Revenue is king – at least if you are a startup in the B2B tech spectrum. And the Presales team is essential for a fast growth. At least it can be. But you sell an awesome product which uses technology in a new way to provide a new solution to an acute problem.
If I describe it that way you probably ask: Why do I need presales for this product? It sells itself because it solves a problem.
Honestly; how often did this happen to you? How often did you go into a sales meeting with a customer where they already had the money in hand to buy the product and simply waited for you to appear?
Just what I expected, not a single raised hand in the audience.
B2B Tech Sales needs more
In a B2B environment we are usually talking about several hundreds or thousands EUR or USD per license which needs a little bit more than a nice product page to sell. And here is where the presales engineer comes into the game – an often very undervalued role in the sales process.
So you take along one of the engineers from the development team or the founder him/herself to demo the product and answer all those technical questions that usually come from the tech crowd in those meetings. That could work but your founder after the initial couple of meetings usually is impossible to book for more unless it is for a customer with a huge impact.
And the engineer? Well let’s say he/she doesn’t feel well talking to a crowd of people answering those really stupid questions which anyone with just a little bit of knowledge can answer just from looking at it. It is so obvious, isn’t it? And the rest is pure genius from the dev side. Don’t they get it? It works so good because we built an awesome product.
You know the outcome of those meetings, right? Don’t call us we’ll call you.
So is there a better way to do it? Yes – Let me present you the sales / solution engineer who really makes an impact. Someone who understand and embraces the product and the technology and can also talk on higher management levels about the value of the solution; how to solve the problem at hand quickly and save the day for the customer. Because he or she knows the problematic area and how your product fits in there. But also what does not fit.
And here is the key to a faster revenue increase via a good presales team. Early qualification on a technical level. Yes, the presales engineer is not the demo dolly who shows a scripted product run-through on the push of a button. Or an RFP answering machine.
A simplified example
Let’s take a simplified sales process in B2B software sales:
Leadgeneration aka Pipeline
Qualification and nurturing
Demo and Proof of concept
This is the standard approach that I have seen many times. The SDR team and marketing are creating leads which are then qualified by the account executive (AE or sales rep). The sales or solution engineer (SE) is involved AFTER the demo is already scheduled and the decision to go forward with a proof of concept (POC) is mainly driven by the AE. The SEs are mostly just executing and trying to make it happen. The result is more often than not an overworked SE and a POC conversion rate (deals made after the evaluation) in the lower spectrum. In the graphic you see when the SE gets involved in the process and also that there is no time left for anything else but running demos and POCs. In both examples I used an average deal size of 20.000 EUR and 16 hours SE work per engagement. The differences are the starting time of the sales engineer and the leads qualified in example #2.
A better ROI for the SE’s time
Early qualification by asking the right questions and understanding the customers needs is the key. Trust your presales when they tell you: This is not a fit – On a technical level. Better to find out before or latest during a demo then after the 4 month POC/POV you engaged in with the customer. Also if there is just this little bit in the product missing to satisfy the customers needs the solution engineer is qualified to brief product management to foster a product enhancement – which may be valuable to other potential customers as well. Or add it right at the spot using APIs and some scripting.
In the 2nd approach the SE is already involved in the qualification before a demo and is not only early familiar with the potential customers problems but can also develop a solution and build a trust base. As a result we do less POCs with a higher conversion rate and therefore almost double the ROI on the SE’s time. From 3600 EUR revenue per day to 7111 EUR per 8 hour day of SE Time spent.
You want to spend your time on the leads which can close fast and not the tire kickers. Ask your SE to walk through the leads with you and see if you can qualify them already before a demo. A fast NO is a good NO as you are not wasting time and resources. Also during the demo a lot of valuable information can be gathered by listening to the customer; not just bombarding them with facts. Good SEs know how to listen and what is valuable info. They are also more trusted than your average sales rep (no offense meant) by the tech guys. A one hour demo is well invested time if you can get a definite Go / No Go after it. As a startup you probably have money, you have a sellable product – what you lack is time. You want to establish a steady run rate business which allows you to forecast accurately and plan the next steps without having to pray at the end of the month/quarter for the big deal. If you follow a land and expand strategy you want fast entry deals that you can grow your sales from – part of a product led growth approach.
Requirements for the approach #2
A strict requirement for this approach is an experienced sales engineer. Especially in a tech startup you want a seasoned SE as your first hire. Someone who learns the product quickly, understands the impact and how it solves problems for the potential customers. Someone who can talk with confidence about the solution on a detailed tech level as well as wrap it up in two sentences for C-Level execs who ask why your solution is a better fit than others. He/She also needs to be able to communicate with product management to feedback input from the customers about the product. And someone who is not afraid to get their hands dirty and write some code to make things work.
A 2nd must-have is a sales culture that values the input of the SEs. Sales engineers are the missing link between technology and sales and need to be savvy in both areas. More about the sales part in one of the next posts.
With those 2 requirements fulfilled you can grow your sales, the organization, and the product for a couple of years.
With 20+ years experience in presales for startups I may be able to assist at various stages of your company. Or if you want to up your sales engineer game and need a sparring partner or coach.
Book a call with us and let’s find out how we can increase your revenue