Stop Showing Your Favorite Feature: Why Modern Presales Teams are Focused on Business Outcomes

Aaron Sun Avatar photo

Hosting the Vivun podcast Presales Heroes for the last several months, I’ve noticed some recurring themes with respect to what Presales leaders are thinking about when coaching and mentoring their teams. One frequent motif is a new mindset for engaging with prospects. It’s not about showing features, or “bits and bytes” — these leaders want the teams to probe deeply into pain, unlock real value, and put the focus on achieving tangible business outcomes.

And that’s a mandate they have even if it veers towards impinging on the territory of the Account Rep.

Think of a POC as a “Purchase Order Coming”

Tony Matos, Director of Sales Engineering at Citrix, discusses this topic brilliantly in his recently published book, The Essential Guide to Navigate your Proof of Concept. He likes to train his team to think of a POC as an acronym that actually means “Purchase Order Coming.” Doing so helps guide the team to think about business outcomes more than simply getting the technical win, resulting in what really matters: revenue to the business.

“I try to tell my team to not just focus on the technology, as important as it is, but also look at the bigger picture. What can we do from a relationship perspective and other aspects that gives the customer confidence that they really want to do business with this team, this company? I want my team to have a sense that there’s a larger perspective than just getting the technical win.”

When asked if this sort of thinking isn’t more in the domain of the account rep, Tony pointed out that he’s had the most success in his career when he focuses as much on the “sales” part of his title as the “engineer.” Therefore, he challenges his team to be aware of budget, access to people and economic buyers, timing, and need — the things that people might typically just assume are the province of the rep. “We have to express and tell a story about our solution that’s about the business value, not just the technical features.”

You can hear the full conversation in Tony’s podcast episode, Navigating your Proof of Concept.

There’s No More ‘Easy Button’ 

Marjoire Abdelkrime, Sr. Director of Solutions Engineering at VMWare, said that it’s very much on her mind that she needs to get her teams to think about business outcomes and not just the technical components of the deal — because that’s how an organization gets incredible line-of-sight to renewals and upsells.

“In the old days we had the ‘Easy Button’; we’d only focus on technical product enablement. That conversation has now shifted, and now we’re thinking about the soft and human skills that we need to teach SEs. We grew up in the technical product days, but how do we make sure we’re thinking strategically about our team’s forecasting and their ability to understand business outcomes?”

Marjorie came up with a unique solution to this problem: at one VMWare Sales Kickoff, she gathered up her group and put them through Business Outcome Training. The goal was to teach them about the “So What,” and they weren’t allowed to present on a product — they had to put together a business case and engage in a conversation about business outcomes. “It was so hard for some of them!” she admitted. “But it was super important for upleveling their skill set.”

You can hear her amazing thoughts in the podcast episode Unlocking Your Team’s Strategic Potential.

Don’t Diagnose the Symptom, Target the Problem

An analogy used by Brian Cotter, VP of Global Sales Engineering at Seismic Software, is the idea of a patient going to see a doctor. The patient may not even completely understand what’s wrong, and if the doctor goes too far down the path of chasing symptoms rather than the actual problem, then the patient will never get healthy.

“When you’re looking at a very precise problem that [the prospect] is trying to solve, you might come back with a feature-function and it’s really binary–it’s either going to solve the problem or it isn’t. If you do the full implementation, you may not actually end up solving the issue. Whereas, if you really understand their problem, it gives you latitude and flexibility to solve their problem at a high level, which will end up handling most of their symptoms.”

Brian points out that doing so also allows you to work with the customer post-sale to ensure that you’re solving all the strategic initiatives that the customer has, and showing the full value of your platform. Brian has an extremely extensive framework that he uses to train his team on how to do all this; you can listen to the full conversation in his podcast episode, Training Your Team to be Storytellers.

Presales at the Center of the Conversation

What all three of these leaders have in common is that they don’t worry about crossing over into the domain of the Account Rep in order to coach their teams to uncover business value. They feel as though the technical sales person has a unique relationship with the prospect — they understand both the product as well as the problem that the prospect is trying to solve, and therefore, it needs to be Presales who engages in a discussion of business outcomes even as they’re doing the typical functions of performing demos and having technical conversations.

What are the trends and drivers that are pushing Presales into looking and acting more like Sales? Vivun CEO Matt Darrow touched on this in his recent keynote at the Presales Collective Executive Summit, and you can read his thoughts here. But one thing is for sure: modern Presales teams aren’t talking about their favorite features. They’re talking about business value and outcomes.

Aaron Sun Avatar photo November 16, 2020