Elevating Presales Positions: Beyond Just Demos in B2B Sales


Author: Barry Mueller
Last updated: Published:
Presales position

In B2B sales, everyone seems to agree on one thing: demos are key. Buyers, prospects, customers, and even big names in market analysis like Gartner all say that demos are the most important part of buying and selling.

We know that buyers want to see a demo early in the sales cycle and that most buyers are somewhere between 60 to 70% through their buying process before they actually contact a human.

But this brings up a big question: If everyone knows how important demos are, why aren't presales positions getting a seat at the revenue table? Solution engineers are often just seen as "the demo people" and don't get the same recognition as their sales team peers. Sometimes, they even have trouble getting approval for more staff.

This situation shows a clear gap between what we know is true, what research tells us, and what's actually happening in companies.

We sat down with Todd Janzen, Global VP SE at Salesforce to understand why this gap exists and what can be done to fix it.

Here’s what we learned.

Why Presales Positions Should Move Beyond Live Demos

According to Todd, one of the main reasons presales teams often don't get the recognition they deserve is that they've mostly focused on a specific part of the sales process–particularly the middle to end stages of the deal cycle–because this is where live demos happen. This area has become their main playing field.

SEs are known for doing these live demos, and they're good at it. The problem is that SEs have kind of put themselves in this limited role. So that's all people think they can offer. In reality though, SEs are capable of much more.

Unfortunately, they typically don’t have the data-driven approach they need to prove this.

Implementing a More Data-driven Approach to Demos

When it comes to presales, unless an SE takes the time to manually record everything they do in a live demo, you usually don't see much data. In fact, for 20+ years, presales positions have been using the same old KPIs.

That’s why every SE can recall a time when the AE turned to them and says, "Forget the plan, just show them the product." That's exactly why SEs need to focus on the KPIs that matter to the sales leaders and their teams.

To make your presence felt as an SE and get a spot at the decision-making table, Todd explains that you need to speak the same language as the sales team. It's not just about how many tasks you've done or how long you've spent getting ready for demos. And it's not enough to just talk about why finding out what the customer needs is important. SEs need data.

Consider a situation where a buyer is exploring a product on their own, or maybe an AE is running the demo. Now, we can start asking detailed questions: What kind of demo was it? Was it tailored to a specific industry? Which features did the customer spend time on? How long did they focus on those features?

Thankfully, Demostack's demo analytics solution is making finding those answers easier than ever. SEs can now get into the details of how prospects interact with the software before or after a demo or a trial. It provides visibility into which specific features prospects focus on and what grabs their attention. In turn, this helps SEs line up their goals with the bigger sales team's objectives so they can start demonstrating their value more effectively.

Scaling with Demo Automation

Todd also explains that those in presales positions should start focusing more on demo automation technology, which includes product tours and sandboxes. It changes the game for SEs. They're not just showing off products anymore; they're creating demos that keep selling long after they've finished their workday. These demos do more than just show a product; they showcase the skills and knowledge of the SEs in a way that's never been done before.

This move to automation is a big deal for the sales process. Product tours can help sales teams sort through potential deals more efficiently because they can track who’s watching these demos and learn about what they're interested in. This empowers teams to identify the leads with the highest intent and sell to them faster.

This also means AEs can now close deals without an SE having to be there every step of the way. It might sound strange because we usually think of SEs as the key to closing sales. But if we look at all kinds of demos, not just the ones SEs do live, we see something different. By giving salespeople more demo automation tools, SEs can concentrate on the more complex demos and POCs that depend on their expertise and are critical to the company’s bottom line.

Besides, just focusing on live demos isn't enough anymore for customers anyway. We live in a world where people are used to getting what they want on demand, like Netflix or Disney Plus. With more demo automation, we can shift from a presales model based on the number of demos an SE can do, which is limited by their working hours, to one based on the real value they provide.

How Does Removing an SE from Demoing Put Accounts at Risk for Churn?

Todd acknowledges that while some demo automation is good, finding the right balance in presales is key. There are products out there that can almost sell themselves. These usually fall under the product-led growth model, where a strong self-service channel lets customers explore and buy without much help.

But then there are the big deals – the kind you don’t want to risk on automated demos alone. In these cases, jumping straight into automation might not be the best move. If you're dealing with a significant opportunity, and you don't want to jeopardize it. It’s crucial to approach each deal individually and assess the best strategy for each segment.

The big question is: should SEs step back and let automation take over, or should they always be involved in the demos? The answer lies in how we use automation effectively. At the beginning of the sales funnel, automated demos are great for drawing in prospects and qualifying them. But as we move further along in the sales process, that's where the human touch becomes important.

By adding a live demo after the initial automated ones, you’re not just showing the product; you’re providing value through human interaction. This approach helps you avoid wasting time on leads that don't go anywhere – what we might call the “harbor cruises” of sales.

Final Thoughts on Demonstrating the Value of Presales Positions

Embracing these new strategies, Todd Janzen explains, helps presales more clearly demonstrate their value. Shifting from a narrow focus on live demos to a broader, more strategic role sheds light on just how valuable SEs can be.

Ultimately, by taking a more data-driven approach, aligning their efforts with the larger objectives of the sales team, and focusing on delivering real value, presales professionals can redefine their role and show their crucial impact on the success of the business.

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