You know about sales, but do you know about presales?
For any business, making sales is essential to growth and success. However, many companies focus too narrowly on closing deals without adequately supporting the operational work that makes those deals possible. An overemphasis on sales alone can lead to inefficiency, wasted time and resources, and ultimately hinder an organization's ability to scale.
To maximize revenue in a sustainable way, companies need more than just a solid marketing plan and persuasive sales reps. They need a comprehensive strategy for the steps between a customer's initial interest and the final purchase. This is where presales comes in. Presales refers to the activities that occur before a sale is complete, including qualifying leads, drafting proposals, and moving deals through the pipeline. A strong presales strategy, along with an aligned marketing and sales plan, can significantly impact a company's ability to convert customers.
What is Presales?
Presales refers to the distinct activities that occur before the sale has been closed. This typically includes qualifying, proposing, and renewing deals. Presales can be a valuable component of a sales enablement strategy. Focusing on presales can help teams successfully close more deals in less time.
Key tasks related to presales include:
Prospecting refers to the act of searching for potential new customers. This could include researching target accounts, making cold calls, networking, or other methods of lead generation. Prospecting feeds the top of the sales funnel with new opportunities.
Making Discovery Calls
Discovery calls are initial conversations with prospects to determine if they might be interested in your offering and why. Understanding a prospect's needs and motivations enables sales reps to make compelling, customized value propositions. Discovery calls are a central part of an effective presales process.
Performing Product Demos
Product demos show prospects how your solution works and how it can meet their needs. Demos are an opportunity to showcase the key features and benefits of your product or service. Well-executed demos can move deals forward in the sales pipeline.
Qualifying Leads at Presales Stage
Qualifying leads involves evaluating and analyzing leads to determine if they are a good fit as potential customers. Qualifying leads might include reviewing lead data, making calls, conducting research, or live chat conversations. Qualifying leads helps identify viable opportunities for the sales team to pursue.
Proposals outline how your solution can meet a prospect's needs, including details on pricing, terms, scope of work, and the value the customer can expect. Proposals are a persuasive element of presales and help move qualified leads further down the pipeline.
When presales handles prospecting, discovery, demos, lead qualification and proposal drafting, it ensures that sales reps only spend time on opportunities that are truly viable and ready to purchase. This removes friction from the sales process and allows reps to close deals more efficiently. Proposal automation can be a huge boost to efficiency.
In many organizations, presales activities are handled by a dedicated presales operations team, which is a part of the larger sales operations team. These teams are focused specifically on optimizing the early stages of the sales process. Members of presales operations teams work in close coordination with the sales organization to support revenue growth.
Presales operations teams are tasked with identifying and positioning opportunities for conversion. They do this through activities such as:
- Conducting market and customer research to understand trends
- Analyzing customer data and behavior to create detailed buyer personas
- Crafting messaging and content tailored for different segments
- Implementing and optimizing systems for lead scoring and routing
- Coaching sales reps on best practices for prospecting, discovery, and overcoming objections
- Continually looking for ways to simplify and improve the sales process overall
With the support of presales operations, sales reps can focus their time and energy on the latter parts of the funnel: presenting proposals, negotiating terms, and ultimately closing and renewing deals.
Presales vs. Sales
The key difference between presales and sales is that presales refers to those activities that happen before a sale is complete or pre-sale. Presales includes tasks like:
- Researching target accounts and leads
- Qualifying and prioritizing opportunities
- Making initial contact with prospects (cold calls, emails, social media, etc.)
- Conducting discovery to understand needs and determine fit
- Giving product demos and drafting proposals
Sales, on the other hand, refers to the processes directly involved in closing a sale, including:
- Presenting tailored proposals and negotiating with prospects
- Finalizing contracts and terms of the deal
- Processing orders and onboarding new customers
- Providing ongoing account management and support
While distinct, presales and sales should work together in a tightly integrated fashion. Presales activities feed qualified opportunities into the sales pipeline, enabling reps to close deals more quickly. Sales, in turn, provides feedback to presales on prospect needs, common objections, and areas for improvement.
With clear communication and alignment on key goals, presales and sales can operate as a well-oiled revenue engine. But without presales to nurture opportunities at the top of the funnel, sales reps end up spending too much time on unqualified leads which reduces their effectiveness and lowers close rates.
Key Presales Activities
Let's look at some of the most important activities that make up an effective presales strategy.
Qualifying leads is one of the most crucial presales activities. Sales reps can only get so far with ambiguous or poorly qualified leads, leading to wasted time and effort. Presales teams can determine if a lead is truly viable through actions like:
- Making cold calls or sending introductory emails
- Reviewing lead data and behavior on the website or in marketing campaigns
- Conducting research on the lead's company and role
- Hosting live chats to learn more about the lead's needs, budget, timeline, etc.
Qualified leads with a high chance of closing are passed on to sales, while unqualified leads are either nurtured further or removed from the pipeline.
Discovery calls are initial phone conversations with qualified leads to explore their needs, priorities, and motivation for seeking a solution. Discovery calls help determine if there is a good fit with what you offer. Information gathered during discovery calls enables the creation of tailored proposals and value propositions for each viable prospect.
Preparing Presales Presentations
Compelling presentations are key to moving opportunities through the sales pipeline. Presales teams should prepare presentations that:
- Are based on information gathered during discovery calls
- Highlight how your solution meets the prospect's stated needs
- Focus on the benefits and key features that are most relevant to that prospect
- Convey your key value propositions in a persuasive yet helpful manner
Presentations may include elements like product demos, proposal overviews, and case studies of similarly featured customers. The goal is to convince the prospect your solution is worth investing in.
Managing RFPs and Proposals
Requests for Proposals (RFPs) require presales teams to submit formal proposals in response to a prospect's defined needs and criteria. Submitting persuasive RFPs and proposals involves:
- Thoroughly understanding the prospect's technical requirements, key priorities, and preferred terms
- Developing a comprehensive solution that meets or exceeds stated needs
- Effectively conveying the benefits and financial impact of your proposed solution
- Carefully determining pricing that balances prospect's budget with your profit margins
- Highlighting key differentiators that set your company and offering apart
RFPs and proposals require significant time and resources to complete but can ultimately win big accounts. Presales teams need strong technical knowledge, communication skills, and attention to detail to drive success here.
Conducting Competitor Research
Presales teams should understand the competitive landscape for your solution. That means researching competitors' products, pricing, sales strategies, and customer bases. Competitor research helps in several ways:
- It allows you to position your solution based on key differentiators that set you apart. You can focus your messaging on the areas where you have a clear advantage.
- You can anticipate common objections that competitors use to block sales and craft counter-arguments.
- You can better determine optimal pricing by understanding competitors' price points and the value they are conveying for the money.
- You gain insights into competitors' target customers and growth strategies. Look for areas they may be underserving to focus your own efforts.
- You can stay ahead of new features or solutions that competitors offer to ensure your product roadmap meets market demands.
Competitor intelligence, when acted upon, gives your company a strategic advantage in the market. Presales teams can drive consistent competitor research and share key findings with marketing, product, and sales groups.
Conducting Customer Analysis
Understanding your current and target customers in depth is key to an effective presales strategy. Some ways presales teams can analyze customers include:
- Sending surveys to gather data on customer satisfaction, needs, priorities and buying motivations
- Interviewing or conducting focus groups with key customers to better understand their experience using your solution
- Analyzing customer data, feedback, support tickets, and churn rates to identify common trends
- Groupings customers into segments based on attributes like industry, company size, job role, product usage, etc. Look for patterns across segments to optimize your sales and marketing approach
- Developing Buyer Personas based on research to represent the various segments and target audiences you aim to reach
- Identifying areas where additional value can be provided to customers to boost satisfaction, loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing
Customer analysis should feed into all areas of your organization from product development to support to inform better business decisions. But for presales, it is key to gaining the customer insights necessary to drive high-impact value propositions, messaging, and a tailored sales experience for each prospect.
Creating Detailed Buyer Personas
Buyer Personas are archetypes that represent your target customers based on attributes gleaned from customer research. Effective Buyer Personas share details such as:
- Job titles, responsibilities and key priorities
- Demographic information such as age, education level and geographic location
- Motivations, challenges, and objectives related to solving a particular problem
- Sources they look to for information and industry insights
- Key objections, concerns or barriers to adoption they typically face
- How and why they would come to value your particular solution
Developing a handful of Buyer Personas gives your entire revenue team shared insight into who exactly you need to reach and how. For presales, Buyer Personas help craft targeted messaging, uncover prospect needs faster, address objectives and concerns proactively, and present solutions in a highly relevant way for each audience.
Overall, presales activities require significant expertise, attention to detail, and a willingness to constantly improve processes based on data-driven insights. But effective presales can impact revenue growth, boost customer satisfaction, increase close rates, and reduce waste. For any business looking to scale, presales deserves investment and support to feed sustainable success.
Let's look at how presales and sales can work together through an integrated process focused on consistently winning new customers.
Identify Sales Qualified Leads
Marketing and sales prospecting generate new leads to feed into the top of the funnel. Presales teams must analyze all leads to determine which are sales qualified based on attributes like:
- Need for your solution with budget and authority to purchase
- Timeframe for making a buying decision that matches your sales cycle
- A good fit based on your ideal customer profile and buyer personas
- Demonstrated interest through website visits, content downloads, event attendance, etc.
Qualified leads are passed to sales reps to pursue, while unqualified leads are nurtured or removed from the pipeline. Presales should share details on each lead's needs, priorities and fit to properly equip sales reps.
Prepare and Deliver Proposals
For qualified leads, presales teams draft tailored proposals to demonstrate how your solution can meet their needs. Proposals should:
- Reflect a clear understanding of the lead's stated priorities, budgets, and timeframes
- Highlight the benefits most relevant for that customer including ROI and impact where possible
- Focus on differentiators that set you apart from competitors
- Outline the pricing, terms, scope of work, and ongoing value/support proposed
- Be tailored for and speak directly to the decision makers who will review the proposal
Sales reps then take the wheel, presenting proposals and determining any negotiations needed to move towards a closed deal. But without presales laying the groundwork, reps end up creating proposals from scratch which reduces effectiveness and time available for closing.
Negotiation and Closing
After presenting the proposal, sales reps work to address any remaining concerns, negotiate terms, and close the deal. However, sales and presales teams should maintain consistent communication in case any new questions arise that require clarification of what was proposed.
If additional negotiations are needed with the prospect, presales can step back in to determine where there may be flexibility or how the solution/terms can be adjusted without sacrificing too much value. The goal is to land on an agreement that delights the new customer while still being profitable.
Once terms are finalized and contracts signed, the deal is won! But the work is not finished. Implementation, onboarding, and support must all be handled properly to realize the full value from a new account.
Implementation and Ongoing Support
To achieve long-term success, presales and sales must collaborate to ensure new customers adopt solutions and see maximum, ongoing value. Key actions include:
- Meeting with customers post-sale to reiterate key benefits, set expectations, and determine key milestones/timelines
- Developing a customer onboarding plan to guide clients through adoption while addressing any questions or concerns proactively
- Providing high-quality customer support and account management, especially in the early days of onboarding
- Checking in regularly on customer satisfaction and looking for opportunities to expand the account or provide additional solutions
- Continually optimizing processes based on customer feedback to improve implementation and adoption rates
- Upselling and cross-selling to existing accounts when viable to maximize customer lifetime value
The presales process does not end at the close of a deal. Presales teams should support sales and customer success to impact long term revenue through retention, expansion, and word-of-mouth. Satisfied clients often become your best leads for new opportunities.
Presales and sales each play a vital role in revenue growth, but together they can drive sustainable success at scale. With clear communication, shared goals, and a tightly integrated process, presales and sales operate as an efficient growth engine.
Presales nurtures opportunities at the top of the funnel through prospecting, research, discovery calls, demos, and proposal development. This feeds sales with qualified leads and much of the information needed to close deals. In turn, sales provides feedback to further optimize the presales process.
Some key points to take away include:
- Focus presales on optimizing early-stage activities like lead qualification, discovery, and needs analysis. This allows sales to spend more time closing deals.
- Develop a standardized yet tailored sales process that weaves presales and sales together. Map the key steps from attracting new leads to onboarding new customers. Optimize this process continuously based on data and feedback.
- Invest in both presales operations and sales enablement. Dedicated presales teams can focus solely on optimizing the top of the funnel. Enablement resources help coach sales reps to leverage the output of presales for better close rates.
- Conduct in-depth research including competitor analysis, customer surveys, and buyer persona development. This information feeds tailored messaging, value propositions, and experiences for each prospect.
- Use systems and technology to scale your sales efforts. This could include lead scoring/routing tools, automated alerts or notifications, content management systems, sales enablement platforms, and CRMs. But any technology should be optimized around your defined sales process.
- Measure, analyze and optimize based on data. Look for ways to boost close rates, reduce the sales cycle length, increase customer lifetime value, drive higher conversion at each funnel stage, etc. Then make adjustments to your sales, marketing or onboarding approaches based on key insights.
- Ensure implementation, onboarding and support provide value. Happy customers lead to higher satisfaction, retention, and word-of-mouth marketing. Plus, they become ideal references and upsell opportunities.
An optimized presales and sales engine, grounded in strategy and data, is essential for any business looking to drive substantial growth over the long-run. By investing in these foundational areas, companies set the path for sustainable success and scale. Overall, presales should never be an afterthought but rather a key component of your broader revenue strategy and enablement. Companies that nurture opportunities at every stage of the customer journey will thrive.