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What is PreSales or Sales Engineering
Gain a deeper understanding of the important roles that PreSales or Sales Engineers play in the sales process and their overall impact on the success of a business.
If you aren’t from the sales industry, the term PreSales would apply to all activity before sales even starts, “pre”, “sales”. By definition, PreSales would include all the marketing and lead generation up to the SQL or Sales Qualified Lead.
This is not even close to the truth.
PreSales are critical for many B2B businesses — especially those dealing in technology. It defines various activities that the business does before the customer is brought on board.
In the technical sales cycle, the PreSales is the initial stage. Unlike marketing, PreSales involve lead qualification, customer research, making strategic calls and evaluating products with the competitors.
The PreSales process helps reduce the technical sales cycle. It helps to better understand the customer before a contact is made by the sales team.
“...companies with strong PreSales capabilities consistently achieve win rates of 40–50% in new business and 80–90% in renewal business—well above average rates.” as cited in McKinsey.
With the advancement of technology and access to information becoming more convenient, companies are transforming into technology-focused entities. As a result, the demand for PreSales is increasing.
Although sales account executives are skilled in initiating and finalizing transactions, buyers require specialists to assist them in making informed purchasing decisions, especially with the introduction of sophisticated technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, among others.
Therefore, PreSales professionals excel in this role.
Objective of PreSales
The broad-objective of PreSales is to support GTM functions and teams find, win, and renew customers. Whereas the niche-objective is to obtain a technical win. A technical win is when the proposed solution is more valuable, impactful, and superior to that of your competitor.
PreSales sit at the center of a GTM ecosystem – as they have firsthand experience talking to the customers, as well as, they know the product inside-out. PreSales know the best of both worlds. They help build a product that solves market needs, improves product adoption, and drives revenue back to the company.
PreSales vs Sales
PreSales are technical experts within an organization that come into play after the Account Executive (AE) has completed the introductory call.
On the other hand, Sales come towards the end of the deal, near to contract negotiation. PreSales and Sales are distinct roles and cater to different responsibilities. But true productivity is unlocked when both teams work together, accelerating revenue.
PreSales have a set of activities during the technical sales process that involves lead qualification, customer discovery, product demo, proof-of-concept (POCs), implementation and follow up.
On a day-to-day basis, a PreSales workflow involves identifying, qualifying, and nurturing opportunities. Once the new client has completed a successful evaluation, PreSales enable sales team to close the deal more confidently.
PreSales roles are vast in number, some of them include Sales Engineers, Solution Consultants, Technical Sales Advisors, and others. All of them work in PreSales, with little to no-difference in their day-to-day routine workflows.
Yes, some may choose to work with a Product Manager, since PreSales folks must have complete product expertise, meanwhile sharing market knowledge with the product team.
- Conceptualizing solutions for sales to take into a market (not to be confused with product management role)
- Consulting with prospects where a problem or need is not clearly defined, to shape up an opportunity
- Complete ownership of piecing together the technical solution (and cost estimates) that meets the prospect needs
- Coordination with various internal & external stakeholders to build the proposals / respond to RFx
- Continuously working through the sales cycle with the sales teams for pipeline conversion – defending bids, fine tuning the proposal to meet the technical and budgetary specs
- Projecting the “thought leadership” of the organization (and self) through blogs, whitepapers, speaking engagements etc
Why do you need PreSales teams?
- PreSales works very closely with the sales team. The objective is to make deals happen or close deals for the company. They provide technical value to the prospects.
- PreSales are responsible for the configuration of the product, resolving technical issues, and building, and setting up the integration. This sometimes also includes suggesting the right features and pricing.
- They also work on the functional aspect, assisting the prospects in getting the right solution to meet their critical requirements.
- PreSales understand the client's pain points and address those pain points with a solution using their product/service.
- PreSales work closely with prospects and thus can directly share market needs to the product & engineering teams. For Instance, a PreSales personnel knows what features work best in the Education or Medical industry. Hence, they can suggest the right features to aid companies from those sectors. PreSales and sales work hand-in-hand to make business happen and present value to your clients.
What are the key stages in PreSales?
1. Qualifying leads
Sales team can take care of the qualification. They bring in PreSales for high-value clients in the early calls to validate their pain point and their product offering.
Part of the PreSales process is quantifying the quality of leads. Not all leads are worth pursuing. One can end up wasting a lot of resources and time following up leads who are not interested in your products.
Some questions that sales asks to help you filter out unqualified leads:
- Are they interested in buying?
- Do they have a use for the product or service you’re offering?
- Do they have the money to buy what you’re offering?
- Is this the right time to buy?
- Do they have the authority to authorize the purchase?
Technical discovery (Technical Fitment Test) – on the other hand – is far more detailed and demands the prospect's business processes to gather information before a demo.
- Can you take a couple of minutes to describe your business for me?
- What is driving this change?
- What are the major problems you’re trying to address?
- What software are you currently using, and what issues are you having with it?
- Are there specific features you require in your new solution?
- What modules do you need in your new solution? (If you're selling software)
- How many users do you have?
- Will you need additional users with your new solution?
- Are you considering other solution providers? If so, may I ask who?
- What is your timeframe for making a final decision?
- What is your timeframe for full implementation/Go Live?
- Is there an allotted amount for the project or a formal budget amount?
- Who are the people in your organization I should work with on this project?
- Are you the individual who will make the final decision?
That’s what Discovery is all about. Taking a look at the known requirements, seeing what else you can discover about the true requirements, and ultimately, mapping those requirements back to your own software or product’s capability.
2. Getting to know the prospects, via discovery calls
A sales engineer must ask the right questions to better understand the client and their industry, enabling them to identify the best customer-solution fit.
Not only asking the right questions, they should also pay close attention to the customer’s answers. It also includes understanding their everyday business operations, best-practices followed, and major pain-points.
Next in the PreSales process is customer discovery. This is when initial contact is made with the customer after they’ve been qualified.
PreSales typically handles discovery to find out exactly what the customer is looking for and what their unique challenges are. This information is crucial for the sales team to understand how best to position their product or service solution and develop a proposal that best addresses the customer’s problem.
A robust PreSales team will have sales reps who are experts in both their business’s solutions as well as the prospects’ businesses.
The major goal of a demonstration is to achieve that coveted ‘Trusted Advisor’ status. This is not something that you can just ‘target and acquire’, but rather, happens via accretion over time.
They are also getting a ‘look and feel’ sense of your solution. They are also getting some free education and also seeing if your team uncovered requirements they missed.
Most of all, it is part of the mutual ‘Trust’ building exercise. Both parties are deciding whether they want to work with each other.
3. Assisting the sales team
PreSales work very closely with the Sales team to get a clear view of the customer on their operations, needs, and help sales teams move the opportunity across the sales stages through product conviction.
They take care of the technical aspect of the sale by giving product demonstrations, technical follow-ups, discussions, and product configuration.
4. Showing product value to the prospect
PreSales engineers show prospects their product/solution to help them understand the product, its applications, benefits, and how they can leverage it to get maximum output. By addressing the prospects' major pain points with their product/service, PreSales show their product’s value to the customer even before purchase.
The technical validation is typically the most resource intensive part of the journey, often referred to as proof of concept (POC/PoC), proof of value (POV/PoV), custom demo, or pilot.
A proof of concept (POC) is a demonstration of your solution, idea or service to know its practical usability and feasibility. A POC is a pilot program for your prospects to test your solution in a controlled environment to know its real-world use cases.
It helps you test the technology in a real-world scenario, with real data – including users, permissions, functionalities – and validate its usefulness.
These tasks are the responsibility of the sales/solutions engineer. Upon completion of the technical validation, the prospect declares a technical win (TW) or technical loss (TL).
At this point, the customer has agreed the solution has technically shown the merits of the solution and has value in solving the business problems or use case OR not.
5. Going the extra mile to close the deal
PreSales engineers take extra steps to make sure that the customer completely understands the value they gain with the product/service. They also make sure the product configurations are set-up properly to avoid any difficulties in getting started with the system. This in itself is the art of selling.
How PreSales influence revenue numbers?
Implementing a proper and transparent GTM strategy across all GTM functions would enable all the leaders and managers of these different functions to create a wonderful customer journey for the prospect. With PreSales, the client's experience can become extremely seamless and can improve the overall business conversions.
PreSales in the GTM function is like the Swiss Army knife in a survival kit. They work closely with a lot of functions, including sales, product, engineering, and customer success teams. PreSales have a wide range of skills and expertise to help your sales team become more effective. Optimizing the PreSales process is vital for a firm to identify and take advantage of new or existing business opportunities with their prospects and customers.
PreSales Impact on the GTM functions
- Improved lead qualification process
- Shorter sales cycle
- Decreased churn rates and high customer retention
- High return on investment on marketing campaigns
- Faster turnaround time on ticket resolution
- Optimized sales pipeline and forecasting
PreSales teams understand the market, product, and everything that encompasses the GTM engine. They are the bridge that connects product and market insights.
With PreSales engineers, companies can standardize their sales processes, optimize their sales cycles, and improve customer adoption. A well-functioning PreSales team opens up the possibilities of tremendous development and growth for the company.
Sales engineers act as a bridge between product development and sales functions and apply their technical knowledge to help sales representatives convince potential customers to choose their products.
The average annual salary for sales engineers in the US is $79,808, and they typically work full-time. Sales engineers may travel extensively and their work hours may vary depending on customer needs.
During a typical workday, sales engineers spend a significant amount of time meeting with potential customers and colleagues, discussing the technical aspects of their company's products, and developing sales strategies.
- Create and present technical talks that clarify goods or services to clients and potential clients.
- Consult with engineers and customers to evaluate equipment necessities and establish system demands.
- Work together with sales groups to comprehend customer requisites and supply sales assistance.
- Confirm and reissue orders and arrange for transportation.
- Strategize and change products to comply with customer demands.
- Assist customers in resolving issues with set up equipment.
- Propose better equipment or machinery to clients, indicating how modifications will decrease expenses or improve production.
- Aid in exploring and designing novel products.
Their main responsibility is to understand and assess the needs of the customers, and then collaborate with different teams such as network engineers, support staff, and operations team to devise and implement plans that enhance the overall customer experience.
In doing so, they must take into consideration a variety of factors, ranging from safety to design, to ensure that the project is well-balanced. Furthermore, Solutions Engineers continuously research and explore new technologies and best practices in their field, in order to offer cost-effective solutions.
Solutions Engineers typically work within large organizations, alongside other professionals, and may begin their career as Technical Architects before being promoted to Solutions Engineer.
- Engaging in client discovery conversations alongside sales representatives.
- Holding consultations with clients to address their software and hardware requirements.
- Collaborating with the sales team to devise tailored strategies.
- Creating and presenting targeted product proposals.
- Planning and executing installation of bespoke hardware and software solutions.
- Conducting performance tests and addressing any bugs.
- Offering post-installation follow-up services.
- Building and sustaining customer relationships.
- Assisting the sales team with technical inquiries.
A Sales Consultant is a specialist responsible for creating plans to advertise and sell goods or services. They act as a mediator between businesses and their clients, suggesting products and services and ensuring that customer needs are fulfilled.
- Create sales protocols and procedures designed to increase conversion rates and improve incoming sales interactions
- Train Sales Associates in best practices and use emerging technology and intelligence to improve our sales numbers
- Create positive and lasting relationships with out vendors and suppliers
- Increase product knowledge among sales associates and involve senior management in product knowledge initiatives
- Take over management of junior staff as well as the hiring of additional sales professionals
- Set appointments with clients and follow up with them afterward
- Organize an outside sales program
- Help improve brand awareness and social media presence in cooperation with the marketing department
The Solution Consultant is primarily responsible for determining the overall strategic, operational and technical scope of new business opportunities with customers and prospects.
Part business analyst, part technologist, part sales person, the Solution Consultant works closely with sales and implementation teams to understand strategic business issues and then craft and communicate solution strategies.
As a consultant for solutions, you'll collaborate with management to analyze the needs of the company and its objectives. Your main responsibility is to devise innovative business solutions and trial strategies for potential clients.
- Working closely with Oversight sales team and prospective customers to understand strategic business issues and identify and communicate how Oversight addresses these issues
- Articulate strategy and objectives using strong presentation skills that focus on value
- Working closely with product management, engineering, services, marketing, and support teams to provide input and share experiences
- Working with stakeholders (clients, partners, and oversight employees) to define the requirements and success criteria of projects
- Earning client and partner trust through technical and functional expertise
- Collaborating and negotiating in the context of achieving shared objectives
A solutions architect is in charge of crafting a technical plan for a particular business issue, overseeing its design, description, and management. Essentially, this role acts as a link between a business problem and the corresponding technology-based solution, outlining the necessary phases and requirements to bring that solution to fruition.
A skilled solutions architect assesses the existing environment, evaluates available technologies, and determines which software products should be developed to deliver the best possible solution for the given problem. This process is similar to how an architect creates a blueprint for a building. The solutions architect also establishes a budget for producing the software product based on their strategic technical vision.
Once stakeholders have signed off on the project, the solutions architect is responsible for monitoring the process and keeping all stakeholders up-to-date on progress. The project typically involves both technical and non-technical stakeholders, so the solutions architect must ensure that the needs of each party are taken into account and integrated into the project's scope.
- Conduct brainstorming sessions to generate possible solutions for addressing business needs or issues.
- Recognize chances for enhancing processes.
- Create and record specifications for testing.
- Determine areas where IT can assist business objectives and requirements.
- Collaborate with business departments to establish IT plans and enhance existing IT systems.
- Construct and transfer software and services throughout the company.
- Collaborate with delivery and product teams to develop expandable products and solutions.
- Communicate and provide advice to clients and internal stakeholders to create suitable solutions.
Solutions Architect vs. Project Manager
The role of a solutions architect does not involve project management, but they need to possess outstanding project management abilities to guarantee that the project remains within the set time frame, budget and accomplishes its intended objective.
Effective communication skills are also essential as they must translate the technical aspects of the project into non-technical language for non-technical stakeholders. The traits that successful solutions architects typically possess are being curious, analytical, methodical, and rational, all of which are crucial for the job.
Company sales engineering demands or duties can be delayed or performed poorly due to open positions because the existing team is bearing the burden of the missing head counts.
These shortages create a misaligned SE to AE ratio because sales engineers are spread too thin in an attempt to fill these gaps. This stress can lead to additional churn, which accelerates the problem creating a negative cycle.
This shortage can have negative repercussions on sales organizations trying to hit their sales objectives. This impact can be felt on an individual territory, the sales team as a whole, sales operations, and up to revenue operations impacting company performance and forward-leaning guidance.
This shortage has also led to a demand for automation, tooling, technology, and consulting opportunities to help better optimize or scale sales engineering teams. We now have a “PreSales” segment of solution providers and consultants building solutions and consulting practices to help sales engineers scale and excel at the job.
Regardless of the PLG or traditional selling models’ sales engineers will be a key point of contact and based on the SE labor shortage mentioned above, demand for SEs is higher than ever. Regardless of alternative selling models, the role of the sales engineer is not going away anytime soon.
The challenge we face as sales engineers will inevitably change, which is why we vendors in this PreSales space need to creatively design and develop solutions for SEs in the future.
PreSkale is an all-in-one PreSales management and intelligence platform that integrates with the sales and product ecosystems to streamline evaluation experiences and deliver impactful solutions.
Using PreSkale, you can work coherently with Product, Sales, Customer Success, and other GTM teams to identify winning practices.
On top of that, PreSkale generates master playbooks from every activity, interaction, and effort involved in closed won or lost opportunities, and provides insights to empower PreSales to drive sales conversions.
Moreover, with PreSales intelligence, managers can measure skill based performance of PreSales teams and maximize resource allocation & assignment for utmost efficiency.
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