Driving growth is what keeps business owners up at night.
Luckily, digital tools and automation are making growth easier than ever to achieve. CRM tools have made the sales process more efficient by minimizing the tedious manual work. And this has implications for every single team that supports your customer journey.
As more and more companies want to try before they buy, the discipline of pre sales and sales engineering has become increasingly important. Companies want to prove that they will get value for a solution before entering a commercial relationship.
This is great for the prospective customers, but puts an increasing amount of pressure and strain on a company’s ability to drive value earlier in the sales process. Pre sales teams are constantly maxed out and workflow and automation is one way to improve their capacity and effectiveness.
We’ve put this guide together to outline specific workflows for pre sales and solutions engineering teams that will help your team do more with less!
What Is the Pre Sales Process?
If you ask wikipedia, they do a nice job with the definition.
“Pre sales is a process or a set of activities/sales normally carried out before a customer is acquired, though sometimes pre sales also extends into the period the product or service is delivered to the customer.”
But what are these activities? And what are the most important ones to drive the best customer experience efficiently!?!?
Essentially, your presale team members work closely with your marketing team and your sales reps. Sometimes called sales engineers or solutions architects, these are the people who come into a late stage sales cycle and help prove that the product or service can do what your company says it can do.
If you were to distill their core activities down even further it’d be:
- Understanding the use case or pain a customer is trying to solve
- Mapping that to your solution to design a POC that accounts for what a “win” looks like
- Typically implementing a smaller scaled version of that to validate that solution
- Collecting and disseminating data throughout the entire process to inform things like progress, customer needs, feature requests, time + resource allocation and forecast implications
- Working with the AEs and CSMs to ultimately close the deal and then set the customer up for a broader successful deployment
Though we just summed this up in about 5 bullet points, THIS IS A LOT OF WORK. Especially as you work with more nuanced solutions.
This is where pre sales workflows can have a massive impact on your business and sales and solutions engineering team’s impact on your business.
The irony is how often these opportunities are overlooked. Pre sales processes and workflows impact revenue generation 2-3X more than lead generation, according to Harvard Business Review, and have these additional impacts:
- 5% improvement in conversion rates
- 6–13% improvement in revenue
- 10–20% improvement in the speed of moving prospects through the sales process
According to HBR, companies with strong pre-sales activities and workflows consistently achieve above average win rates of 40–50% in new business and 80–90% in renewal business.
So what kind of workflows support these kinds of results? Keep reading.
4 Types of Pre Sales Process Workflows that Support Sales Engineers
It’s common for sales engineers to be working many deals across your entire sales team. And because sales engineers cover a lot more accounts than sales reps do, it’s also common for them to be stretched thin with barely any bandwidth.
After seeing how powerful the pre sales process can be, the next step is to figure out:
- How can the pre sales team stay focused and manage their time to optimize revenue and drive growth?
- What can you do to improve productivity for and leverage the skills of your pre sales team?
Supporting the pre sales team with efficient project management and easy to use workflows will maximize how your company leverages the many benefits they are able to offer.
Here are 4 workflows that can help your business accomplish that.
Workflow #1: Increase Visibility with Easy Meeting Capture
Problems can arise when key information and learnings are not being captured and subsequently distributed.
Most modern pre sales teams use Salesforce.com to document what they learn when prospects interact with the product. These findings take place and are documented in various ways, from meetings, notes, use cases, product feedback etc. all so that adjacent teams can work together to close the deal.
By making meeting capture easy, notes and learnings can be easily shared, segmented, and efficiently accessed with search criteria.
And the right information provides the pre sales team with the unique objective perspective on whether or not a deal will close and whether or not it should close. This enables the pre sales team to make a significant contribution to company forecasting.
One of our clients at Troops has a sales engineering team that not only predicts if an opportunity will convert into a sale, but also predicts whether this prospect will become a great user of the product.
Joe Casson, a Senior Manager of Solutions Engineering during his time at Optimizely formalized evaluation criteria into a checklist. There are 20 criteria that help Optimizely understand the health of the customer once they come onboard. If a company doesn’t seem like a good candidate, the team needs to know as soon as possible.
“It sometimes takes over a year to see a return on investment from experimentation,” Joe told us. “If we just sell them a one-year contract for software they don’t need, they’re just going to opt out, and that doesn't help anyone.”
Workflow #2: Efficiently Structure & Disseminate Handoff Information
Time kills deals. And so does making customers jump through hoops by making them answer the same questions they already did because information wasn’t transferred when solutions engineers enter a deal.
The ability to follow up to a customer’s request, address customer needs, or very quickly change strategy is a huge competitive advantage.
Because your pre sales team team must quickly get up to speed on each deal they are brought into, Salesforce plays a major role in what is often called the “handoff.” The specifics of the SLA and other data-driven details for each deal will, of course, vary.
With this in mind, you must make it easy for SEs to get up to speed quickly. Asking them to dig around the CRM for everything can be cumbersome...if the information is even there in the first place.
This is why we recommend building workflows that automatically share them and connect with team members at the right time so that they can get everything they need.
Though an ideal state, everything lives perfectly in the CRM, this really just isn’t the reality for most companies and there is often anecdotal information that must be conveyed conversationally. This is why we strongly advocate for these automations and conversations to occur in Slack so that data and conversational context can be married in one place.
A simple tactical pre sales workflow example of this might be something like when a deal enters stage 3 POC, automatically connect the AE, BDR, and SE in a channel and share the relevant CRM information right then and there so everyone can get up to speed quickly. By putting this rigor and structure with a pre sales workflow or automation, there’s no guesswork on whether people are getting the data they need and teammates can fill in the gaps conversationally as needed.
Workflow #3: Customer 360 in Messaging Platforms Like Slack and Teams
When you provide greater visibility for the pre sales team into every aspect of the deal including implementations, you make it easy for them to understand what’s happening, you accelerate stalled processes, and you break down information silos.
Imagine having a 360-degree view of your key accounts—from initial contact and warm lead to renewal–so everyone involved can monitor high priority accounts every step of the way.
We have conducted research that makes it clear that Slack and MS Teams are the new place where teams like to swarm around opportunities compared to legacy collaboration mechanisms like Salesforce chatter.
In a recent CRM + Messaging report, the market indicated that:
- 44% of companies use account based channels heavily to collaborate around deals compared to only 14% that use chatter
Moreover, a while back we found that 70% of companies have a dedicated channel related to an opportunity or account in their CRM, which indicates that this has become the new norm.
It makes sense. Slack or MS Teams is the easiest place where everyone at the whole company already lives across devices including your executive team. At Troops, we’ve always called these Deal Rooms. If this is a new term, Deal Rooms are dedicated channels for your accounts and provide opportunities to align people, assets, and information to ensure you have a 360 degree view of the customer throughout the sales process.
Deal Rooms let you pull the curtain back on a complex sales cycle, so you know when:
- A meeting is happening
- A stage or next step changes
- Deal support is needed by an adjacent team
- Coaching or guidance is necessary
And the benefits don’t end with internal communication. Better internal communication results in better communication with the potential customer. Of course, that’s going to lead to higher win rates, a stronger partnership, retention of your better customers.
Check out one of several case studies here to see how effective Deal Rooms can be.
Workflow #4: Streamline Deal Support Requests
Sometimes, managers aren’t able to see the request workload of pre sales process teams easily. Assigning deal support requests equally is important for efficiently maintaining the pace of customer support. And it’s a simple way to document product feature gaps and requests.
We recommend creating an easy action where AEs at any time can simply request deal support, and then managers can instantly assign them as needed.
Without a true process that can be tracked and is highly visible, deal support requests can be lost, which slows down a sale cycle. Again, we think a great place that offers both visibility and the opportunity for managers to take real time action is Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Whether it's customer support, legal, or solutions engineering, it's always powerful to have your information centralized in one place. This way, you can send that information to the channels where everyone actually seeks the information and where everyone communicates.
Interested in seeing an example? Click here to check out how a winner of our Best Workflows Contest is using custom workflows to remove deal support request bottlenecks. Slack’s solutions engineering team has adopted this workflow to help account executives worldwide keep deals moving.
Starting Closing More Deals as a Team
There’s nothing worse for growth than a disjointed business process that keeps good people from doing their best work.
With Troops custom salesforce workflows for pre sales teams, you can turn a slow-moving process that erodes trust into a streamlined partnership that speeds up deals in a matter of minutes.
At Troops, we’re building synergistic solutions that help salespeople close more deals as a team. Want to know more about how it works? Sign up for a free trial!