper left quadrant.
- Imagine if only your view or efforts prevailed and the other party either wasn’t involved or didn't buy in. What’s the concern of proceeding without them? Or remaining in conflict? Jot down a few statements into the lower left quadrant.
- Now imagine yourself becoming the other party and focus on the right side. What’s right about X’s perspective? What value are they trying to create? From their perspective, what’s valuable about what you’re trying to do? Fill in the upper right quadrant.
- What are X’s concerns? Or if the two of you are in conflict, how is that problematic from their view? Fill in the lower right quadrant. You should now have something written in each quadrant.
Now imagine embracing both sides.
- What’s the best of both perspectives – the higher-level goal that needs something from both or that honors both? How might you frame what you want from X in terms of this goal, that ALSO serves X?
- How might that be in their interest? In the case of conflict, how can you move toward the higher-level goal?
Be sure to capture any overarching goal or re-framing of the matter that comes from this expansive state, and any advice for how to best engage X. To the extent that you can mitigate X’s concerns, connect this matter to what matters to X and the higher-level goal that’s also in their interest, you’ll build resonance with them and master the art of working with paradox.
Network weaving: Connecting the organization
There’s no longer any doubt that the future-state model of a networked workplace is already a reality. People are working independently of a formal and hierarchical structure, aligning themselves around common purposes, and working on projects that transcend physical space, distance, and time while remaining continuously connected. It’s the model that every organization is moving towards at different speeds and in different ways.
A Network Weaver helps people become aware of the web of relationships within an organization and encourages them to use a network approach to enable cross departmental projects and helps the organization to achieve its goals and purpose in an innovative and efficient way.
The principles of a network are: Clear roles and responsibilities by project, regardless of the corporate role or department; Make information available for everyone through transparent and effective communication; Distributed decision making; and Effective meetings.
Solutions consultants can use this approach to lead workgroups including people from different departments and even outside companies to work together on complex opportunities.
There are three Network Weaver roles a presales (or for that matter, any) professional can play:
- Connector: Mapping people and networks, closing triangles, building trust
- Project Coordinator: Forming action groups, setting up coordination systems, sharing learnings with the larger organization
- Catalyst & Facilitator: Helping working groups determine purpose and structure, facilitating meetings for collaborative tasks, decision-making and synchronization
How solutions consultants can help you
When you’re in the initial conversations about GoTo technology, you may have technical questions and requirements that go beyond what your sales representative can address. That’s where we come in. As your solutions consultants, we look at everything we need to solve for, then and connect all the right stakeholders to find solutions. We ask a lot of questions and leave no stone unturned when it comes to discovering and meeting your unique needs. We customize product demos specifically to your use case, make sure the technology meets your every need, and keep deployment on track.
Our methods can easily be applied to areas within your organization too, wherever and whenever you need to build bridges and connect stakeholders. Give the techniques mentioned here a try to make finding solutions easier.