Companies who think Presales is all about delivering killer demonstrations are failing to see the big picture.  By building a world class presales team, the glue between product and sales, your growth will become much easier.  

Most guidance and “best practice” is placed on building quota carrying sales organizations in which presales commonly assumes the role of creating and presenting demonstrations whenever an account executive has an interested lead. For many companies that is where their presales rigor ends and a huge opportunity for easy growth passes them by.

Below we detail strategies to build the world’s greatest presales team right alongside your growing sales team.  Doing so will turn your demo ninjas into your most valuable asset.

Responsibility

What does Presales do?  Deliver demonstrations? Answer Requests for Proposals (RFP)?  Answering this question internally at your company will ensure all teams are aligned and can operate with efficiency.  

The job of presales is to deliver a Technical Win for your sales organization.  Just as your account executives are responsible for managing the politics of an opportunity, and your sales managers are responsible for finalizing contracts, a deal should never cross the finish line without the prospect agreeing that you are providing the superior solution with respect to their business objectives and have addressed all technical concerns.  Making this happen is easier said than done, but this should ultimately fall under the role of presales.

Delivering a technical win can be accomplished using a variety of methods: Custom demonstrations, proof of concepts, questionnaires, head-to-head vendor bake-offs, time-limited trials, and more.  The most appropriate methods for your business may differ from others based on your market dynamics, but all are methods which the world’s greatest presales team should understand how and when to leverage.  

Presales can do more though.  What comes next can change the growth trajectory of your company.

Due to the fact that presales straddles product and sales, they have an incredibly valuable viewpoint on what features the market needs as well as the quality of sales opportunities.  The tough part is operationalizing processes to get that out of their collective consciousness and into systems, workflows, and metrics that can help you grow.

Once new products have been pushed out to market, the product management team unfortunately tends to fall into a reactionary mode.  Dealing with bugs, customer demands, and engineering refactoring, they often lose sight of how to prioritize the next set of deliverables.  There are simply not enough hours in the day or flexibility within schedules to allow product management to attend the sales discussions with prospects which allow them to push the company forward with conviction.  

Here is where presales can help.  By quantifying the relationship between sales opportunities and product development opportunities, the presales team can disseminate hundreds of hours of conversations and meetings into categories and metrics the product team can use to guide their decision making.  Based on your company’s business objectives, you may be searching for ways to grab revenue in a new vertical or perhaps move upmarket. Maybe you want to launch an entirely new product or do a M&A. Or maybe you just want to keep current customers from churning.

Whatever your motive, without quantifying and tracking the information presales is gathering every single day, growth will be much harder than it needs to be.  

Having a deep understanding of your offering will not only benefit your product team.  It can also make you a much more predictable sales organization. For any company looking to go public, or who is already public, you may already understand the weight of this responsibility.  

All of the sales processes, methods, and “best-practices” that have been written all omit the same thing — the impact of product fit on the sales forecast.  Companies need layers and layers of sales managers as well as ways to cleverly override forecasts due to the nature of trying to hit a quota and holding people accountable to that quota.  Most readers will have experienced at one time or another sales account executives who “commit because I had to”, who have “deals I’m trying to jam”, or are “sandbagging this opportunity”.  It’s the nature of sales and can lead to leadership wondering:

  • What deals do we really have a chance at closing this quarter?
  • What deals can I accelerate to make or beat the number?

Presales is the only team in your field who can answer both of these questions for you, and you’re probably not asking them.  The challenge, again, is to get this perspective out of the presales collective consciousness and into systems and processes you can track right alongside of your sales forecast.  Imagine:

  • Overlaying the status of a technical win against sales forecast categories
  • Seeing just how good, bad, or differentiated, your solution is in an opportunity  
  • Having a method to rank the quality of an opportunity to find the easiest path to revenue

These are the three things the world’s greatest presales team is doing.  Getting the technical win, correlating revenue opportunities with product opportunities, and helping you find the fastest (and most predictable) path to revenue.  What is your team doing?

Organization

What does a Presales org chart look like?  How does it change as the company grows? There are few — if any — recommendations available on this topic.  We’re going to change that by unpacking how a few individuals can grow to support hundreds, and then thousands, of account executives.  

First, it’s important to recognize the difference between building a presales vs. a sales organization.  Sales is relatively straightforward. Each account executive you hire carries a quota and has a probability of achieving that quota.  The quota and attainment may change from company to company, but ultimately you can model how many account executives you need to hit your revenue goals.  Layer on a manager for no more than eight account executives, segment them by size of prospect or industry, and you’re done!

Due to the demands of getting a technical win, Presales has a wide array of methods and strategies they are accountable for, making organization and scale more difficult.  As your company expands into new markets, geographies, verticals, etc. not everyone on the presales team can be an expert. It’s simply not possible to ask everyone on the presales team to know all product functionality, build custom demonstrations, have deep industry subject matter expertise, and the soft skills to help close seven figure plus deals.  

By booting up the world’s greatest presales team, you will find separation of duties as the organization grows.  You will need to hire for a variety of skill sets. Presales team members who can build demonstrations. Presales team members who are industry experts.  Presales team members who can quantify and justify business value through financial analysis. Plus, presales team members who are loved by prospects and can help close big deals.  

Sounds complex and prone to bloat.  If your company is going to efficiently grow, you also cannot afford to have an army of presales team members supporting every deal.  To keep growth efficiency in check, begin by adopting a simple metric which you can measure over time. This metric is the support ratio of Sales to Presales.  You may have seen or heard phrases such as “1:1 in named accounts and 2:1 in the Enterprise.” In this example, 2:1 means for every 2 account executives you need 1 Presales team member.  Diligently tracking and trending these ratios will not only tell you how you’re doing, but will identify areas within the sales process that need to be adjusted in order to keep growth efficient.  

When planning and building an organization it helps to have the end state in mind to guide decisions along the way.  Below is an example of a very mature presales organization and indicative of what the world’s greatest presales team can look like when supporting thousands of account executives on a global and public company scale:

Several key points stand out upon review of the organization chart above:

  • Presales leadership has multiple modes of segmentation — from geography (N.Am vs. EMEA) to market segment (Commercial vs. Enterprise)
  • Presales span of control contains 6-8 direct reports similar to sales — effective management becomes difficult after this point
  • Presales includes multiple specialist roles — from industry verticals to product specialists, potentially even financial analysis specialists
  • Presales is supported by a demo build team (both on and offshore) who can ease the burden of managing demonstration environments and building custom demonstrations

While the above model will most likely need to be grown into by your company, effective planning begins with the end state in mind.  Let this analysis guide you and your company will be able to build the world’s greatest presales team.

Taking The First Step

We built Hero by Vivun based on our experience working with and building sales, presales, and product teams at companies of all stages of maturity.  Transforming the way product and sales work together is the single greatest key to igniting growth. Hero by Vivun was designed to help you operationalize the strategies outlined above and more.  Contact sales or request a demonstration to learn more.