A data driven guide to Sales Engineering

Published on: January 7th, 2022

Data is cool. There’s no doubt about it: data can tell you more than just what’s happening right now – it can also help you forecast better results, get better efficiency, influence others to make choices and prepare for the future. Presales teams are one of those teams that have access to a lot of on the ground information, and it can be used to build winning strategy, produce useful analytics and reporting.

The most important thing to remember is that your reports on data need to be easy-to-use and understand for everyone in the organization so they can make better, more informed decisions. 

Types of Data

SE engagement

  • Discovery meetings– A discovery meeting with prospective customers is conducted mainly to understand why a customer is in the market to buy a solution. The information gathered during discovery is essential to a customer not only in the present but in the future deriving the goals and prioritizing to achieve the long-term vision of the organization.
  • Research on customer use cases- The research on customer use cases helps in proving how your product satisfies your customer’s needs/solves his problems and ultimately helps them achieve their business goals.
  • Feedbacks– The customer feedback serves as a guiding resource for making the deal happen, and growth of the product. 

Presales execution

  • Product demos– A good product demo lets your prospects understand how your solution truly solves their pain points and enables them to have a better conversation. The data gathered during the demo sessions, usually becomes the basis of technical evaluations, Proof of Concepts (POC) or Proof of Value (POV).
  • Technical eval discovery- A technical discovery helps in identifying the available current technology and any other technology that needs to be integrated in the solution.
  • POC or POV planning-  A well-planned and well-executed POC (or POV) verifies how the product or service offered will support the goals, objectives or other business requirements of the organization.
  • Environment setup- The environment setup provides accurate feedback about the quality and verifies the behavior of the application under test.
  • POC or POV execution- The POC execution determines whether a customer use case can be turned into a reality that can be tested and evaluated for usability, functionality and design.

Presales Reporting

  • Demo conversions- The demo conversions reflect the effectiveness of the demo and how it is taking engagement to the next stage.
  • Deal conversions –  A Deal conversion is a critical metric to define efficiency of pre-sales processes. It can point towards the friction that are causing deals to delay longer to close.
  • Presales timeline-  It’s important to understand different stages of the pre-sales timeline. To optimize the process or to reduce the sales cycle, one must understand where teams are spending most of their time. Report on Presales timeline and its sub stages can provide insights into how the overall cycle can be reduced.
  • Feature requests impacting presales pipeline- During the course of pre-sales engagement, customers provide many valuable inputs. Feature request is one of them. It helps understand what customers want from the product.  It also helps to have conversations with product teams to define the priority of roadmap items.
  • Support engagements-  The pre-sales team responds reactively to a customer’s query when they face a problem with the product. The support services analyze and report product malfunctions, update our internal databases with information about technical issues, share feature requests and effective workarounds with team members. They further inform customers about new features and functionalities, and follow up with customers to ensure their technical issues are resolved. 
  • POC & Deal velocity- The POC velocity determines the time of a project completion. POC or Deal velocity can be measured overall for the whole engagement or/and individual stages in the pre-sales engagement process. 
  • Presales resource utilization- Presales resources are expensive. Usually multiple sales teams compete for these resources to manage their deals. Resource utilization is an important metric to track team efficiency.
  • Performance against top competitors-Competitive engagements are pretty common in presales and they can significantly impact the outcome of sales deals. A report on performance against top competitors can provide valuable data points for building strategy against competitors

Here are a few ways some pre-sales teams are using their data to influence decisions.

  • Forecasting: Sales engineer leaders are often challenged with a visibility of data. This makes it difficult to see how their sales pipeline is working without proper monitoring. 
    • With accurate data, continuous visibility and monitoring it’s easier to see what’s going on with the pre-sales pipeline, and forecast the timeline of deals. 
    • The presales forecasting helps in making improved decisions, aligns timeline expectations, assess trends in the future, plans customer engagements efficiently.
  • Product Demos: The product demos provide  live action of product usability for the customers. 
    • An effective product demo makes the prospect see how they would use the solution and how it would solve their problems.  The data coming out of demos can provide insights into effectiveness and resources spent on the demo.  
  • Customer Feedback: Presales can access customer conversations which adds value to the organization. 
    • It can capture what customers ask for in demos, like competitor features or product customizations, etc.. 
    • It can further capture feedback from the customers for how well they are able to utilize the solution. The collected data provides insights to the product team about what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Customer Experience: Another source of valuable data is that pre-sales teams can measure customer experience of the product demo. 
    • The effectiveness is observed by monitoring their behaviour during a demo, like whether customers are satisfied with running over time or how well the presales team was able to answer product questions.
    •  Presales also have access to how well they are evaluating their technical goals, so it should be looking for opportunities to measure their own performance as well.

Data Hygiene and  Data Accuracy

Reports have no meaning if the data behind the report is not accurate. To feel confident and build strategies, the data has to be clean and real time as much as possible.

We all make better decisions when we base them on data. It can help you influence others to make choices and help you prepare for the future.

Good data hygiene increases efficiency in tracking demos, presales engagements, analyzing the scope, performance against competitors and even handling customer’s concerns. Your data entry discipline needs to be quite good to make sure you have a clear picture of what’s going on. But your PreSales team members are probably busy, and not excited at the thought of yet more data entry tasks to complete. 

Automation is the most efficient way to keep data accurate and real time. Pre-sales Processes can be optimized for capturing accurate data. Success integrates with Salesforce, Jira and other applications to manage and report sales engineering activities. The flexible mapping of fields helps in selecting which data fields need to be synced. The workflow based approach in Success helps automating the process and exchange of project data between these applications.

Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

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