FAS: Giving a Pre-Sales Seminar

Prepare and practice giving a pre-sales technology presentation for potential customers

Background

A field application specialist (FAS) is often the primary customer-facing employee of a company. The main responsibility of an FAS is to help the customer use their company’s technology in-person (e.g., in the field). The nature of an FAS job requires the complement of excellent communication and interpersonal skills with broad and in-depth technology and scientific knowledge. The specific responsibilities of an FAS job can vary depending on the size of the company, the technology/product catalogue, location of customers, and whether the FAS professional is involved in pre-sales and/or to post-sales interactions with the customer.

In some cases, an FAS will be tasked with giving a technology presentation to future customers (pre-sales seminar) where the goal is to show a customer how the technology meets their needs.

The Process

In a pre-sales seminar, the FAS needs to show the customer how the technology can fit their current or future needs by clearly describing the technology, providing proof of function and real-life applications. The FAS also addresses how this technology is a solution to a customer’s pain points (ex: challenges with hardware, software, access to equipment, experimental variability, etc.).  The following is an example process. Keep in mind the process may look very different depending on the company.

Pre-sales seminar

  • Sales representative requests the FAS to give a talk on a technology to a prospective client or group of clients
  • Talk/email with sales rep to learn more about the clients (e.g., the area of study, likely uses of technology, what they currently use, pain points, key users, etc.)
  • Assemble presentation slides adapted to the client’s specific interests. Slides often include publications using technology in a similar field
  • Schedule seminar with prospect
  • Deliver the technology presentation
  • Follow up and answer questions in person or by email post-presentation

Depending on the company, a salesperson is usually responsible for collecting contacts, arranging follow up meetings with the prospect, and performing the sale. In some companies, the FAS is responsible for some or all of the sales component.

Your role:

You are a first year FAS at a small technology company and you are tasked with giving a technology talk.

The exercise:

Create a technology talk, present it to a friend/colleague that has never used that equipment, and get their feedback.

When interviewing for FAS positions, applicants are often asked to prepare and give a technology or scientific presentation in order to assess their ability to communicate complex information clearly, engage an audience, and to build a compelling story/case.

Task 1: Select and research the technology

Pick one technology, software, or product that you know very well and research the following:

  • On the company website – time to data, example data, highlights of the technology/product
  • On PubMed or Google Scholar – high profile publications that use the technology
  • Talk to colleagues who use the technology/product to get information

Alternatively, pick your favorite technology company and one of their products.

Spend no more than 1-2 hours on this task.

Task 2: Prepare a short presentation

Prepare a presentation following the guidelines below. Your goal is to convince the audience to use the technology. You are not making the actual sale (sales reps do this), but you should guide the audience to want to buy. Make sure to include these components:

  1. Clear description of the problems or pain points solved by the technology
  2. Overview of technology – how it solves the problem, how it works, what the pieces are, time to data, etc
  3. Examples of technology working – pictures it can take, data from a dilution series, etc
  4. Literature examples of technology, if available, or literature examples where the technology could have been used
  5. Wrap up

An actual pre-sales seminar may be an hour long, but for the purposes of this job simulation, limit yourself to about 10 slides total (1-2 slides per component above). Try to budget your time to spend no more than 1-2 hours preparing the slides. The delivery of the presentation is more important!

An FAS at a large company will likely have access to template slide decks and previously prepared presentations. However, if you’re the first FAS, you might be in the position of developing them yourself!

Focus on 3-4 takeaway messages that you want your audience to remember after you are done with your talk. The audience may include the PI, lab manager and key users in the lab.

Do not:

  • Include actual prices. Quoting the right price for a customer is a sales rep’s job.
  • Use too much jargon
  • Use negative language
    • Instead of “ previous technology was terrible!” say “our new technology vastly improves…”

Here is a shortened example pre-sales talk from Fluidigm. Note that the FAS only has a few talking notes for complex slides and that slide 9 has a prompt to give current examples of successful use of the technology.

Task 3: Practice your presentation

Practice your presentation out loud. Keep your total presentation time to 20-30 minutes including time for questions afterwards.

Your goals are to:

  • Give the talk using the slides as visual aides (no reading notes!)
  • Make the talk seem like a natural conversation
  • Think of ways to engage the audience
  • Think of ways to make sure your audience will remember your takeaway points

Task 4: (Advanced) Present and get feedback on your presentation

Ask another scientist/colleague that has never used the technology/product to listen to your talk and provide feedback.

After your presentation ask them:

  • What were the takeaways?
  • Are they interested in using the product?
  • What was the best part of the presentation?
  • How could the presentation be improved?

The Deliverable

Task 1-3: 10-12 slide presentation

Task 4: Notes on feedback

In larger companies, you may start practicing delivering this talk in-house and would likely shadow one or more FASs giving a pre-sales seminar before giving the talk yourself. You may receive feedback/approval of your slides from your mentor, manager, or the FAS you shadow before giving the talk to customers.

Sample Deliverable 1:

Resources:

Skills used to perform this task: 

  • Persuasive skills
  • Verbal communication – engaging the audience
  • Technical knowledge
  • Technical experience
  • Presentation skills
  • Ability to communicate science clearly

Skills used in FAS:

  • Verbal & nonverbal communication – how you or your customer present yourselves can really affect an interaction!
  • Acting skills – a customer might take out their frustration with the product on you, how do you maintain calm under duress?
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Technical knowledge and experience (of a product/catalogue)
  • Technical writing skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Ability to communicate science clearly to different audiences
  • Ability to quickly adapt to customer’s needs
  • Negotiation
  • Teaching skills – can you explain how to use a product?

Additional tasks:

A professional in the field of Field Application Scientist may also perform these tasks:

  • Give a pre-sales demo
  • Troubleshoot customer questions
  • Present a post-sales technology talk. Post-sales talks are similar to pre-sales talks, but focus on how to do the experiments. Here are two full-length post-sales training technology talks as examples:
  • Train customers post-sales (which may include going over user manuals)

You are viewing a job simulation. To get started, set up SMART Goals to perform this simulation in a reasonable timeline. If you have completed the task, fill out the Self-Reflection Sheet.

Simulation author: Linet Mera, PhD

This simulation vetted by FAS professionals in the Bay Area