shorter sales cycles, new customers, more business, increased profilts, better cashflow

Is your pre-sales support fully integrated with the selling and marketing functions?

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.


silly billies?

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.
one team, shared goal

one team, shared goal

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.

Let’s put Customer Relationship Management back into CRM

CRM: A shared view of customer interaction

CRM: A shared view of customer interaction

It’s clear to me that there is an ever increasing disconnect between what the acronym CRM has come to mean and the very thing it is trying to address. I think we have to get back to basics, Customer Relationship Management is about what we do as salespeople every day – we see clients, we sell products, we write monthly reports and we convert prospects. These are our daily activities, they define our job.

CRM is supposed to help us to do these things more efficiently. In fact there are a whole host of other things which it can help all of us to do.

Let’s have a quick look at some history. Software systems or personal organisers as they were known then were introduced in the early 90’s. I was delighted because, let’s face it, we needed as much help as we could possibly get – and still do!

So such names as ACT, Maximiser and Psion came into our horizon, the first two still being heavily used today. In the mid to late 90’s, the term CRM came into being when systems such as Siebel, Peoplesoft and Vantive became more enterprise wide, linking sales teams together and expanding to marketing, customer support, help desks and other important customer facing departments. The concept being to bring all client information, contacts and activity together into one single place for everyone to view, report on and action. This has continued into the 20s with Salesforce and Microsoft and myriads of other smaller companies providing ever increasing functionality and technology changes such as Cloud and Mobile working.

As things become more complex, and technological, inevitably CRM seems to have become more system oriented, with less emphasis on the customer relationship management piece. This is where the disconnect has occurred. While CRM needs (lots of) technology and by inference, technologists, we must not lose sight of the project objectives, so system design, roll out, training and allocation of responsibilities are just a few of the important items which must remain with the remit of the business.

Let’s consider the following three points which can bring your CRM programme back on track

Keep it Simple Stupid

As said above, while CRM projects are technical and are complicated this doesn’t mean that the end result can’t be simple. The challenge for the project team is to provide the diversity and range of functionality needed to satisfy all the different interests while making it easy to use.

The 3 click rule is a good one. In design and process development, think about how to do any task in a maximum of three clicks. For example, creating a contact or adding an opportunity. Clearly this is not always possible but by having this rule of thumb in mind it enables the team to view the operation from a business not technical viewpoint.

The average salesman thinks of CRM as a tool to help them. They are not interested in the detail, they are busy with many other things and when they come to use it, it has to be intuitive and simple.

Gather detailed user Requirements

I have heard lots of reasons why software systems get chosen – for example, the boss has used it before, a subsidiary company has some spare licences, it’s cheap.

The correct way to select is to carry out a thorough review. To agree the programme objectives, to determine the complete range of activites which will be included in scope and then to drill down into the data and process details.

Speak to representatives from different functions to ensure that all current and future needs are catered for. Ensure that the technical team are involved with everything along the way as their input throughout is essential. In addition it is important to define all reporting as well as administrative requirements.

Use the business objectives to set project success goals upfront. For example, if reducing the average sales cycle, from 6 to 5½ months, is a goal, agree this at the start and put in simple ways of ensuring that this can measured as the project is rolled out.

Find a solution that is fit for purpose

Getting the right system is important, but CRM is about people and process not just about software.

The most efficient and simplest system will fail without clarity and a real understanding by the users of their data and process responsibilities. Also they need to know the benefits which they will get from using it.

Getting agreement on the data nuggets is key, i.e. those essential bits of information which must be entered. For example, to reduce the sales cycle requires clarity around the sales cycle stages, the definition for when opportunities can be moved from stage to stage. In some cases just percentages are used and sales are given the freedom to add the value that they deem fit. This is ludicrous and adds no value to the process.

Mike Driver, CRM Professional

Mike Driver, CRM Professional

Get end users from all levels in the company to test the complete ‘soup to nuts’ solution thoroughly, kick the software and process tyres and make sure that it meets the business needs and is signed off by them.

Let’s bring the Customer back into CRM and make it the driving force of business operations, instead of sitting in a corner gathering dust!

Article kindly provided by guest author Mike Driver for our December 2012 newsletter.



The Outcome:

Transformed sales team structure and composition to reduce reliance on too few customers and on the Managing Director as the focal point for sales, thereby positioning the company better as an acquisition target.

The Challenge

Arrk is a software development company that focuses on helping its customers improve their bottom line through the imaginative use of web and mobile technologies.

Arrk’s challenge was that it had built a strong, but small, customer base and this had become a risk to the business.  The Managing Director (MD) was also heavily involved in the success of these few customers, thereby compounding the over-reliance position.  At the time of Performative’s project, the MD was interested in the possibility of selling Arrk, so needed to ensure a robust selling operation was in place for the benefit of potential buyers.

The Performative Solution

Performative undertook a Sales Performance Transformation exercise in two stages:

  • Performative initially provided an interim Sales Director, who undertook a range of activities to structure and establish a good team.  These included:
    • Evaluating the capabilities and motivations of Arrk’s existing sales and marketing people through one-on-one interviews and psychometric tests
    • Creating a marketing/lead generation capability
    • Designing and delivering a training and development programme for sales, marketing and sales support staff
    • Managing the sales team and undertaking coaching and mentoring as required
  • In parallel to the sales team work, Performative implemented Performative Structured Selling®, which included:
    • Creating an overarching sales and marketing strategy
    • Reviewing Arrk’s current sales and marketing processes including the bidding processes and standard document used for bidding and proposals
    • Amending existing processes as required and blending with Performative Structured Selling ® to produce a complete sales and marketing approach
    • Documenting the complete process as a sales manual.