Build Back [Around] Buyers

Aaron Janmohamed
The Intersection of Presales with Buyer Enablement and PLG

You can’t move deals through the funnel like grease lightning without great buying experiences. By “great,” I mean the kinds of experiences that make buying simpler and pleasant – ones that guide buyers to make group decisions faster than they normally could. 

That’s not easy when buyers spend only 17% of their buying journey meeting with all potential suppliers, leaving only about “5% of a customer’s time during their B2B buying journey” for your sales reps. If that’s true, who’s really doing the selling?

Distribution of buying groups' time by key buying activities

Buying is hard work as it is; the burden of closing deals rests mostly on buyers’ shoulders, not sellers. If buyers sell, what do sellers do?

It turns out, nobody is training buyers how to do it well. That’s a good place for your revenue teams to start.

You’re not a seller; you’re a buyer-coach. The most effective teams create experiences around buyers – not around sales processes – that enable them to build strong business cases and to reach group consensus fast. 

Fortunately, there are just so many sub-par buying experiences out there – and so few buyer coaches – that if you’re one of the few who does it right, you’ve got an incredible competitive advantage. 

But doing it right requires:

  1. That you play A New Game – Buyer Enablement
  2. That you think about A New Lineup of Players – Unlock and scale your Presales teams
  3. That you consider A New Class of Tools to Play – PLG, including Demo Automation

1. The New Game – Buyer Enablement

Closing deals in the enterprise – especially within technical sales motions – requires group consensus. Groups are getting pretty big, and individuals in these groups each have their own emotional ROI baggage and motivations to contend with. Champions have to corral them to back a single decision together. They’ll get through it with or without your help. 

If it’s without your help, more often than not they’ll fail to reach a consensus and stay where they are. If it’s with your help, they’ll get you more revenue faster. That’s the end-game you should have in your mind.

Sales-led teams hold buyers hostage to AE calendars and linear sales processes. That’s the old game. Buyer Enablement – or Buyer-Led, Buyer-Guided – is the new game.  

Our CEO and Founder, Garin Hess, wrote the book on Buyer Enablement and describes it as, “A complete shift of mindset by salespeople, starting with the realization that they are not in charge of selling—their job shifts from ‘selling’ to ‘helping customers buy’.” 

2. The New Players – Unlocking and Scaling Presales

Presales isn’t new, but how winning teams use Presales to play the new game is very new. It’s just too bad most organizations handicap some of their most valuable players.

Not intentionally – in most cases they don’t even realize it’s happening. But here’s what it looks like:

  1. Demand for Presales resources is up.
  2. But prospects don’t have to qualify for them.
  3. So Presales spends 40% more time YoY on intro demos.
  4. Most are repetitive and 30-50% are unqualified.
  5. Leaders can’t find good people fast enough to meet demand.
  6. Or they just don’t have the budget (especially true in 2022).
  7. So the team they have has to do more (and better) with less.
  8. But instead, they just burn out and leave.
  9. Those who remain have a hard time quantifying their value to Sales.
  10. And good prospects pay the price with bad experiences.
  1. Demand for Presales resources is up.

Buyers want to engage Presales earlier in their buying journeys, and to stick around well past the close of the initial deal. That funnels a lot more demand to Sales Engineers and Solution Consultants. The result is Marketing, Customer Success, Product – they all want their slice of Presales. Today, less than 2% of Presales teams support Sales exclusively. 

  1. But prospects don’t have to qualify for them.

But there’s no mechanism in place to qualify buyers for access to Presales resources. Marketing has the MQL. Sales the SQL. What does Presales have? The intro demo! They’re mostly all done live.And there are more of them than Presales can actually do while tackling all the POC’s, discovery calls and custom technical demos they’d prefer to spend their time on.

  1. So Presales spends 40% more time YoY on intro demos.

It turns out, when you open Presales to more teams and buying stages, repetitive intro demos balloon out of control. Presales teams report delivering 40% more demos per week compared to last year. Despite being one of the least impactful activities, it’s now the third biggest use of Presales’ time.

  1. All are repetitive and 30-50% are unqualified.

And a lot of that is wasted effort. Repetitive intro demos, or harbor tour demos, are generic and mostly unqualified. There’s value in exposing prospects to your product, your use cases, your value propositions, your point of view on what they have to solve for, etc. But 30-50% unqualified just means you’re weighing every prospect equally. 

  1. Leaders can’t find good people fast enough to meet demand.

On most teams, when there’s a demand surge, you look for more people before you look to improve the results of the people you have. No Presales leader on earth can find quality talent fast enough right now. Even if they could, it takes 2-3X longer to fully onboard an SE compared to an AE. Cheeks in seats is not your best bet, at least not at first. 

  1. Or they just don’t have any budget.

But a lot of teams can’t even get the budget to hire more people. Part of it is a lack of prioritization by Sales leaders who own the Presales function, but there are plenty of macroeconomic factors at play that are tightening budgets. Quotas haven’t gone down, though, have they?

  1. So the team they have has to do more (and better) with less.

Which means everyone is scrambling to finally figure out how to do more with less. And more important than just doing more is doing things better. The answer should include at least figuring out how to spend more time on high-impact tasks with qualified buyers. 

  1. Instead, they just burn out and leave.

What’s actually happening is fewer people are asked to do more with less, which means you’re burning people out and watching them leave with all that juicy institutional knowledge, sales skills and product expertise. Retention of people, knowledge and skills has become the great white whale for revenue teams. 

  1. Those who remain have a hard time quantifying their value.

For those who do stick around, they continue to suffer from the same plague of not being able to show quantifiable value. It’s not that the data isn’t there; they just don’t do the work of getting it, or they don’t know how to get it. But when teams use Presales correctly, they can have a bigger impact on accelerating sales cycles and increasing close rates than just about anyone or anything else. Showing it is what gets Presales a “seat at the table”. 

  1. And good prospects pay for it with bad experiences.

Ultimately, it comes full circle back to customers. They’re the ones most affected by these breakdowns and bottlenecks. They wait 1-2 weeks before seeing the product. They’re held hostage to sales reps’ calendars. Their asynchronous buying journeys are never considered.

The New Players – Unlocking and Scaling Presales (continued)

Scaling does not mean growth through hiring. Leaders say things like, “We’re really scaling the org right now,” by which they really mean, “We’re hiring like crazy.” 

Scaling is about getting exponential results from existing resources – which translates to making it much easier on buyers and guiding them more quickly through the purchasing process.

Where do you start? 

#1  Make this your North Star: A better buying experience that keeps you selling between meetings and gives Presales time back for more important tasks. 

#2  Define and measure your Presales teams’ Demand Gap and their Key Activity gaps

Get a more complete guide to Scaling Presales here.

7 Immutable Strategies for Scaling Presales

3. The Tools – PLG, Including Demo Automation

B2B is broken, at least on some (multiple) level(s). Sales tries to fix it through brute force (i.e. more bodies, new comp structures, new territories, etc). Tools can’t fix it on their own either. But that doesn’t mean good tools with good sales strategy can’t help you play the game better!

Product-Led Growth has become a key GTM strategy (with a class of tools) for lots of companies in the last few years. Gartner has done some great work exploring the PLG phenomena and their top analysts attribute its rise and momentum to 3 core promises: Speed, Precision and Cost. 

But most people still associate PLG with free trials, freemium offerings, self-service purchasing, etc. If you have a more complex product, the degree of difficulty with that definition of PLG becomes almost untenable. 

Broaden your PLG horizons! Gartner VP Analyst David Yockelson says, “PLG does not, cannot, begin and end with a free offer”. A major component of PLG is to effectively introduce your prospects to your product on-demand, earlier and more often in their buying journeys.

Customers want to see the product! Product demos with Presales continue to be one of the highest rated touchpoints buyers have with a vendor, according to Gartner. Solve for the bottlenecks that exist within Presales – which lead to demo lag times of more than 1-2 weeks and Presales wasting 30-50% of their demo time on unqualified demos – with Demo Automation.

You still need intro demos, but you don’t need to do them all live. Automation can be the most powerful tool to scale any team, not just Presales. But in the case of Presales, Demo Automation is the best starting point. 

Demo Automation lets you clone your best SE’s, automate all repetitive intro demos, demo-qualify buyers (DQL – Demo Qualified Lead) and deliver personalized, interactive video demos on-demand. 

THE NEXT THING TO DO: 5-Step Framework to Adopt Buyer Enablement

A complete shift of mindset is a lot of work. The challenge for most leaders is knowing how to adequately enable buyers to sell, and how to turn their sellers into buyer coaches. To implement a customer-focused, buyer enabled strategy, we developed the DEEP-C™ Framework.

B2B buyers expect a better experience–easier, faster, more pleasant, on-demand, guided. Traditional selling tactics and tools simply don’t meet these expectations.

The DEEP-C™ Framework gives you a model for applying a strong Buyer Enablement strategy with steps for properly reorienting your approach to enabling customers so you can accelerate technical sales. 

Teams use it to “facilitate and coach the buying group” as they’re the only ones who can get the deal done. This is critical because “being unaware of needs somewhere in the buying group puts your deal at tremendous risk.”

DEEP-C™ stands for:

  • Discover your champion and through them discover the other stakeholders.
  • Engage the champion and through them engage each stakeholder.
  • Equip your champion with what they need to sell to the other stakeholders.
  • Personalize value to each stakeholder
  • Coach the champion and other stakeholders through the buying process to a successful outcome.

You’ll always begin by discovering and engaging your champions, but the rest of this framework doesn’t have to follow a linear path. For example, coaching usually starts early and continues long after the purchase. As the champion matures in their “selling” role, you will need to equip them with more tools and information, then help them personalize that to each stakeholder.

If you’re a sales leader, pick a product, a single segment, and a team to begin testing the Buyer Enablement approach and the DEEP-C™ Framework in the reality of your team’s daily life. If you get good results, do more and broaden the experiment. If you continue to get good results, go all in.

You’ll need to adjust as you go, but at least make a plan and start somewhere small, then expand in phases. Teams that successfully shift their thinking for how to approach technical sales usually start by setting up a Buyer Enablement team. Recognizing that this initiative requires providing the right content to the right customers at the right stage, the Buyer Enablement team will have to define the typical buying group then create content specific to the stakeholders in that group. 

It takes time and effort to begin, but by the end, teams have content that speaks to the needs of each prospect’s industry, company, and stakeholder roles. Most importantly, their buyers have the structure, the information and the confidence to rally their teams towards a faster purchase and a highly successful adoption.