Announcing the Second Vivun Benchmark Report for PreSales: Compensation Edition

Aaron Sun Avatar photo

Vivun is thrilled to announce the release of our second Vivun Benchmark Report for PreSales, with a particular focus on PreSales compensation.

In our previous Benchmark report, we noted a sea change occuring in the world of sales and PreSales, driven by a convergence of

  • Products becoming more sophisticated with foundations in AI/ML, Big Data, and IoT.
  • Product-led growth driven by the surge in SaaS products and ease of access through trials, meaning that buyers can easily get their hands on the software.
  • Buyers wanting to deal with experts during the evaluation as well as when they become customers.

Our newest 2021 Winter study examines these trends from a different angle. We find that cracks are beginning to surface in terms of how PreSales is compensated relative to their Sales peers. And what’s more, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to PreSales leaders, who are trying ways to close the gaps so they don’t lose their people.

We surveyed PreSales leaders at businesses ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies with dozens of questions covering topics ranging from average compensation among junior, mid-range, and senior PreSales professionals, as well as the amount of time PreSales spends supporting CSMs and post-sale activity in different market segments.

From all the responses we received, we identified four key insights that we thought were particularly notable:

  1. PreSales is underpaid relative to their Sales counterparts. What would you pay for a senior, strategic PreSales professional who can ensure that sales opportunities are watched over and nurtured with an eye to getting the technical win as well as demonstrating true business value? Our survey surfaced the average OTE for a senior PresSales professional, and it seemed shockingly low to us.

  2. Leaders don’t fully control their own compensation plan. 69% of respondents said they didn’t fully own the details of their team’s compensation plan—and perhaps not coincidentally, only 40% thought that their plans were effective.

  3. Too much time is spent on non-revenue generating activities. Not only are they arguably underpaid, but PreSales is doing an awful lot of charity work. PreSales are the ones with both an eye on the technology as well as the bottom line, and it’s no surprise that they’re popular: respondents indicated that 15% of PreSales time is spent on helping customer success, services, and other non-quota retiring work.

  4. And yet, PreSales isn’t ready to rock the org chart boat…yet. We asked a somewhat provocative question—should the importance of PreSales mean that PreSales should actually run the ship, potentially overseeing the Services and Customer Success groups? 80% said “No thanks,” and indicated that each of these groups should have separate reporting structures.

A line that we use in the report is that leaders are beginning to sense  that tectonic plates are moving in opposite directions, causing Sales and PreSales to drift apart in terms of compensation. That’s real cause for concern, given the indispensable nature of PreSales and their strategic contributions to revenue. 

Here’s just one example of the tension we identified. We asked respondents what non-salary incentives PreSales gets:

It seems to us that these incentives vary widely in terms of what form they take, and not a lot of it can be tied back to the individual’s W-2.

Furthermore, shouldn’t some of these incentives be obvious? What company would not guarantee a President’s Club trip to the highest performing PreSales professional? Is it a lack of respect for the group, or maybe a lack of metrics to even understand which ones are the most high performing?

We have a lot more information in the report itself, and we invite you to check it out. However, this document is merely a summary of the answers we received; only respondents to the survey itself get the entire report with all the data.

If you’d like to participate in our next report (Summer 2021) and get all that data for yourself, you can pre-register here. We’ll send you the survey questions when they’re ready, and make sure you get a copy of the final research document.

Let’s unlock the strategic potential of PreSales together!

Aaron Sun Avatar photo February 22, 2021