Sales Managers:

Top salespeople know the best presales engineers are much more than technical support resources: they are strategic sales weapons.

The best presales engineers help salespeople understand accounts more clearly, stand out from competition, shorten sales cycles, and gain more commitment.  

But there seems to be a chronic shortage of presales engineers who can provide these advantages, who can think and sell strategically.

Now more than ever, every salesperson needs help with mounting challenges.  Pipeline visibility is at an all-time low, making it tough to qualify, compete and negotiate. Competition has closed the capabilities gap, making it harder to differentiate from them. Sales cycles are getting longer, jeopardizing the ability to close enough deals to hit revenue targets. And getting prospects to commit, to close has never been a bigger struggle. 

Great presales engineers already help in all these areas. What if more of your presales engineers could think and sell like strategic sales weapons? How much difference could it make?

Click on the topics below for some examples of how other sales leaders are leveraging the presales role to deal with some of their biggest challenges.

Clearly understanding account situations, especially early in the process

Nothing is more important than understanding account situations clearly and early in the game. But prospects are more guarded, reluctant to share information with salespeople. They often attempt to spin salespeople’s view of their situation to serve hidden agendas. Misunderstandings and blind spots spawn ugly surprises late in the sales cycle.

Presales engineers have natural advantages to help clear up the picture. The best presales engineers already use their freer account access, more candid contacts, and legitimate reasons to understand more about the prospects’ situation. They serve as eyes and ears on the inside, gaining critical insight that is otherwise unavailable.

Managing Director: "Our salespeople now learn more about our opportunities by NOT being in meetings. Our presales engineers and consultants can now get much more of the truth when we are not there.”    

Senior Account Manager: ”I can get a much better sense of how qualified any opportunity is now.  One recent prospect did not want to discuss anything but technical requirements.  But when the presales consultant went back in alone, the prospect’s technical people really began to open up with him.  They shared a bigger picture of business problems and their strategy to deal with them. These were the same people who had insisted that ‘it was purely a technical decision’ when talking with me.’”       

Presenting more compelling value propositions than competition

Research shows buyers see few ‘killer’ advantages or fatal flaws among major vendors anymore. Salespeople spin their wheels trying to present unique, compelling value. Too many sales cycles degenerate into long feature wars that fail to produce clear winners and end with prospects demanding massive discounts.

The presales role offers real potential to create a compelling competitive differentiator: TRUST. Research shows prospects’ biggest worry is the impact that project problems could have on their reputations and careers. They are looking for experts they can trust. The vendor who appears most trustworthy stands out prominently. The best presales engineers can build strong situational trust by demonstrating they understand the prospects’ situations – they ‘get it’- and are committed to help them succeed.

Salesperson: “Last month, one prospect said they were happy to see how we were making a real effort to understand their situation, to “get it right”. He said we seemed much more credible than the competition. From then on, we got the inside track, and ended up winning.”                               

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

Senior Salesperson: “Before our meeting, my presales consultant called the prospect’s technical contact to get more of the ‘big picture’. Then she used that understanding to build a demo and presentation tightly focused on the prospect’s specific situation.  The demonstration showed we understood their situation – not just their technical requirements - and showed them exactly what they were trying to do.  They later told us that we had been the only vendors who seemed to ‘get it’. They fast-tracked the purchase based upon that one demonstration." 

Longer, more expensive, less predictable sales cycles

Like doctors ordering multiple tests to avoid liability exposure, buyers are evaluating every possible feature/function to avoid project issues that could impact their careers. They often lose sight of the real objective of the evaluation and wander off track, down into the technical weeds.

Presales engineers can help clarify, focus, and shorten sales cycles. Great presales engineers don’t simply react to prospect requirements. They get the bigger picture, help articulate the objective, and coach the prospect along the path towards it, avoiding extraneous testing. Visualizing the solution helps business sponsors confirm it will deliver what the organization needs. Shorter, more convincing POC’s make shorter sales cycles.

VP Sales:  “Our experience with the Proving Value Program?  Simple: fewer sales calls, more sales”.     

Senior Account Manager, Strategic Accounts:   “Our POC’s can now be more focused, and not run on or come unraveled. We are more able to clearly understand what the prospect really needs to do and why it is important to the business. We help the customer understand what success looks like more clearly, so we both 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'.

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.”           

Motivating prospects to commit, to buy

There have never been more hazards on the way to closing. Too many opportunities turn out to never have been real in the first place. Business cases fail to get traction in tougher approval processes. Prospects balk at committing because they are afraid of the impact problems could have on their careers in uncertain times. In any case, another deal drops out of the forecast.

Presales engineers can help avoid no-decisions three ways. They can help keep the fatally flawed opportunities off the forecast by helping salespeople get a clearer view of account situations. They can confirm and reinforce the expected business value by making the deliverable tangible and crystal clear. And they can encourage prospects to commit by helping them predict risks and plan to manage them.

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 an account just as soon as the POC was over. But after the workshop, the SE team now does everything possible to stay in touch with the prospect. Recently, they were in the loop to defuse and neutralize issues launched by knowledgeable competition with nothing to lose. In the end, the deal closed as forecast.”

Presales Manager: “We are getting good at working together to ‘smoke out’ whether a prospect actually has a business case for buying software.  And when we can’t find one, the opportunity doesn’t make it onto the forecast. We don’t waste time supporting it, and it never becomes a no-decision.”

Maintaining visibility and momentum dealing with procurement

Salespeople routinely encounter procurement officers insisting the final decision will be totally based on price—and they are in no hurry to buy. Lines of communication dry up; information is hard to get. Running out of time to close the sale, salespeople worry the deal will slip or die if they don’t submit to massive discounts.

Presales engineers can provide salespeople with clearer visibility and more negotiating leverage. First, they help salespeople get more of the truth about the prospects business pressures, impact, and timeframes along the way, so they are already better armed when they get to this point. Second, by building stronger prospect trust and confidence in success, they represent a lower-risk, higher value solution. Third, they can often enlist covert help from sponsors who want the vendor who gives them the highest probability of success- the experts they can trust.

Regional Technical Director:  ”The program was excellent preparing us to help during the negotiation phase. In our largest opportunity of the quarter, procurement told the salesperson to communicate only with them, nobody else. Meanwhile, the presales team stayed close with the prospect’s technical team and found reasons to meet. The first thirty minutes of the meeting was all about technology, but the next hour was about their buying process. They casually mentioned that they had stopped looking at other vendors three months ago, and were ready to go. Presales discreetly informed the salesperson, who then knew he did not have to drastically discount in order to get the sale. We got it, and this was a seven figure deal.” 

Senior Presales Engineer: ”I am staying more connected to the technical side all the way through the process, not just until a ‘technical sale’ is made. In one recent opportunity, the people on the technical side really opened up about what was going on inside the company during the procurement. Before the workshop, I would not have done this.”

Senior Presales Engineer:  “At (major insurance company), the late cycle played out just like the workshop predicted. It was very useful to understand why the prospect was behaving that way, and how to take advantage of the SE’s position to build traction and visibility.” 

Our job is to help you leverage the advantages of the presales role to find and close more business. Click here to find out how we do it.