One of the biggest things we were excited to talk about in the PreSales Leadership Executive Summit this year was our new PreSales Academy. Yuji Higashi, co-founder of PreSales Collective and PreSales Academy, offered an introduction to the Academy and the results from our first cohort of participants.
Why PreSales Academy Exists
The biggest challenge we face as hiring managers in PreSales is the talent gap. Everybody is hiring - they all want qualified and experienced talent to fill the many empty PreSales roles. Right now, there’s not enough talent in the pool with that experience. But there are a lot of people who have the qualities or raw potential if given a chance, and that’s what we’re providing.
PreSales Academy is here to help managers hire. It’s especially hard to hire diverse talent from non-traditional backgrounds, and that’s (rightfully) becoming a bigger priority in the tech world these days. PreSales Academy provides hiring managers with vetted, trained talent you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Another major reason we founded the PreSales Academy is that PreSales is an amazing career - more people should have access to it! We’ve all benefited from it, and people just need a little help in developing the fundamentals of PreSales plus the access to get into the career we all love.
What the PreSales Academy Looks Like
It’s a 10 week part-time program focused on reskilling. Currently, it’s focused on people with a few years of professional experience who are looking to make a career change, not on existing PreSales professionals or new college grads.
The Academy covers the foundational topics of PreSales - discovery, sales, foundational technology, etc. And it also incorporates many role plays because it’s not just about absorbing information, but also developing competency in demos and presentations. Our instructors drill the participants until they feel comfortable doing demos.
Networking and connections are also important in starting a career in PreSales and driving it forward. The PreSales Academy provides our participants with a network and support systems too to help them through this big career change.
Our curriculum was built with the help of two inputs. Partly through skilled training partners like 2Win! and GreatDemo who train sales engineers at some of the biggest and most successful companies around. And we also have dozens of community PreSales professionals who provide input on everything based on their real-world experience in the profession. They’re also the support network and it’s been inspiring to see how committed the whole community is to this project.
What the PreSales Academy Provides
We provide hiring managers with trained professionals who are developing the core PreSales competencies. They aren’t going to be perfect at everything right off the bat, and will be entry level, but they’re also already comfortable with doing a demo. They also are getting coaching and mentorship through their transition in the PreSales profession.
Hiring managers are also getting thoroughly vetted candidates because our participants are expected to hit certain bars on professionalism, tasks, and demos. In the hiring process, you can spend a couple hours at most when vetting people - but we spend weeks with them doing the vetting for you.
We want PreSales Academy attendants to get the PreSales jobs they want - and set them up for long-term career success as well.
How We’re Funded
In the spirit of transparency, we’re being clear about who pays what in the PreSales Academy. Students pay tuition but there’s also an option to defer if they can’t pay upfront - they don’t have to pay at all if they don't land a job paying at least $70k per year. This helps bring people into the profession who can’t afford the tuition up front because we don’t want that to be a barrier to access.
Hiring companies also contribute to the Academy through placement contributions, but only if they hire a student and they’re in the role for a certain period of time. And we have sponsors who support the mission as well.
The goal is to create a win-win-win situation for everyone.
Our Early Successes
Our diversity numbers are making a positive difference - our first cohort was small but in the right direction. We’ll continue to track our progress and publish numbers to keep it transparent.
One student, Brittany, is a former nurse - she has the people and discovery/diagnosis skills but just needed to be comfortable with the tech aspects and get to know the PreSales side. She’s just one example of success in our initial cohort.
We’ve been building out the Academy since July. Applications are now open for the second cohort, which starts in January. We’re also focused on enhancing the program based on our learnings from the first cohort - and will continue to evolve and iterate.
And we also want to expand. We’ve established a future goal of impacting 100 people through the program and getting them into PreSales roles. Our next step is to refine and scale so we can impact more people.
How to Support the PreSales Academy
If you’ve interviewed candidates for PreSales roles who might not have quite hit the mark but have potential, refer them to us! And let us know how we can support you as a hiring partner. Spreading the word is great too - it helps us reach more people. And we’re always looking for more volunteers too if you’re able and interested.
Advice to Hiring Managers
Have an open mind. As a hiring manager in my early days, I always wanted to find the unicorn - but that’s impossible. You can find great opportunities to give people a chance who don’t have the perfect resume, but they have the attitude, the desire to learn, and the curiosity to figure it out - take a chance on them!
And not just these students but other people who need a chance - let them prove themselves and everybody wins. Be open-minded and flexible. Folks who are trying to break into a specific field are passionate, smart, and engaged - they can be valuable employees for years to come.