How to align your PreSales team with Product

Aligning your PreSales teams and Product teams is more important than ever as a result of the boom in product-led growth. With the increase in freemium models and self-service trials, customers—even in the early buying process—are highly educated, brimming with product feedback that offers both PreSales and Product teams the opportunity to iterate on the product as quickly and accurately as possible. But in order to do so, PreSales and Product teams need to have an open and fluid channel of communication.

So why is the alignment of these two teams really so important? First, when PreSales has the products built in a way that allows them to sell better and bigger deals, companies are going to win more often and increase their revenue. Second, companies will be better equipped to crush their competition by addressing product gaps that others haven’t already filled. And lastly, by elevating the PreSales department within a company, the team will become more cross-functional and impactful, ultimately influencing the software they sell.

A framework for understanding the PreSales and Product relationship

I like to think about the relationship between PreSales and Product using a concept I developed called “The 3 R’s”: Risk, Resources, and Roadmap. This makes it easy to discern where Product and PreSales teams can potentially work together and influence each other for the greater benefit of the company and their teams.

Risk is all about looking in the mirror when you look at a deal and understanding where changes need to be made. Vivun’s Hero platform helps us at Seismic identify how Product and PreSales can come together to mitigate potential risks such as where companies could lose, where they could be exposed, and where revenue could be impacted. Opportunity gaps are easily recognized in Hero, and after assessing risks, PreSales then has a solid opportunity to modify, pivot, or shift the narrative based upon what they know they need versus what Product can deliver.

Considering the PreSales and Product resources a company has is equally important to recognizing risk. When both departments understand the anatomy of a deal—people, expertise, technology, cost, benefits—the company can get closer to achieving consistent win rates and increasing average order size. These insights can then begin to drive product strategy and fundamentally change and elevate the PreSales role within an organization.

Lastly, and most consequential to the PreSales and Product relationship is the product roadmap. The product roadmap and strategy are largely dependent on what prospects and customers need today, as well as what they'll need in the next 12-36 months. PreSales is a go-to-market team that is uniquely positioned to help drive product direction because they give demos and hear authentic, real time feedback from prospects and customers alike. This valuable data, collected by PreSales on the front lines, should be used to drive and inform product strategy in the long term.

When the roadmap aligns with PreSales product feedback, the combined power of these two departments can be capitalized on to produce incredible products that address market needs. Tools can help: as mentioned, we use Vivun at Seismic. The Hero platform makes collecting and aggregating data and customer feedback easier than ever before. By detailing customer feedback from the field in Hero, the AI mechanism can automatically cluster and identify similar feedback across the Hero ecosystem, making data-backed recommendations that will ultimately influence the roadmap.

So how do I actually align Product and PreSales?

1. Use hard data

Companies are infamous for using anecdotal stories and gut feelings to back up their demands and claims. Executives will often only listen to the loudest customer or salesperson in the room, making decisions based on opinions rather than data, which leads to poor product strategy and the wrong features being built and invested in. When companies move from using anecdotal stories and opinions to actionable data, the data becomes the voice, and that voice has a point of view and a story to tell that can influence the roadmap with far greater accuracy than emotions.

2. Use the right tools and technology

Unfortunately, collecting and making sense of this data because of the sheer volume of it can be very overwhelming for PreSales, especially when PreSales is relegated to using clunky spreadsheets and random custom fields in Salesforce. When I began to create communicable data visualizations based on what I was collecting and inputting into Hero, I started to get that elusive buy-in from internal stakeholders. With Hero, Product Management can then take a cohesive look at everything in a structured way, where it can then help them either politely validate or politely challenge their roadmap direction.

3. Create a PreSales-buyer feedback loop

Ultimately, the data collected should be used to create a seamless PreSales-buyer feedback loop that will allow insights from the field to be funneled back to Product teams. This ensures Product teams will build the right solutions that meet market, customer, and prospect needs.

The PreSales-buyer feedback loop is essential to the direction of the product roadmap. PreSales is ideally placed to collect genuine buyer feedback that is unattainable through traditional and biased forms of market research. This allows Product to rapidly iterate based on quality feedback and builds confidence in Product and PreSales’s relationship since the feedback Product uses to inform the roadmap is reliable.

4. Build relationships within the Product team

Data is only the start, however. To achieve further cross-functional alignment, team members should build relationships internally with various stakeholders and hold cross-departmental meetings that make sure everyone is on the same page about process, opportunity gaps, resources, and more. Data storytelling is particularly powerful in these meetings to get large buckets of revenue that are associated with particular product themes onto the roadmap and to understand what ideas and features need to be compromised on due to finite Product team resources.

5. Recognize PreSales’ feedback

It’s incredibly salient to remember that for these feedback loops to be successful, the customer feedback PreSales collects needs to be acknowledged by Product or employees will lose the motivation to capture and share it. PreSales teams require a platform like Hero that makes it as easy as breathing to input and collect customer feedback. When the feedback loop between Product and PreSales is seamless, cross-departmental alignment can be achieved.

It’s worth it.

PreSales deserves a spot at the C-Suite table and aligning the PreSales and Product departments is a powerful way to earn that. Identifying the risks and resources teams have will help inform decisions when developing a compelling and winning product roadmap. The success of a company will be further realized when PreSales and Product have open lines of communication, seeing an increase in revenue and a decrease in market competition. For those PreSales leaders looking to elevate their department within their organization, aligning the Product and PreSales teams is a great place to start.