Enhancing your PreSales Team's Cross-Functional Collaboration

If you lead a sales engineering, solutions architecture, or business development team in a mid- to large-size tech company, you probably support one or more business units (BUs). The BU typically includes an R&D and product team for a portfolio of products and has accountability for its profit and loss. The pace of innovation in the cable and telco vendor space is accelerating in response to changing consumer demand driven in part by new use cases and hyperscaler applications. To that end, a collaborative partnership between BUs and PreSales teams is essential to delivering customer business outcomes, optimizing R&D spend, exceeding targets, and increasing market share.

Here is a three-step process that PreSales leaders can implement to enhance collaboration with BUs:

1. Develop your team’s understanding of BU processes, operations, and metrics.

Set up a meeting with your team and invite someone from BU to present on critical topics including accounting principles, expense allocations, prioritization of projects, BU goals and metrics, BU strategy, product funding, and roadmap creation. By engaging BU stakeholders to share this information with your team, you will forge a connection between your team and the BU and equip your team with new tools to provide better inputs to strategy and roadmaps. This interaction will also result in future breakout discussions between your team and the BU to collaborate on strategic projects. In addition to building awareness of BU procedures and stakeholders, your team’s confidence during customer interactions will also increase with a better understanding of the business unit. Solution consultants who understand the business unit strategy and how decisions are made and executed will address customer requests and propose alternative solutions quickly and confidently, reducing friction in the sales process. Finally, an empowered, confident PreSales team more clearly articulates the value proposition and business outcomes the solutions it develops will achieve for the customer.

2. Help your team apply their knowledge of BU processes, operations, and metrics to their customer interactions.

After introducing your team to the BU’s processes, objectives, and stakeholders, the next step is to help your team apply this knowledge as they engage with customers. First, assess your team’s awareness of customer stakeholders and their role in the buying process and help them complete their understanding by partnering with their sales counterparts to fill in any gaps.

Encourage your team to evaluate and document the impact of each customer request or initiative on the customer’s business, customer satisfaction, and the business unit using the knowledge they have acquired. Ask them to identify the customer champion and executive sponsor for each initiative and map it to the customer engagement plan and business unit, organization, and account objectives.Once they have completed this analysis, encourage them to work cross-functionally with the business unit to identify potential solutions, especially those that have addressed similar problems for other customers.

Giving your team the tools to evaluate customer initiatives and requests and work cross-functionally to identify solutions will help them be more effective in achieving objectives, increasing customer satisfaction, and providing valuable feedback to the BU.

3. Review and archive successful projects.

After you’ve familiarized your team with BU strategy, operations, and stakeholders and helped them apply this knowledge to their customer engagements, you can continuously improve BU collaboration by reviewing and archiving successful projects.

When your team covers current projects during your regular meetings, periodically ask them to discuss a project that involved BU collaboration, highlighting the business outcomes achieved for the customer, the team, and the BU, and the BU resources that contributed to the solution.

As strategic customer projects are completed, you might also consider asking your associate to interview one or more customer stakeholders to record the customer’s perspective on the project’s impact and ask if they’d be willing to serve as a reference.When business cases for new product development are part of the solution, ask them to highlight the factors and inputs that led to the business unit’s commitment to move forward. Ask your team to post each analysis, business case, and presentation materials to your team’s file repository so others can refer to them for future projects. Sharing these projects amongst the team will create a knowledgebase of solutions that can help other associates with their projects and a collection of stories that will further increase your team’s confidence during initial customer interactions.

Finally, a repository of stories highlighting the business outcomes achieved by customers that partnered with your organization will also increase both customer and BU engagement.

In the end, it's about achieving business objectives through effective collaboration.

In conclusion, effective collaboration between PreSales teams and business units is crucial to achieving business objectives as the pace of innovation accelerates.

PreSales leaders can equip their teams to collaborate with business units by developing the team’s understanding of BU processes and metrics, analyzing and mapping customer opportunities and requests to customer and organizational objectives, and reviewing examples of successful BU/PreSales collaboration.

By developing collaboration between PreSales teams and the business units they support, account and portfolio strategies will become more effective, and both will have improved tools and resources to exceed objectives.

Note: The statements and opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer, Nokia Corporation.

Chris Tucker serves as director of business development and technology for Nokia. His areas of expertise include Sales Engineering, PreSales, and Go-To-Market leadership in the networking, cloud, and security space, where he specializes in developing, coaching, and mentoring technical teams and developing collaborative relationships between sales, business units, and customers.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.

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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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