Unlock Tribal Knowledge and the Technical Conscience of Every Deal

Aaron Sun Avatar photo

PreSales DNA is not something that your top talent is simply born with; it develops over years of experience. It is a result of deep, hard-won industry knowledge. And once a PreSales professional steps into the elusive role of the heroic solutioner, they can take their expertise to any company. This poses several challenges for PreSales leaders. In a world where the demands for growth fall on this strategic department, managers cannot hire and train team members fast enough. What is more, everyone is competing to land and retain the same star players.

I gathered a cross-functional group of experts to figure out how to unlock and scale the tribal knowledge of the best SEs. This post will dissect their perspectives and practical advice given in a fireside chat. I will surface insights from Vivun’s co-founder and Chief Data Scientist, Joe Miller, Ph.D.; Consensus founder and CEO Garin Hess; and the legendary Tosin Ajayi, Director of PreSales Solutions Architecture at MongoDB.

Drive a Repeatable Winning Strategy 

As the resident PreSales leader in the discussion, Ajayi talked about how he uses playbooks to train his team. Playbooks are a great way to aggregate and transfer knowledge to condense years of learning the “hard way” into a user’s manual. The lessons in the playbook should not only help PreSales teams ramp on technology and processes faster, but they should also contain proven methodologies that improve your key metrics like win rates and deal velocity. Every good playbook includes objection handling. Hess cited a stat from Gartner, explaining that technology sales cycles extend by 2-3 months due to bottlenecks created by objections for critical business concerns like cost and risk. Wouldn’t it be great if every SE on your team was armed with the ammo they need to get ahead of these types of show stoppers within their first 90 days?

The challenge with a documentation-only approach to scaling tribal knowledge is that you end up with a very complex map, or in some cases an entire atlas, that attempts to mirror the mental maps of your best SEs and make it accessible for the rest of the team. As your teams expand and the depth of your product lines and buyer audiences grow, you end up with a permutation problem. While entirely necessary, the truth is that Playbooks are hard to maintain at scale. To be effective, you constantly need to assess the content to ensure it drives your desired outcomes amid a dynamic buyer’s market.

Miller suggests bringing in a standardized set of PreSales metrics to make sure that the playbooks are training the right things. You must track team activity to get the metrics–and ideally, you do this with as much automation as possible. This gives you the data you need to see what’s working, and you also get the opportunity to use that data in ways that preserve your team’s wisdom. At Vivun, we say that our flagship product, Hero, becomes your best SE. This is because it learns from all of the best practices across each individual on your team, and it has a perfect recollection of every deal’s intricacies. And the best part? This knowledge never leaves the company, so it becomes a recommendation engine giving your company an AI-powered advantage in decision making and helps your team adapt quickly.

The Hero Score® embodies this concept. Vivun AI comes in to do the heavy lifting in real-time to quantify the technical conscience of every deal based on the opportunity team’s data and how similar deals have performed in the past. The explainability of the AI makes the score highly actionable. The descriptions provide insights into why the opportunity is ranking in such a way and what can be done to increase the probability that it will close.

The actionable insights you get for every deal with the Hero Score®.

Spend Time on the Right Things

When asked which PreSales skill is the most important and difficult to scale, Ajayi pointed to Buyer Empathy. While many see this as an extension of an innate Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Ajayi believes it can be taught. For example, SEs can learn to surface the right lines of questioning when performing discovery for a given stakeholder at every stage. With practice comes the ability to accurately imagine what it is like to be in a buyer’s shoes. When an SE has been down every evaluation path, it’s easy to be a steward of product discovery and the journey to the tech win, and the decision to purchase. But how do you fast-forward this deep experience? When managers can spend less time hunting down the status of a given deal to answer your own leadership, it frees time for coaching your teams to develop a deeper understanding of how different stakeholders are thinking and how to get ahead of the buyer’s needs.

Miller believes that being more data-driven frees up PreSales teams to solve the complex problems in their work. It makes room to identify ways to optimize performance. He and Hess agree that automation is another key that unlocks bandwidth to focus on the things that drive success. Vivun is committed to making activity tracking and PreSales data inputs as easy as breathing. We do this through an intelligent calendar integration to automate tasks. We are also working on bringing more automation and wisdom to make resource allocation faster and more effective for managers. Hess urges teams to stop wasting time on what he calls “the harbor cruise demos.” He promotes demo automation and the concept of a demo qualified lead (DQL) to ensure the PreSales team is only spending live time with buyers who know enough about the product to ask in-depth questions because they are serious about an evaluation. True scale comes from the ability to drive higher impact without merely throwing more humans at your problems.

Start scaling tribal knowledge today

According to Ajayi, the art of scaling is about change management at the core. It requires planning and careful thought to get your team to adopt the changes that allow you to extract and replicate the deep industry knowledge in your team’s brains. Get your team to believe in the goals first, and then get their buy-in on the new behaviors that drive them. Show your team what is in it for them. Systems only work if your team believes.

Hess advocates for removing undue pressure from PreSales individuals. You can do this by reserving their time for the conversations and product exploration that matters. From his point of view, it’s essential to automate the basic demos in order to qualify buyers so that PreSales can focus on fewer, better interactions with buyers.

Miller says that you must start by collecting the data. If you don’t have deep, consistent visibility into what your team is doing over time, how can you make good decisions as a leader? It’s an upfront investment to measure what matters. In the end, the quality of the information you have is what makes or breaks your foundation for scaling tribal knowledge and leveraging wisdom that impacts your entire company’s success. 

Watch the fireside chat on demand.

Aaron Sun Avatar photo March 18, 2021