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2022 PSLC Symposium: The New PreSales Org: Designing for 2023 and Beyond

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Aug 1, 2022

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The Transitions Taking Place

Tina says that structurally, ADP changed 3 three years ago to focus on new market share, and they also have a group focused on selling into their existing client base. But over the last year, there’s been a massive shift in how buyers buy, moving themselves further through the sales process than ever before. They often come into the funnel saying they just want to see a demo because they’ve done research and made assumptions on their own. She’s trying to figure out how they change the organization to meet the buyers wherever they are. Should they get involved in the sales process earlier or later? They’re creating trainings and tools to determine the answer to that question today. 

Lee notes that one major factor in his PreSales organization is the level of complexity around his solution. It’s based around SAP when that application is down and business comes to a standstill, and the solution is very complex. He’s always engaged at step two of the sales process, where the SE is involved in evangelizing how the solution works. He sees that continuing and doesn’t see much changing, even as they grow to offer cloud solutions as well so they can stay abreast of what’s going on. 

Adapting to PLG 

Tina thinks the PLG problem is interesting - how do you meet that buyer where they are? Recent Gartner research says that buyers need to go through 6 jobs when they’re buying any kind of technology. They’re all inundated with so much product information and need a trusted advisor to go through the process with them. She’s been focusing SEs on being that advisor and getting SME expertise in where it’s needed. They have a role called the quarterback consultant - they own that playbook and account plan and will bring in SMEs as needed to meet the buyer where they are. 

Ryan notes as Salesforce adds new products to their portfolio, meeting that demand depends on the product lifecycle as well for his team. If they introduce a new product, first they need local SE experts to give a bit of extra help. If the product continues to grow, then they need to build a specialized team focused solely on that product. And if it keeps growing, then they might also need to raise the bar of minimal understanding across the whole SE organization so everyone has a baseline. It’s three different levers available to figure out how to grow and scale. 

Tina says it’s challenging to keep every SE trained in every product portfolio all the time moving forward. So she’s shifted to thinking about what customers really value. Buyers really just want someone they can trust, so her SEs focus on building relationships as well as product knowledge. They do a lot to educate consultants about what’s important to each industry so they can connect with buyers as well. 

Where to Engage in the Sales Cycle

Lee’s team engages after the qualification which is both art and science, depending on the rep and who you’re working with. But with what they're doing, if the sales rep believes it’s qualified, PreSales needs to do our own discovery to make sure the problem we’re trying to solve for our customer actually fits our product. AEs can’t ask questions like SEs can based on those technical specifications. Every customer is going to be a little different, so the SE needs to engage and ask critical questions early on to shape the solution for that customer. 

Ryan says trust is critical throughout the whole customer lifecycle. When he started his career, he worked for a lot of organizations where PreSales got involved only between qualification and proposal. Now buyers are pulling on SEs earlier. Since the subscription model is the predominant licensing model, that shifts leverage toward buyers. Now they want SE expertise throughout the process, and even after the initial purchase, so they can get future value and expand as well as making a purchase right now. It’s now cyclical vs. having a clear start and stop during the buying cycle. 

Balancing Capacity on the Team 

Tina notes that there’s no magic bullet for capacity balancing in PreSales - it’s the struggle of the day especially as her team considers getting involved earlier in the sales cycle. But in determining which resources to use across deals, she will go to someone who is more technical and give them POCs - it’s a lighter volume of caseload but they’re diving deeper. Then higher case loads go to those SEs who do less technically. It’s based on the skill level of people on the team, so she tries to have a well-rounded team so she can hand out work appropriately. 

Ryan says this is a challenging problem, and it makes the case for leading your PreSales organization by capturing data along the way. That can mean capturing what kind of deals you need and what kind of resources it takes to close them because these days, the sands are always shifting. 

Lee notes that using data to understand what’s happening, and a pooled model to find level and balance, are important. He doesn’t like to have one SE overloaded while another is idle. He’s also a fan of the pooled model so SEs can work with different AEs and learn their style. And success here comes down to tracking data. That way, you can see what turns into revenue to justify headcount and translate into the language of the business to get the resources you and your team need. 

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