pre-sales process

How to build a winning pre-sales process

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Posted by: Lucid Content Team

A strong sales pipeline depends on allocating the right resources to the right places at the right time. And a robust pre-sales process can help you do just that.

While sales often gets the attention for closing deals, a pre-sales process is critical to the success of each opportunity and the overall sales organization. Learn how a strong pre-sales process can impact your sales results and boost your bottom line.

Winning by Design sales process
Sales Process - Winning by Design (Click on image to modify online)

What is a pre-sales process?

The pre-sales process covers all the activities that take place before closing the sale. These include tasks such as:

  • Prospecting and qualifying leads
  • Product research
  • Market research
  • Data and customer analysis
  • Preparing call scripts
  • Identifying solutions to customer pain points
  • Crafting a unique selling proposition
  • Managing deal qualification and proposals

The goal of pre-sales support is to help the sales and marketing teams find, win, and renew customers. A well-oiled pre-sales process plays a critical role in identifying and capitalizing on opportunities with new and existing partners and accelerating the sales process.

Pre-sales vs. sales

Pre-sales and sales should work together seamlessly, but they are distinct roles and processes.

Pre-sales focuses on research, validation, preparation, and lead nurturing. Once an opportunity has been qualified and nurtured, pre-sales hands the customer off to the sales team to close the deal.

In other words, pre-sales lays the groundwork for sales to succeed.

Pre-sales activities

Sales activities

ProspectingSales calls and client meetings
Lead qualificationFollow-ups
ResearchContract negotiation
Proposal prep and positioningClosing
 Relationship building

There will typically be some overlap and interaction between the two teams and processes. Both pre-sales and sales teams should work together to identify the strongest opportunities and prepare winning proposals.

The key is building an integrated sales process that allocates the right resources to the right people at the right time so everyone has what they need to succeed.

Mastering the pre-sales process

The pre-sales process essentially follows the basic sales pipeline up to the hand-off to sales closers.

A pre-sales process flow will look something like this:

  • Lead qualification
  • Discovery
  • Product demo
  • Proposal
  • [Closed deal handled by sales]
  • Implementation
  • Follow-up

A strong pre-sales process supports sales at every stage of the pipeline.

Lead qualification

Finding leads has become easier with the advancement of digital technology and sales solutions. However, more leads doesn’t always mean better leads.

That’s where pre-sales comes in.

Pre-sales teams are experts in data analysis and lead evaluation. They use sales technology and customer insights to build profiles of ideal clients and their patterns of behavior to identify opportunities that are most likely to close. Lead qualification ensures the sales team invests their time and resources on the most valuable leads.

processing and qualifying leads
Processing and Qualifying Leads (Click on image to modify online)

Customer discovery

Next in the pre-sales process is customer discovery. This is when initial contact is made with the customer after they’ve been qualified.

Pre-sales typically handles discovery to find out exactly what the customer is looking for and what their unique challenges are. This information is crucial for the sales team to understand how best to position their product or service solution and develop a proposal that best addresses the customer’s problem.

A robust pre-sales team will have sales reps who are experts in both their business’s solutions as well as the customers’ businesses.

Pro tip: Remember that today’s sale doesn’t typically involve a single buyer—sales teams have to create consensus among a committee of buyers. Account maps can help you visualize the landscape of the organization and identify the right decision-makers before you submit a proposal. In Lucidchart, any discovery notes you add to your account map will automatically sync back to Salesforce.

basic account map example
Basic Account Map Example (Click on image to modify online)
global account map example
Global Account Map Example (Click on image to modify online)

Proposal prep and approval

Once a lead is qualified and the validated, the pre-sales team will draft a proposal outlining the customer’s primary pain points and a tailored solution.

At this stage, pre-sales will collaborate with the sales team to review and approve the bid for presentation to the client.

This is a crucial step for both pre-sales and sales. The goal is to shape the conversation to position their proposal as the ideal solution. Much of that success relies on pre-sales’ ability to understand the customer and deliver a custom proposal that hones in on their needs.

Pro tip: Visuals, particularly current vs. future state diagrams and technical diagrams, can help prospects understand how your product/service will improve their company’s workflow and how the solution will be implemented. See an example from Okta.

Implementation and follow-up

Although pre-sales focuses a lot on the work leading up to an initial sale, they also play an important role in customer retention.

After the deal is closed, pre-sales works with the sales team to ensure successful implementation of the proposal and manage customer needs throughout the ongoing relationship.

Pre-sales continues to work behind the scenes to follow up with the customer and identify future opportunities for growth, improving client satisfaction and increasing retention.

Best practices when creating a pre-sales process

If you’re ready to implement a pre-sales process in your organization, apply the following best practices to ensure a smooth transition and successful sales outcomes.

1. Create a culture of mutual respect and collaboration

In order for your pre-sales process to integrate seamlessly into your overall sales processes, you have to create an environment of respect and collaboration.

Pre-sales and sales have to work together to capitalize on the opportunities coming down the pipeline. As you create a pre-sales process for your organization, look for ways to build trust between the two teams and respect for their individual roles.

2. Implement a clear process

A good pre-sales program won’t work without a clear process. Your team members have to know exactly what stages they should follow and the corresponding activities involved. Clear steps keep everyone on the same page, which is especially important for complex sales processes.  

basic sales process
Basic Sales Process (Click on image to modify online)

3. Define roles and responsibilities

As part of your process, you will need to define the roles and responsibilities of each team at each stage to prevent misunderstandings, miscommunication, and mistakes that could cost you valuable opportunities.

Additionally, consider outlining team member skills and schedule availability. This will help sales leaders allocate staff resources more effectively by identifying which reps are most qualified for a task and who has the bandwidth to take on new assignments.

When your managers can see how time and talent is distributed through the pipeline, they can make better decisions about which opportunities to prioritize.

4. Communicate

Finally, no sales organization will be effective without good communication among and between teams. Pre-sales and sales reps must communicate clearly and consistently to understand their customers and deliver the best solutions possible.

Keep your teams aligned by fostering communication from contact to close.

Why you need a strong pre-sales process

Ultimately, a strong pre-sales process leads to higher revenue and lead generation. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that companies with strong pre-sales capabilities consistently achieve 40-50% win rates in new business and 80-90% in renewal business.

By defining your pre-sales process, you can expect:

  • Increased (and improved) number of qualified leads
  • Faster lead cycle
  • Reduced churn rates/Higher retention
  • Higher ROI
  • Client satisfaction
  • Strong sales pipeline

Additionally, a solid pre-sales process can help your sales organization identify growth opportunities before the competition does and leverage data and customer insights to sell to customers the way they want.

By diving deep into customer data and behavior, pre-sales teams become experts on the market, the competition, and their unique leads, allowing them to build custom proposals that address customer pain points and anticipate their unique challenges and solutions.

Today, no sales team is complete without digital solutions and technology to support the sales cycle. Standardize your sales processes and accelerate the sales cycle with Lucidchart. Use our visual workspace to create scalable processes to improve training, increase efficiency, and identify the fastest path to sale.

Lucidchart also integrates with Salesforce so you can visualize your contacts and make connections easily. Map out your processes, outline sales roles and responsibilities, and share data and insights at the click of a button.

Use Lucidchart to nail the sale. Get started for free today.
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