Recap from the Presales Collective Summit: Presales as the Future of Every Enterprise

Aaron Sun Avatar photo

Vivun co-founder & CEO Matt Darrow recently presented at the PreSales Collective Executive Summit on “How Presales is becoming the Future of Every Enterprise.” Matt delved into the changes in the business and technology landscape that are transforming the Presales team from “the ones who do the Demos” to the ones with the power to strategically move a company forward.

The first question Matt addressed was — why now? Where is this momentum coming from and what changed? Matt attributes the answers to three specific factors.

1. Every company is becoming a software company. As software becomes increasingly sophisticated as AI/ML catches on, every company in every vertical is becoming a software company — including in places you wouldn’t expect, like agriculture and manufacturing. That means that technical expertise is required to drive revenue, and technical expertise is the DNA of Presales.

2. Everyone has access. Software may be more sophisticated, but it’s also increasingly available to everyone via trials, test drives, and freemium campaigns. This trend has changed the way that buyers buy, as well as their expectations in regards to the sale process. They enter the pipeline highly educated about the product, and they immediately want to talk to technical experts — not transactional sales people.

 3. Software innovates faster than ever. Modern tools such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service and serverless create lower barriers to entry for software products, and the pace of development is insanely fast thanks to microservices and CI/CD. This means that competition pops up and adapts like ever before. Therefore, it’s imperative that companies have a constant pulse on the market, and it so happens that Presales has 100x more conversations with customers and prospects than any other department in the organization.

But Sales Hasn’t Changed Much

Despite these trends, B2B companies haven’t done much to upgrade their selling motion. Generally, they employ the same old relationship selling methods that involve golf, dinners, and box seats. SEs are the “demo resources” tasked with showing the technology. With the rise of SaaS delivery and subscriptions, “Customer Success” was added into the mix to keep a pulse on the account to spot risk ahead of renewal. But spoiler: It’s not the 90s anymore.

Using old-school methods in the face of a brand-new world means a lot of pain:

  • Slow sales cycles ensue as companies are not equipped to get experts “hands-on” with buyers at the very beginning
  • Competitive losses and missed opportunities occur as intelligence from the field can’t make its way back to the product in time to adjust product market fit
  • Frustrated customers are everywhere as their customer success people can’t “solve problems,” just broker discussions.

What’s the impact of all of this on Presales? Quite a lot. And not in a bad way.

Matt made the point that this wasn’t meant to be a “doom and gloom” presentation, but rather an indication that a Brave New World for Presales may be dawning. These general trends create an unprecedented opportunity for Presales to take the stage as the most important and central team in an organization.

Presales Never Ends.

Because of the team’s importance, Presales ends up owning the end-to-end customer journey, and potentially absorbing post-sales (services) as well as the customer success team into a single department.

It’s the Presales team that’s most desirable to customers and prospects because of its ability to create a seamless “handoff” and experience for customers, as well as accelerate faster learnings and knowledge transfer within the team. Presales also creates joint accountability to ensure expectations are set from purchase through delivery. And Presales helps reduce operating costs by ensuring that every team member can solve the problems at hand and add value.

Presales Will Own the Field and Product-Engineering Interlock.

Why? Because they’re the department with a vested interest in both worlds. If we’re being honest, VPs of Sales and VPs of Engineering mix about as well as oil and water. But Presales owns revenue targets even while they’re still on the hook to ensure that the product works. As a result, they’re closest to the challenges at hand and they’re in the best position to be an unbiased source of truth for the Product team.

When organizations capture the intelligence that Presales has, and use it to create a bi-directional flow of communication between Sales, the Product team, and the Engineering team, they will be in an incredible position to hone product-market fit and capture market share.

In the Lower ASP, High-Volume Segments, The Account Rep and Presales will merge.

You don’t need both an SE and an AE in those segments. Merging the two will shorten sales cycles by reducing the back and forth between meeting coordinators and experts, and reduce the cost of sale by using quota-carrying staff who can work a deal end to end. We already see this model in play in organizations such as Stripe and Atlassian.

This trend has some serious implications that may surprise some people. For example, AEs in certain segments may need to become experts to meet the expectations of today’s buyers, OR SEs need to learn to prospect and close.

Enter Vivun

Matt wrapped up his portion of the presentation by discussing how these market trends enabled Vivun to land its $18M series A from Accel as well as achieve its early success with customers such as Autodesk, Okta, Cloudera, and Dell. As a former VP of Presales at Zuora, who led the company through IPO, Matt knew the pain of running a Presales team at scale — and he built Vivun so no one else had to experience what he went through.

Matt described how Vivun can help you:

  • Retire your clunky CRM customizations, say goodbye to 5-6 disparate tools, and establish a single, productive place for Presales to call home across the entire customer journey
  • Create a two-way exchange on information between the field and product, underpinned by data science built by a world-class team 
  • Achieve operational excellence so that you can manage and run your team as a business
  • Drive more revenue as effectively as possible

It was a substantive and far-reaching discussion, and even in a virtual setting, it was high energy! Matt also had a guest speaker — Eve Besant, VP WW Presales from Snowflake — and I’ll cover her presentation in a forthcoming blog.

Aaron Sun Avatar photo November 4, 2020