Ideas on getting them hitched to the same carriage, pulling in the same direction.
Pre-sales support is a wide term but generally it is applied to activities directly connected with helping a sales person to scope a solution, arrive at a selling price and generally to construct the bid once an opportunity has been recognised and the prospect has agreed to receive a proposal from you. The disciplines involved in pre-sales support could include; marketing, HR, technical, R&D, quality, methods & processes and delivery. Many companies have people dedicated to bid support and these staff will plan, manage and execute the bidding process bringing in skills from other departments as and when required.
The sales people should view pre-sales support as their friends and allies however, I was talking to a sales person recently who said “having sold it to the prospect I then have to sell twice as hard to get the company to accept what the prospect wants to buy”. It is not unusual for sales people see pre-sales support as the “abdominal no-men”; nothing more than a delay which results in a large increase in the bid price which means they may not get the deal and their associated commission.
The solution to these potential issues is joyously simple:
- Ensure the sales people understand and appreciate the role of pre-sales support. Sales must understand that if a bid review leads to an increase in estimates and therefore selling price this to the benefit of both your company and the customer’s business – they will be getting the complete solution they are expecting and you will be making a profit!
- Your value proposition must include a full description of your sales engagement process and the sales people must present this in terms of the benefits the prospect will gain by dealing with your company. Sales people often shy away from this fearing it will turn the prospect away when really the opposite is true provided the presentation is done in a structured and business like manner.
- Your pre-sales people need to understand your world of selling, to dispel the stereotypical views about sales people and better understand their role as the most important part of the go-to-market process.
- Sales and pre-sales people must understand and be trained in the complete selling process. Pre-sales need to understand what the sales person has to do to get to a point of bidding and sales need to understand what pre-sales can do to strengthen the bid and increase the chances of winning a strategic or profitable piece of business for the company.
- If your selling model utilises delivery staff as sales people they will inevitably be involved in pre-sales work and the subsequent delivery. It is clear that this mix of roles and responsibilities has the potential to create a sense of inner conflict, depending on the decisions and compromises involved in formulating the proposed solution. However, that increased understanding may equally lead to a more successful project. It is important that proper management oversight is applied to balance the calls on their time and avoid inner conflicts impacting on the wider aim of winning good profitable business that delights your customer.
In summary, make sales and pre-sales one team with a common set of motivations. They all need to be hitched to the same carriage pulling in the same direction. Always involve pre-sales in sales meetings and ensure the agenda includes topics relevant to both parts of the wider selling team.