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Author's profile photo Arun Godwin Patel

Who could have predicted that?… A placement year in Presales

With only a few days left of my 13-month internship at SAP, now is a good time for some reflection.

I can definitely say that gone are the tea making internships of old as, within days of walking through the door, I was faced with the challenge of delving into a field, which remains fuzzy to many business people.

This challenge was Predictive Presales. From discussions with my friends, I thought I was going to be predicting who was going to buy something before they did, which sounded pretty cool. But nowhere near on target.

I look at Presales as the driving force behind the end goal of a sale. Behind Lionel Messi there are 10 other players. But without the team, you have just one lonely player floundering helplessly…

Presales are so much more than just this though, even if – during in my short stay at SAP – it has evolved into a whole new concept.

It’s no longer just the expert advice and the trusted advisor, presenting software to the customer. It’s having your own opinion, influencing others through social media, being memorable and creative, having a virtual presence, engaging customers in workshops and identifying root causes, being a thought leader in your chosen field and, of course, knowing your solution or industry inside out and upside down… I can’t remember any of that being in the job description!

But what a pleasant surprise this was. Coming fresh from the Mathematics Department at Loughborough University, I was keen to deploy the skills that I had been trained to use. What I wasn’t so keen to do was standing up and talking in front of people. But, with an opportunity like this placement year, you just have to take the risk and go for it.

After many hours in empty rooms talking to a whiteboard and refining my presentation skills, while strangers walked past pondering my madness, I was starting to get the hang of it. Throw in the soft skills training courses, such as Design Thinking, Discovery, Demonstration skills, Memorable Presence and many more… and not only had I learned how to deliver an engaging presentation, but I had also grown in confidence.

What’s harder than standing up in front of a crowd of people? Standing in front of a camera looking yourself in the eye, and having to hear your unbearably monotone voice back again. Alongside the soft skills, I was also championing the Virtual Studio, a space where employees and customers can create engaging videos for internal or external use. This was a great opportunity to network, use my creativity and get my first taster of customer interactions.

After these base Presales skills had been developed, it was time to get a feel for some of the actual products sold.

Naturally, I was assigned to the Predictive product and the BI Suite, but I also wanted to explore the world of the Cloud, so I picked up Cloud for Customer and Customer Engagement Intelligence (Hybris Marketing) too. I began by playing around with the tools, building my own models, assisting on the creation of demo environments… but I was hungry to learn more and to get out there and do this myself.

So fast-forward through the endless pile of demo scripts and many more empty rooms with bewildered passers-by, and I was ready to show what I’d learnt to the gatekeepers (managers). Of course, it wasn’t perfect, and feedback is a gift (one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt this year) so, I decided to shadow some of the more experienced people in my team. Constantly learning and picking up tips and tricks, I was ready to try again. Then, completely caught off guard, I was asked to do a customer demonstration.

This was a pivotal point in my year; I had demonstrated the Predictive product to a customer. Now that I had proved to myself and to others that I could do this, the customer interactions came thick and fast.

I started to feel like a valued member of the Presales team. From building up this repertoire of being a subject matter expert for Predictive Analytics, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to further extend and share my knowledge at the BI & PA Boot camp in Rome. Then I was given the chance to present on the topic of Big Data and Advanced Analytics to an audience of customers at a Special Interest Group… All of these opportunities were amazing, considering I am JUST an intern. But being an intern, once given opportunities, the role is really whatever you make it.

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The Predictive team in Rome at the BI/PA Bootcamp June 2015.

The gold dust I collected this year was conducting an end to end discovery to demonstration cycle with real customer data and being involved in Proof of Concepts. From the discovery meeting at their office, to building the predictive model, to then having to manipulate and enrich this messy dataset into something insightful, I was there on the front line.

This was what all my training prepared me for, reaching the highest certification for Predictive Analytics, trawling through all those demo scripts, and finally deploying my mathematical skills. This was the moment I was dreaming of at the beginning of the year.

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L4 Predictive Certification Training April 2015.

So, this wasn’t just an internship, this was a life lesson, a set of invaluable skills, unbelievable experiences, becoming a subject matter expert, having a weird attachment to the predictive product and so much more. I felt like a real member of the team.

None of this would have been achievable without the dedicated, trustworthy and supportive people who saw the potential in me and brought it to the fore. So a special thank you to the managers I worked under and the mentors that were the port of call whenever I needed it, even when it was just for a catch up about the football.

Thank you for a great and rewarding year at SAP and I hope to see you in the future.

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      Author's profile photo Dean Farrow
      Dean Farrow

      excellent overview of presales life - great job.