The 80-20 Rule Of Presales

There’s a temptation in sales to have your SE at every customer meeting. I know this because I was once in sales, and I see it happen regularly in the industry. The rep needs the SE because, well “what if the customer asks me a tough technical question”.

80 percent

I once learned a valuable rule from a Presales architect (now rep) named Robbie Hatem. He called it the 80/20 rule of Presales. In Presales, 80% of your customer meetings should be separate from the salesperson. That’s how you scale and cover your customer base. The other 20% of your meetings you run together. This 20% is for your most critical stakeholders such as with the CIO, proposal presentations and those where you both need to hear the customer’s view first hand. This model allows you to scale as a team and cover more accounts, more opportunities and build better customer relationships.

Importantly you need to sync up between you and the sales rep. One great practice I learned is the daily coffee catch up, which can be replaced with a quick call if you can’t be face to face. Think of this as an agile stand up where you discuss what you did yesterday, what you are going to do today, what you learned and what help you need.

As a salesperson, I observed a great SE in action named Reggie Vega. He had mastered an art of relationship building that I was kicking myself for not learning earlier. During one of our daily sync ups, we discussed the need to call on an application owner to better understand what challenges they were facing. I proposed that I call the app owner and get us a meeting, but Reggie turned around and said “don’t worry Matt, I’ve got this”. He got one of our champions to introduce him to the app owner and a few days later he took the customer out for a coffee introduction.

During our next sync-up meeting, Reggie outlined all the challenges this app owner was facing and we discussed how we could solve those problems. One thing I realised was that by having a 1:1 meeting with the customer, Reggie was able to get the customer to really open up. Reggie took me through how bad the pain was that this customer was experiencing. At that moment a light bulb went off in my head. By having a small, close and personal meeting with the customer, Reggie was able to get the customer to let their guard down and open up. Had there been two of us questioning the customer, they likely would have been more reserved and shared less.

The advice I give to Presales people who are not following the 80/20 rule is to discuss the model with your salesperson. If they are taking you to every meeting, explain why this limits you as a team and how much more you can achieve if you operate independently 80% of the time. Show the salesperson that you can cover critical technical, architecture and application owners so they don’t need to. The salesperson can then invest their time in getting to the c-level executives they need to be meeting.

If you are finding that you are missing the 20% of critical meetings together, explain the increasing value you would bring if you team up in those meetings together. Hearing first hand what the CIOs objectives are, and providing technical insight to their business is a powerful strategy.

For the salesperson, learn to deal with tough questions and know that you don’t need to answer every technical objection thrown at you. Your value comes from elevating the conversation, discussing business objectives and building relationships. It’s ok to say “I will get back to you”.