It’s hard to overstate how important pre-sales practices are to the health of your bottom line. The pre-sales team’s job is to understand the customer’s business and show how your software and technology can provide a solution to their business challenges. The sales engineer’s (SE) technical knowledge allows them to present your solution and bring it to life for the customer, as well as highlight the specific features and aspects that will resonate with the relevant stakeholders.
Writing for Harvard Business Review, three authors from McKinsey argue that the pre-sales team can have two or three times the impact of lead generation activities on actual company revenue. They add that by improving the pre-sales team’s capabilities, organizations can increase revenues by 6 to 12 percent and speed the sales cycle by 10 to 20 percent. By covering all of the customer’s concerns and presenting effective demos at the start, a good SE can typically save up to 50 percent of the time spent on a deal. With that kind of influence over which deals close and which walk away, managers must make sure their pre-sales professionals are equipped to succeed.
And prospects recognize the importance of pre-sales, too. They want to try out your solution and see how it will work for them. They’re already qualified if your marketing and sales reps are doing their jobs. The prospect will have already done their own research and due diligence. They want to move beyond the sales rhetoric and get their hands on your solution – which is all the more reason why the SE is critical to your success.
In order to create a high-value sales enablement channel and keep your pre-sales team on track to deliver wins, consider changing your perspective and try the following:
1. Help your sales engineers focus on discovery, not product features.
True discovery meetings are equal parts asking questions and listening. Only when you understand the customer’s true business challenge will you able to promote the most value. And through probing, your pre-sales team may discover other potential opportunities, or at least get a much better understanding of the stakeholders’ positions, the stage of the sales process and the likelihood of closing.
So, before the meeting even begins, make sure your pre-sales team can do their homework. They should know who will be at the meeting, understand the prospect’s industry, and know how your solutions have helped others in the same field. Does your pre-sales team walk into a demo understanding the prospect’s business challenges? Do they engage in a conversation that demonstrates their understanding, while extracting additional intel from the customer? These conversations are critical to closing deals, although they’re not the last step in the process.
This information – along with analytical tools and models – can help managers decide where to allocate SE resources for the best return.
2. Guide your team to identify a value proposition that closes the deal faster.
The 2017 Richardson Selling Challenges survey found identifying a value proposition and differentiating your product to be a top challenge for sales leaders. The most effective pre-sales professionals are proficient at tailoring demos to align with the customer’s top interests – and fit with their technological environment.
Customer stakeholders want to see pitches that reflect the needs, limitations and opportunities of their existing technology, so they can assess whether your product will perform well in production. If your pre-sales team is not tailoring offerings and presentations to reflect their understanding of customer environments, they’re missing an opportunity to mitigate concerns of those who influence the purchase decision.
The pre-sales engineer needs to have expert understanding of the technical aspects of your product, but more importantly, needs to know as much as they can about the customer’s environment. Help them replicate a technical environment as quickly and easily as possible.
3. Let your sales engineer leave the customer alone during the PoC process – and give them the ability to assist remotely.
When your team can leave behind an exact replica of your software solution for prospects to use in a safe sandbox environment, they’re essentially continuing a conversation that can most effectively shorten the sales cycle. Cloud-based virtual demo labs make it fast and cost-effective for sales engineers to provide PoCs to prospects around the world, accessible with a simple link – no hardware to ship and no need to involve local IT.
When teams can monitor how prospects engage with on-demand demos and PoCs, they can spot opportune times to follow up or reach out with support, solving any individual problem swiftly through a remote connection. A lot of roadblocks can be overcome by allowing customers to play with a full version of your product and not a dumbed down or animated model. Analytics can also let managers know which sales engineer is delivering the most demos and PoCs, and which products are being demonstrated most often.
Your pre-sales team is in a unique position to increase your company’s revenue and shorten the sales cycle. In large part, that is because they are best able to serve as the customer’s mentor, coach and ally in the sales process. To maximize that leverage, pre-sales teams must deliver customized, remote product demonstrations that reflect their understanding of your buyers’ needs.