PreSales, Proof of Value, and Value Selling

Aaron Sun Avatar photo

Most enterprise software sellers understand that there are three fundamental questions that every buyer needs answered during a customer engagement: 

  1. Why do anything? 
  2. Why should I buy from you? 
  3. Why now? 

Traditionally, PreSales has been asked to focus primarily on answering the second “why” by outlining their product’s technical differentiators. You give demos, answer questions about features and integrations, and organize proof-of-concepts (POCs) to secure the technical win and cement your company’s solution as the clear choice for buyers. But it’s increasingly clear now that PreSales needs to do more than highlight product differentiation when it comes time to conduct a technical proof.

A technical proof must also be a proof of value 

Why is this the case? It’s because today’s enterprise software buyers are more educated than ever about the products they’re looking to purchase. 

They’re no longer interested in just an explanation of features and functionality. Your buyers are interested in how the product will help them evolve as a business—a strictly technical POC or test drive won’t put you in position to win that deal. Your technical proof must also be a proof of value (POV) because even though your prospect might be buying software, they’re ultimately making a business decision

Great salespeople understand this and have been discussing the importance of value selling in the enterprise for years at this point. But it’s PreSales professionals, rather than individual sales reps, who are best equipped to not only secure the technical win in a deal but also show how specific features and functionality apply in helping buyers achieve their stated goals. Usually, it’s the account executive who takes the lead in more business-focused parts of the sales cycle, but PreSales can be an even more valuable partner to Sales by connecting technical differentiators to the business case early and often.  

When running a POC, you should be thinking about all three of those fundamental “why” questions, and aiming to show the product’s features and use cases as more than just answers for simple problems your customers experience. They need to be part of a larger story around why your buyer’s business needs to evolve a certain way, and how you can help them get there. 

Presenting the evidence 

Storytelling via customer evidence is a great place to start. PreSales is particularly valuable in knowing which customer stories are the right ones based on the buyer’s specific conditions and then making those come to life for the buyer with the software in their hands. When done well, this creates a positive feedback loop of sorts for PreSales—your buyers go on to be successful users of your company’s software, and the team now has another true customer story to add to their arsenal for future customer engagements. Truly thoughtful cost/benefit analysis or ROI modeling that takes into account your buyer’s unique business objectives and projections is another way for PreSales teams to contribute. 

It’s also important to consider how else your organization gathers and presents customer proof. Besides those mentioned in case studies and reference calls, are there clear metrics that show what successful customer adoption looks like? Does PreSales (or customer success, or product) collect metrics on software usage? Is this information stored in a system of record, or does it live largely in oral tradition passed down by experienced team members? If just the latter, you’ll have a much harder time repeatedly proving value to customers. 

PreSales never ends

It is inevitable that the PreSales team became deeply involved with presenting the business case, but it doesn’t just stop at the technical win or even when a deal is marked closed-won. 

In SaaS businesses, POV requires that you go back to your customer year after year and continually show that you’ve helped them achieve their goals as a business, which means that your work in PreSales is never truly finished. To fulfill the promise of value and uncover new revenue for your company, PreSales must own the entire customer journey

If you’re interested in hearing more about how to prove value in your technical evaluation processes, we sat down with Bob Burkhardt, VP of Global Systems Engineering at Sumo Logic, to hear his thoughts on why POV is the new POC

Aaron Sun Avatar photo June 26, 2021