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How Presales Sets the Stage for Your Team’s Next Big Deal

Presales reps doing research with a chart and a magnifying glass
The intent of presales is to gain a deep understanding of customer needs and match those to your solutions. [Image by Studio Science]

When you prep well for a sales conversation, the sales close will go much easier. Here's how to set yourself up for success.

Presales is a lot like prepping for a Broadway show. You can’t expect a successful opening night without first putting in the work. When the curtain rises, everyone — from the actors to the stage crew — has put in hours of effort to make it a great show. What the audience experiences is the result of all that pre-show work.

A sale is much the same: You can’t just wing it and expect to ink a deal. You need to do the pre-work to ensure everything goes smoothly when the spotlight is on your sales team.

If you’re wondering where to begin, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn why presales matters, what it does for your sales team, and best practices for your business.

What you’ll learn:

Engage and close prospects from everywhere

Pull up CRM data for prospects even when you’re engaging with them outside your CRM — whether on social or online. 

What is presales?

Presales is all of the activities and support that happen before a sale closes. This can include customer research, prospecting, discovery calls, and qualifying prospects. The intent is to gain a deep understanding of customer needs and match those to your solutions. Additionally, presales helps to uncover the leads most likely to result in a closed deal. That way, your team can work efficiently and focus on their best-fit customers.

What is the difference between presales and sales?

Presales is at the top of the sales funnel. It encompasses research and preparation — where you find out what your prospect needs and the problems you can help solve.

In contrast, sales happen at the middle and bottom of the funnel. This encompasses everything that happens after the handoff from presales team members to sales reps, including product demonstrations, client meetings, and contract negotiations. In short: presales sets the stage and sales closes the deal.

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Common presales activities you should know

Wondering what presales tasks are involved in a successful deal? Here are some of the most common tasks:

  • Creating buyer personasBuyer personas are a sketch of your ideal customer. They include demographic traits such as company, location, and role and describe that persona’s motivations and challenges. A buyer persona helps you target the right customers and increases your chances of closing deals fast.
  • Analyzing your customer base: Historical customer data and feedback help you understand how to approach prospects similar to existing customers. You’ll find much of this data right in your CRM. But you can add to it info gleaned from surveys, testimonials, reviews, and customer support calls.
  • Researching your competitors: Look at competing products’ strengths and weaknesses to help you position your offer. Attend trade shows and review the competition’s website, product documentation, industry reports, and press releases. Your ideal customer is also a great source of information. Keep an eye on social media and review sites, and listen carefully to what customers say.
  • Making discovery calls: This is your first conversation with the prospect. Here, you help your sales team by gathering details about the prospect’s business, goals, and challenges.
  • Presenting tailored solutions: Once the presales team has gathered information on customer needs and pain points, they help create the presentation to hand off to sales. The sales team then uses that as part of the proposal for the potential client.
  • Helping with the request for proposal (RFP): Speaking of the proposal, the presales team knows your product well enough to contribute to this part of the prep. They assist prospects in crafting the perfect request for a product or service so the sales team can focus on what they do best — selling.

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Why is presales important?

A presales team supports the sales process with all the activities that need to happen before a sale can close. They also support the larger sales effort by highlighting areas of the sales funnel that could be improved.

Here are a few ways presales helps to streamline the sales process:

  • Takes the pressure off your sales reps: All of the research and preparation that go into sales takes time. Proper presales clears the deck for your sales team to do what they do best — relationship-building and selling.
  • Focuses on qualified leads: When you have a system in place to find and qualify right-fit leads, your team won’t chase prospects that go nowhere. Presales helps your reps determine which deals are most likely to close, so they can spend their time cultivating those relationships.
  • Creates a better customer experience: Because you’ll have deeper knowledge of each customer, you can tailor your solutions to their needs. Instead of a generic offer, your team can speak directly to the customer pain points they can solve for.

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4 jobs in presales

Who’s likely to make up your presales roster? Here’s a roundup of those you’ll want to have on the team.

  • Sales development representative: Often the first point of contact with a potential customer, this person qualifies leads and schedules appointments with the presales team.
  • Solutions engineer: This role demonstrates the proposed solution, provides industry analysis, and contributes to the implementation strategy.
  • Subject matter experts: These experts may be full-time team members or gig consultants. They typically offer technical or industry-related information, answer complex questions, troubleshoot issues, and help with solution design.
  • Presales analyst: The analyst keeps up with market trends, competitor strategies, and customer data while contributing to sales strategies and positioning.

Depending on your organization’s structure and the complexity of the sales process, you might collaborate with others who are not directly related to presales. Product managers, marketing professionals, and customer success managers can help answer questions and support you and your customers as you move forward.

Collaborating with your team on presales activities is crucial. Asking the right questions, diving deeper, and always keeping the customer’s best interest in mind is a massive benefit.

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6 presales best practices to keep in mind

I’ve been in the customer success space for more than 20 years and know how crucial relationship-building is to presales and sales.

Active listening — tapping into the prospect’s thoughts and feelings, not just hearing what they’re saying — helps you get to the heart of their goals. If I don’t understand where they want to go and am only trying to close a fast deal, neither of us will get what we’re looking for.

Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned for keeping a deal on track during presales:

  1. Focus on the customer, not the sale: Your customers are your focus. If you don’t understand their needs, you could both end up disappointed. Be sure to ask the right questions so you have a picture of their buying process and resources they need to move forward.
  2. Get early executive buy-in: Success across the board depends on support from above. Ensure everyone agrees on what needs to happen — and when — as soon as you can. Your presales team can help by researching your stakeholders to give your sales team insights to move the deal along.
  3. Play up your true value: Your presales team is critical to understanding your customer so you can deliver value. This takes thorough customer analysis. It might look like sending surveys to customers, reading up on industry trends, or taking a close look at competitors. That prework will give you insights about how to help your customer see the value in your proposal.
  4. Come to the bargaining table prepared: Everyone’s time is precious. The presales team can help you prep for all meetings, presentations, product demos, and any other important interactions. If you come off as not having done your homework, you’ll sour what would have been a productive relationship very quickly.
  5. Define timelines: This isn’t just for the execs above you. Early in the presales process — during the qualification stage, ideally — the presales team can coordinate the details so you don’t miss a beat. For example, they can deliver a schedule of what’s happening and when to avoid misunderstandings about pace and timing.
  6. Measure performance: The presales team can help you pull data from your CRM for a view of performance. For example, they can measure win rates, time spent in each phase, and time to close. That will tell you how you’re doing — and how to do better next time.

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Set your sales team up for success

When you have a solid presales strategy, the rest of your sales process works smoothly. Because you’re investing in research upfront, you’ll be able to tailor solutions to each customer. You’ll be able to make data-driven decisions, understand your prospects, and help your team shine in the sales spotlight.

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