Breaking into SAP with Pre-Sales Experience
In this section of our Classic SAP Career Q and A, Jon Reed shares some key points from comments he has given over the years to those breaking into SAP with pre-sales experience. If you have further feedback on this topic, please post it as a comment on one of Jon's SAP Career Blog entries.  

What is the best way to break into SAP consulting if you have a sales and marketing background? Can you get a job with a Tier One Consulting firm?

If you have a strong sales and marketing background, you may be able to get a consulting position with a tier one or two firm, but I seriously doubt that consulting position will be related to SAP in any way. SAP consulting firms are expected to provide very experienced SAP consultants to projects. There's no longer a chance to get placed on a project as a junior consultant - companies just won't pay for it. If they want a junior person on a project, they'll pull someone from the internal team or hire them as a "perm" employee.

I think a sales and marketing person will have an easier time breaking into SAP by trying to land a sales (or even better, a pre-sales) position with a third party software vendor that works closely with SAP. There are a lot of very successful SAP software partners, and many of them are looking for sales talent. A good pre-sales position will really help to acquaint you with SAP technology. Who knows, you might even be able to find such a position with SAP itself. Remember that pre-sales positions tend to involve a decent amount of technical exposure. This can be a great way to get your feet wet in the technology and start to position yourself for a deeper SAP consulting role over time.

This advice is in keeping with my recommended method: take a "gradual" route to breaking into SAP. It takes longer, but the advantage of this approach is that instead of coming off as junior level "SAP wannabe," you can move into SAP-related jobs from a position of strength, leveraging your overall skills and background.

 

What if you are already in a pre-sales role outside of SAP and want to get into the SAP consulting field? Can you break in by taking a very low salary?

Reducing your salary to break into SAP is not something I recommend. It gives companies the impression you are "bargain merchandise." The fact is that when companies hire SAP talent, they have certain skill requirements they are not going to bend on, no matter how low you are willing to go. A *much* better approach is to go after SAP by drawing on your strengths. So, you have to figure out what skills you have that SAP users might need. Let me throw out one possible approach: if you already have pre-sales experience, why not get a job in a pre-sales capacity for a third party software vendor that targets SAP users? There are so many SAP enhancement tools out there, and they all have to be integrated into the SAP product in some way. You could learn a lot about SAP by taking on such a pre-sales position. The best part of that scenario is that you would be attractive to such companies because you have the pre-sales background. They might well be willing to train you to fill in the gaps. Adopting this gradual approach to breaking into SAP might take you longer, but you won't get as frustrated, and you will be able to pay your bills all along the way.

 

What is the best way to break into SAP if you have a sales and marketing background? Will certification help?

When you have a sales and marketing background, your skills match up well with the sales side of the SD module. I would also look ahead to SAP CRM as another product area where your current skills would come into play. The more you can target the area of SAP that relates to your existing skills, the more success you will have. If you do get certified, you will find the response to your certification underwhelming. The main benefit of getting certified is developing a network of other aspiring SAP professionals to share leads and market information with. Usually, the best way into SAP is to simply get hired by a company that is implementing SAP or planning a major upgrade. However, sales and marketing folks have another option. You can move into sales or pre-sales for either SAP, or perhaps for a third party vendor that sells add-on products for SAP environments. The best thing about pre-sales is that you begin to get technical experience, while building on your existing sales and marketing experience. You may also be able to find a way into SAP by helping SAP service firms develop new business opportunities. Patience and a long-term view are both keys to making this work.

 

If you have further feedback on this topic, please post it as a comment on one of Jon's SAP Career Blog entries.