Pre-Sales Requirements Engineering based on Miller Heiman’s Sales Approach

Abstract. Requirements engineering (RE) is not only part of the process while delivering or creating a service or product. In the pre-sales phase, RE activities play an important role during the offer preparation. Although this sounds like business as usual there is a major difference: the pre-sales phase entails challenges (e.g., a limited duration or the contractor’s pre-investment) having a tremendous impact on all of these activities. However, from a project manager’s perspective these challenges are nothing but risks—in the pre-sales phase usually addressed best by sales approaches like Miller Heiman’s. The latter appears to be even more interesting since it uses requirements engineering strategies to mitigate other typical sale’s risks. Therefore a joint approach appears not only feasible but worth a try. Conducting a risk analysis of the pre-sales phase and examining the performance of this joint approach reveals how well the two fit together.


Requirements engineering and management are typically activities associated with the delivery or creation of a service or product. Usually a contract already exists and everybody is ready to get to the details. Yet, a lot of requirements engineering activities already take place during the pre-sales phase. In order to prepare a reasonable offer, the major objectives are to solve the prospective customer’s problem and to ensure the offer is sufficiently precise providing the contractor a positive outcome, i.e., an overall win-win situation. To meet these objectives usually the following questions have to be answered: What has to be done? Can it be done? What does it cost? How long does it take? Typical means to answer these questions are a project calculation that is based on an effort estimation that is based on something that basically describes what needs to be done which affords some sort of requirements engineering activity. Although this sounds like business as usual there is a major difference: the challenges the pre-sales phase entails and their impact on the above mentioned activities. However, neither project management nor requirements engineering alone addresses these challenges straight away with appropriate measures. From a project manager’s perspective they are actually risks:

“A risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on the projects objectives” [1].

Strategies or risk responses are needed to secure the pre-investment, eliminate uncertainty and to safeguard the sale’s aftermath—strategies that typically belong to the sales discipline.

Talking about sales nearly immediately leads to the company of Miller Heiman and its sales approach. It provides not only appropriate risk responses sought for the presales phase: these sales expert realized that merely pushing products or services might not meet the client’s expectations and even introduces the risk of losing a potential contract [2]. Listening to the customer first suddenly becomes en vogue or rather a risk response for sales people—a strategy typically used by requirement engineers. Therefore a combined approach appears not only to be feasible but to be worth a try.

This article series introduces such a joint approach based on Miller Heiman. In order to support the idea, the first section outlines the most important risks of the pre-sales phase. The following section briefly describes the Miller Heiman approach and contributes its risk responses (mostly mitigation strategies). Yet, the Miller Heiman approach also entails its own risks (aka secondary risks [1]) which are responded by requirements engineering measures eventually followed by this paper’s final conclusions.

Christoph Oemig

Christoph Oemig

studierte Medieninformatik mit dem Schwerpunkt Mensch-Computer Interaktion und Betriebswirtschaft in Wedel und Furtwangen. Er ist IREB Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering (CPRE), IIBA Certfied Business Analysis Professional (CBAP), UXQB Certified Professional for Usability and User Experience (CPUX) und gestaltet als Lead Business Analyst bei der Deutschen Bank die anforderungstechnischen Belange im Bereich Cash und Selbstbedienung. Er ist Mitglied der Fachgruppe Requirements Engineering der Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) sowie des Berufsverbandes der Deutschen Usability und User Experience Professionals (German UPA) und regelmäßig Referent auf Tagungen und Konferenzen zu Themen des Requirements Engineerings, der Business Analyse sowie dem Usability Engineering.
Christoph Oemig

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