In most companies, no one questions the importance of the sales team. The entire company depends on new sales to keep running, so the people closing the deals are (rightly) valued. But what about the people that help the sales team get prospects to that point?
The role may not be as flashy, but many of those deals would never get off the ground without the work of a presales professional. And a good presales team doesn’t just need the right skills and knowledge to work effectively; they also need a presales process that sets them up for success.
What is presales?
In the B2B (business-to-business) world, the sales process is slow and involves complexity. Reaching the point of purchase requires a lot of steps, and some of them involve work that the sales team lacks either the time or the knowledge to manage on their own. That’s where presales comes in.
Presales professionals take on some of the most important steps of finding and nurturing prospects leading up to the close of a sale. The presales process involves learning the details and needs of each opportunity and providing the sales team with the information they need to do their jobs effectively. Responsibilities range from answering complicated product questions to joining or running sales demos to helping with proposals.
4 Benefits of a presales strategy
The more complicated a sales process is, the more valuable a presales strategy is. Creating one leads to a few notable benefits.
- A presales strategy produces higher conversion rates in the early funnel stages – Most salespeople report that fewer than 50% of their leads are a good fit. If they devote time to every one of those leads, that’s a lot of wasted time that they could spend pitching relevant prospects. They’ll close more of them when they have more time to spend on quality leads.
- Presales provides important sales enablement – A presales support team enables the sales team to work smarter rather than harder. They possess the product knowledge needed to provide personalized, accurate information to every prospect. When customers have a technical question, presales helps sales find the correct answer faster. Shorter response times translate to a faster sales process, and happier leads are more likely to turn into customers.
- A presales strategy contributes to an improved customer experience – “Presales” can be a bit of a misnomer. While most of the presales process occurs before a prospect becomes a customer, presales is also frequently involved in helping clients set up and use the product after purchase. That leads to a better customer experience, which is essential for ongoing retention.
- Presales leads to higher profits – By helping sales close more deals and keeping customers happy enough for improved retention, presales contributes to the most important goal of all: higher profits. Put simply, presales is good for the bottom line.
How to build a presales process
The benefits of a presales strategy only come about if you manage to build an effective presales process.
Define your target customer – B2B products tend to have a very specific customer base. Salespeople waste their time focusing on prospects outside their ideal base. To enable sales to focus on the right prospects, clearly define your ideal customer. Look at current customer data to understand which companies most need and value your product. Pay attention to your most valuable customers (those who spend the most and consistently re-subscribe). Note what they have in common for insights on what makes for a valuable lead.
Use that information to create a detailed customer persona to guide your marketing and sales efforts. Then also apply your analysis, along with input from the sales team, toward creating clear criteria for qualifying leads. If you prioritize attracting the right leads, and consistently weed out those that aren’t a good fit, your sales team will be able to focus their time on those most likely to convert.
Clarify presales priorities – Presales can get chaotic. Part of what a good presales process accomplishes is bringing order to the chaos and making sure the presales team spends their time wisely. To achieve that, start by thinking through the various tasks that make up a typical presales process and assigning priority value to each. If a presales engineer is torn between multiple competing priorities, they need a way to determine which should take precedence. Should that proposal be the top priority, or can it wait until after their scheduled sales demo?
This process should involve all the departments that depend on presales, so they can weigh in on the relevant importance of various tasks. But you should also look at your data: what does it tell you about which tasks are most likely to lead to successful outcomes like sales and retention?
Analyze and define process steps for each priority task – Now we reach the inception stage of building a presales process (processeption?), where you want to define all the smaller processes that make up your larger process. Defining process steps ensures everyone involved is on the same page and understands their role in the broader sales process.
For every priority task on your list, sit down and work out the ideal approach. Include:
- Documenting typical steps and timelines – What does the process of completing each task look like? What steps have to occur, and in what order? How long does each one typically take?
- Defining the roles and responsibilities – Who’s in charge of what? What does the presales team need from other contacts to do their part well? And what will they need to provide to others to adequately support them?
- Establishing communication methods – A lot of presales work requires collaboration, and finding the right communication channels can be vital to keeping the lines of communication open. What’s the preferred channel for each team and contact? Should presales communicate with sales within a project management tool, email, or meetings?
Use tech to make the process smoother– Clarifying these steps can also make it easier to see how tech can improve your processes. Are there tasks presales spends hours on now that could be automated by technology? Are your current communication channels working, or do you need a better tool for collaboration? Do you have a solid process in place for recording and reusing knowledge, or is presales having to answer every question anew each time it comes up?
Matching the right tech to your processes can cut down on the time spent on each task while also increasing success rates.
Analyze and improve over time – Another benefit to establishing a transparent process is that it helps you spot opportunities to improve. Some of the technology you use to facilitate your presales process will also collect data on your typical actions and results. Use that information to strengthen your process over time.
Building a pre-sales process has never been easier with tools like RFPIO. By recognizing and addressing all stages of your customer journey, your business will be able to become more efficient while wasting less money and time.
RFPIO provides features that help presales teams:
- Capture knowledge and share it with the right internal contacts
- Make answers easy to find to cut down on answering the same questions on repeat
- Automate much of the process of responding to RFP’s, RFI’s, and Security Questionnaires.
- Simplify collaboration between individuals and departments
- Track data on the presales process to better understand how well it’s working and how to make it better.