By Sarah Parker
All Pre-Sales engineers will have been asked the question “What do you do?” Their responses are usually met with silence…or confusion.
But Pre-Sales is at the centre of your business growth and is just as valuable as Sales.
And it is hard work.
You need to make sure that you have a laser focus.
Pre-Sales is evaluating your technical, commercial and operational offerings and comparing them to your competitors on a daily basis.
They know better than anyone else why you’re not winning accounts.
How can you use that knowledge to create compelling content and drive sales?
Using ad campaigns to work back to client needs
We’re going to be looking at how top ad campaigns illustrate the potential impact of Pre-Sales by working backwards to the client needs that these identify.
After all, eventually your Pre-Sales and Sales knowledge should flow to your marketing teams for stunning campaigns that customers can relate to.
The best way to achieve a seamless cross-functional understanding of your customer is to build your Pre-Sales knowledge with Sales and Marketing.
Master these areas on every bid to get started:
Develop a vision of your customers’ needs
At the risk of stating the obvious, all sales activity centres on the customer. Building a vision of your individual customer’s needs in Pre-Sales includes developing a common vision and architecting a solution.
It’s tempting to make educated guesses about what a customer needs and these can pay off—often resulting in rigid bid templates and pre-written answers. But not all customers want a one-size fits all solution and the next customer may need a different approach.
Let’s imagine for a moment, that your team has included the following in a pre-sales pitch:
“Our SaaS solution can provide conversational AI that leads to business growth and increased conversion rates.”
This makes perfect sense if your customer is in the private sector. But if they’re in the public sector, this templated copy is actually a flag that you don’t understand what they’re trying to achieve and why. Their challenges are likely to be citizen engagement, user satisfaction and legacy systems, rather than the constant drive to revenue.
So, this sentence would be more appropriate “Our SaaS solution improves citizen experience, increases citizen engagement and can be easily integrated with legacy systems.”
This is a fairly obvious example, but it’s this kind of rushed answer that can make or break a bid. Don’t think that customers don’t notice these slips—when there’s millions of pounds and organisational reputation at stake everything is a chance lost or gained.
How advertisements visualise the complexity of customer needs
MMB’s advert for a toaster company perfectly visualises how your bid team needs to capture the differences between each customer. The tagline is “Finally, toast exactly how you like it.” There’s a clear and direct recognition that customers may buy the same toaster but that they all like their toast done differently—there’s 30 shades of toast in the advert below.
Your customers are exactly the same.
And that’s what they want from your bid, whether they’re in the public or private sector—for you to show that you understand and value the subtlety of their position and can provide the solution that fits their needs best.
It’s your Pre-Sales team who know all these settings—share that knowledge with Sales and Marketing, and they can turn it into great assets and campaigns (like MMB’s creative advert) for a joined-up process that connects your customer’s vision across channels.
Make sure that your selling team uses features and benefits
A lot of Sales teams forget that buying is essentially a selfish process—the customer cares about solving their problems. Your organisation is only selected if it fulfils that vision.
Pre-Sales teams need to have deep understandings of your organisation’s features and benefits to support how these fit into the customer’s needs and resolve their issues.
Features are part of the seller’s products or services such as process, price, training or capacity. Benefits are advantages that solve a problem for the customer—they are linked to the customer’s needs and they’re something the customer wants.
You need to remember that customers buy benefits. It doesn’t matter if your product has all the bells and whistles if it doesn’t actually solve the customer’s problem.
Customers are looking for the return on investment, cost savings and improvements that drive directly into their current problems. For example, if they have a low employee retention rate, they’d want to know how your product or service could increase that and by what per cent. It’s not good enough to just drop in a figure—use case studies to prove that the benefits are achievable and proven.
But for any of this to work, the Sales team needs to communicate the clients’ benefits to the Pre-Sales team. Even the best bid writer in the world can’t win a bid if they don’t know what the customer is looking for. Yes, they might be able to get you in the top three on the back of strong case studies and market research—but winning a bid requires Sales to have confident and strong relationships with clients that can then feed back into the bid cycle.
How adverts use contrast to illustrate features and benefits
M&C Saatchi’s Roladin’s “Opposites Attract” campaign pairs donuts with someone who represents something entirely different—seemingly the unnatural choice.
The use of opposites forces a tension that generates renewed focus.
This is similar to bids—the customer does not always know, nor explicitly state, what their needs are. It may be something that you wouldn’t normally think of. This is why Sales knowledge is critical to winning bids.
You may be selling a software license with a discount for ten enterprise users and 1,000 social medial posts a month. You’ve based this on the customer’s current team composition. But what if they’re scaling up or scaling down, or have just announced a corporate merger?
Then, your solution suddenly becomes arbitrary and potentially far less useful to the client.
Your Pre-Sales team need those more oblique contextual clues so that they can create standout, tailored bids with benefits that speak directly to your customer.
Drive your teams to collaborate and share knowledge
The best Pre-Sales teams create bids that take their customers’ needs and transform that into messaging that is not directly about a product or a service, but about the values and issues that the customer wishes to speak to.
The campaigns are a strong visual way of understanding this—they’re not designed just to be compelling but to speak directly to customers in their own language.
Behind this success sits a matrix of collaboration between Sales, Pre-Sales and marketing that drives customer knowledge and understanding to the heart of everything you do.
If you nail that, you will win bids, your Sales team will convert leads and your marketing content will have focus and direction—all the elements you need to knock it out of the park.
So, what are you waiting for?