From the years I worked at Symantec, the support of pre-sales and technical sales functions played a critical role to my success in winning new business deals. I was therefore surprised to hear from a recent customer conversation, just how under represented many of them seemed to feel, either from getting airtime with the C-suites or enabling their voice heard in the wider organisation (perhaps the former isn’t surprising as sales tend to absorb all the limelight when a big deal lands). 

The role of Pre-sales has traditionally been around providing technical expertise in assisting a new sales bid or renewal deal, where the sales person holds the customer relationship. However, in my experience, some of the biggest (and smoothest) deals I closed came down to the invaluable relationship built between technical sales and the customer. Due to their non-commercial focused role, they are often seen as the go-to advisor and trusted expert in the eyes of the customer. The best Pre-sales expert can easily act as the clear differentiator from competitors, and represent a company’s true leadership position. To winning and retaining lifelong customers, I believe every organisation need to first leverage and improve their pre-sales capabilities. 

I came across this very insightful article by McKinsey summarising how an enterprise organisation can incorporate Pre-sales into each part of the sales journey, from identifying leads to renewal.

Lead identification:

Compared to Sales, Pre-sales often have just as much face time with customers. Therefore they hold a great deal of insight into the competitive landscape and which prospective customers / sectors are most likely or suitable for their company’s solutions. Apart from using advanced analytics, Pre-sales can be utilised as a valuable resource to identify opportunities early in the sales cycle. Identifying which prospective customers to target and pursue can result in 3-5% improvement in win rates.

Assisting bids / RFPs

A key (and often overlooked) aspect of successfully answering RFP bids is the allocation of technical resources. Inadequate allocation means companies will either fail to meet the bid deadline, or not be able to answer the RFP to a high standard (either by not having the best pre-sales experts aligned to the highest value deals, or not having enough time to work on the proposal). In order not to miss out good sales leads, leadership teams should have a clear view of deal priorities, staff availability and skillsets of its technical team, in order to assign the best resource to the most important deals.

Closing deals

The role of a good pre-sales expert is instrumental to closing out any deal. They are able to guide customer conversations and position themselves as the trusted advisors. The most successful approach is by gaining a deep understanding of the customer's environment and long term goals (beyond the current requirements at hand) and then highlighting how the solution and the company's vision to address these. One very effective way to demonstrate this expertise is by enabling Pre-sales to create regular and targeted content based on these expressed challenges to deliver a complete content experience for the customer / prospect.

Post sales

Contrary to the name of ''pre-sales'', organisations should leverage this technical resource actively after the sale is closed. Great pre-sales experts can have a profound effect on customer retention and up-sell rates - they are deeply imbedded within a customer's ecosystem, with expert insights to help sales anticipate future needs, identify new routes or up-sell opportunities, as well as protecting existing renewals from competition.