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John Care Answers a
Burning Presales Question

Aaron Janmohamed

How do you sell the value of Presales to Sales and Finance?

John is easily on the Mt Rushmore of Presales thought leaders. You could count on a single hand the number of people who understand how to create and promote the value of Presales as well as he does. 

He agreed to join me on the Burning Presales Podcast and I asked him one of the most often-repeated questions we get from the community: How do you sell the value of Presales internally, especially to Sales and Finance?

You can listen to his full response here or keep reading: I summarized his key points below. John breaks it down into 3 parts:

1 – Be active and not passive

2 – Back it up with data

-Incremental value of each SE

-Impact on pipeline

-Impact on deal speeds

-Use of competitive intel

-Impact on 3rd parties

-Impact on key relationships

3 – Package it in highly consumable, shareable customer stories

1 – Be Active and Not Passive

Sales Engineers – especially Presales leaders – need to be their own PR and marketing engines to promote the value they create.

Most people miss this part of the job. Self-promotion isn’t a natural fit in the SE personality profile, or maybe it just hasn’t been woven into the fabric of the job description. It should be. 

You’ve got to promote your successes and your influence on outcomes in the same way Sales teams promote theirs in the deals they bring in. 

Don’t hide in the shadows anymore. Be active participants in promoting yourselves. 

“I’m stunned by how many SE organizations around the world have the Better Mousetrap approach. ‘We’re a better organization; people will see it and understand how great we are.’ But, unless you expressly point it out, people make up their own minds and it might not be the best thing.”

Unless you point out what’s good and cool and impactful, people won’t know.

2 – Put Some Data Behind It

First, you should know the incremental value of each SE. 

It turns out that the value of one of your top SEs, in your standard software company, is around $6-8 million assuming no spare capacity inside the Presales org. 

John gives the formula to calculate this in one of his books, but it’s essentially this: twice the fully burdened cost of the SE plus the equivalent of their annual quota.

That’s what you lose in terms of opportunity cost – the impact to other SEs, the effort to hire and onboard someone new, ramp time, etc. 

Most companies aren’t operating at the highest level of efficiency and so don’t realize that value. If they have some budget lying around, the ones that are will hire 4-5 additional SEs instead of 2-3 AEs. 

It might take you a little longer to impact revenue, but their impact is greater and felt longer. So the whole notion of having a fixed AE:SE ratio is starting to go out the window. 

Second, what is the true impact of the SE org on the pipeline?

What are you doing to put additional deals (net new or expansion) into the top of the pipeline? This is the best way to add measurable value Sales and Finance will see and feel.

Third, what are you doing to speed deals up through the pipeline? 

Can you show the impact of running better business value discovery? Product demos are worthless unless you’ve painted the target clearly for all parties and know what you’re aiming for. 

Fourth, what can you do to collect, collate and utilize competitive information? 

Navigating objections and competitive fodder is one of the big challenges for Sellers AND for their champions. So what are you doing to make it easier?

Fifth, and this is another overlooked part of value, is how are you enabling 3rd parties? 

How much of your revenue is generated through 3rd parties? Could it be much higher and how much influence are you having over it? Who’s training 3rd party SEs so that they become bigger drivers of revenue, and can you show the impact you’re having? This is clear value creation. 

Sixth, how do you factor that into the relationships you help build? 

Not just with techies but with management and with different lines of business?  Show how you create trust and value with customers. This has nothing to do with the role or title but who’s best suited to do it for different people. 

3 – Package it in Customer Stories

Publicize it in win flashes. What’s the full scope of influence your SEs have on landing deals, expanding deals, bringing in 3rd parties or elevating them, dealing with competitors, etc.

Make it usable and consumable, not just for the SE community but for the Sales or and for the broader organization, and for different buyers and buying stages. Summarize deals from the SE point of view. 

And build compelling customer stories around it. We’re not talking about marketing ppt slides. These must be substantive.

Consider creating 60 second conversational narratives that highlight how feature configurations and tactics delivered measurable results. Showcase the value more than you do features, but weave the story together to connect those parts.  

These are great for sales pursuits and for internal credibility building. Imagine an AE being able to riff in a conversation with something like this: “You know, one of my colleagues was telling me about one of our customers who…..”

This isn’t just about name-dropping. Put some real meat behind it and make it broadly available. That’s value creation for everyone.

About John
John Care is the author of the highly successful book, “Mastering Technical Sales: The Sales Engineers Handbook”. The book has been described as “the ultimate how-to manual for presales engineers and their leaders”, and is now an integral part of new hire development at many technology companies. To date, over 35,000 students have been trained in his Professional Skills Curriculum. Look for him in our DEMOFEST 2022 lineup where John delves deep into the metaverse with his session “SE Journeys Through the Metaverse.”