Most sales guys sell FREE sales, not PRE sales… sound familiar? Well it’s the same story all over the world.

On a recent trip to Sweden I heard someone really talking my language when he said: “I hate it when these salespeople think pre-sales means free-sales.”

I’m lucky that English is the main language in the tech industry, and terms like ‘pre-sales’ transcend whether the direct translation is in Swedish or whatever. But he could have been speaking any language and I would still have understood the thrust of his argument: that people everywhere are guilty of overlooking real value!

Pre-sales is one of many processes in a sales cycle that need to be completed in order for the customer to sign on the dotted line. It strikes at the heart of what CFOs fail to pick up in their spreadsheets: that sales aren’t 100% associated with the individual salesperson – unless the underlying product is just a commodity.

Of course pre-sales have little value in a commodity-driven, transactional sales environment where the channel just shovels technology along the supply chain and it ends up with the customer. The customer doesn’t need a POC (proof of concept), or architected design to convince them of this solution, or pre-staging to determine configuration and integration with other systems. Box-shifters don’t even need eval kit!

Conversely, when the objective is penetrating new markets and high value opportunities with disruptive new technology, pre-sales is a critical part of a value generating mix. Other frequently overlooked dimensions to this include: project “speccing”, ownership of the customer relationship/customer insights, demand creation through marketing, customer lead and opportunity detection, and captivating the customer through broader market/technology vision.

Where vendors and channel partners seek value, they need to understand where the value needs to come from. Most importantly of all, they need to recognise that value must be paid for.

I believe it is universally true that, “something given away for nothing has no value.” What I mean by this is that you can’t expect the recipient of something to appreciate the value of it, unless they’ve had to pay for it.

What my Swedish friend highlights is the lazy disregard for pre-sales as a valuable deliverable in its own right. That laziness means lost revenue for the salesperson concerned. These individuals clearly don’t have the skill or the self-belief to assert the value of an integral process.

So it isn’t just pre-sales who should be enraged when their skills are given away for free, it’s the owners and principals of channel companies who employ them. Valuable, expensive resources can’t be given away for zero revenue return and treated as a business overhead.

Think about it: “something given away for nothing has no value” has a lot in common with the old adage, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” We’ve all had business lunches thrown for us, and while they appear to be free, you know are indirectly “paying” for it through some unspoken favour to be returned in the future. This “payment” demonstrates that you value the lunch – else why the hell did you accept it!?