The Evolution of PreSales with Natasja Bax

Sam Wortman

PreSales is a fast-paced, constantly evolving industry that’s been around for decades, developing alongside the ever-growing abundance of products and services which sprang up with computers, the internet, and cloud technologies. Today, product expertise and sales acumen reign and are needed to sell, deliver value, and get hands-on with prospects. Currently, there are 1.8M PreSales employees across 206K companies, and the industry is only growing. 

This past month, Vivun hosted industry veteran Natasja Bax, owner of Demoscene and PreSales coach and mentor, to discuss the evolution of PreSales. Bax started her journey in the late 1990s as a PreSales Consultant for SAP, touching also Product Management and Channel Enablement during her 14-year career there. Vivun’s Senior Sales Engineer, Brian Fenn, dove deep in with Bax on critical questions about how PreSales has shifted, morphed, and become the force it’s today in modern B2B software sales. 

In case you missed the webinar, below is the interview of Bax led by Fenn. This conversation has been edited and condensed.

Natasja Bax, Owner of Demoscene & PreSales coach & mentor

What’s your take on demo automation platforms to help PreSales scale?

Demo automation is a great way to satisfy the first inquiry request of a prospect. The demo video should reveal the product beyond features and show what is possible using the success stories of customers. Then you need to immediately follow up, even if it’s a sales rep that follows up on what the prospect has seen and asks questions like: What did and didn’t you like? What would you need? And then involve PreSales, but doing so prior makes it difficult to scale PreSales expertise. Secondly, you can even use demo automation for some of the more detailed sessions as often customers ask the same questions on demos and deep dives. After that, you can have conversations with prospects about what else they may need. Some customers even like demo automation because it makes it easier for them to rewatch and share with colleagues. However, let me be clear, I don’t think demo automation is a replacement for face-to-face sessions but rather aids PreSales to discover the needs of their prospects quicker. 

How have buyer journeys evolved?

I believe that over the last few years—and this has been accelerated by COVID—the early stages of the buyer journey have become more important. The B2B buyer acts more like a consumer looking for instant gratification, and very often the decision is almost made informally when a project hits the calendar. It’s important for vendors to build a relationship in these early stages to stay ahead of competition, whereas in the past you could focus more on this when the customer was evaluating because they were also then open to answering all your discovery questions. You could gather all the information that you needed and had enough time to prepare for a demo or presentation to prove that your solution was the best. Now, that has changed. If you wait until that stage in today’s world, you might lose the deal, as the decision has already been made informally.

How do you treat buyers in the early stages?

The early stages are a very risky part of the sales cycle, and you don’t want to waste too many resources. If your PreSales team is at the beginning of the cycle and the SE is explaining how your solutions work in-depth, you risk either frightening the buyer or giving free product education to potentially people with no decision power. Software companies tend to be more successful if the GTM motion is customer-centric instead of product-focused in these early stages. If as a PreSales professional, you’re positioned yourself as a thought leader or a trusted advisor to your customers, you know this is about identifying your prospect’s problems, showing how you can solve them, and moving from a nice to have to a need to have a conversation. Then, you can connect to your buyer in these early stages. 

How has SaaS impacted the PreSales role?

With SaaS, the sales cycle never ends. You get into a contract with a customer, but you aren’t done, you need to stay involved. You need to be aware of how they’re using the application and if they are to its fullest extent because you want that continuation of the contract for years to come. For example, when I was working at SAP we had a multi-million dollar deal with a leading natural gas company, and they had to live with the contract they signed for years. But today, companies are looking to land and expand, even if it’s a small deal, and they need to be wary constantly of competitors taking what they thought is their space. The effect on PreSales is that to succeed they need to be significantly more customer-focused and maybe not have as many customers as before so they can work on retaining existing ones. 

How has COVID-19 and the transition to a remote-first culture shaped meetings for PreSales?

It’s never been easier for a prospect to get information about a product. It’s often as easy as a push of a button on the website, where they can request demos and expect them to be delivered quickly. With this, there are fewer meetings than in traditional workplace environments. As many prospects are still working from home, their agendas are more flexible, and they can always squeeze in a fifteen or thirty-minute demo. This means vendors need to be ready and demo automation can play an important role. But that’s enough. There still needs to be some human interaction to build a relationship and a short amount of time to highlight the solution. As a vendor, you use this as momentum to ask some qualification questions and potentially discovery questions to gain a better understanding and to make that prospect feel that pain, so they get decision-makers involved. 

What does the future of PreSales look like?

It’s when PreSales is seen as a strategic department in organizations and where the environment is created for PreSales professionals to excel with the right tools that can automate long crucial tasks and free them up to focus on discovery, demos, customers, and beyond. It also looks like PreSales getting skills training, receiving better compensation, and nicer work conditions. And in some ways, the future of PreSales is happening now with teams being empowered to focus more on the customer rather than the product, and PreSales owning the entire customer journey. Not all PreSales professionals are the same, some are better technically and some are better salesmen, and it’s leaders knowing who would be best to deploy at different parts of the sales cycle to get the deal done. And one day, we might be delivering demos in a multiverse environment. The future of PreSales is exciting!

Want to learn more from Natasja Bax? Watch the webinar here.

Check out how Vivun’s native PreSales platform will take your team into the future of PreSales!

Sam Wortman May 12, 2022