The Presales Tech Stack

Much has been made about the venture capital flooding the presales market and the increasing opportunity for tech companies to scale the presales operation through automation. But what exactly is the presales solution landscape, and is there really an emerging “Presales Tech Stack”? The answer is YES. And there are few people in the community more qualified to discuss it than guest speakers Kerry Sokalsky and Chris White. They have recently released the first ever Presales Buyers Guide, in which they have defined five subcategories of presales automation and tooling. Join them on June 23rd at 11am MT to talk about those categories, the problems they address, the benefits that companies are realizing, and help everyone make better sense of the emerging Presales Tech Stack and landscape.

About the Presenter

Kerry Sokalsky smiling in front of a brick wall.

Kerry Sokalsky

Kerry Sokalsky is the Founder and President of Presales Mastery, helping B2B software sellers win more deals with personalized 1-on-1 demo call coaching. Using an online coaching platform, we coach recorded prospect demos to provide feedback on real-world performance, leveraging our proprietary 103-metric demo performance best practices framework. Our long-term coaching reinforces key learning concepts to convert them to sellers’ sales muscle memory, and focuses on individuals’ unique skill gaps that often aren’t addressed in group training. Kerry has over 18 years of global presales and sales enablement leadership experience at both dynamic software startups and Fortune 50 firms. An accomplished demo coach, he brings his clients both first-hand demo experience, having delivered over 1,000 custom enterprise demos over his career, along with a wide breadth of perspectives from working with dozens of presales organizations across the globe. Kerry is also the Founder of SETO, the Toronto-chapter of SE Nation, and co-author, with Chris White, of the Presales Buyer’s Guide.

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Chris White

Chris White is the author of the acclaimed “The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers”. Founder and CEO of Tech Sales Advisors and host of the LinkedIn Live program Tech Sales Advice (#techsalesadvice), Chris is no stranger to the presales community. A regular guest at industry events and three-time presenter at DemoFest, he speaks with infectious enthusiasm, shares unique insights, and leaves tangible steps on how to improve.

Webinar Transcript

Transcript

In this webinar, experts Kerry Sokalksy and Chris White discuss the challenges facing presales organizations and the need for a presales tech stack. The speakers explore the five categories of solutions that make up the Presales Tech Stack, including presales oversight and management, presales opportunity execution, demo automation, response and knowledge management, and presentation and data solutions. They emphasize the importance of aligning the capabilities of vendors with the specific needs of a company and understanding different vendors’ interpretations of presales processes. Additionally, Sokalksy and White discuss the Presales Buyers Guide they created to help leaders navigate the rapidly changing marketplace, including vendor profiles, key capabilities, and use cases.

  • 00:00:00 The host introduces Kerry Sokalksy and Chris White, who will be presenting on the presales tech stack. They are both experts in the field, with Chris White being the author of The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers and the founder of Tech Sales Advisors, and Kerry Sokalksy being the founder and president of PreSales Mastery. The audience is invited to participate in a poll to see the makeup of the audience, with a heavy emphasis on presales leadership. They are also asked whether they represent a pr-sales vendor or buyer, with vendors being prevalent.
  • 00:05:00 The speakers discuss their view of the technology market and the challenges facing presales organizations today. They mention the exponential increase in demand for presales and the subsequent increase in investment in solutions that improve presales performance and automation. They also note that the overall market and vendor awareness is somewhat spotty, and there is a lack of clarity around what each vendor does. Additionally, presales historically hasn’t been tasked with evaluating and choosing solutions to help with their problems, making it a challenge to determine which solution addresses which use cases.
  • 00:10:00 The speakers outline the challenges faced by presales organizations, including poor adherence to sales-engagement methodologies, limited or no qualification or discovery, misalignment or broken relationships between sales and presales, numerous unqualified demos that waste presales time, and inadequate demo infrastructure. These challenges often lead to disjointed demo delivery, unscheduled downtime, lack of consistency in demo assets, and difficulties in illustrating how the solutions work and the value they provide. The modern buying habits of buyers are changing, as prospects are now only directly engaged with sellers for as little as 17% of the sales cycle, making it crucial to enable buyers on their terms rather than selling to them on ours.
  • 00:15:00 Kerry Sokalksy and Chris White discuss some of the challenges associated with presales tech stacks. They point out that, because buyers want to test out solutions quickly and without restrictions, it’s important for presale sellers to customize their demo models and messages to each prospect. However, customizing demos can be time-consuming and thus exacerbates resource limitations. Therefore, solutions that can automate and eliminate low-value tasks will be of great benefit for presale teams. Additionally, presale leaders struggle to get full insight and visibility into team activity, which can make it challenging to demonstrate team contributions to other sales leaders. Finally, evaluation periods tend to be unstructured and poorly defined, making it difficult to get visibility into the status of deals.
  • 00:20:00 The speakers discuss the need for tools to add structure and visibility to presales evaluations. These tools are designed to define a set of criteria and use cases, as well as test cases to ensure that there is alignment between customer needs and product direction. They also talk about the lack of alignment between field intelligence and product direction and how these tools can help address that challenge by providing visibility and insight into where the team is spending the majority of their time, what they’re working on, and what they’re winning or losing. Finally, they provide an overview of the presales landscape, which includes five focus areas: presales oversight and management, presales opportunity execution, demo automation, response and knowledge management, and presentation and data solutions.
  • 00:25:00 Kerry Sokalksy and Chris White discuss presales opportunity execution. They highlight the importance of tools that allow individual sales engineers to manage their day-to-day activities and track their information, specifically with regard to the opportunities they are working on. Such tools aim to provide a one-stop-shop dashboard where presales professionals have all their information about all their opportunities. They also discuss demo automation, which focuses on getting buyers exposed to products earlier, more easily, and with better and more consistent delivery, with a variety of approaches to tackle individual problems. One of the advantages of these solutions is the ability to organically discover new stakeholders in the buying team, which can give sales and presales teams a huge advantage when they do finally engage directly with those buyers.
  • 00:30:00 The speakers discuss the different categories of solutions that make up the presales tech stack, including presales oversight and management, presales opportunity execution, demo automation, and response and knowledge management, which is a category that includes RFP automation. They also discuss the last category, which includes a range of solutions to improve how presentations and demos are delivered, such as helping sales and presales collaborate more effectively and providing a consistent interface to avoid buyer confusion. They note that the market for vendors in this space is becoming crowded, with 24 vendors initially identified and 10 more found within nine months.
  • 00:35:00 Kerry Sokalsky and Chris White discuss their creation of the Presales Buyers Guide and its importance for both presales organizations and buyers. They aimed to help leaders make better buying decisions and understand where to invest by navigating the options and players that could solve particular areas and challenges. The guide includes detailed reviews of five focus areas, benefits of solutions, key capabilities, and considerations when evaluating vendors. Each vendor has a unique profile that includes their areas of focus, client profile, top use cases, features and differentiators, pricing models, notable clients, case studies, and corporate overview. The guide is published online and regularly updated to reflect the rapidly changing dynamics of the marketplace.
  • 00:40:00 Kerry Sokalksy and Chris White discuss what wasn’t included in the presales tech stack report, such as rankings and detailed feature comparisons. They encourage readers to focus on the areas where they can add the most value and choose tools and solutions based on their specific requirements. The vendors they looked at are commended for their impressive capabilities, even though product maturity and company maturity do not necessarily correlate. They also point out that the market is changing rapidly, and new vendors are entering the space, while existing vendors are introducing new capabilities. Lastly, they encourage people to consider the product, company, and people behind the product when making their decisions.
  • 00:45:00 The speakers discuss the importance of understanding the needs of a company and aligning the capabilities of vendors with those needs. They explain that vendors have different understandings and interpretations of presales requirements and processes, with different taxonomies and even different meanings for terms like “demo.” The speakers caution against relying on future functionality or assuming that a solution will magically solve a company’s problems, emphasizing the importance of having solid processes in place before implementing new technology. They suggest focusing on smaller, more defined scopes of requirements to get quicker wins before expanding to larger pre-sales organizations.
  • 00:50:00 Kerry and Chris discuss the importance of determining which use cases are important to your organization when evaluating demo automation vendors, as different vendors excel in different areas such as guided interactive tours versus product functionality replication. They also emphasize the need for these tools to seamlessly integrate with your existing tech and marketing stack to provide meaningful insights and analytics. Additionally, they mention that the buying decision may become difficult as many vendors in the market offer impressive capabilities and solutions, but their buyer’s guide is free to anyone who wants to navigate through the landscape and make informed decisions. They did not personally evaluate the tools; however, they approached the vendors and collected information via interviews.
  • 00:55:00 Kerry Sokalksy and Chris White discuss their process for evaluating vendors in their presales tech stack, which included starting with an understanding of the market and competitors before sending out a detailed RFI/RFP. They then had vendors present to them as though they were a buying prospect to get a better understanding of how the features and capabilities could add value to organizations. They also expressed an interest in hearing from those with experience working with the tools they evaluated to help build knowledge in the community.