In previous posts you'll have seen me trying to turn you from the 'dark-side' (re-purposing dense text and marketing-speak heavy, corporate slide decks) to telling stories, using images and, especially, whiteboarding to communicate ideas in presentations and tech demonstrations. BUT slide decks aren't going away anytime soon, and are still the default communication tool for most people in corporate PreSales, Sales Consulting and Sales.
PowerPoint can be used for 'good'
PowerPoint, in the right hands, can be used for 'good', to create some truly astounding and memorable visuals and even 'Oscar'-standard movies and animations. Check-out or follow my good friends at Eyeful Presentations to see what I mean.
The reason for this post, though, is to ask you to download and check out Duarte's latest free PowerPoint template; it's truly brilliant.
I'm a big fan of Nancy Duarte's work. Her book, slide:ology is an absolute must for every PreSales professional's required reading list.
As a summary, Duarte's five rules are:
Of course, if you have downloaded and run the PPT template (it's a self-running slide show), you'll want to know how it was done. So, check out this PCWorld article walk-through from JD Sartain (with lots of screenshots), it covers:
...it practically researches and designs best practice slides itself..
As a complete Google 'fanboy' (G Suite, Pixel & Nexus phones, Chromebooks, Eddystone beacons & Chromecasts), I can't talk about slide presentations without mentioning Google Slides. OK, it isn't anywhere near as functional as PowerPoint, but check out its new 'Explore' functionality...it practically researches and designs best practice slides itself (See the 3 minute video below). As some of my American colleagues might say, 'it's awwwwwesome'.
Don is the Founder of Winning Skills Ltd and the Northern Europe rep for 2Win! Global; best know for the Demo2Win! skills and techniques. Talk to Don about building Presales organisations, best-practice PreSales skills and processes and how to build the perfect 'Wow' demo. Let's connect on LinkedIn or talk at email@example.com
Let's be honest, sales presentations, unless they're really well produced (think an Apple product launch), can look and feel boring, mass-produced and, most-importantly, impersonal. Its getting harder and harder for Sales and PreSales to communicate a personalised message in an increasingly visually cluttered and noisy world.
For Sales and PreSales, we're trying to ensure we get remembered, differentiate ourselves from our competitors, establish credibility and trust. I think sketching out a vision, story or idea right in front of your audience is way more of a 'performance' than rolling out your 'authorised' deck of company slides. If you've got a 'visual' audience, and many of them will be, as soon as you get a pen out you'll have captured their attention. As Dan Roam (see later) says, '...the spontaneity and roughness of hand-drawn pictures make them less intimidating and more inviting...nothing makes an image clearer then seeing it drawn out-step-by-step'.
Sketching ideas or storytelling on a physical or (as we'll see) digital whiteboard is super engaging. If you're also combining discovery with explaining an idea or jointly working through a problem then the fluidity a whiteboard offers for visual trial and error is unparalleled. And if you're 'weaving' a story about the business problem your prospect doesn't realise they have, or jointly architecting a Cloud future incorporating your solutions, sketching will make it seem way more interactive, collaborative and, very importantly, personal.
Right...what do you need to get started.
How to get started... just a pen or a pencil...
How to get started...just a pen stylus...
Probably the cheapest and most portable way of creating a digital whiteboard is to use the built in whiteboard tools of WebEx (for example) and get yourself a Wacom CTL-490 Intuos graphics pen tablet [about £50 in the UK; that's mine covered in fingerprints in the photo]. The writing area is about A5 size (1/2 US Letter). Plug it into your laptop USB port, load the driver and off you go...start sketching. It works like a mouse but comes into its own as a digital writing surface. PowerPoint recognises when you use the pen / stylus on the Intuos tablet surface and pops up a new menu called 'Ink Tools'. [Top Tip: Configure the shortcut for the lowest pen / stylus button (nearest the nib) to be 'Ctrl-Z' Undo; you'll thank me later].
I hope I've got you excited about whiteboarding and sketching. I'd love to hear how you use sketching and any top tips you can share.
To finish off, I was recently coaching a tech company on how they could use sketching to tell stories in the sales process. Here's my before (start) and after (end) digital whiteboard sketch I used to explain Big Data and Hadoop in 2 minutes; starting with an elephant (Hadoop), a pig (Apache Pig) and a lightning bolt (Apache Spark).
Don is the Founder of Winning Skills Ltd and the Northern Europe representative for 2Win! Global; best know for the Demo2Win! skills and techniques. Talk to Don about building Presales organisations, best-practice PreSales skills and processes and how to build the perfect 'Wow' demo. Let's connect on LinkedIn or talk firstname.lastname@example.org
What exactly defines high performance for PreSales / Solution Engineer / Sales Consulting teams? It turns out there are lots of definitions but, if you read to the end, I'll finish with, what I think, is the easiest.
PreSales Managers will be acutely aware of their company definition of PreSales high performance because they've probably got a (bonus related?) objective to increase (or optimize) it. In fact one definition of Management is 'optimizing your available resources'.
So lets ask some PreSales Managers...
I asked two PreSales Managers, from two very different business software companies, lets call them 'A' and 'B'. to define high-performance in their team. In my experience these two companies are very representative.
PreSales Manager 'A' works in a mature enterprise software company where there are lots of metrics. PreSales performance is primarily measured by productivity; how much closed revenue did each PreSales support (or 'cover'). This, it turns out, is extremely common. Currently, PreSales team 'A' cover an average of $4 million per headcount.
PreSales Manager 'B' works in a well-known SaaS company that prides itself on its culture. B's company consciously have no 'hard' PreSales performance metrics; zilch, zip, nada; it's all about a feel for passion, engagement, collaborating and, most of all, customer trust.
Having previously rolled out sophisticated activity recording and PreSales performance dashboards across a multi-national enterprise software company, I'm very aware of the pressure to measure everything.
COOs and CFOs struggle to understand the value PreSales brings to complex sales cycles and are always asking us to justify our, usually significant, contribution to Cost of Sales.
As a 'C' level Exec once told me, 'Sales, I get; they're on a quota, they're greedy to close sales and earn their commission, they pay for themselves. PreSales...what is it you do again?'
We're also taught that modern management is about 'fact based decisions' and analytics. There's Deming's quote 'without data, you're just another person with an opinion' and Drucker's 'what gets measured gets managed' (very true by the way). So there's always lots of pressure to measure performance and define exactly what high performance is.
Without a definition of high performance how would you conduct performance reviews?
With sophisticated measurements in place, PreSales high-performance could mean:
Calculating PreSales coverage in Salesforce is easy - report on 'Team Role' = 'PreSales' in 'Opportunity Team' for 'Closed Won' Opportunities with a 'Close Date' in this quarter
Using revenue coverage sounds good but has its problems; especially if your company has different product lines with different go-to-market strategies at different points in their life-cycle. A PreSales Consultant specializing in a brand new mobility solution has no chance of covering the same revenue as someone who specializes in, say, mature CRM functionality.
Also the definition of coverage is difficult. If you've got multiple PreSales staff who all worked on, or 'touched', the same closed (won) deal (someone more functional, someone more technical, someone to cover the database need!), do they all include the closed revenue value in their performance or is it only the Lead PreSales Consultant or the PreSales Consultant who made the biggest 'impact' in the deal. Assessing 'impact' then becomes a subjective measurement not the objective measurement management are expecting.
Or maybe, going back to company 'B's conscious lack of 'hard' performance metrics; if, as an individual PreSales person, you're constantly being requested to support the most successful Account Execs' deals then you must be high-performing. One thing is always constant, the most successful sales people (not the 'churn fodder' who only last a year) always want to work with the most successful PreSales staff.
Don is the Founder of Winning Skills Ltd and the Northern Europe representative for 2Win! Global; best know for the Demo2Win! skills and techniques used by companies like Oracle, Salesforce, Workday and Google. Don is an expert in Presales organisations, skills and development. Let's connect or talk email@example.com.
What does an 'I', 'T', 'Pi' and 'Broad line' have to do with PreSales Solution Consultants and how does it help Tech companies solve the problem of needing customer-facing expertise across an increasingly broad range of products and solutions? Read on...
Within Human Resources (HR) and Learning & Development (L&D), the idea of the modern employee needing 'T' shaped skills isn't new; it was first discussed back in 1991. The vertical bar of the 'T' represents the idea of having deep skills and expertise in a single area; the horizontal bar represents 'boundary crossing competencies' (like teamwork, communication, perspective, understanding of different cultures) and the ability to collaborate with others across those competencies. There's lots of discussion on the web; articles and even a 2016 T-Summit.
How this translates for PreSales...
For PreSales Sales Consultants in the new technology sales model (social, educate, engage) the concept of being 'T'- shaped takes us further by describing a very particular challenge we have.
For most Tech companies, they started life selling a single product or service. Everyone responsible for demonstrating (starting from the Founder, the first sales people then eventually the PreSales team) was expected to have deep knowledge and passion of the product its benefits, value and use-cases.
As time goes by, Tech companies tend to expand their offering:
For PreSales this presents a huge issue.
Is it possible, or even practical, for the same PreSales Solution Consultant to have deep knowledge and credibility in all their company's offerings?
In a perfect world, that's exactly what all Prospects and Sales Execs want; for one PreSales Solution Consultant to be able to turn up at any live or virtual sales event and be able to demonstrate, talk authoritatively and credibly and have the industry and use-case knowledge of any your products or solutions. The ideal is that PreSales can respond to any business pain the prospect reveals (as long as your Sales Exec can sell the solution!).
And here's the million dollar question...
What is the ideal breadth of knowledge and competence for a single PreSales Solution Consultant?
Unfortunately, there's no single right answer. It depends on, amongst other factors:
What do other Tech companies do?
Finally we get to the 'I', 'T', 'Pi', and 'Broad line'. What do they mean and how are they used?
As well as being passionate (if you're not, no-one else will be), convincing, credible, articulate and personable, PreSales can have the following shaped skills:
'I'-Shaped = Deep skills in only one solution or product area (the single, vertical 'I'). Can engage and educate, is knowledgeable and credible, not just about what the solution does, but the value it creates and how it can create customer success.
You sometimes see the result of having only 'I' profile PreSales when, usually, large enterprise software companies turn up at the prospect's premises in 'the bus' because, for example, they need one PreSales to cover procurement, one to cover mobility, one to cover database, one to cover business intelligence, one to cover HCM (let's not talk about how they get accompanied by multiple sales people, one account director, two overlay sales, a database sales person, their sales manager etc.). It can be utterly embarrassing and self-defeating to turn up at a client with 10 PreSales and Sales colleagues (especially if you're only presenting to 3 people from the prospect) because you're covering a broad product set.
'T'-Shaped = Deep skills in a single solution or product area (the vertical 'I') AND a general understanding of the whole portfolio, ecosystems offerings and services (the horizontal bar on the 'T'). Can explain context across technology, line of business and industry. Can whiteboard and even architect the wider solution and the value it creates. Can spot cross-sell, co-sell and up-selling opportunities.
This is the model many Tech companies aim for. It needs a very heavy investment in enablement, huge change management, strong leadership with a clear articulated vision of what 'T' shaped skills look like and close performance monitoring to maintain.
'Pi'-Shaped (symbol looks like a T with two legs) = Exactly the same as a 'T' but with deep skills in more than one solution or product area. For many Tech companies, the 'T' shaped model is no longer enough.
Most Tech companies now acquire other Tech companies to gain new markets and leapfrog product development cycles. This means the number of products or services a Tech company sells rapidly proliferates. There can be literally thousands of different products and solutions available (at least at the sales booking line). There can be huge pressure for PreSales to double or triple-up their deep solution areas to cope with the pressures on sales to sell the whole portfolio.
'Broad bar' = Exactly the same as a 'T' but WITHOUT the deep skills. To cope with expansive product portfolios, some Tech companies try to split their PreSales team into 'Broad bar' generalists, who do most of the initial engagement with prospects, and 'I' shaped specialists to handle deep dives and Proof of Concepts (PoCs). The 'I' shaped PreSales specialists might work for a regional rather than local (country or state) team or could be remote; primarily working virtually, near or off-shore.
What do you think? Please comment below.
Don is the Founder of Winning Skills Ltd and the Northern European representative for 2Win! Global; best know for the Demo2Win! skills and techniques used by companies like SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Workday and Google. Don is an expert in Presales organisations, skills and development. Let's connect or talk -firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this week I was talking to an Exec from a high growth, London based, FinTech (Financial Technology) company. Halfway through the discussion the conversation moved onto a business growth hurdle I'd personally experienced many times over the years; first working in growing ERP Channel Partners creating their first PreSales team and then as part of the Channel Management team of a global software author trying to encourage Partners to invest in PreSales resource and skills. Time to put pen to paper; well fingers to keyboard.
The Problem Definition
You can't have the same individuals both implementing / deploying your technology (the Implementation Function) and supporting the sales cycle (the PreSales Function) at the same time. All that will happen is that you'll get into a cycle of selling then not selling [see diagram] which will seriously restrict your business growth.
All growing Tech companies with complex products or services will eventually have to overcome this problem. The solution is to build, invest in and develop a separate PreSales team.
A Growing Business
As a Tech company grows its business, it will naturally hire sales people (driven by quota achievement and pipeline) and, as sales are made, hire an implementation team (driven by utilisation rates (75% - 80% maybe), revenue, cash flow and customer success).
As you increasingly sell to mid to large-sized prospects or sophisticated buyers, they will expect you to split the sales focus and technical, trusted-advisor role:
So lets follow the sales cycles and see what happens (see diagram)...
Green - Selling
Yellow - Can't Sell
Green - Selling... Again
Its a perfect storm. You can't sell anything until the Consultants finish their last implementation.