It all depends on if your Pre-Sales people are strategic or tactical.
In general, Pre-Sales people are the intersection of Product and Business expertise. This expertise is gleaned over years of working with customers to understand business problems and solve with your product. Usually the pre-sales people see 3 to 5 times as many customer situations, per year compared to a sales rep/account executive or account manager.
Most of the really good pre-sales people we encounter are extremely customer-centric and business savvy, in addition to their product knowledge. They have great stories and practical experience. Further, Pre-sales are usually very connected to Product Management and see the ‘cool, new, powerful’ stuff that is in the product pipeline.
If the above describes the role that Pre-sales plays at your organization, they are likely critical in account planning in these 4 areas:
1. Proposing Thought Leadership Ideas
Pre-sales people are excellent at suggesting, cross-selling and up-selling ideas on additional capabilities that the customer should acquire to solve their business challenges, and even driving up customer satisfaction by identifying new and innovative was to use of products they already own. When you are strategizing on an account, and the GAD/CE is describing the goals, strategies and initiatives at the customer, get pre-sales involved.
2. Challenger®/Provocation/Selling with Insight
Customers like to hear what peers and competitors are doing in their space. Because of the large numbers of deals that a pre-sales person is involved in, they frequently are the ones who can come up with the problems that other, similar, companies have experienced, including the cost, risk, pain, issue etc. Example, they can be talking to Frito-Lay and say, “Well, last year we were working with XYZ snack food company about store placement issues they were having and what they discovered was that…and that problem was seriously eroding their margins. This is something you might want to investigate.”
Both of the above are highly useful in developing the multi-year customer roadmap that is crucial to planning performance.
3. Big Deal Preparation
Every pre-sales person should be reviewing the Account Plan, as part of preparation for any major customer presentation or demonstration. Understanding the key players, the customers strategies and long term vision as well as the initiatives underway, can turn any generic product demonstration into a powerful selling event that links your product to the overall customer business strategy and success, thereby significantly improving the win rate and minimizing the discount by effectively connecting the business value of the solution to the customer’s goals and business strategies.
4. Owning Key Relationships
Strategically engaging with your most important customers is a TEAM sport. If your pre-sales people are strategic thinkers, assign them to ‘own’ a VERY few key relationships (your most important customers), so that each pre-sales person ‘owns’ the relationship with 3-5 people in total and are seeking to be ’Trusted Partners’ to those individuals. Remember, companies aren’t trusted partners – people are. They would be responsible for tracking objectives, updating strategies and KPI’s and managing activities and objectives related to the relationships they own.
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