Rich Kline, VP of Solutions Engineering at OwnBackup, was recently on the PreSales Collective podcast talking about the essentials of successful PreSales leadership. How can you focus on the bigger picture in the busy day-to-day bustle and create a framework for great alignment? The 5 Rs of PreSales leadership are Rich’s answer - here’s what you need to know to implement them in your own organization. 

What Are the 5 Rs? 

The 5 Rs actually started as 3, and they were a gift from Sarah Roberts, the SE leader at Oracle who joined Rich’s team at Salesforce. The initial three were recruiting, revenue, and retainment. It turned out they didn’t have a retention problem, but they did add ramping because Salesforce and the SE team were growing so rapidly at that time. 

The 5th R is a gift from Tarang Luthra from when he was interviewing to be an SE leader - it’s relationships. PreSales (and the PSC) are all about building relationships between people, companies, and the SE profession as a whole. 

Incorporating the 5 Rs 

Rich suggests incorporating the 5 Rs into your organization at a bunch of different levels. Right now, he does a weekly review of his world and writes down the 5 Rs, then fills out all the topics related to them for that week. It goes way beyond revenue and closing deals. 

His leader is the head of sales, and Rich brings these topics to him weekly in this format so they can have a holistic discussion about the team and all the other things they do that influence revenue. And Rich’s direct reports do the same with him. 

Making Them Part of Your Org’s DNA 

The biggest of the 5 Rs that Rich focuses on now, outside of revenue, is recruiting - it always needs to be top of mind. Rich’s reports have recruiting as 25% of their comp plan, and they get it done since they’re incented to do it. 

OwnBackup is ahead of their recruiting numbers right now with no retention problem, which is amazing. Rich focuses on retention by getting plenty of learning and growth into the equation for everyone to make sure people love their jobs. 


Rich spends 25% of his time recruiting, maybe more. There’s never a candidate he’s not willing to speak to. His leaders bring them to him, and he makes sure it’s not just the really good ones because he wants to understand the total talent they’re talking to. 

He spends a lot of time talking to them and loves doing it. He’s talked to over 2,000 different candidates and tells them he learns more from the questions they ask - those discovery questions - than any answers they give. And by now, he has a solid process to figure out if they’ll make a decent SE. 


After recruiting and revenue, Rich spends most of his time on relationships. He has to know people in product to bring opportunity gaps there, and have relationships with sales leaders as well. 

With his team, he encourages them to go out and seek the next opportunity, wherever it is. He created a now well-known “where are they now” document at Salesforce for his team and out of 150-200 people, six of them have become VPs and more are on the way. Learning how to watch your people leave and become successful, and truly root for them, makes you a great leader. 

Advice for Leaders 

For leaders struggling to determine how they want to operate, Rich suggests leaning on company values - he likes Salesforce’s value of always driving forward. If you move the ball down the field a little bit each day, you’re going to help your organization succeed over time. Leaders should be looking at what they want to accomplish in 30 days, 6 months, and 1 year - but be realistic.

Also look carefully at alignment. Rich uses their CRM and dashboards - being amazing at dashboards is a critical skill in the sales distribution organization. 

And always remember that you’re not curing cancer - it’s important to recognize what we’re really doing, which is selling software. Rich and his team at OwnBackup take their work seriously but not themselves. They’re thinking about how to make customers successful every day and enjoy the journey. 

Be sure to listen to Rich's recent podcast interview to learn how to really look at the big picture as a PreSales leader.

Rich Kline - VP, Solution Engineering - OwnBackup | LinkedIn

Rich Kline

VP of Solutions at OwnBackup

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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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