Scaling up your presales team? Here’s how to quickly onboard new sales engineers.
STEP 1: Define your presales SOPs and best practices.
Type them out.
Knowing them is not sufficient.
New hires cannot read your mind!
Do your SEs assist with Technical Discovery? Then what should they ask?
Do your SEs give Demos? Then how should they prep? Which demo assets should they use?
Do your SEs lead POCs/POVs? Which test cases highlight your competitive advantages?
Your answers will depend on specific attributes about a deal.
Different discovery questions for different customer types.
Different demo assets for different use cases.
Different POC/POV test cases for different products.
Documenting all of this forces you to be specific and to refine your process.
It’s all obvious until you have to write it down.
That is when you realize all of the steps, complexities, IF/THEN rules, caveats, exceptions, and so on.
STEP 2: Assemble your SOPs and best practices into Evaluation Plans (aka, templates, playbooks, action plans).
Multiple options here…
Sales Engineers follow a complete, e2e plan with everything they should do from their first touch point with a prospect all the way through the post-sales hand-off.
Sales Engineers assemble their evaluation plans as they go. They get tapped to support Discovery. Add in the Discovery template. Then they need to spin up a POV environment? Add in the POV Setup template and the templates for the relevant Test Cases. Up against KeyCompetitorX? Add in the KeyCompetitorX template with special test cases that work well against them. And so on.
STEP 3: Train your new hires on the Evaluation Plans.
Make your new Evaluation Plans available to your presales team.
Train them on when to use each Evaluation Plan.
Coach them on how to tailor the Evaluation Plans for each prospect.
Give them a way to track their progress through their Evaluation Plans.
Give them a way to share their Evaluation Plans with their prospects (in whole or in part).
STEP 4: Watch your new hires rack up the technical wins!
Your new hires instantly follow the same SOPs and best practices that your top sales engineers took years to master.
But they are doing it in days and weeks; not months and years.
Want to Learn More?
From documenting to assembling to tracking to sharing Evaluation Plans, Request a Demo to learn how Evaluation Plans improve your onboarding process, reduce new hire time-to-productivity, and empower your team to win.
A street near our office was a commuter route between downtown and the highway.
It was short and straight. People drove fast.
Over time the city council started worrying about the traffic.
They reviewed potential solutions and decided to add more traffic lights and stop signs.
A councilmember asked, “What about the drivers? How will this impact them?”
“They will deal with whatever we implement. They’ll be fine.” said another.
They approved the project budget as an ‘investment in a better future’.
Traffic piled up at the new traffic lights and stop signs.
Commute times went way up.
Drivers became frustrated.
They became motivated to find ways around the street.
They started taking side streets.
They started driving fast again.
The main street was rarely used now.
Lonely traffic light changing colors for no one.
The city council started worrying about traffic on the new routes.
And just like that... they were right back where they started.
Still NO results, but now with LESS money to spend on new solutions.
From street traffic to presales data?
Presales management want presales data about:
Presales data is GOLD!
Presales data is the KEY to:
To get the data… you need your presales teams to use their tooling.
Sadly, many presales solutions are street lights and stop signs: Well intentioned IMPEDIMENTS.
Your presales teams are SMART. Smart like the drivers in our story.
They will find ways around your presales tools if it gets in their way.
At that point you are getting PARTIAL data, at best.
Partial Data -> Garbage Data
Garbage In -> Garbage Out
As a presales leader, you will be like the city council… having wasted money on a solution that didn’t work.
Seeking new budget for new ways to solve the same problem.
Don’t be THAT presales leader.
Find a presales solution that was designed for the way your presales team actually works.
We built the first version of Homerun as a tool for ourselves to make our daily lives more organized as sales engineers. That means that from Day 1 Homerun has been a tool, and now an end-to-end presales platform, that was built for how presales team actually work. Exactly what they need, without getting in the way.
Request a demo to talk with a presales expert and see Homerun in action!
As a presales leader, here’s how to get marketing to find deals that are amazing ‘technical fits’.
STEP 1: Define your ‘technical fit’ Attributes.
Is it your prospect’s hosting environment?
Or, other aspects of their tech stack?
Is it the amount of data?
The number of users?
Or, some other aspects of size and scale?
Is it their maturity with a particular business process?
And so on.
STEP 2: Start capturing Attribute data.
Your presales team captures Attribute data throughout the technical evaluation.
Warning… your presales tooling must enable easy data capture without getting in the way.
When presales tooling gets in the way, presales teams find ways around it.
Then you are getting partial data (at best).
Garbage in, garbage out…
Don’t let that be you!
STEP 3: Analyze your Attribute data.
With data in hand, time to analyze!
Time to learn which Attributes are correlated to technical fit and which are not.
Time to learn which Attribute values define a GOOD technical fit vs. a BAD technical fit.
Example: Technical Win Rate is 34% higher when Hosting Provider=AWS, Database=Postgres, and Process Maturity=Advanced.
Example: Technical Loss Rate is 17% higher when Hosting Provider=On Premise, Database=SQL Server, and Process Maturity=Low.
This is gold!
Time to share with the rest of your organization.
STEP 4: Share your findings with your VP of Marketing.
Many teams will want your presales data, including sales, product, support, post-sales, and marketing.
Today, you decide to share it with your VP of Marketing.
Your VP of Marketing directs the marketing team and marketing spend towards leads that are GOOD technical fits.
Marketing effort and spend is shifted away from leads that are BAD technical fits.
Better leads flow into your TOFU.
Your presales team starts closing more deals, more quickly.
The C-level suite is VERY impressed.
Presales looks good.
Sales looks good.
Marketing looks good.
As an end-to-end presales platform, Homerun supports all 4 steps to capture and centralize presales data and provide insights to marketing about technical fit.
Learn how: Request a Demo
Thanks The Sales Engineer Guy for recognizing Homerun in your great guide for Presales Tools. We love your content focusing on sales engineering best practices, presales hiring and compensation, and so much more. Thank you for continuing to spread the word about the value of presales! Check out The Sales Engineer Guy: https://www.salesengineerguy.com/
Picture this common presales scene:
You just kicked off a POC with a major new prospect, Big Deal Inc.. You spent the last week setting up their POC environment, and you finally gave them access. On the next sales pipeline call your CRO unexpectedly calls on you as the sales engineer assigned to Big Deal Inc. and asks “How is the POC going with Big Deal Inc.? Where are we?” All eyes look to you, but you don’t have an answer because you don’t have visibility into what Big Deal Inc. has done so far. Are they stalling out? Are you headed to a technical win? Awkward...
Hoping that your prospect is making progress on their POC is not a smart presales strategy, and certainly it is not how you win deals.
Now, picture this alternative and far better presales scene:
You have Homerun and all of its embedded presales best practices. You just kicked off a POC with a major new prospect, Big Deal Inc.. You spent the last week setting up their POC environment, and you finally gave them access. On the next sales pipeline call... Let’s first back up a few days…
In prep for kicking off the POC with Big Deal Inc., last Thursday you went to the Evaluation Homepage for Big Deal Inc. in Homerun, and you created the perfect Evaluation Plan for their POC.
With a couple of clicks you added all of the relevant test scenarios from your Homerun Template Library based on the products and modules that they are evaluating.
Being the smart sales engineer that you are, you know that every company is a little different. And so following your sales engineering best practices, you tailored a few of the test scenarios based on Big Deal Inc.’s exact technical requirements and pain points, and you even threw in a few additional use cases that you knew would showcases your competitive advantages against Key Competitor X (with whom you knew you were competing because of Homerun’s Competitors Attribute).
You attached three documents to the Evaluation Plan that the Big Deal Inc. team asked for, including a 'quick start' guide and some technical specifications.
Using Homerun’s Shareable Evaluation Plan feature, you marked the relevant test scenarios to be shared and added the Big Deal Inc. team members that are participating in the proof of concept. They immediately received emailed access to the shared POC Evaluation Plan.
Now let’s fast forward back to your kick-off… You just kicked off a POC with a major new prospect, Big Deal Inc.. You spent the last week setting up their POC environment, and you finally gave them access. And now… you know exactly what is going on.
In fact, that same day you checked the Evaluation Plan Status in Homerun and saw that the Big Deal Inc. team already made progress and completed the first few test scenarios.
The next day you were alerted that the Big Deal Inc. team was blocked. You investigated and saw that you just needed to give some quick guidance. You hopped on a remote screen share meeting and walked them through the steps they needed to get unstuck.
A few minutes later you saw the status of the blocked test scenario change from Blocked to Complete. Success! They were back on track.
In your weekly pipeline meeting today your CRO unexpectedly asks “How is the POC going with Big Deal Inc.? Where are we?” All eyes look to you…
You already have Homerun open, so you pull up the Big Deal Inc. Evaluation Homepage and tell her that as of right now Big Deal Inc. is 68% of the way through their POC Evaluation Plan, that they got blocked yesterday but you worked through it and they are back on track, that the POC is expected to complete in 10 days, and it looks like you are headed to a technical win.
If this were a movie, your CRO would give you a special nod of approval, your manager would smile proudly knowing that he trained you well, and a fellow sales engineer would start a slow-clap that would build into a furious applause because you absolutely nailed your big moment.
This is not a movie though. You are a fast growing enterprise software company in a competitive market. You still get the nod of approval from your CRO because your POC is the reason you are about to close Big Deal Inc. and get her that much closer to her revenue target. You still get the proud smile from your manager because you are following presales best practices and his investment in Homerun is paying off. And, you still get the slow-clap from your peers, albeit silently in their minds, because you made everyone look good by showing the strategic value of the presales team.
Summary: Align, Engage, and Impress
Homerun’s Shareable Evaluation Plans are key to you getting technical wins more quickly, efficiently, and successfully.
1. Align with your prospect
Shareable Evaluation Plans define success for your POC and document the agreement between you and your prospect on what that looks like in the form of use cases and test scenarios. A well-designed Evaluation Plan bookends your POC and brings it to a logical conclusion as quickly as possible with demonstrated success. Congratulations, that is the very definition of the technical win!
2. Engage your prospect
Homerun’s Evaluation Plans promote engagement by your prospect, and an engaged prospect is more likely to buy. Remember that your prospect is already busy with their own day-to-day work and now they are squeezing in participation in a POC evaluation. You make their lives easier with Shareable Evaluation Plans. They know exactly what they need to test and the definitions of success. They can track their own progress so they always know where they left off and what they still need to do. You also can monitor their progress and intervene to re-engage them if their progress is stalling out or to quickly jump in and assist if they are blocked for any reason.
3. Impress your prospect
While other vendors are sending prospects confusing spreadsheets full of test cases, dense PDFs, or nothing at all, Homerun’s Shareable Evaluation Plans shows that you are professional, organized, and engaged in their success. Your prospect understands that their pre-sales experience is a predictor of their post-sales experience. Shareable Evaluation Plans impress them from the start, make you stand out against your competitors, and boost your chances of winning the deal.
Want to Learn More?
We designed Homerun around presales best practices as well as our years of experience as sales engineers and presales managers. Today, Homerun is the #1 solution built to manage your presales pipeline, technical evaluations, POCs, and POVs.
Request a Demo to learn how Shareable Evaluation Plans enhance your presales process, boost your team's performance, and win you more deals.
Nancy Nardin highlighted Homerun in the Presales Enablement category in her "2021 B2B Enterprise SalesTech Landscape": smartsellingtools.com/vendor-landscape/
We agree with Nancy's placement of Homerun in the Earn section. Homerun helps companies close more deals, faster.
Check out the new Lord of the Rings-styled map for sales engineering tools created by sales engineering trainer and coach, Patrick Pissang: https://salesengineeringmap.com
Homerun has a prime coastal location along the "PoC Forrest"!
As enterprise and critical infrastructure operators become more connected digitally, they are increasingly vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. Operational Technology (OT) and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) cybersecurity incidents have severe financial impacts, cripple operations, reduce safety, and harm human health and quality of life, both within operators and within the customers and communities that they serve.
Enterprise and critical infrastructure operators recognize the need for OT and ICS cybersecurity, and they are buying. According to ARC Advisory Group's 2019 "The State of Industrial Cybersecurity", more than 80% of companies stated that operational technology (OT) cybersecurity is a high priority and only 10% say that ‘budget limitations’ are a major concern in case of an ICS cybersecurity incident/breach. As Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) are moving to close the long-standing gap between IT security and OT security, Global Market Insights predicts the ICS cybersecurity market will reach over $12 billion by 2026, growing rapidly at 20% YOY.
The most effective weapon that your sales team has in their fight to win the deal is the Proof of Concept (POC). Just as your OT/ICS solution combats industrial cybersecurity threats, your sales team has to combat deal threats, such as buyer insecurity, decision ‘analysis paralysis’, and competitors.
Well designed and executed POCs improve sales performance. According to McKinsey, companies with effective presales achieve:
Here are five ways that you can leverage POCs to boost your sales:
1. POCs prove that your technology will protect your prospect
Your marketing materials got you the lead and the ‘word of the salesperson’ got you the POC, but now you need to prove to your buyer that your solution will protect them.
Cybersecurity buyers worry about protecting their organization from attacks; that is why they are evaluating solutions. Buyers also worry that their vendor decision is linked directly to their job security as they may lose their job if the solution that they choose fails to prevent a cybersecurity incident.
Your buyer’s insecurity during the decision-making process cannot be underestimated in the sales cycle.
Design your POCs to prove that your solution can do what your buyer needs it to do and to remove your buyer’s fears.
2. POCs build the all-important ‘trusted advisor’ relationship
POCs are a collaborative form of technical evaluation. They give you multiple touchpoints with your prospect and multiple opportunities to gain a deeper knowledge about their business, priorities, motivations, and challenges.
Leverage this collaboration to design solutions that solve your prospect’s real business problems, show them new ways of protecting themselves, and guide them on continuous cybersecurity improvement. You win deals when you understand your prospect and stop selling them.
The close collaboration with your prospect also helps you look beyond the sales cycle and starting assessing:
3. POCs let you define a plan to get the technical win
The OT and ICS cybersecurity sales cycle is complex, and it is common for buyers to fall into a state of ‘decision analysis paralysis’. OT and ICS cybersecurity solutions, and therefore POCs, are complex, often involving hundreds of sites, assets, and systems. In addition, buyers are juggling multiple vendors, each with an overwhelming array of feature sets and its own POC.
A well-designed evaluation plan aligns you and your buyer on the goals of your POC, the use cases that will be tested, and the success criteria. A well-designed evaluation plan will bring even the most complex POC to a logical conclusion quickly and efficiently with demonstrated success. This is the very definition of the technical win.
Creating an evaluation plan can be challenging though:
The easier you make the evaluation process for your buyer, the better your chances of standing out among your competitors and winning the deal. Show your prospect that you are experienced and that you value their time by recommending a list of use cases that will demonstrate how your solution solves their business problems:
Standardize your POC best practices, key use cases, and lessons learned into evaluation plan templates that your presales team can use with each new prospect. Evaluation plan templates ensure that every POC is your best POC, even when managed by new or inexperienced presales teams. Templates provide great, repeatable starting points, but your presales teams should have the flexibility to tailor their evaluation plans to each prospect.
4. POCs allow you to capture product gaps and feature requests
Your product management teams are desperate for data about the product gaps and feature requests that come up in the sales cycle, whether they are nice-to-haves, blockers, future requests, or just curiosities. Presales teams are amazing at discussing features in the moment:
Guide your presales teams to capture this incredibly valuable product feedback during POCs and integrate it into your product management and roadmap processes.
5. POC Management solutions are the new best practice in cybersecurity presales
Purpose-built POC management solutions like Homerun are the newest software category in the modern sales tech stack, and they change the way best-in-class cybersecurity vendors sell and win deals.
The traditional ad hoc POC process is no longer sufficient, with its reliance on knowledge and practices known only to the best presales solutions engineers, a mish-mash of side tools (most of which are unapproved by IT), and CRMs that are not designed for presales.
The core capabilities of POC management solutions include:
At a minimum your POC management solution should maintain a record of the following items for every POC:
Your POC management solution should integrate all of this presales and POC data with your sales tech stack (most importantly your CRM), product management solutions, post-sales solutions, and other data/reporting systems so that this valuable data can be leveraged throughout your organization.
Learn how one cybersecurity company grew their sales through better POCs: Case Study
The #1 goal in sales?
Hit your target
The #1 way to hit your target?
The #1 prerequisite to closing a deal?
Get the technical win
The #1 way to get the technical win?
Run a successful presales POC
Given that POCs are mission-critical to hitting your sales target… Why are there no solutions for presales POCs and technical evaluations?
Before building Homerun, we had a need to better plan and execute presales POCS and technical evaluations that would get technical wins. We looked for purpose-built software solutions to help with this, but to our surprise we couldn’t find any. So we did what all good software developers do when they can’t find what they need… we built it ourselves. As more and more sales engineers adopted Homerun as their Go-To tool for managing their presales activities, we knew the need was greater than our own and decided to launch Homerun as a commercially available software solution.
As we were getting ready to launch, we looked for how best to categorize Homerun within the Sales Tech Stack. We reviewed multiple articles, diagrams, and landscapes that listed the major and minor categories in the modern Sales Tech Stack (see below for a few examples). To our surprise, we discovered that none of them included categories related to presales, sales engineering, presales POCs, nor technical evaluations.
Bottom line: The modern Sales Tech Stack (both in practice and in diagram/landscape form) has a major gap, and we’re doing our part to fill it.
Examples of Sales Tech Stack Categorizations:
“The 2019 SalesTech Landscape: What’s Hot and What’s Not Today”
Source: Sales Hacker (the self-proclaimed ‘World's Largest Community for B2B Sales’), by Nicolas de Kouchkovsky
“The Sales Tech Stack” (2015)
Source: Scale Venture Partners
The Essential B2B Sales Stack (2017)
Startup Sales Stack Report (2019)
Source: Bowery Capital