The Future of Presales – According to the VP of Worldwide Presales at Snowflake

Aaron Sun Avatar photo

Snowflake just experienced the single most successful software IPO of all time, so it’s fair to say that they know a little about growth and scale. So does their VP of Worldwide Presales, Eve Besant.

Eve recently presented alongside Vivun co-founder and CEO Matt Darrow at the fantastic PreSales Collective Executive Summit, a virtual leadership event put on by our friends at the PSC. I’ve described Matt’s thoughts in a previous post, but Eve’s remarks were riveting and warranted their own blog.

Eve’s Hero Origin Story

If you listen to the Vivun Podcast Presales Heroes, you know that I always start each conversation with a Hero Origin Story: How did my guest get into Presales? Matt did the same with Eve, and she shared a fascinating journey.

A liberal arts major, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life”—so she ended up in what she called  an “amorphous consulting space,” handling SAP implementations. She eventually realized that her personal weakness was “struggling to find my voice in the classroom,” to speak up and be assertive, and generally to embrace public speaking.

Tackling these weaknesses head-on made her realize how much she loved the adrenaline and challenge of public speaking. This insight eventually led her to Sales Engineering, a place where she could explore her introverted, “curious” side that loves to play with products, but also her newfound “extroverted” side where she could present and communicate with prospects and customers.

Eve told the audience, “I loved the ability to blend both sides of my personality, and I also love the people who gravitated toward Presales alongside me. They’re innovators, doers, and thinkers. I’ve found that they’re different than Salespeople and different from engineers. As a result, they’ve become friends, not just colleagues.”

SAP and Snowflake: The Differences

To say the least, the two big companies in Eve’s career, SAP and Snowflake, are very different creatures. Matt asked her about what Presales looked like in each environment. Eve pointed out that SAP was a machine that had been built over several decades, and that the top SEs had the ability to fundamentally impact the business due to their breadth and depth of knowledge about all of SAP’s products. The catch? Those SEs had generally put in more than 20 years at SAP to gain that much domain knowledge!

Things couldn’t be more different at Snowflake, where Eve’s mandate is to make people with 3-5 years experience wildly successful. And you have to move fast. As Eve pointed out, Snowflake was only created around 8 years ago, and its product became Generally Available about 5 years ago—and now it’s post-IPO with a 70+ billion-dollar market cap and daily releases to production. Oh, and under Eve’s watch, the sales engineering team grew from 70 to over 400! 

Owning the Customer Journey

Matt had three main topics he wanted to discuss with Eve. The first had to do with her view on whether Presales should be more involved in the customer’s journey than simply “before the purchase.”

Eve believes that at Snowflake, “Presales never ends,” which is a strong endorsement for the idea that Presales should be heavily involved at every touchpoint in the customer’s journey. Eve also believes this is one of the biggest adjustments she’s had to make in her move from SAP to Snowflake. “Presales isn’t about just securing the win anymore; it’s about promoting successful customer outcomes.”

And Snowflake actually incentivizes this behavior. No one gets comped when the deal is signed, but when the customer uses the product—which encourages everyone to make sure the customer is successful not just before the sale, but also throughout onboarding and enablement. “We’re seeing a true evolution of the Presales role due to their ability to add value at every point in the process,” Eve stated.

The Interlock Between Presales and Product

Eve gave a great example of how Snowflake has always believed in capturing the intelligence from the field and using it to shape product market fit. Her boss was Snowflake’s first salesperson, and he used to routinely give feedback from his sales meetings to the engineering team. So that motion was part of the company’s DNA—and even at their current scale, with 400+ SEs, they have quarterly meetings with representatives from sales, product, services, and Presales.

However, Eve also mentioned that the team is planning to operationalize that process. Using a Presales platform will enable them to capture Presales product feedback at scale, and use it to inform the roadmap with a bi-directional flow of communication between Product and Presales. You can find out more about that here. The goal is for Snowflake to stay as agile and sensitive to market feedback as it was when it was just one salesperson, ensuring that the organization stays hyper responsive to customer and market requirements.

The Hybrid AE/SE

Finally, Matt wanted to know Eve’s thoughts on the potential for a hybrid Sales Rep/Sales Engineering role that has started to crop up in certain organizations. Eve admitted that she didn’t personally relish the thought of prospecting or cold calling, but she admitted that once she began to look around the business, she recognized that the most successful sales reps were highly technical, particularly in high-volume product lines.

She said, “Customers want to work with people who understand what they do, and how technology applies to it. That means that customers prize the technical resource more than they do the traditional Account Exec. Our most successful reps do represent that hybrid model, and they’re crushing it! People who can bridge the gap between the sales and the technology are going to set the bar for what great Sales looks like—and those who stay mired in a traditional relationship/transactional role are going to become obsolete.”

Eve is a true leader and Presales visionary, and it was terrific to hear her thoughts and learn about her journey. Kudos to the Presales Collective for creating a forum that enables such quality thought leadership content and reinforces the value of a vastly underserved (and underrated) community.

Aaron Sun Avatar photo December 1, 2020