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 firstname.lastname@example.org.