Sales engineers are often overworked and underappreciated. Increasing demand from Sales makes it difficult to keep up and many presales leaders are looking for ways to increase productivity to close the gap as well as improve the quality of work life for their teams.
Here are eight proven strategies for freeing up bandwidth for sales engineers to do more of what they’re best at: strategic consulting conversations, preparing better for and delivering custom technical demos, giving personalized attention to key accounts.
What Does It Mean to Scale?
First, let’s define “scaling”. Sometimes we think “scaling” means to hire more people. I often hear leaders say, “We’re really scaling the organization right now” when what they mean is “We are hiring like crazy.” In reality, scaling is not hiring. True scaling means to get exponential results from existing resources.
What Are the Obstacles to Scaling Presales?
Before we jump into the solutions, let’s list the obstacles to scaling presales. These include:
- Sales & marketing mismatch
- Training lag between new AEs and SEs
- Multilingual market coverage
- Going down-market where volume is higher
- Under-qualification leads to “wasted” demos
Resulting Problems from Overloaded Demand for Demos
The resulting problems that come from this is that clients end up waiting longer than they want and should have to. Sales also ends up waiting.
Recent research shows that the median time prospects wait for a demo after requesting one was five business days and over 60% of respondents indicated prospects had to wait at least a week. And 20% said they have prospects waiting at least 2 weeks for a demo. That’s a terrible customer experience, not to mention frustrating for the sales team.
Overloaded demo demand results in wasted resources; overworked sales engineers, robotic repetition, a lack of enough time for strategic consulting and so on.
What are the Benefits of Scaling Presales?
Benefits of scaling presales include:
- Better CX = clients get what they need quickly = shorter sales cycle and improved perception of company
- Sales team get what they need quickly = shorter sales cycle and improved perception of Presales team
- Efficient use of resources = better margins
- Better alignment of resources with demand = SEs are not overworked = less burnout
- More strategic consulting, less robotic repetition
The Scaling Solution: Using the Principles of Eliminate, Automate, and Delegate
Supposing repetitive demos are the biggest limiting factor—the bottleneck—then here are some key questions for any scaling exercise:
- Are there demos we can eliminate?
- Are there demos we can automate?
- And are there demos we can delegate?
Obviously, there’s a tradeoff here. We’re saying we’re not going to deliver all demos live with sales engineers. We’re going to try to eliminate some.
Which ones do we want to eliminate and why? Can we automate some using technology?
Can we delegate some to Sales to deliver? I’ll begin to address each of these questions a little later in this post and follow up with other deeper posts.
8 Scaling Presales Micro-Strategies
In this post I will show you how to drive presales productivity higher and meet increasing demand without increasing headcount. You’ll learn eight micro-strategies that you can choose to combine in different ways to create a Scaling Presales Strategy for your organization.
These strategies include:
- Defining the gap
- Better qualification
- Categorizing Demos to Align with the Buying Process
- Equipping Sales to Demo
- Leveraging Interactive Demo Automation
- Using Video for Multilingual Market Coverage
- Conducting Webinars for Mass Live-demos
- What KPIs Show If You’re Making Scaling Progress?
Strategy #1: Start by Defining and Measuring the Gap
You first need to understand the difference between where you are and where you need to be. This is both a qualitative and quantitative exercise. It is critical for you to define two types of gaps:
- The “Increasing Demand” Gap. This gap simply means that for whatever reason, you have an increasing demand for presales resources coming from the sales team. There are two key questions: “What’s the gap in our capacity to handle the demand and the demand that’s coming in?” and “What is causing this gap?”
- The “Key Activity” Gap. “Key Activity” gap analysis means taking a deeper look at the activities your SEs are currently doing and compare them with the activities they need to be doing to meet the increased demand gap. For example, if SEs are doing too many early-stage repetitive standard demos and are compromising their time on discovery, strategic consulting or other key activities, then perhaps we can find a way to take so many repetitive standard demos off their plates.
NOTE: I’ll post more in a different post on exactly how to determine and quantify the Demand Gap and the Activity Gap.
Strategy #2: Begin Using the DQL (Demo Qualified Lead) Stage for Better Qualification
Most go-to-market teams have several lead qualification gates through which leads must pass before they get assigned to other resources. These include Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), and so on.
We recommend that you implement a new type of lead qualification gate that we call the Demo Qualified Lead (DQL). This is the qualification standard a lead must go through before a presales resource can get involved.
At least one key qualification is whether or not the lead will engage with either an interactive video demo first, or a shorter introductory demo that you delegate to your sales team to deliver first. If they’re not willing to do that, then we should ask the question: “Are they really qualified enough to merit as a presales resource?”
Strategy #3: Categorizing Demos to Align With the Buying Process
When we hear the word “demo”, sometimes we think of only one type of demo: the technical demo. In reality, SEs are involved in preparing and delivering many types of demos that correspond with the needs of the buyers as they go through the buying process.
The six demo types are:
- Vision Demo. At the beginning of the buying process, this is a presentation often delivered by Sales, not SEs, that focuses on the value proposition: the problem, solution, and benefit.
- Micro Demo. Also at the beginning of the buying process, this is a short demo delivered by SEs that focuses on the product but is very brief and introductory. It often happens when a sales rep asks, “Hey SE, this prospect has 20 minutes. What can you demo in 20 minutes?”
- Qualifying and Discovery (or “Standard”) Demo. SEs usually deliver this demo at the request of a prospect to “learn more”. The problem here is that, as with Micro Demos, the prospects are often still highly unqualified and often results in a “wasted” demo.
- Technical Demo. This is where SEs shine. We want them to spend more time here. This is the highly customized deep-dive demo where SEs are invaluable.
- Closing Demo. The Closing Demos are often responses to questions at the end of the buying process after the buyer has already decided to purchase but is attempting to de-risk the decision. Do you have an integration with this or that system? How do you handle GDPR? Tell me more about migration of my data to your system?
- FAQ Demo. FAQ Demos are those demos delivered in response to the sales reps asking, “Can you hop on a quick call to help explain X, Y, or Z?” They often follow after another demo type and can happen anywhere throughout the buying process.
Strategy #4: Equipping Sales to Demo
Can we delegate any of these repetitive demos to AEs or BDRs so that even if the prospect doesn’t engage with an automated video demo, we could have the sales reps or BDRs deliver the introductory demo without having to get presales involved?
According to research at Consensus, 29% of respondents said that they’re having more than just SEs deliver demos of some kind. Of those who are delegating, 73% are using AEs, 31% are using BDRs, and 4% are using both.
Strategy #5: Leverage Interactive Demo Automation
So what is demo automation? In brief, intelligent demo automation starts with sales engineers making screen recordings of their software. These recordings get loaded into an interactive video demo format through an easy-to-use online process.
Learn more about:
Some key questions to ask are:
- Which demo types are appropriate to automate?
- Which demo types should not be automated?
- Where in the sales process should you use automated demos?
Strategy #6: Use Video for Multilingual Market Coverage
Another key challenge to scaling presales is multilingual market coverage, which is particularly acute in areas of the world like EMEA or APAC. To address this scaling challenge, I recommend using screen recordings or intelligent demo automation. Use tools like Screencast-o-matic or Camtasia to record the demo in the primary language, then dub over the narrator voice with a native speaker. Use captions in the native language if you don’t want to try to get a voice narrator in the native language.
We have a customer from a large Fortune 500 company operating in France, selling all throughout EMEA. They recently told me that they had an interactive video demo that was in Dutch, and sent it out when one of the stakeholders asked about an add-on product. Instead of having to get a presales counterpart involved that could speak Dutch or a translator lined up, they sent the interactive video demo in Dutch and they got the upsell the same day because they were able to deliver so quickly.
Strategy #7: Conduct Webinars for Mass Live-demos
Another tool to help scale presales is through webinars or live mass demos. This actually helps draw in some prospects who are not ready to engage with sales yet. Post on your website that you have different pre-scheduled webinars where you’re demoing your product.
I recommend focusing on vision, micro, and qualifying demos in webinars. I also recommend that you combine the vision and micro demo into one webinar (which would include an introduction to this product or an introduction to the company and the main value proposition) followed by a very brief product demo. Later in the month do a standard product demo webinar, which is a deeper dive demo in the product.
Strategy #8: Use KPIs to Measure Scaling Progress
To complete our scaling strategy we need to measure our progress. Here are some ideas for types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that could be helpful when trying to verify that you’re making progress towards meeting the increasing demand with existing resources.
- Avg demo requests per sales rep (any of 6 types)
- % of time SCs spend on key activities
- AE:SE ratio (should be increasing)
- # of Video Demo Views
- Video Demo View Time
- # of Stakeholders Discovered through video demo
- # of Video demos sent by AEs / BDRs
- # of live Vision or Micro demos done by AEs/ BDRs
- # of participants attending webinar demos