2022 SE Trends: Presales Tooling with Kerry Sokalsky

6 minute read

Kerry Sokalsky is the President and Founder of Presales Mastery, which helps B2B software companies create better demos to win more business. He’s also the co-author of the Presales Buyer’s Guide, the definitive source of information on vendors serving presales organizations, and founded the Sales Engineering of Toronto community.

To start, give a high-level introduction of your background

I’ve been in presales for twenty years, first as an individual contributor and then as a global presales and sales enablement leader. For the past four years, I’ve run Presales Mastery as a demo coach, focusing on up-leveling individual SEs’ presentation and demo skills.

What are some tips for SEs to level up their skills?

The first tip I have is for any SE — independent of their expertise or seniority. It’s what I call the “familiarity trap.”

Often, SEs forget that they’ve already mastered the tool they’re about to show. They’re so familiar with the product, subject matter, and our company, that they assume the people they’re talking to understand what they’re talking about.

But often, SEs are underexplaining concepts that prospects don’t actually know. And it’s so pervasive.

The easiest example I can give is the use of jargon. Your audience probably won’t ask for clarification because they don’t want to seem ignorant or naive in front of their peers or boss. So, unfortunately, the overall messaging that the term is a part of falls flat.

Another thing even experienced SEs do is assume that everyone can see and interpret what’s on their screen. But most times, your audience is seeing your product for the first time, so doesn’t have the appropriate context to immediately pick up on certain features.

To avoid this trap, pretend that you’re presenting to your grandparents. How would you change your language and tone so that they better understand what you’re getting at?

Chances are you’d dumb it down, and that will probably be necessary for prospects, too. Of course, you don’t want to be patronizing, but simplifying your presentation will help greatly.

What positive trends with presales are you seeing this year?

I had the unique opportunity of working with Chris White on the Presales Buyer’s Guide and became very familiar with the tools in the solutions engineering space. And there are so many.

It was a slow start when these solutions came out a few years ago. People didn’t know about them, or they weren’t sure how they could improve the demo experience.

The other challenge is that the presales department doesn’t normally hold much budget if any. So it was tough to convince sales leadership and finance to buy software that helped them do their job.

But now, the value prop for these solutions is much more relevant and obvious. G2 even introduced a presales category recently, so I’ve seen more organizations adopt them wholeheartedly.

There’s also been an amazing sense of improved community and camaraderie in the presales space across the board. If you go to LinkedIn, you see hundreds of likes on people’s posts about a new role, celebrating and supporting their successes.

What trends are you ready to see end this year for presales?

I’m ready to see the end of remote-only demos and presentations.

Most of us are pretty Zoom’d out. It’s been the exclusive method of working with customers and prospects.

I love being in person. It’s just so much easier to read and respond to the room. And frankly, we’re in sales, we should want to be in front of people.

What are some of your favorite resources or tooling for SEs?

There are so many cheap, or even free, solutions out there that fix challenging presales issues.

An example is demostory.io. They’ve created a chromium-based browser used exclusively for demos. This is useful because SEs are typically demoing multiple personas that each have different usernames, passwords, and permissions. And constantly switching between different incognito windows makes for a very disjointed demo flow.

In Demostory, each browser tab acts as a separate incognito tab. So you can have as many personas signed in as you want simultaneously. You can even color code and label each of the tabs. It’s a lightweight tool and super easy to use.

Another resource is the Presales Buyer’s Guide. One of the things Chris and I did in creating this guide was to fill the gap in the market and boost awareness about what presales tools existed and how they could improve the presales process.

Part of that was defining 5 different focus areas with the specific focuses and use cases they address. So if you’re struggling to prioritize which ones to try first, I highly suggest downloading our guide.

Tell us more about Presales Mastery

At Presales Mastery, we do call coaching for demos. We work with B2B software sellers and turn them into demo rockstars.

The reason we provide one-on-one coaching is that group training has inherent limitations. Each individual has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and by working solo, we can tailor our conversations to their needs.

Plus, one-on-one coaching is much more effective in the long term. People are much more likely to forget what they’ve learned in one-off trainings and simulated environments. We watch real demo footage and coach our students on a demo once a month to commit new skills to muscle memory.


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