The diversity of the PreSales skillset and responsibility mix (beyond just giving demos) has gained mainstream recognition. In a competitive, value-driven market, ignoring the SE org can imperil a company’s sales effectiveness among prospective clients and existing customers.
Gartner cautions, “A failure to invest in the sales engineering function can position CEOs at a significant disadvantage.”
But are CEOs taking notice?
To put this to the test, an independent research firm, GLG, conducted a panel interview with a CEO, CFO, CRO, and CPO, about their perceptions of PreSales. All participants agreed on the strategic importance of these technical experts to revenue, product roadmapping, and customer relationships.
PreSales Provides the Checks and Balances
Each C-Suite leader saw PreSales as the voice of reason in different areas of the business, providing checks and balances on other departments and keeping them honest about product functionality, deal risk, and customer needs.
Here is a summary of their opinions:
CRO: SEs Keep Product Grounded in Customer Needs
For the CRO, PreSales insights keep Product teams accountable to customer needs and overall business objectives in making roadmap decisions.
Product Managers are more distanced from customer conversations and, if unchecked by Sales Engineering, might inadvertently push developments that buyers don’t need or that don’t align with overall business objectives.
CPO: PreSales Keeps Roadmap Risk at Bay
The CPO relies on PreSales as the main team close to buyers and customers that can actually provide the level of technical feedback that can be trusted to inform roadmap priorities.
By understanding customer needs, particularly in the content of what feature gaps cripple deals, Product and Engineering teams can focus efforts on the highest-impact development efforts.
However, the CPO cautions that if this feedback is provided at the deal level, rather than across multiple opportunities, it’s difficult to understand how to prioritize feature requests. The CPO wants to understand, in the aggregate, what features will win more customers, keep them happy, and prevent competitive poaching.
CFO: SEs Keep Sales Grounded in Product Realities
For the CFO, PreSales keeps Sales honest and realistic in promises made to buyers. Deals in the funnel need to be substantive, with customer expectations grounded in what functionality can be delivered now, vs. the art of the possible.
SE technical expertise wins customer trust and proactively highlights implementation risks or costly customizations. For the CFO, PreSales feedback is crucial to the deal review phase, where Sales promises become Post-Sales reality.
CEO: PreSales Aligns Company Vision with Market Realities
For the CEO, PreSales acts as the voice of customers and an important source of competitive research in a B2B environment necessitating agility. With a complete understanding of market conditions and the competitive landscape, the CEO can pivot quickly on strategy and ensure responsive product-market fit.
Advice to Maximize Your Team’s Value to the C-Suite
The C-Suite panelists recognized the value of PreSales but didn’t always know how to establish the foundation and cadence to get this value regularly. Here are some tips based on their discussion:
- Get the C-Suite’s attention with data, and tell the story of your data based on each leader’s specific focus areas and priorities.
- For the CRO especially, establish a direct line of communication rather than always letting Sales leadership voice the SE perspective.
- When giving feedback to Product, prioritize feature gaps that impact multiple deals or accounts.
- Align PreSales objectives with your CEO’s vision and strategic priorities, so it’s easy to connect the dots later.
If you want to learn more, you can access the full report and summary of findings here.