What Selling to PreSales Has Taught Me about AE/PreSales Alignment

As an experienced account executive selling enterprise software, I’ve always appreciated a close working relationship with my PreSales counterparts. Enterprise software is a team sport, and I needed their deep product expertise, their ability to weave stories of driving business value with our solutions, and their partnership to build close relationships within the accounts we pursued. But it’s fair to say that before working at Vivun, I may not have fully understood how to best partner with PreSales. My eyes are now wide open. Selling to PreSales leaders and understanding their journey through the technical sales process has shown me the full potential that this group brings to the table. I’ve discovered just how powerful PreSales can be when they’re given the right tools, resources, and -- yes -- culture to support their efforts.

Here are my three main lessons so far on how Account Executives can maximize the impact of their PreSales counterparts:

Lesson 1: Technical Risk is bigger than you.

One of my biggest epiphanies has to do with the nature of technical risk, and what it means if Sales and PreSales aren’t fully aligned on product fit for a prospect. I came from a world where our software required heavy services to bring customers up and running. On many occasions, we had strong political connections that ultimately helped close a deal despite major feature gaps. We pulled the deal in -- but the cost to the business was massive. The customer immediately became a drain on global service resources, and then later customer success, and then -- in some cases -- it became a churned customer.

The real power of closing a new customer comes from a true, undiluted technical win where the capabilities of my product map well to the prospect’s requirements and use cases. It’s critical PreSales takes the time to verify the functional fit of our solutions and ensure that the customer’s needs can be truly met -- because without a true technical win, the customer won’t be successful.

Lesson Learned: PreSales qualifies deals to ensure company and customer success, not to police your pursuits. If they raise a concern, I’ve learned that it's well worth the effort to get a plan in place to address it. And I’ve learned not to overcommit to get the deal done.

Lesson 2: PreSales understands what it takes to make a successful deal.

I spent years at Zuora so I know finance, but PreSales is a whole different--and awesome--set of buyers. They understand the building blocks of qualifying, doing a proper discovery, agreeing on decision criteria to gain the technical win, aligning on a decision process, and putting together a plan to get budget and executive support. Until now, most PreSales teams have been forced to manage these processes in Excel or customizations to their CRM tool – which doesn’t allow them to truly maximize their deal success or see trends across the business. It’s gratifying to see how excited individual contributors get about using Vivun – it's the first time they’ve ever seen a workspace designed for their specific needs. They quickly understand the value of having a place where they can manage their book of business and demonstrate their contributions to company success.

Lesson Learned: PreSales is my co-pilot in every pursuit – treat them like the strategic resource that they are. They can do so much more than just a demo. Defining an account plan with clear roles and responsibilities turns the Account Executive / PreSales combination into a powerful Buyer Enablement Team. No longer are we the stereotypical Account Executives who tee up the meeting and hand it over to PreSales – we tag team on presenting customer value throughout every interaction.

Lesson 3: Deal Qualification.

PreSales leaders know the importance of not getting pulled into unqualified deals, which makes deal qualification easy; they do it every day. But not only do they understand the importance -- they understand the impact when qualification is done poorly. Here are some numbers I typically show. Let’s say you have 100 PreSales team members, and 20% of the deals they work on aren’t properly qualified. If they work 100 deals a year -- which is in line with what we see at our larger customers -- then that’s 1,500 deals wasting approximately 3 hours a week / SE, or 6,000 hours a year.

When you factor in the fully loaded cost of an expensive PreSales person, that’s an awfully large pile of money that you’ve just set on fire.

Lesson Learned: The PreSales team has worked more deals than you have, and they know what Good looks like. Embrace their expertise! Your role is to lead the charge and ensure they get access to the right stakeholders to build the right vision for value. Help them to help you! I’m committed to teeing my PreSales counterparts up for success.

Onward and Forward

Selling Vivun has made me a better enterprise software executive. I’ve learned why and how to best align with my PreSales team to sell more business and grow market share. I truly believe that Vivun is the nexus that aligns not only the revenue teams but also the post-sales teams like customer success and product management as well. We want Vivun to be the source of truth for everything that product and revenue teams need to perform their best work -- with PreSales at the center of all of it. As the line between sales and PreSales continues to blur, Vivun will continue to help enterprise software companies drive alignment across teams and operationalize excellence. Being a part of this journey with Vivun has been eye-opening, and I’m looking forward to helping many more companies experience the same sales alignment success.

Chris Edelen is the Director of Sales of Americas West and APAC at Vivun.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn!