The pace of digitalization is increasing - and that has a big impact on the role PreSales plays, especially with our customers. That’s why we were delighted to host a session at the recent PreSales Leadership Collective Executive Summit featuring:
Cristina Randazzo, Head of Technical Sales at Autodesk
Rob Bruce, VP of PreSales Americas at Stibo Systems
Delia Parman, Senior Director of Solutions Consulting at Medidata Solutions
Marjorie Abdelkrime, Head of Multi-Cloud at VMWare
Empathy in the Digital Age
Rob used to fly in to see clients and hold meetings to get that personal touch, but that’s changed because of the pandemic. Now you need tools that allow you to keep that connection as though you’re together: emphasizing, listening, and understanding what they’re looking for before a demo (what he and his team call “data therapy).
That personal touch was the biggest hurdle he saw over the past 18 months, because you’re not going to get to the end of the deal without that true touchpoint. Solutions like video enablement solutions allow them to reduce the time that the buyer waits for demos or other resources. That allows his team to scale and makes everyone happier.
Delia’s main hurdle to overcome in her organization is the phrase “we’ve always done it this way.” It’s hard for people to adjust and make changes the way we’ve had to so suddenly. There’s a fear of changing the sales cycle, of not having the same impact we do on site, and questions like will prospects respond to us using these tools, and how do we use these tools properly?
Leaders need to respond to these fears with equal measures of empathy, coaching, and enablement. Are we still relating to and resonating with the people we’re talking to, even if we’re doing it in a different way? She had to overcome the perception that not being on site means not getting results - and it turns out her team is actually getting more results.
The Role of Tools
Cristina categorizes tools into two groups - scaling and automation. Some tools enable us to reach more customers and do more PreSales activities without investing in more SEs, like Consensus. Other tools increase efficiency to free up SE time to invest in more valuable business activities.
She notes it’s important to take into consideration the level of process change required by the tool. Some solutions promise amazing results but require a lot of process change - make sure the benefits outweigh the burden of change.
Delia says that tools don’t need to change the sales cycle, but are better used to enhance each step of the sales cycle. For example, her team is able to use demo videos for BDRs to generate more interest than with just a call or email. Sales reps can also record a short video inviting a prospect to a webinar. These tools help scale not just PreSales activities, but also enable sales without making them change every step of the process they already use.
She adds that whatever her team publishes to send out to customers are things they could send out to the public, no matter what, like videos on YouTube or their website. They can also create personal specific videos that will only go to a person or group and can be more prescriptive there. And the tools they use for those customized videos also give them analytics and data that you don’t get at that level on YouTube, for instance.
And her team focuses on tools and automation that allow SEs to spend time on high value work - there’s no question about putting anyone out of a job. Tools and automation mean her team are no longer burdened by the harbor tour demo and spending time in situations that are not well qualified. Instead, they can use digital tools to share info with customers. So by the time the SE gets to them, they can target content effectively and answer specific questions, which helps us to scale as well. It’s just a different way to optimize the use of SE in the sales cycle, not a replacement.
The Role of the AE
Cristina sees AEs as our internal users. AEs are a key part of the digital acceleration process too. She engages sales leadership early in the process when doing any kind of business transformation - both to align on business goals and get buy-in from them so their teams get on board. Most tools require a change in the sales process, so adoption by AEs is key to the success of the transformation.
Where to Start to Scale
Cristina says that in PreSales, we love solving problems and we always want to start right away. But with transformations, you need to be more strategic - take a step back and look at the big picture. In the planning phase, she engages sales leadership and together they come up with desired outcomes. A certain dose of urgency is important too so we can accelerate digital transformation.
Delia notes that it’s vital to determine not just what we’re doing today but what we expect to be doing five years from now. If we can broaden the perspectives of expectations for PreSales to organizational leadership and say, this is where the world is moving, that makes a huge difference in being able to broaden the scope of our activities and value.
Rob suggests that there are very few software companies that care about PreSales, so he recommends reaching out to them because they probably have a lot of specifics and data that can help you justify your gut and the need for these solutions. As a PreSales leader, you’re going to be selling it internally as well so you’re the best place to get the globalization of that mindshare and make a difference.
What the Future Looks Like
Cristina predicts that we will dedicate more time to higher value opportunities than before. And to allow that to happen, we should automate other things that we can to free up our PreSales teams for those opportunities.
Delia says that PreSales is never going away, it’s actually becoming broader and deeper than it’s ever been. Our role in the sales cycle is more important than ever. Using the right digital tools, we can duplicate things we do over and over and instead dedicate our time to building those stronger relationships with customers.
Rob agrees with that position. He’s been watching how fast things are happening these days, and how leaders are seeing our value. PreSales is the pulse of the customer and also on the cutting edge technologically and emotionally. We’re not going anywhere.