Presales professionals are often searching for ways to increase their impact throughout their organization. Sometimes, solution engineers feel overshadowed by their sales counterparts. During her DEMOFEST 2023 session, Lori Payne demonstrated that solution consultants possess more authority than they are aware of.
Lori Payne, a seasoned professional who’s currently serving as the Vice President of Global Solutions Consulting at Blackline, shared that the true measure of a successful sales engineer is their ability to exert influence.
According to Lori, “Influence is simply the ability to modify how a person behaves or thinks based on the relationships you have with them and maybe a little bit of persuasion. So at its core, influence really is the ability to have an impact on others.”
The Power of Influence as an Individual Contributor
As an individual contributor in the presales realm, whether you hold the title of solution consultant, solution engineer, or solution architect, you possess a remarkable ability to exert influence on both the potential clients you engage with as well as your internal stakeholders who work alongside you on deals every day.
B2B Buyer Mindset
As a presales professional, you have the advantage of understanding the buyer’s journey without the same pressure as sales to close deals and a unique perspective of the challenges the buyers face. This gives you the ability to connect deeply with your audience. Lori says, “We [Blackline] often hire presales resources from either the industry that we sell into or maybe they were a former user of the software that we sell because we think that experience builds expertise and credibility.”
Active listening is one of the most important skills someone in presales can have because it helps you to build rapport with the buyer and is an effective way to conduct some real-time discovery. When you listen carefully to the customer, you can identify their pain points and show how your solution addresses those pain points. But make sure you’re listening to understand rather than listening to solve.
Stories are a powerful way to connect with buyers and to influence their decisions. When you share personal experience in your presales demos, the buyer has an easier time relating to your message and will retain the information better. Buying is an emotional process and you can leverage that emotion through stories.
Sales engineers should play a significant role in determining the next steps in the sales process, especially when it comes to deciding if the next step should be a live demo, an interactive video demo, or nothing at all. Solution engineers provide a more accurate perspective on the progress of a deal. With the use of experience, metrics, and KPIs, solution consultants can identify any potential roadblocks that could prevent a deal from closing.
The Power of Influence as a Leader
Influence and leadership can be a powerful combination if used correctly. Influence, when it comes to leadership, is not the ability to influence metrics that’s important, but to influence our presales teams to be the best version of themselves.
Lori says, “Influence really consists of a set of skills. And you can develop these skills just like any other skill. All the skills we talked about in the previous section still apply to leaders, but the application of these is done in a slightly different way.
You need to build a connection with the members of your team. The best way to do this is by sharing the vision for your team and organization in a way that gets everyone excited and on board. If you can inspire your team, they are more likely to be open to your ideas and suggestions.
Leaders need to build trust throughout the entire organization. If you want to have influence past your team, you’ll have to be comfortable working with people across every different department. Especially if your organization is highly political, you’ll need to know how to navigate potentially tense interactions.
Celebrating the accomplishments of your team is an easy way to build trust and influence. Not only do you let those individuals know you appreciate them, they feel like their work matters. Lori says, “When you do this, you increase the likelihood of a deeper connection here and connections make it easier to enlist their help in the future.”
The only constant in sales is that things are always changing. To stay current in the latest trends, you have to be willing to network. Lori says, “Leaders have to network and hear from other thought leaders, try something new, brainstorm with others on ideas that could either fail or change the trajectory of their entire organization.”
You can’t manipulate your way of influencing someone; that’s why the hard tactics don’t work when your goal is to influence someone. It doesn’t require hard tactics, commanding obedience, or maintaining control of the entire conversation, as these approaches are often off-putting and end up working against you in the long run.
Instead, presales need to learn how to change minds, ignite motivation, and inspire others to reach their full potential. The best way to influence is to use what Lori refers to as, “the Head, Heart, and Hands appeals.”
The head, or logical appeals, tap into people’s rational side. You present an argument for the best choice of action based on facts. Your offering should match the buying group’s beliefs, but you need proof to support your claims. This is where things like case studies or third-party insights come in handy because these back up your assertions.
The heart, or emotional appeals, tug at the audience’s heartstrings. Buying decisions are emotional decisions . There’s an amount of risk and uncertainty involved for customers, and they need reassurance from you as the subject matter expert.
What are they hoping is the outcome of this meeting? Do they have a particular value that aligns with the solution? You should align your message to an individual’s goals and values.
The hands, or cooperative appeals, is what we can accomplish together. This is where your role as a trusted advisor really has the power to influence the audience. They are looking for consultation for what comes next and what results they can expect.
And internally, this is where you drive teamwork throughout your organization. Lori says, “Who already supports this idea? Who already has the credibility we need to get this project done? Working together to accomplish a mutual goal extends that symbolic hand.”
Using these tactics can help you achieve more goals and objectives faster than those who don’t. Being an influencer extends beyond influencing the customers.
It also allows you to provide influence in your organization. And you don’t have to have any specific job title to use these strategies. Anyone in any position can develop these skills, whether they are an individual contributor or in a leadership role.