Supercharging Your Follow-ups: How Letting Presales Communicate with Buyers Can Transform Your Sales Process
In the ever-evolving sales landscape, the importance of effective follow-ups cannot be overstated. It's the crucial link between initial interest and a successful deal closure. However, as the sales process has grown more complex, so too has the division of responsibilities within sales teams.
Traditionally, this division has been clear-cut, with Account Executives (AEs) handling prospect interactions post-initial contact and Sales Engineers (SEs) providing technical expertise. Yet, in the rapidly changing buyer behaviour, a new paradigm is emerging that challenges these traditional boundaries and introduces the concept of interactive product demos as a potential game-changer.
In this article, we will delve into the traditional roles of Account Executives (AEs) and Sales Engineers (SEs) in the sales process and will look into the follow ups as a major opportunity for AEs and SEs to collaborate. We will explore the potential for follow-ups to create a safe space for the buyers to communicate directly with the SEs to express their needs without feeling pressured to make a purchase.
Let’s get started, as we uncover how letting presales teams communicate directly with buyers canimprove the buyer experience while allowing you to gather more and better information about the opportunities.
In this article, we delve into the critical role follow-ups play in the sales process, dissect the traditional division between AEs and SEs, and introduce the innovative concept of interactive demos.
Understanding the current division of responsibilities
Understanding the current division of responsibilities between Account Executives (AEs) and Sales Engineers (SEs) is essential for optimizing the sales process. This table provides an overview of the respective responsibilities of AEs and SEs in a traditional sales process.
Account Executives (AEs)
Sales Engineers (SEs)
Scheduling and Logistics
Content Preparation for Meetings
Reading the Room and Understanding Buyers' Needs
Collecting and Gathering Requirements
Understanding Current State and System Landscape of Prospect
Prepping Demo Scripts
Designing and Running POCs/POVs
Setting Implementation Expectations and Building Trust
Scoping and Handoff to Customer Success/Implementation
A. AEs Responsibilities Traditionally
Deep diving into the core responsibilities of AEs
Scheduling and Logistics: The logistical aspects of setting up meetings, managing calendars, and ensuring that the sales process moves forward smoothly fall under the domain of AEs. AEs play a crucial role in ensuring that meetings happen when they should and that all parties are well-prepared and informed.
Content Preparation for Meetings: AEs are tasked with curating and creating the content presented during meetings. This includes presentations, proposals, and other materials needed to engage and persuade potential buyers. AEs must ensure that the content aligns with the prospect's needs and effectively communicates the value proposition of the product.
Reading the Room and Understanding Buyers' Needs: AEs are the frontline communicators with prospects. They must adeptly read the room, interpret buyer signals, and adapt their approach to address specific needs and concerns. Building rapport and trust with buyers relies on AEs' ability to empathetically connect and tailor their communication to the prospect's context.
Pricing Discussions: Pricing negotiations are often led by AEs, who need to strike a balance between maximizing revenue and meeting the prospect's budget expectations. AEs must be well-versed in the pricing structure and be prepared to address questions or objections from prospects regarding costs.
B. SEs Responsibilities Traditionally
Deep diving into the core responsibilities of SEs
Gathering Requirements: SEs play a critical role in extracting and documenting the technical requirements of prospects. This includes understanding both standard and custom requirements. Effective requirement gathering sets the stage for tailoring solutions to meet the specific needs of the prospect.
Traditionally, the Account Executive (AE) takes the lead in collecting business requirements during qualification and discovery calls, often without the Sales Engineer (SE) present. Subsequently, the SE enters the picture to gather technical requirements. However, the modern Sales Engineer operates differently. They are expected to possess a comprehensive understanding of both business and technical aspects. Their role often involves double-checking the business requirements initially collected by the AE and then proceeding to gather the relevant technical requirements directly from the prospect. This shift reflects the evolving dynamics of the sales process, where SEs bridge the gap between business needs and technical solutions by actively engaging with the prospect to ensure a more holistic understanding of their requirements.
2. Understanding the Current State and System Landscape of Prospect: SEs need a deep understanding of the prospect's current technology landscape to align their product offerings appropriately. This knowledge enables SEs to position the solution as seamlessly integrated with the prospect's existing systems.
3. Prepping Demo board: SEs are responsible for preparing the narrative, key talking points, and click-paths that will be used during product demonstrations. Crafting an engaging and informative demo is crucial for showcasing the product's capabilities and addressing prospect pain points.
4. Demoing: SEs are often the ones conducting product demos, showcasing the features and benefits of the solution. SEs must deliver compelling demos that resonate with the prospect's specific needs and goals.
5. Designing and Running POCs/POVs (Proofs of Concept/Proofs of Value): When necessary, SEs are responsible for designing and executing POCs or POVs to demonstrate the product's effectiveness in real-world scenarios with defined use/test cases and success criteria. POCs/POVs provide tangible evidence of the solution's value, helping build trust and confidence with the prospect.
6. Setting Implementation Expectations and Building Trust: SEs often set the stage for the implementation phase by managing prospect expectations and building trust in the solution's feasibility. Transparency and clear communication during this phase are essential for a successful handover to the implementation team.
7. Scoping and Handoff to CS/IMP (Customer Success/Implementation): SEs are responsible for defining the scope of the project and ensuring a smooth transition to the customer success and implementation teams. A well-defined scope and a seamless handoff are critical to ensuring a positive customer experience post-sale.
Decoding the crucial role of follow-ups in the sales process
Amidst all of the above activities, follow-ups are not mere formalities; they are strategic engagements that hold the power to transform a lead into a loyal customer. The study from Xant shows the difference between the number of follow-ups done vs. the results yielded by the SDRs. Sellers who make 7 or more follow-ups provide 15% more outcomes. While there is no specific data about the correlation between the follow-ups later in the sales cycle- the trends and results of staying closely in touch with the buyers are the same.
The post-contact interactions play a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of a deal. Let’s understand why follow-ups can be crucial
1. Consolidating and reinforcing the message
A single interaction may not be enough to convey the full value proposition of our product or service. Follow-ups provide the opportunity to reinforce key messages, ensuring that the buyer retains a clear understanding of what you offer. Repetition is often necessary for effective communication.
2. Addressing outstanding questions and concerns
Prospects typically have questions, doubts, and concerns that need addressing before they commit to a purchase. Follow-ups enable you to actively listen to their queries and worries, providing timely and accurate responses. This builds trust and confidence in your offerings and demonstrates our commitment to customer success.
3. Building a stronger buyer-seller relationship
Relationships are the foundation of successful sales, and follow-ups are instrumental in nurturing them. They provide opportunities to connect on a personal level, understand the prospect's unique needs, and show genuine interest in their success. Consistent, thoughtful, and personalized follow-ups demonstrate our dedication to supporting them beyond the sale.
4. Moving a deal along to close
The sales cycle can be lengthy, and follow-ups play a pivotal role in keeping deals on track. By maintaining a steady cadence of communication, you can gauge the prospect's readiness to move forward. This allows you to strategically push deals toward closure, aligning with your organizational targets and quotas. Effective follow-ups also help us identify and address any potential roadblocks that might otherwise delay the sale.
How to empower presales to co-lead the deal
Empowering presales teams to co-lead the deal has become not just a modern practice but a strategic imperative. Following are the ways you ensure the continual development of presales to co-lead the deals
1. Recognizing the expertise of SEs
Sales Engineers are not just technical experts; they are the bridge between a prospect's needs and what the product is to offer. SEs possess a unique ability to grasp the complexities of both the business challenges and the technical specifications needed to address them. The most effective SE teams leverage specialized presales tools like Homerun, which offer a purpose-built presales workspace for every deal which streamlines and centralize the process for SEs to document and access critical deal information (and keep their CRMs up to date). This ensures that every aspect of the prospect's requirements is not just understood but comprehensively managed, from the first discovery call to the final contract negotiation.
2. Allowing SEs to provide valuable insights during follow-ups
The conventional wisdom in sales often revolves around the 'single voice of the AE.' However, in today's complex buying landscape, where decisions are made by cross-functional teams with diverse expertise, this approach may fall short. SEs bring a wealth of technical knowledge and a fresh perspective to the table. Allowing them to actively participate in follow-up interactions breaks the monotony of a singular narrative and enriches the dialogue. SEs have access to every detail about a deal in their presales platform and can leverage that information to answer technical queries, offer insights into customization possibilities, and provide real-world examples of how the product or service has successfully addressed similar challenges for other prospects. This not only builds credibility but also demonstrates our commitment to delivering value.
3. Utilizing Interactive demos as a powerful follow-up tool
Interactive product demos allow you to follow up in an engaging way with potential buyers. Unlike static presentations or documents, interactive demos allow buyers to actively explore the product, are easy to share internally with other stakeholders, and the engagement can be monitored by sales teams. This hands-on approach fosters deeper engagement and understanding. Moreover, interactive demos can be tailored to address the specific pain points and objectives discussed during earlier interactions, making follow-ups more personalized and impactful. While interactive demos take centre stage, it's worth noting that other assets like white papers and case studies can also be valuable follow-up tools, depending on the prospect's preferences and needs.
The benefits of leveraging interactive demos for follow-ups
Demo experience platforms that allow you to create and scale interactive demos have emerged as a game-changer in the follow-up stage of the sales process. They offer a dynamic and immersive way to engage with potential prospects, delivering several key benefits:
1. Personalizing the buyer's experience
During the initial contact, sales professionals gather valuable insights into the prospect's pain points, needs, and objectives in their CRMs and presales workspaces. Interactive demos can be tailored to address these specific aspects, showcasing how the product directly addresses the buyer's unique challenges. Interactive demos allow buyers to experience features and functionalities that directly align with their goals, making the experience not only relevant but also compelling.
2. On-demand access to SE expertise through an interactive demo
In a traditional sales process, accessing technical expertise often involves scheduling additional meetings with Sales Engineers (SEs). Interactive demos, on the other hand, offer on-demand access to SE knowledge within the demo itself. This means that prospects can explore technical demos through the demo gallery at their convenience without any delay. SEs can also embed explanations, tooltips, or chat support directly within the interactive demo. This enables prospects to seek clarification on technical matters immediately, ensuring that their questions are addressed promptly and comprehensively.
3. Addressing specific pain points and use cases
Interactive demos are versatile tools that can be customized to demonstrate how the product or service effectively addresses these challenges. Leverage the data in your presales workspace to identify the most important pain points and use cases. Whether it's workflow optimization, data analysis, or scalability concerns, the interactive demo can provide tangible solutions. By focusing on specific pain points and use cases, interactive demos make the benefits of the product more tangible. Prospects can see exactly how the solution will improve their operations, making it easier for them to visualize the value it brings.
4. Facilitating self-guided exploration
Interactive demos empower prospects to explore the product or service at their own pace and in their preferred order. This self-guided approach allows them to focus on aspects that are most relevant to their needs, creating a more engaging and effective follow-up experience. Prospects can dive deep into areas of interest, skip over features they may not need, and return to sections for further exploration. This flexibility encourages active engagement and ensures that prospects receive the information they find most valuable.
5. Data-driven insights
Interactive demos often come with analytics features that provide valuable insights into prospect behaviour. These insights can inform follow-up strategies by revealing the most engaged features or friction points. Analyzing user interactions within the interactive demo can help sales teams tailor their follow-ups to address specific areas of interest or concerns, making the engagement more relevant and impactful.
Implementing Interactive Demos in Your Sales Process
The integration of interactive demos into your sales process can be a transformative step toward engaging and converting prospects effectively. Here's a comprehensive guide to successful implementation:
1. Choosing the right demo experience platform
Selecting the right platform for creating and delivering interactive demos is foundational. The platform should align with your specific needs, offer customization options, and provide a seamless user experience for both your team and buyers. Research and evaluate demo experience platforms based on factors such as ease of use, scalability, analytics capabilities, and compatibility with your existing sales technology stack. Ensure that the platform can support your interactive demo goals and objectives effectively.
2. Training and empowering SEs to lead follow-up discussions
Sales Engineers (SEs) play a central role in the success of interactive demos. They should be trained to lead follow-up discussions, with a clear understanding that this should always be done in collaboration and coordination with the Account Executive (AE) who manages the administration and logistics of the deal. Develop training programs that equip SEs with the necessary skills to effectively guide prospects through the interactive demo. This includes technical proficiency, communication skills, effective use of the data in their presales workspace, and the ability to address specific prospect needs that may arise during the demo. Collaboration with AEs ensures a seamless prospect experience.
3. Integrating interactive demos into the sales cycle seamlessly
To maximize the impact of interactive demos, they should be seamlessly integrated into the sales cycle at strategic touchpoints. Ensure that demos align with the buyer's journey and address their unique pain points and interests. Identify key stages in your sales process where including interactive demos can provide the most value. This might include following up on a discovery call or providing a deeper dive into the product after an initial presentation. Create a clear process for scheduling and delivering demos that feels natural within the overall flow of prospect interactions.
4. Measuring success and gathering feedback for continuous improvement
Measuring the success of interactive demos is essential for ongoing improvement. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the effectiveness of your demos and gather feedback from both prospects and internal teams. Define KPIs that align with your demo objectives, such as engagement rates, conversion rates, and post-demo prospect feedback. Regularly review and analyze this data to identify areas for improvement. Additionally, collect feedback from AEs, SEs, and prospects to refine the content and delivery of interactive demos continuously.
Wrapping it up!
Letting presales teams actively engage with buyers during follow-ups brings a multitude of benefits, including personalized experiences, enhanced technical insights, and addressing specific pain points. It's a paradigm shift that transforms the sales process into a more collaborative and effective endeavor. This is why it’s crucial now for sales organizations to break down silos and foster collaboration between sales and presales teams.
Ultimately, embracing interactive demos as a means to elevate the buyer's experience is not just a trend; it's a strategic imperative in today's competitive landscape. By doing so, you can drive sales success, foster stronger relationships, and deliver value to prospects.