How To Make Presales Effective

Why are sales engineers better engineers than they are sellers? A big problem with a simple fix.

What Actually Matters

There are only four capabilities that sales engineers (SEs) need in order to drive sales:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Leadership
  3. Discovery
  4. Clarity

But SEs don’t get trained on these things.

SE Training

I have been an SE and an AE.

I have been through all the training for both.

I also have trained many SEs myself.

SE training can be broken down into the following tiers.

No Training

This is what you would expect. It’s a person that doesn’t know their product or buyer (Knowledge) and doesn’t know sales (Leadership, Discovery, Clarity). Untrained SEs are not valuable to the sales reps that they support and they raise the all-important Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). They look like this.

Basic Training

Most companies have good basic training. SEs get the requisite knowledge that they need either from the sales enablement team, the product team, or through their own presales team. Knowledge goes a long way and is the building block of sales engineering effectiveness. Most training stops here though, so most sales engineers look like this. Average.

Advanced Training

Some software companies are advanced and they invest in advanced external training. The only other way they get here is through great mentorship and presales leadership or hiring veteran sales engineers that have failed many times and learned through those failures (lost revenue). Either way, some of the best SEs look like this.

Training Analysis

Why are even Advanced and Senior Sales Engineers still below average at sales?

Because “Advanced” sales engineering training consists of two things:

  1. Demo Training / Presentation Coaching
  2. Storytelling

Wait. Look at that again. 1) Demo Training. 2) Storytelling.

These things teach SEs to talk.

SEs are already good at talking, else we wouldn’t have hired them.

Talking is not sales. Sales is listening.

Problem and Solution

When SEs are trained to talk and demo better, they forget that their job is to Advance The Technical Sale. Making this problem worse is the relentless focus on the “Technical Win” and the corresponding measurement of it (i.e. POC Win Rates). Technical Wins and high POC Win Rates are not bad things, in fact, they’re great. However they distract presales teams from their true purpose, which is to Advance The Technical Sale when the AE is incapable of doing so.

The fastest way to advance the technical sale is NOT to demo, NOT to POC, and NOT to invite more potential objections by over-explaining. It is to have the SE Lead the client through the technical sale just like a good AE leads the client through the end-to-end sale. This is achieved with Discovery, Leadership, and Clarity. Without these things, the SEs greatest asset, their Knowledge, is wasted. Rather than consider oneself the client’s Trusted Advisor (Talker), SEs ought to first consider being their client’s Trusted Listener. Only then can they be the Trusted Leader.

Demos and POCs are simply mediums for selling. While important, they are tactics not capabilities. Training the real sales capabilities is what is needed.

Creating an Alpha Presales Organization

To create an alpha presales organization, sales engineers need to be taught to make their Knowledge productive. To do so, teach them Leadership, Discovery, and Clarity. If you don’t know how, ask. We have programs and workshops for teaching these skills and afterwards you can embed the training into your enablement program so that your entire presales organization becomes an Alpha Presales Organization.

Alpha Presales Training

Alpha Presales teaches SEs the things that are not natural to them: Leadership, Discovery, and Clarity (i.e. Brevity). The Alpha Presales System is modeled off of McKinsey’s proven capability building methods. Alpha Presales helps Sales Engineering teams make their Knowledge productive. After Alpha Presales Training, SEs look like this.

Book a call and turn your presales organization into an Alpha Presales Organization.

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