As pre-sales professionals, innovation and inspiration are essential fuel for the fire of success. Without a continuous stream of updated strategy, our organizations will be left without prospects and opportunity. And without other professionals to share ideas with and to learn from, there’s no possibility for growth.
To motivate you towards success as a pre-sales professional, and to give you an idea of what’s happening in the upper echelon of the field, we’ve curated a list of 18 of the most prolific pre-sales professionals currently working. Many of these experts have been in the field for decades, while others are up-and-coming with big social media presences.
Keep an eye out for updates - and give these folks a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Keyuri Yagnik has been a Sales Engineering Coach and Consultant in her own right for five years now, and recently became the Technical Readiness Program Manager of SE Enablement at Splunk. She’s an absolute presales powerhouse, and should be the first pro on your “need to watch” list.
Keyuri founded the Atlanta Sales Engineering Meetup, designed to help Atlanta-based sales engineers build networks and connect with like-minded pros. She’s also a member of Women in Sales Enablement (WiSE), a LinkedIn-based group that connects and highlights the achievements of female sales engineers.
Keyuri has published multiple articles on LinkedIn. Check out this quote from her article titled “For an Organized, Memorable Demo, Try Using a Simple Transition Technique,” where she discusses the need for smooth demo transitions and personalized customer experience:
“Today’s digital audiences respond to bite-sized pieces of information far more than they do one long continuous speech, but those pieces need to relate to one another in a way that makes logical sense to that audience."
Using the right transitions to do that can leave your audience with the impression that you’ve custom-tailored the content to fit their exact needs. At the end of the day, giving a prospective customer that level of attention will be the best engagement tool you could possibly have in your arsenal.”
Some of Keyuri’s other pieces:
Find her on LinkedIn.
Peter Cohan has been in the pre-sales world for nearly 20 years and isn’t going any time soon. He’s one of the biggest thought leaders in pre-sales to keep an eye on because he’s been in the game for so long. He’s most famous for founding and running Great Demo!, an organization dedicated to training and coaching sales-people on how to keep their prospects engaged. "The Great Demo! Workshops have been held around the world.
His book, also titled Great Demo! has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating on Amazon with reviews like, "I have been a pre-sales professional for 20 years and managed several teams at enterprise software companies large and small. I have used Peter's book for all of my teams. Peter gives excellent guidance on how to deliver [a] compelling software demonstration."
Here’s an interesting quote from Peter:
“Invest in Discovery, show your clients the specific features they need, ask questions as you go, and use “you” phrasing. If your clients are not engaged, they will not remember the most important parts of your demo…the value you provide, and how you solve their critical business issues.”
Here are three pieces of his content you should check out:
- Success-Ready Leads: A Provocative Definition of “Qualified Lead” Based on Customer Success Parameters – and Its Impact on Presales, Sales and Customer Success
- Assessing Discovery Skill Levels – How Does Your Team Rate? (Updated and Expanded…)
- Discovery and Demos for Transactional Sales Cycles – When More Must Be Less (And Less More)
Check out his work here.
Melissa Andrews is Co-Founder of Sales Engineers of Washington, D.C., a group designed (like SEBOS) to connect Sales Engineers in the Greater DC area.
Andrews also acts as Solutions Engineer Manager for Army/COCOMS at Splunk, where she’s received a Living Values award for her disruptive work in the field. Before that, she was a sales engineer at Oracle for seventeen years.
Melissa has a vast wealth of knowledge in her field and a strong ethical drive - she’s deeply passionate about uplifting women and people of color in the workspace. Melissa is also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.
In an article she was featured in on GlobalTouch.com, Melissa gave this quote when asked, “What is one piece of business or career advice you would give to your younger self?”
“Move into management sooner. I realize now the need for women in management positions, but it was never something I considered for myself in my early days as an individual contributor.”
Here are a few of her features to check out:
- Disparities In Artificial Intelligence (AI) Present A Need For More Diversity In Tech Fields
- Upcoming Splunk Gov Summit - June 29, 2021
Follow Melissa over on LinkedIn for her thoughts and wisdom for other sales engineers.
James Kaikis is one of the co-founders of the Presales Collective, which touts itself as the “largest global community of Presales professionals.” The Presales Collective offers workshops, mentorship, and a community Slack channel - you can find their LinkedIn page here.
Here’s what they have to say about themselves:
“Our mission is to elevate the role of Presales in organizations worldwide. We aim to provide Presales professionals with the resources, knowledge, network, and mentorship to develop long, impactful careers in Presales."
If you haven’t already given it a listen to the Presales Podcast (founded by the Presales Collective), you can find it here.
Here’s a quote from James on the importance of Presales professionals in the workplace:
"The Presales role is the Swiss Army knife in your customer experience toolbox. It unifies departments like sales, product, engineering, success and more. Presales has a wealth of knowledge across disciplines that bring all the pieces together to make your sales organization more successful.”
Here are three pieces of James’ work that you need to check out:
- “Episode 15: ‘Healthy Friction’ with James Kaikis of the Presales Collective” on the Buyer Enablement Podcast
- “Perfecting the AE/SC Relationship w/ James Kaikis” on the Sales Engagement Podcast
- Why Your Co-Founder is Your Key to Success (or Failure)
Find James on Twitter.
Aileen McNabb is an exceptionally prolific pre-sales/sales engineering pro from Halifax, Nova Scotia. She’s well-followed on LinkedIn, and regularly shares gold nuggets of wisdom on the platform.
Aileen mainly plays the role of Developer of Confident Effective Presenters at Mustang Positive Professional Development and has done so for nearly eighteen years, making her one of the must-follow pre-sales professionals in the industry today.
What’s so unique about Aileen’s approach to pre-sales education is how she brings passion and personal wisdom to the often-clinical field of sales enablement.
Here’s a quote from one of her most recent LinkedIn posts that shows that:
“You don't need charisma to build good relationships. But those relationships can make or break us in presales. If you're not engaged, you just don't do the job as well. Purpose [and] shared goals make us proud to do our jobs and so we try harder to do it well...We're in sales, after all.”
Here are just a handful of her credits from across the web:
- “#155 It’s All About People, So Keep Them Happy” on We the Sales Engineers Podcast
- Are you the person others expect you to be? Should you be?
- Have you ever lied during a presentation? Of course not!
Freddy Mangum is a must-follow member of the pre-sales community. He’s currently one of the biggest names in the game as CEO and co-founder of Hub, a platform designed to help sales professionals achieve success.
What makes Freddy a particularly important person to follow right now is the fact that he’s not just a sales engineer - he runs an entire business whose goal is to ensure the success of as many sales engineers as possible.
Freddy provides a refreshing voice in the pre-sales space - his work is centered around good company culture, and he writes about this on his LinkedIn. Check out this quote from his article Technical Sales And Account Executives Win More As A Team:
“Winning business in today’s highly competitive technical selling environment is challenging. But that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that team dynamics between technical sales and account executive professionals are healthy and built on trust, understanding, respect and alignment. If you focus on building positive team dynamics and concentrate on doing the right thing for your buyers, the wins will come.”
Here are two of Freddy’s articles, as well as an interview about the launch of Hub:
- Get to know your Chief Marketing Officer
- Your Technical Sales Are The Unsung Heroes of Your Business
- Hub, a productivity platform for technical sales professionals, launches with $1M in funding
Alison Elworthy is the Executive VP of Revenue Operations at Hubspot, making her another need-to-follow expert in the pre-sales realm. She’s been at Hubspot for 10 years, and is also a board member of the organization Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology (WEST), a non-profit out of Cambridge, MA.
Alison is a huge advocate for women and mothers in the workplace, and her dedication shows through her work. She’s published a number of articles on the topic, and frequently posts about her ideas on LinkedIn to a large audience. Alison was even featured in a Huffington Post article back in 2016 about her work at HubSpot. Here’s a clip:
“A company’s operating system is like an air traffic controller. It’s important to create a system that’s efficient and effective in order to direct the planes in the right direction and prevent collisions….We want to create an operating system that matches the way the modern human wants to work.”
And, here are a few of her many features:
- HubSpot SVP Alison Elworthy: “The responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on”
- What Happens When You Don’t Have It All Figured Out?
- How Employers Can Shatter the Maternal Wall Bias
Find Alison on LinkedIn.
Rob Falcone has made a name for himself as the author of Just F*ing Demo! Tactics for Leading Kickass Product Demos. He also acts as Senior Director of Sales Engineering and Strategy at Guru. To get an idea of what people think of Rob’s writing and teaching style, here’s a quote from an Amazon review of the book:
“After reading several blogs, books, ebooks, etc.. I was still seeing a massive disconnect between theory and practice, I found Just F*ing Demo. [I] feel like a rudder was finally dropped down on my sailboat. Great, quick, applicable read I highly recommend!”
He’s not shy about his passion for effective presentations and demos, and his bold philosophy for demoing makes him a must-follow pre-sales pro.
Here’s a quote from Rob about his demoing tactics:
“Be upfront with the people you're talking to. Say outright, 'I'm going to start off today's conversation by taking just five minutes to ask you a few questions so that I can understand which features will be most important for you.' That way, you're all on the same page.”
These are the three pieces of content you’ve got to check out from Rob:
- The Just F*ing Demo Webinar
- “Let’s Talk About Careers w/Rob Falcone” on the Presales Podcast
- “#116 A Song of Fire and Gold” on We the Sales Engineers Podcast
Find him on Twitter.
Natasja Bax is a pre-sales master based in the Netherlands. She has her hands in multiple pre-sales projects and initiatives, and should be on every sales enablement pro’s to-follow list. First and foremost, Natasja is the owner, trainer, and coach of The Demoscene, a company dedicated to “support[ing] our customers’ growth by helping them to connect with their customers and persuasively convey a powerful message.”
Natasja is also a Certified Partner with Great Demo!, an organization dedicated to advancing sales reps’ skills in software demonstrations. If you needed even more reason to follow Natasja, she’s also the leader and moderator of the PreSales Collective’s European forum.
In one of her many LinkedIn articles, titled “Let’s put the ‘pre’ back in Presales,” Natasja wrote:
“As a presales consultant, you can provide prospects with vision generation demos at the beginning of their buyer’s journey. These are the equivalent of movie trailers: they’ll plant the seed and leave your prospects wanting more. This type of demo does exactly what it promises: generate a vision for a company on how it can achieve its goals using your software.”
Here are just a couple of her articles, both from LinkedIn and her own website:
- How to rake your way into the future of Presales (part 1)
- The new generation of pre sales consultants: Thought Leaders and Trusted Advisors
Follow Natasja on LinkedIn.
Akshat Srivastava is the founder of Sales Engineers of New York (SENY), one of LinkedIn’s largest pre-sales communities, which is affiliated with other sister groups, like SEBOS mentioned above.
SENY is one of the best resources and communities for connecting Sales Engineers with others in their field. This credit alone makes Akshat hugely important to follow. He’s not only knowledgeable about the pre-sales world; he’s also deeply passionate. Check out this quote from the SENY team page:
“No one tells you what an “SE” is while you’re in college, there are no mentorship programs available and no communities to guide you...I founded SENY to share my knowledge and provide others a space where they can ask questions freely and form a close-knit community that is always ready to help.”
And, here's a special episode of We the Sales Engineers podcast that Akshat guest-hosted:
Nick Masters is Manager of Solutions Consulting at Drift, and Co-Founder of Sales Engineers of Boston (SEBOS), a Boston-based group of sales engineering professionals building networks and support each others’ efforts. This makes Nick a must-follow pro for people looking to advance their careers in the field.
From the Sales Engineers of New York website (of which SEBOS is a chapter):
“SEBOS is a premier community for sales engineers, solutions engineers, solution consultants and any aspiring pre-sales engineers in [the] Greater Boston area. SEBOS was founded in early 2020 by Nick Masters and his team as a chapter of SENY...to connect people that share passion towards Sales Engineering and provide a platform for individuals and professionals to network and share expertise.”
Here’s what he says about founding SEBOS:
“Boston is home to some of the top rated schools in the world, making it no surprise that this city has exploded in technology growth. According to KPMG, Boston is in the top 10 global cities most likely to lead in technology and innovation outside Silicon Valley within the next four years. In order to achieve this growth, the city needs expert technical sales professionals necessary to drive revenue, while connecting with customers in a meaningful way.”
And, here’s some of his best content you should check out:
- Introducing SEBOS: Sales Engineers of Boston
- “Outside the Box: a Career Transition into Presales w/Nick Masters” on the Presales Collective Podcast
Follow him on LinkedIn, and keep an eye out for his virtual conference speaking gigs, particularly if you’re a Boston local.
Pravin Dandra is one of the Co-Founders of SEBOS (see above). He’s also Sales Engineer at Dynatrace, a software intelligence platform based in Austria. Pravin is another must-follow pre-sales leader for people in the Boston area because of his affiliations with SEBOS.
Here’s a quote from one of Pravin’s articles that sums up his attention to detail for customer relationships and sales engineering:
“My AE and one of my customers at times hang around after the meeting just to talk about American football. They spend a few minutes talking about what they both are passionate about. Obviously, Tom Brady is not going to win us the deal, but he can definitely create an environment where customers can be more open than ever. And if you are lucky enough you will hear about how the problem is impacting his/her personal life, could come at the cost of his games or spending time with the family.”
Here’s one of his podcast features you should give a listen:
- “From India to the US- Becoming a Sales Engineer” on We the Sales Engineers
You can catch him in speaking gigs at conferences through Sales Engineers of New York (of which SEBOS is an offshoot), and follow him on LinkedIn.
Pat Kerr joins the list as the third Co-Founder of SEBOS, and is the Senior Solutions Engineer at Box. Because of his connection with the Sales Engineers of New York community, you can find him promoting and being featured in a number of meet-and-greets and virtual conferences.
He has one particular quote from his article “The art of demo storytelling” that stands out, as it emphasizes his human-centered approach to demoing:
“You need to become an expert in whatever your customer cares about. It may be their business process, industry, [or] strategic goals for the year, but a story that your customer can relate to shows them you understand their business needs, and they can trust your solution will help them meet those needs.”
Keep an eye out for his work both within SEBOS, as well as with Sales Engineers of New York and other affiliated groups. Check out his LinkedIn profile here.
Leon Russo is the fourth Co-Founder of SEBOS. Along with Nick Maters, Pravin Dandra, and Pat Kerr, Leon has helped establish an organization that offers Boston-area sales engineers a way to connect and build relationships with others in the field. Especially if you’re a Boston local (or even just a New Englander), his work is worth following.
Leon is also one of the co-founders of the New England chapter of the Presales Collective, which just launched this past January. They’re dedicated to linking pre-sales professionals with others in their community. If you’re interested in joining their Slack channel, use this code: #geo-new-england-chapter.
For these two accolades alone, you should give Leon a follow. Oh, and did I mention he’s the senior manager of solution engineering at Salesforce?
Give him a follow over on LinkedIn.
Shadi Bucklin is the Enablement Coach. She’s made a name for herself as such after working with cross-functional teams for over fifteen years, and launched her own consultancy in 2020.
Shadi says on her website that her angle for enablement “starts with identifying the gap between current state and desired future state and building the strategy, roadmap and competencies to help organizations operate at their highest capabilities.”
Along with running her own consultancy, Shadi is also the Head of Revenue Enablement at Skilljar, which only adds to her extensive experience and credibility.
Here are a few of Shadi’s articles, along with an interview she did with Elay Cohen of SalesHood:
- Coaching with F.R.A.M.E.
- The Ingredients of a #Winning Virtual Presentation
- Enabling Managers To Do High Impact Coaching
Eric Glick is one of the Co-Founders of SENY, making him a need-to-follow pre-sales professional, especially for people in the NYC metro area. Eric is also the Solutions Engineering Leader at Slack’s eastern division.
On LinkedIn, he writes openly about his experiences within the company, and even shares some insight into their onboarding process. He also actively shares links to SENY’s events schedule - keep an eye out for more in-person gatherings soon.
Eric’s work is essential to follow, particularly since SENY is finally hosting in-person meetings again. Their next event is a presentation called Design Thinking for Sales Engineers, sponsored by Troops, Vivun, and Cloudshare. You can find the Meetup invitation here.
Here’s an article he published on LinkedIn about how he completely eliminated all emails from his life for an entire year in 2018.
Find Eric on LinkedIn.
Owen McClave is one of the co-founders of Sales Engineers of New York. A Salesforce and Amazon Web Services alum, he’s now working for Twilio as their Director of Solutions Engineering. He’s active on LinkedIn, particularly about promoting SENY events (which happen quarterly). This makes him a great pre-sales professional for NYC metro folks to follow, especially as the world reopens.
Owen’s been featured on the We the Sales Engineers podcast, where he discussed the intricacies of his work and his journey to becoming a sales engineer. You can give the episode a listen here.
If you’re interested in learning more about his past work at Salesforce, he wrote an article entitled “Becoming an Internal Catalyst for Growth in 2019,” which you can find on his LinkedIn.
Find him on LinkedIn for posts about working at Twilio, as well as updates from SENY, including upcoming virtual conferences and talks.
Chris White, also known as the Demo Doctor, created DemoDoctor.com, an online platform dedicated to helping sales engineers refine their skills and deliver positive results to their organizations. He’s also a founding member of the Presales Collective’s DC chapter.
Chris has spent over 30 years in sales and marketing, and penned a book entitled “The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers,” which currently has 4.7/5 stars on Amazon. Here’s one review of his book that stands out:
“Whether you are new to the industry, or a seasoned professional Chris’ book offers something for everyone. While it focuses on successful demonstrations, the advice works for all aspects of being a Sales Engineer. This book focuses on communicating, building better relationships and forging connections. These skills are must-haves no matter whom you are dealing with.”
Since Chris is trained as a motivational speaker, you can rely on his content to pack a punch while remaining readable and concise - exactly what you need on your LinkedIn feed. He wrote back in 2019 about his demoing philosophy:
“The next time you're engaged to do a technical presentation or sales demo in support of a sales opportunity, think and act like an Uber driver, not a tour guide. Use effective discovery to determine where they are and where they want to go, and then design and present a demonstration that shows the path of least resistance in getting from Point A to Point B using your solution.”
A couple bonus features:
You can find him on LinkedIn.