The Future of Presales in 2024

The future of presales this year will bring yet more positive change for presales, sales engineering, solutions consulting,…  or whatever we call ourselves.  Perhaps that’s something that we need to fix…  Subscription models, Return to Office, AI and buyer behaviours will all have an impact. Let’s dive in.

SaaS & Subscription Models

 

The move to subscription models is becoming unstoppable.  Many businesses have already moved their business models to subscription and Broadcom recently announced the end of perpetual licences for VMware.  Even hardware vendors are looking at how they exploit this model, but let’s not talk about BMW’s attempt to have heated car seats as a subscription model.

 

The subscription business model will force a change in the way some of the more traditional presales teams operate.  The perpetual licence model has often been about maximising bookings for the opportunity in front of you.  Subscription models introduce a new element – the need to ensure renewals and expansion.

 

Bad deals for the customer creates churn, which usually hits the AE and sales team with a negative booking.  The presales team now needs to step up and ensure that the solution being proposed is the right fit for the customer and is something that can be delivered quickly so that the customer time to value is as short a time as possible.

 

This also impacts the handover to the professional services teams and customer success.  You cannot just throw the opportunity at them to go figure out.  They need a clear understanding of commitments and value statements so that the customer gets a successful platform operating as soon as possible.

 

It also means that as soon as we close the first sale to the customer we are effectively entering a new sales cycle for the renewals and potential expansion.  The whole sales team needs to focus on churn reduction, and that means focussing on achieving customer value creation from day 1.

 

The Merge of Presales and Customer Success Teams

 

And as we discuss the sales team, there is another change that I think will start to happen more often in 2024 as a result of subscription models.  That is the merger of the presales and customer success teams.  It makes no sense to me to have two teams that are focussed on solving customer challenges reporting to different leaders.  The skills of each role are subtly different, but are also interdependent.  2024 will see a major move to merge these teams into a single team structure.

 

Using AI to Our Advantage

 

Artificial Intelligence and automation have already become a major part of many presales organisations, but 2024 is when we will see them become indispensable.  SEs must not only understand these technologies but leverage them to enhance efficiency in their processes.  Many teams are already using AI based platforms for RFI and RFP responses, and if you are not then you are missing out.  These solutions use AI to automate the initial pass at the response thus reducing workload and speeding up response times.

 

But we should be able to use AI to do so much more.  2024 will see the way that we produce demos change significantly.  One of the biggest issues for in-person demos is the creation of realistic demo data that also protects against accidental PII disclosure.  Companies like Demostack have solved that problem.  This will grow significantly this year and automate many of the demo creation processes.

 

AI will also change the way that our teams are trained and enabled.  Forward looking teams will be using AI to structure how and when they receive updates about their markets, underlying technology solution and even competitive training.  AI can do the hard work for us and then have someone validate the response and push it out to the team. It will also help us craft better presentations and documentation., helping to give more time back to customer-facing activities.

 

However, we will also see issues where companies misuse AI and we see the impact of accidental privacy breaches and PII disclosure.  Make sure that your AI processes take this into account

 

Customer Centricity

 

Customer-centricity is the new mantra. Focussing on buyer behaviours, customer value creation and time to value are critical for 2024.  Buyers are increasingly spending significant amounts of time on research prior to contacting vendors.  We need to adapt to this changing behaviour so that our potential customers have better access to material about our solutions.  This could mean working more closely with Marketing, the BDR and SDR teams, but there is also a more profound change that we need to drive.

 

Customer research works well for simple solutions, solutions that are mature and where information is easily available.  However, researching complex new technologies will not be so easy.  A great SE will need to take account of the fact that many of our customers could hold opinions about our technology that are just wrong.

 

We will need to educate our teams to validate the knowledge and opinions of our customers to ensure that their prior research matches our view of the market and approach to solving the problem.  BTW – this also applies to where a competitor has already been educating the customer, and so this is a known issue for us.  We will also need to double-down on ensuring that our sales process helps us clearly understand the customer challenges and then matches a solution for them that drives business value.  And remember, this also ties back to driving subscription renewals.

 

Return to Office

 

2024 will be the year of reckoning when it comes to the battle between remote working and Return to Office.  Some companies are not learning the lessons of Covid-19 and are trying to force people to return to the office, usually because of the investments that they have made in real estate.  As we see the various global economies pick up again in 2024 and hiring in tech companies starts to grow again, this issue will become a key battleground for talent.

 

To be clear, I am a firm believer in bringing people together to be able to brainstorm, bounce ideas off each other and build strong team relationships.  But that does not require an office presence for most of the week, especially when you consider that there are some people that have remote working contracts.

 

Ultimately companies will need to figure out that it is actually about productivity and work outcomes – not being in the office – especially if we use technology and our lessons from covid effectively.  The companies that get this balance right will win the battle for top talent and therefore be far more effective.

 

Using the Power of Global Teams

 

Aligned with the lessons of Covid-19 and remote working is the ability to create a truly global team but with local engagement.  I am seeing more and more teams provide centralised groups of people in various countries providing global services.  While there is nothing new about this concept, what has changed is that they are no longer just on the end of a call.  They are now part of the global team both visually on Zoom or Teams, but also with deeper application integration. And the employees are pulled from regions all over the world to work in these centres.

 

This allows better onboarding of sales and presales teams, higher productivity as they are all learning from each other in real time, and a clear path for career and personal development.  And you get to live in a cool city in a new country for a few years.  

 

This approach means that services do not need to be outsourced to low cost countries, just to your employees in lower cost countries.  And the people that you base there will likely move back to their home countries in the future, bring the skills and knowledge into the local teams and continue to drive growth for your company.

 

For presales this means time consuming services like demo builds, RFP response processes and model answers, design verification services, etc. can be moved to a central lower cost location.  In fact, anything that helps put the field SE in front of the customer more instead.

 

And again, the people in these centres are your future field SEs, being trained on the job and ready to go when you need them.  This is all about building a great people pipeline.

 

Conclusion

2024 will see some major changes around subscription model growth, better use of AI and a truly global workforce.  For me, 2024 is the year of the phoenix rising from the challenges of the last few years, but now with a really positive future !

Video Links:

How to Become and SE : https://youtu.be/qX9N4yq-L5Y

Blog Links:

How to Become an SE : https://thepresalescoach.com/blog/how-to-become-an-se/

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