Presales Managers

How many of your salespeople and presales engineers really work together as partners and teammates?

The ones who do are probably your top performers. In most sales organizations, they are the ones who understand account situations more clearly, earlier in the process. They build more trust and stand out from competition. Their evaluations are shorter and more predictable. More of their evaluations convert into purchases.

But how many salespeople and presales engineers consistently work this way? In your own organization, how many salespeople truly think of presales engineers as partners? And how many presales engineers see the big picture and sell strategically?

Selling software to larger organizations in tough markets demands excellent teamwork. Everybody on the team has to know how to play their positions, and do what it takes to win, executing as a coordinated unit. If they don’t, their chances of winning drop dramatically.

Excellent teamwork requires salespeople to work with presales engineers as partners and strategic resources, AND presales engineers to think and sell like those strategic partners.

Your top performers are almost certainly working together on this basis.

But what about the rest? What about the salesperson who does not really think of presales engineers as strategic partners? And what if a presales engineer isn't thinking like that strategic partner? When either of these happens, it can have a major impact on performance.

The symptoms can show up in many ways. Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

Do some salespeople make a habit of setting up presales engineers to scramble or struggle?

Some examples of this include telling presales engineers to "just show up" at a client site for a meeting to "prepare" in the lobby beforehand.  Or setting unrealistic expectations with clients that the presales engineer has to struggle to meet or re-set.  Or aggressively pushing POCs on prospects, promising to do whatever it takes to prove that technology meets their needs.  And though it all, expecting presales to pull off compelling demonstrations and convincing POCs that set them apart from competition and establish strong value.

The salespeople who do this are usually shocked when they realize how much this costs them. When they realize how much more they can sell by working with presales engineers as partners —without losing control—teamwork becomes a priority. It becomes much more important to them for presales to get situational awareness and prep time. They become more collaborative and focused on setting presales up to win.

Senior Presales Engineer: “We used to see a series of sales/presales disconnects. The first was the disconnect between what the good salespeople do, and what the rest do. Then there was the difference between what the salespeople THINK they are doing and what they are really accomplishing. And there was a final disconnect between what sales management thought was happening and what was really going on out there”.

Sales manager: I have to admit I was surprised. I honestly thought that we were preparing more, working as teams, especially for initial calls. We are now committed to the team understanding as much as possible before we demonstrate or present anything. This will make a real difference.

Senior Presales: This was great! Now we are clear on what the SE's need to understand and do, what the salespeople need to do in order to help us do it, and how to work together as a team to do things that neither of us can do by ourselves. We came away stronger, significantly more competitive, especially well equipped to win in the current technology sales environment.

Are some sales teams fighting a losing battle trying to differentiate from the competition?

Trying to stand out from competition today by proving you have the best technology has become a tough sell. Buyers have watched major product gaps fade toward insignificance as vendors develop and acquire new capabilities to stay competitive. They routinely report that any of the vendor candidates on the short list could have provided the capabilities they needed.

Trust has become the ultimate competitive differentiator; presales engineers are in a unique position to help your teams earn it and stand out from the rest. More than ever, buyers DO strongly favor doing business with those they trust. Buyers report that the vendors who stood out from their competition were the ones they believed truly understood their situations and were committed to their success. The best presales engineers understand how to prominently display these traits at critical points in the sales process, driving the trust-building process and standing out from the competition.

Salesperson: “Responding to a call for a general demo and presentation, the presales consultant called the prospect to get the ‘big picture’. We got a more complete understanding of the situation, which helped us develop a better relationship with the prospect. They said they were glad to see that we were concerned about “getting it right”, and were much more credible than our competition. We got the inside track from then on, and ended up winning.”                               

Presales Manager: ”After our second meeting, a member of the prospect's evaluation team confided that they were formally tracking which vendors were trying to get the bigger picture, trying to understand their situation, what the business drivers were. He said that this was an important part of their evaluation, and that not every candidate had tried to understand their situation, and it had clearly hurt their chances.” 

Senior Sales person: After the meeting, the prospect said that they had actually gotten a lot out of our meeting, and did not feel like they had endured another ‘sales pitch’. They said that we really seemed to ‘get it’, that we were focusing on the things that really mattered to them. They mentioned –several times - that we were the only sales team to have done this, and it had really set us apart from the others.

Are evaluations and POC’s getting longer and less predictable?

Prospects are nervous about staking their reputations on delivering new systems in a shaky economy. Due diligence now means exhaustive testing. To make it worse, decision making processes reach higher in the organization, bringing more into the process. They join evaluations along the way, bringing their own agendas, moving the goalposts and lengthening the process.

Presales engineers can help clarify and compress evaluations. If they understand the prospect’s bigger picture, they can help crystallize objectives and define demonstrable scenarios of success. When the process inevitably gets off track, they can help everyone re-focus on achieving those scenarios, and avoid going down irrelevant side roads. They can help business sponsors confirm the proposed solution will deliver what the organization needs. Clarity and focus deliver faster, more decisive POC’s.

VP Sales:  “Our experience with the Proving Value Program?  Very straightforward: more sales, fewer sales calls."     

Managing Director, UK:  "This Proving Value workshop helped us understand what is it that we must do to prove the value of what we are proposing, irrespective of what the customer tells us needs to be done. This was a major turning point, being able to say with authority, 'No that's not the right thing for us or for you; let me suggest another approach'. And having that in fact turn out to be right."

Senior Account Manager, Strategic Accounts:   “We are more able to clearly understand what the prospect really needs to do and why it is important to the business. We can help the prospect understand what success looks like more clearly, so they and we have a clearer target. We now realize that NOT doing this has been a major contributor to sales cycles that used to run on and on, or end in no decision. Our POC’s can now be more focused, and not run on or come unraveled.”

Regional Technical Manager:  “The Proving Value approach helped us close our biggest win last quarter.  Not only did we win the evaluation, but the prospect had developed so much confidence in us that they did not require a proof of concept.”

Is it harder to keep your resources focused on the best opportunities?

Nobody can afford to spend time or energy on situations that don’t represent real opportunities for revenue. Resources and budgets are stretched. Access to them is contentious. Every deal counts because there are fewer opportunities in play. and to make matters worse, each opportunity now demands more resources to support nervous prospects with tough approval processes.

Presales and salespeople can team up to produce a clearer picture of where the business potential really is, and what needs to be done to secure it. Presales engineers looking for the bigger picture can help smoke out the time-wasters before they sap resources. They can get a clearer view of what has to be done to prove the capabilities will deliver what the organization needs. Concentrating on the best real opportunities and focusing on what truly needs to be done to win makes the most of your scarce resources and tight timeframes.

Director of Services: "Now we have a clear, simple model and vocabulary that gets right to the heart of how qualified an opportunity is. This is exactly what I had been trying to get across to our sales and presales people, but had not found the best way to articulate it. This is it. Its simplicity minimizes confusion, and its big picture perspective makes it powerfully effective."    

Senior Salesperson: ”Instead of just responding to an RFP that would have taken at least a week, I asked the presales engineer to get more involved. He was able to get a lot of inside information. Based on that, it was clear that we were nowhere close to being seriously considered. As a result, we ‘no-bid’ the RFP, and used the time to pursue-and close -other critical forecasted opportunities.”

Presales Manager: ”Some of the things we talked in the workshop just helped us save a deal. The presales engineers were told we needed to do a POC. Understanding the importance of resonating with the prospect’s decision process, we called into the client to get the ‘big picture’, and found they were no longer looking at competitors. The client agreed that a POC was not really necessary, that they were ready to go. We changed the project from a POC to a paid pilot, getting our services people involved. This was a 400K deal that was taken ‘off the market’.”

Do you pour support into evaluations only to hear ‘Thanks, but we are just not going to be able to move ahead right now’?

Even though you proved your software met the prospect's needs, they don't buy. Was the deal never real in the first place? Did the prospect get cold feet? In any case, your time and budget were wasted. But it gets worse. Not only did this opportunity not close, but to support it, you had to deny resources to other potential opportunities, which probably hurt their chances of closing. No-decisions have become extremely, dangerously expensive.

Presales engineers who are thinking strategically can help your support investments pay off three ways. First, they can help weed out time-wasting opportunities that should not have been on the forecast in the first place. Second, they can demonstrate crystal clear success scenarios that help prospects confirm and validate that proposed solution will accomplish what they need. And third, they can dampen concerns about deployment risks, raising confidence in timely system delivery.

VP of Presales Support:   "We closely track sales cycles requiring onsite trials, or proofs of concept. Using the Proving Value approach, our close rate on POC’s has jumped 50%."      

Senior Salesperson: “We used to pull presales out of the account just as soon as the POC was over. But after the workshop, we agreed that the SE team should do everything possible to support and stay in touch with the prospect. They did and were in the loop to defuse and neutralize issues that came up. In the end, the deal closed as forecast.”

Senior Salesperson: “My presales consultant called the prospect’s technical contact before our initial meeting to get more of the ‘big picture’. Then she used it to build a demo and presentation that reflected the prospect’s exact situation.  The demonstration showed we clearly understood their situation and exactly what they were trying to do.  They remarked that we were the only vendors who seemed to ‘get it’. And they fast-tracked the purchase based upon that one demonstration." 

Our job is to help more salespeople and presales engineers work together as real partners to form stronger, more competitive teams. Click here to find out more about how we do it.