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2022 PSLC Symposium: From Great Demo to Buyer Experience: The PreSales (R)Evolution

Trends in Today’s PreSales World

There are many different transformations and market waves we’re all dealing with in PreSales right now. 

One major trend has been the change from pre- to post-pandemic life, especially  in B2B sales. Only about one-third of pre-pandemic buyers were comfortable reaching buying decisions alone - most wanted at least some hand-holding. Right now, that number is over 71% in less than three years. Buyers now are very comfortable not just gathering information but making decisions by themselves. The pandemic made a lot of people get comfortable being autonomous, independent, and remote, so it’s also changed how we engage with buyers. 

The second trend is the way product-led growth is impacting many different companies. Pre-pandemic, only about 4-5% of companies were product-led. But now half the market cap of publicly traded companies have a PLG motion - it’s never been more important. Wall Street is clearly rewarding businesses that have their product front and center in the buying process. 

A third shift is how different teams are being compensated in different organizations. In the old world, it was a very clear motion, and sales and PreSales got compensated by a straight percentage of the deal when it was signed. Today, we’re seeing different tactics focused on overall usage and success of the deal long-term (Snowflake is a great example). As the customer drives adoption and usage, that’s when sales and PreSales get paid. Technical fit is more important than ever. 

Why These Shifts are Happening 

Buyers today are increasingly sales-proof, and they want transparency. That’s why there’s been a massive explosion in demand for the PreSales role, which has transformed people who used to fly under the radar for the size and scope of their team and department. For example, PreSales is five times the size of customer success, twice the size of product management, and second only to sales in size and scope. That sales-proof buyer is creating the demand for PreSales and the transformation of our role. 

But companies aren’t yet following suit. These macro trends are hitting everyone, but organizations are still using the same sales methods and playbook from 15 years ago. B2B selling needs to change because buyers aren’t happy - the overwhelming majority think it’s too difficult to buy software. 

And many think sales just aren’t trustworthy anymore as their demands get more technical. In fact, 83% of buyers actually prefer self-guided research and only engage with an expert at the vendor when they have very specific questions. 

The Tipping Point for B2B Sales 

It’s all about the buyer experience now for those sales-proof prospects. How do we deliver a brand-new experience focused on those challenges? And if you do it right, you can get good ROI, change your growth trajectory, and potentially double your business by delivering a new experience. 

But how do we do it? 

It starts with control - giving more to the buyer. 

That begins with making your product front and center in the buyer engagement process. In Matt’s previous PreSales life, it was a borderline fireable offense if the buyer got into the product before the purchase cleared. But times have changed and trends have too - transparency and independence are key, don’t hide your product behind four or five calls. 

When you put the product up front, it changes the dynamic from building relationships to helping customers figure out, “how is this going to solve my problems?” You’ll offer something different from competitors by sharing your expertise, not hiding it or limiting it.

Also, shared accountability and transparency are important. Your buyers are distributed, and their pockets are distributed too, so everything you do needs to be done with complete collaboration and transparency. 

Shouldn’t we all be doing this? Yes. But we’re not. If we were, PreSales wouldn’t be in transformation. Sales proof buyers have added a lot of friction to the sales process. 

Barriers in Place

A big barrier is that sales and R&D are fundamentally not aligned. This dynamic isn’t either team’s fault - the organization has both using different systems, KPIs, processes, accountability, and user bases. That naturally causes those two worlds to drift apart. But if you want to deliver products that fit the market, you need alignment on those teams. 

PreSales is the umbrella shell of experts, so it’s no surprise we are continually stretched thin - with people, budgets, and time. The perception of the role is often still about delivering demos for sales, so executives look for how to automate that. We’re almost always battling the CFO who wants more sales efficiency and lower headcount - they’re not looking at the reality that PreSales is a catalyst to revenue. 

Buyers are frustrated too because more information is lost now than ever before as teams are distributed. The user team is different from the testing team, and all their conversation about the product gets lost in Slack channels and Zooms. There’s no clear accountability of what’s needed and how to meet it. 

In today’s B2B world, value needs to be easy to communicate for your prospects and partners. Your partner on the other side of the table needs to be able to go to their leaders and make the case for your technology - you have to enable them effectively. 

Knocking Down Barriers

It begins with offering a better buyer experience. Allow them to get their hands on your product, ensure it’s fitting their needs, enabling your champions - this is all much bigger than doing demos. We see how a department that is evolving like PreSales can come to own different outcomes. 

Unfortunately, org charts haven’t changed much over the decades - there’s typically still not a CSM or something like that. So what is the buyer experience you want to foster and who will own that? Who will say these trends have arrived and we’re all dealing with it, how are we going to step up? Our fundamental belief is this is a role uniquely suited for PreSales. 

It’s time to put an end to B2B selling as we know it and engage with sales-proof buyers - PreSales is the perfect team for this task. It’s time for us to become the center of influence at the company as they plug into the whole organization with a quota to carry and the technical knowledge to succeed. 

If your company wants to grow faster than everyone and thrive, elevate your PreSales charter to meet the needs of these new sales-proof buyers and come up with ways to deploy experts as often as possible. Transparency and collaboration should be at the center of the process.

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Sorry, this content is available for Leadership Collective Members only!

The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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Sorry, this content is available for Members only!

The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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