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Home   >Best Practices

What is Presales?

November 13, 2023

What is presales? Presales is about ensuring that the proposed solution aligns precisely with customer requirements, thereby laying a solid foundation for a successful sales outcome. 

The One Big Job in Presales

If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, it’s the recognition that the one big job of presales is to effectively understand the needs and requirements of potential customers (prospects) and to establish a clear and compelling connection between those needs and the solutions or products offered by the company. 

And that’s it, well kinda.

Presales is also a series of activities undertaken before a customer makes a purchase. It's a strategic process that lays the groundwork for a successful sale by:

  • Engaging deeply with the customer to fully grasp their requirements.
  • Demonstrating how a product or service can effectively meet these needs.
  • Providing detailed knowledge about the product's features and capabilities.
  • Tailoring solutions to fit the unique scenarios of each customer.
  • Articulating a clear value proposition, including the benefits and return on investment.

What Do the Major Sales Methodologies Have to Say About Presales?

All of the major sales methodologies outline important goals and objectives in the presales process:

  • MEDDIC: This methodology (although MEDDIC does not define itself as a sales methodology, but as a deal qualification approach) emphasizes the importance of identifying Metrics, Economic buyers, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identifying pain, and Champion. In presales, this translates to a deep understanding of the customer's business, the key metrics they use to measure success, and the specific pain points they face. This approach ensures that the solution presented is highly tailored and relevant to the customer's unique context.
  • Strategic Selling (Miller Heiman): This approach focuses on understanding the various stakeholders involved in the purchasing decision. During presales, it's crucial to identify the different buying influences, such as economic buyers, technical buyers, and end-users, and tailor the pitch to address each group's specific concerns and needs. This methodology underscores the importance of aligning the solution with the strategic objectives of the customer's organization.
  • SPIN Selling: This method focuses on four types of questions – Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff. In presales, the aim is to ask insightful questions to uncover the customer's current situation and problems, understand the implications of these problems, and finally, make the customer see the value or 'payoff' of the solution.
  • Challenger Sale: The Challenger Sale methodology is based on delivering insights that challenge a customer's thinking. In presales, this means not just responding to customer needs, but actively shaping them by offering new perspectives and solutions that redefine their understanding of their own problems and needs. This approach requires a deep industry and product expertise to be effective.
  • Solution Selling: Emphasizing problem identification and resolution, Solution Selling in the presales phase involves actively guiding potential customers through an awareness of their needs to a commitment to solve these needs with your product. It's about creating a need where one was not clearly identified before and then fulfilling it.

One thing that remains consistent across all the methodologies is advice to work hand-in-hand with the buying team of your prospect to author documents that clearly define their needs and how the solution addresses their issues.  This collaborative approach helps ensure that both the sales team and the prospect understand and agree on what's needed and how the solution can meet those needs. It's a straightforward, effective way to make sure everyone is on the same page, making it a key part of a successful sales strategy.

What are the Top Ten Presales Documents?

It's important to note that while aforementioned sales methodologies may refer to these documents (also known as sales documents) by various names, the underlying objectives they serve are remarkably consistent across them all. 

These documents are designed to align the vendor's solutions with the customer's needs, ensuring a mutual understanding and agreement on the requirements, goals, objectives, and how the proposed solution fits these criteria.  This common ground, established through documentation, is a fundamental element in bridging the gap between customer expectations and the vendor's offerings, integral to a successful sales process.

The top ten presales documents include: 

1. Responses to Requests for Information, Requests for Proposals (RFx):

Early in the sales process, presales teams often collaborate with prospects through RFx documents such as the Request for Information or the Request for Proposal. These documents, frequently authored by the prospect, contain many of the prospect's unique requirements. Presales teams respond to these requests to ensure that prospects have a clear understanding of the company's solutions and how they address their specific needs, ultimately leading to a commitment from the prospect to move forward. As a side point, maintaining a repository of RFx responses can be a terrific way to capture prospect knowledge, spot industry/sector trends, and improve your organization’s abiltiy to respond to RFxs.

2. Customer Requirements Document (CRD):

At the outset of the presales process, the Customer Requirements Document is essential. This document is a comprehensive record of the customer's specific requirements, preferences, and specifications for the solution. It is developed through detailed discussions and analysis, ensuring that every aspect of the customer's needs is captured. The CRD serves as the foundation for all subsequent planning and solution development, as it defines what the customer expects from the solution, both in terms of functionality and business outcomes.

3. Business Case Document:

Following the CRD, a Business Case Document is often prepared to present the rationale for the proposed solution. This document delves into the analysis of the customer's business needs and how the proposed solution addresses these needs. It may include a cost-benefit analysis, potential return on investment, and a detailed examination of how the solution aligns with the customer’s strategic objectives. This document is pivotal in justifying the investment in the solution and in helping key stakeholders understand its value.

4. Mutual Success Plans (MSPs):

Mutual Success Plans are collaboratively developed with the prospect to outline a roadmap to achieving shared goals. These plans detail how the proposed solution will meet the customer's needs, outlining key milestones, timelines, and the expected benefits. MSPs also articulate the return on investment and the value proposition of the solution, ensuring that both parties have a clear understanding of the outcomes and benefits. This document is instrumental in building trust and alignment between the customer and the provider.

5. Statement of Work (SOW):

The Statement of Work is a critical document that formalizes the agreement between the customer and the provider. It outlines the scope of work, deliverables, timelines, and the specific tasks to be undertaken. The SOW serves as a contract, detailing what will be delivered, how it will be done, and when it will be completed. It sets clear expectations and serves as a guideline for the execution of the project, ensuring that both parties are aligned on the project's objectives and deliverables.

6. Implementation Plan:

As the project moves into the implementation phase, an Implementation Plan is developed. This comprehensive document outlines the steps involved in setting up and deploying the solution. It includes detailed timelines, resource allocation plans, training schedules for the customer's team, and protocols for testing and quality assurance. The Implementation Plan is essential for ensuring a smooth transition to the new system or service, providing a step-by-step guide to the actual implementation process.

7. Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan:

Parallel to the Implementation Plan, a Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan is often prepared. This document identifies potential risks associated with the project and outlines strategies to mitigate these risks. It includes contingency plans and proactive measures to address any issues that might arise during implementation. The aim is to foresee potential challenges and prepare solutions in advance, minimizing disruptions and ensuring the project stays on track.

8. Proof of Concept (POC) or Pilot Project Plan:

In some cases, particularly for complex or high-value solutions, a Proof of Concept or Pilot Project Plan is executed before full-scale implementation. This plan outlines the scope, objectives, and expected outcomes of a smaller, controlled implementation of the solution. It allows the customer to see and evaluate the solution in action, providing an opportunity to make adjustments before a full rollout. This step is crucial for building confidence in the solution and ensuring it meets all expectations.

9. Go-Live Plans:

Just before the solution is fully implemented, a Go-Live Plan is prepared. This document outlines the final steps required to make the solution operational. It includes detailed schedules for the launch, any final training required for users, and support structures put in place for post-go-live assistance. The Go-Live Plan is the culmination of the presales and implementation process, marking the transition to the new solution.

10. Service Level Agreement (SLA):

Finally, a Service Level Agreement is often established as part of the ongoing relationship post-implementation. The SLA defines the level of service expected from the provider, including response times, quality standards, and maintenance commitments. It sets the parameters for service delivery and provides metrics for evaluating the service's performance. This document is essential for maintaining a clear understanding of the ongoing responsibilities and expectations in the post-sales phase.

Each document plays a vital role in the presales and implementation process, helping to ensure clarity, alignment, and successful execution of the project. They provide a structured framework for understanding customer needs, delivering the solution, and maintaining a high level of service post-implementation.

How best to collaborate with prospects on critical presales documents?

When collaborating with prospects on presales documents, it's essential to recognize that typical internal communication tools, while effective for team interactions, may not be suitable for external engagements. This mismatch often drives sales teams to default to email for document collaboration with clients. However, email, with its limitations in tracking conversations and document versions, can lead to disorganization and inefficiency. 

TakeTurns helps your sales teams close quicker by improving how the collaborate with your prospects and customers

Thankfully, there are specialized external collaboration tools. Beyond the conventional reliance on email, platforms like TakeTurns offer a more structured, secure, and transparent solution. TakeTurns is designed for client engagement, providing a turn-by-turn structure, which helps facilitate orderly feedback, and systematic progression. In addition, keeping all the content in one place helps everyone stay on the same page. Tools like TakeTurns cut down on the “pain in the ass” factor, making it easier for prospects to work with you, reducing friction and improving engagement.  

Who Typically Participates in Presales from the Prospect or Customer’s Side? 

According to Gartner, the size of buying teams can vary significantly. (For more on enterprise buying, look at research by Hank Barnes and Michele Buckley). On average, buying teams include about six to seven members, but this number can increase considerably for larger deals. For instance, in IT services deals exceeding $5 million, the buying team averages around 15 stakeholders. This variability in team size adds complexity to the purchasing process. Moreover, the level of active participation within these teams can fluctuate based on the size of the purchase or the stage of the purchase process. Also, it’s worth it to be wary of the “occasional decision makers” who may not be actively involved throughout the entire process but can have considerable influence on the final decision. 

  1. Decision Makers: These are the individuals who have the authority to make the final purchasing decision. They are often senior executives or leaders within the organization who evaluate the solution's strategic fit and impact on the company's goals.
  2. Influencers: These individuals are not social media influencers, however like influencers on tiktok or instagram, they can often have significant influence/sway over the purchase decision. They could be senior staff or specialists who understand the strategic and operational implications of the solution.
  3. End Users: The actual users of the product or service. Their input is crucial as they can provide practical insights into how the solution will be used day-to-day and what features are most important to them.
  4. Technical Evaluators: In the case of technical or IT-related solutions, technical evaluators such as IT managers or technical leads play a critical role. They assess the technical compatibility and integration of the solution with existing systems.
  5. Financial Evaluators: Often, members from the finance department are involved in assessing the financial impact of the solution, including cost-benefit analysis, budgeting, and return on investment.
  6. Legal and Compliance Officers: Especially in regulated industries or for solutions that require adherence to specific regulations, legal and compliance officers are involved to ensure that the solution meets all legal and regulatory requirements.
  7. Procurement Specialists: These individuals manage the purchasing process, negotiate contracts, and ensure that all procurement policies are adhered to.
  8. External Consultants or Advisors: In some cases, the prospect may engage external consultants or industry experts to provide an unbiased evaluation of the solution and its fit within the broader market or industry context.

Each of these participants plays a distinct role in the presales process from the prospect's side, contributing their expertise and perspective to ensure that the solution being considered meets the organization's needs, is cost-effective, and aligns with their strategic, operational, and technical requirements.

Who Typically Participates in Presales from the Vendor’s Side?

In the presales process, several key roles from the vendor side typically participate, each contributing unique skills and expertise:

  1. Presales Consultants/Specialists/Sales Engineers:They are the primary players in the presales process. Presales consultants possess deep product knowledge and understand how to align product features with customer needs. They often lead demonstrations, answer technical questions, and help tailor solutions to customer requirements.
  2. Sales Representatives/Account Managers: While primarily responsible for the sales aspect, sales representatives often participate in presales activities. They build and maintain client relationships, understand customer needs, and coordinate with the presales team to present solutions effectively.
  3. Technical Experts: For technology or product-focused businesses, technical experts or engineers play a crucial role in presales. They provide in-depth technical expertise, address complex technical queries, and assist in demonstrating the technical aspects of a product or service.
  4. Product Managers: Product managers may get involved in the presales phase, especially for complex or highly specialized products. They have a comprehensive understanding of the product and its development and can provide insights into future enhancements and roadmap.
  5. Product Marketers: Product marketers contribute by providing essential market insights, competitor analysis, and materials like brochures, case studies, and presentations that support the presales process.
  6. Solution Architects: In some cases, especially in IT and service-oriented businesses, solution architects are involved to design and articulate how a solution can be implemented in the customer's environment.
  7. Project Managers: They may be involved in outlining the scope, timeline, and resources required for implementing the solution, contributing to the creation of a project plan or a statement of work.
  8. Customer Success Managers: They sometimes participate in presales to provide insights into post-sale service, support, and long-term success strategies for the customer.
  9. Legal and Compliance Experts: For deals that require legal scrutiny or have to meet specific compliance standards, these experts are involved to ensure that proposals meet legal and regulatory requirements.

Each of these roles collaborates to ensure a comprehensive, customer-focused approach in the presales process, aiming to effectively demonstrate the value and applicability of the solution to the prospective customer.


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