Your sales prospects primarily run pre-sales evaluations (e.g. POCs, managed trials, etc.) in order to test whether your product can support their use cases. However the pre-sales evaluation is so much more than a just test phase of your features. It is a complete end-to-end customer experience in miniature, from POC kick-off to POC implementation to post-go-live POC support. The pre-sales evaluation is the first time that your prospect interacts directly with your company’s technical resources, sees how your product gets set up based on their requirements, and experiences how you support them while they are using your product during the evaluation. Your prospects understand that their pre-sales experience is a predictor of their post-sales experience.
Impress your prospects with your pre-sales experience and you will increase your win rates dramatically.
Prospects evaluate vendors based on the goodness-of-fit of their feature sets along with a variety of other criteria, including the expected post-sales experience. The evaluation leads at your prospect are asking their executives for real money to fund the project and often their careers are impacted by good or bad vendor decisions. So after determining that your product is an acceptable candidate based on the features evaluation, prospects often request to speak to current customers in order to ask about the implementation experience and the ongoing support that you provide. They want to get a sense of what it will be like to work with your team during the implementation:
From a support perspective, prospects want to understand:
The goal of your pre-sales evaluation should be to remove a prospect’s desire to ask these questions of a customer reference altogether. Yes it’s true that even with an amazing pre-sales experience, a prospect most likely will still ask these questions as part of their final due diligence. However you want your prospect simply to be confirming that the amazing experience that they just had with you is the norm of working with your company, not a lucky exception.
To achieve this goal, treat your pre-sales evaluation process as the mini end-to-end customer experience that it is. Communicate this goal to your sales engineers and what it means in terms of their day-to-day activities during the evaluation. You should have them follow the same best practices that your post-sales teams follows in your real implementations and in your real post-go-live support processes. Think of all of the questions that your prospects ask your customer references about the your post-sales process (like the ones above) and design your pre-sales process to deliver a positive experience a priori of the prospect becoming a customer.
You know that you have been successful in this endeavor when your prospects-turned-customers tell your sales reps that one of the main reasons that they selected your company was because they loved working with your team during the evaluation cycle.
Now that you have aligned the pre-sales and post-sales experiences for the prospect, you must still develop a smart hand-off from pre-sales to post-sales. When this hand-off is not well designed, a common complaint is that customers feel like they had to start over from the scratch with your post-sales team and waste valuable time getting this new team up to speed. That is horrible a customer experience. Your pre-sales team needs to set up your post-sales team for success by providing them with the complete history of the prospect’s evaluation, including:
If done correctly, your new pre-sales experience will create happy prospects during the evaluation phase and in turn happy customers as they transition into post-sales. Happy customers are more loyal to your company, more likely to explore additional products and services that you offer, more likely to talk about your company and their positive experience to their peers at other companies, and more likely to answer those post-sales questions when they themselves are serving as one of your new customer references.