5 Burning PreSales Problems Sales Leaders Observe — and How You Can Solve Them

Scaling your PreSales team may be your best bet, and the most efficient way, to shorten sales cycles and improve win rates. But most sales leaders don’t know how to do it or are even aware it’s a thing.

All the focus and budget goes to hiring more AEs, buying AE tools, training, certifications, rearranging territories and compensation structures, partnerships, etc. Meanwhile, your sales engineers are struggling, but if you were to fix the problems that could unlock their ability to scale, it would accelerate sales. But what are those problems?

Sales leaders—including Rex Galbraith, VP of Sales at Consensus, who has sold to more PreSales leaders than most people on the planet—consistently observes 5 problems PreSales teams struggle with that get in the way of revenue. In this white paper, we define those problems and offer simple solutions to fix them.

The 5 burning problems sales leaders observe:

  1. PreSales does not effectively tie performance to revenue

  2. Sales engineers waste time on unqualified demos

  3. PreSales teams don’t promote their own contributions well

  4. PreSales teams want, but struggle to get, a “seat at the table”

  5. SEs and SCs value dependence over independence


1. PreSales does not effectively tie performance to revenue


Sales Engineers (SEs) aren’t wired like AEs. AEs are more revenue driven, whereas SEs are more behavioral and performance oriented. SEs tend to measure their own success by how well customers resolve issues using their solutions, even with revenue as a top KPI, and they treat their craft (i.e. demos) like an art form.

So it’s no surprise that SEs don't effectively tie effort and activity to revenue—they don’t measure how the things they do influence business outcomes. That makes it hard to justify budget requests to senior sales leaders for critical initiatives.


WHAT TO DO

You have to move the needle. Sales owns the revenue number, but SEs influence it. Track the deals where SEs are involved, what their engagement looks like, and how those deals perform compared to non-SE influenced deals. Look at direct (SE on a call) and indirect (engagement with SE-created content) revenue associations to measure total impact. Then track down to the activity level to see where SEs are spending time.

HOW CONSENSUS HELPS

Consensus tracks interactive demo consumption and engagement, with analysis on views, shares, and self-selected priorities. This allows teams to automatically measure indirect revenue impact and dramatically improves the quality of direct engagement.

Consensus also uncovers net new stakeholders organically and provides insights that connect to CRM to show to what degree a deal’s progression was influenced by PreSales resources.


2. SEs waste time on unqualified demos


PreSales is now in demand across the funnel, which creates bottlenecks and waste. 67% of SEs say prospects have to wait at least a week for a demo; 17% say they wait two weeks or more. The types of demos creating this lag are primarily “Intro Demos”, which are one of the least effective PreSales activities for driving impact. And at least 30% of all demos delivered are unqualified—many leaders report it’s higher than 50%.


Marketing has MQLs. Sales has SQLs and SALs. What do PreSales teams have to prequalify deals or demand for their time?


Use the Demo Qualified Leads (DQLs) as a PreSales gate before customers can engage with them. The DQL doesn’t reduce demo’s delivered; it increases qualified demos using signals to indicate the likelihood of a prospect becoming a deal. How much more time would eliminating unqualified demos give you to hit the same quota, and how many more deals would you close?


HOW CONSENSUS HELPS

Customers, like Trintech, have reduced unqualified demos to <5% with DQLs and use engagement with Consensus demos as the principal criteria. Demos delivered on our platform are interactive, available on-demand, and provide rich stakeholder analytics like views, shares, prioritized features/use cases, and more. Prospects who engage are 31% more likely to become deals.


3. PreSales teams don’t promote their own contributions well


When sales reps do a great job, everyone hears about it. PreSales are silent achievers. More and more organizations recognize them as a part of “the winning team” that helped close a deal. But more than anyone else, they’re content helping customers solve big problems.

Consider someone like Steve Wokzniak, the co-creator of Apple. His story isn’t told nearly as often as Steve Jobs’. Personality plays a big role there (see #2 above). He’s long-been viewed as a behind-the-scenes genius. Not less important but not in the spotlight, and for PreSales, that means a lower priority when it comes to investments and enablement.


WHAT TO DO

PreSales leaders should be more vocal about their team’s successes. Put their contributions and accomplishments front and center. This isn’t to suggest PreSales rates more than sales—when you miss quota, AEs are the first to go. But elevate PreSales in win reports, in company meetings, using customer validation, to demonstrate how critical they are to driving revenue.

HOW CONSENSUS HELPS

When SEs send demos from our platform, they receive concrete insights illustrating how their demos are performing. Customers use these analytics to demonstrate and influence customer engagement and areas of interest, with which they can proactively take steps to reduce sales cycles and improve win rates, which gets on everyone’s radar.


4. PreSales teams want, but struggle to get, a “seat at the table”


PreSales' contributions are getting recognized more, but they’re still left out of a lot of important strategic conversations. It’s a function of the first 3 struggles overlapping. For example, what do you expect to happen when you don’t tie effort to outcomes, and you allow your calendar to be dictated by external demand, and you’ve not adequately promoted your contributions?

No team is in a better position to elevate the way you sell and the way you look at revenue than PreSales. But still a lot of sales leaders don’t prioritize them and even resist the PreSales movement towards buyer enablement to accommodate new buyer expectations. Without deliberate effort, PreSales will continue to be relegated to mostly delivering intro demos and running RFPs, and will be seen as a sales cost center.


WHAT TO DO

It’s not about asking, it's about earning. SEs won’t be invited to the party. They have to show their value in more meaningful ways (see #1 above). Pitch the vision of PreSales to sales leaders—understand how PreSales is viewed and used, the shifts taking place which they can influence, then articulate the ideal. Track KPIs they’re not yet asking for—in addition to the ones they care about most—that demonstrate influence and show impact.

HOW CONSENSUS HELPS

Customers have discovered new stakeholders by engaging champions with automated demos through Consensus which were then shared to others on their internal teams. Being able to provide data points from our Demolytics, such as how many hours stakeholders spent engaged with those demos, paints a compelling picture.


5. SEs and SCs value dependence over independence


One of the things PreSales teams value is how dependent sales reps (and customers) are on them—in complex purchases especially. Automation in most forms scares them and creates resistance. Instead of doing more of the right things—qualified discovery, technical demos, consultative strategy—they’re backlogged under the weight of lower level activities with unqualified customers.

Consider the difference between a Level 4 and a Level 5 leader from the book The Good to Great by James C. Collins. The company runs better with a Level 4 leader, but if that leader leaves the company suffers. A Level 5 leader can be hit by a bus, and things will continue to move forward.

WHAT TO DO

Empower, train and enable sales to do more on their own and to preserve PreSales time for higher impact engagements. It enhances, rather than diminishes, their role. Make sales more independent and your value will automatically increase.

Delegate and automate lower level activities so you can spend more time on higher priority tasks. Find ways to make sales more independent and your value will increase.

HOW CONSENSUS HELPS

With Consensus, you can automate most lower priority, highly repetitive activities (i.e. Micro and Vision Demos), and quite a few high value, proactive activities (i.e. infosec reviews). PreSales won’t automate their jobs away. Instead, they’ll amplify their value by spending more time on the things that matter, like customized technical demos and solution planning sessions, which show a more direct impact on revenue. Customers see win rates increase by as much as 34%.


In conclusion...


“I see PreSales reps doing way too much menial work that anyone can do,” said Rex Galbraith. “It's like Gordon Ramsey working at McDonalds. It would kill me to see him making unqualified meals or unqualified dinner plans because they’re not suitable for his skill level.”

If your PreSales teams are wasting too much time on intro demos and early stage feature-function presentations, demand better. Enforce criteria to qualify for PreSales resources. Use data to articulate value and impact on revenue. Get a seat at the table by being proactive, and create a better culture of sales and PreSales alignment.