• December 13, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Getting Your Tech Ducks All in a Row

Sales support technology provider Salesengineering.com, previously known as TechSellEnts, on Monday released SEplanit, a technical opportunity planner and management dashboard for the pre-sales engineer (SE). SEplanit is the first pre-sales product designed for the unique needs of SEs and SE managers, enabling them to increase technical pre-sales productivity, reduce cost of sales, and drive incremental revenues, according to the company. Pre-sales technical teams have a direct impact on the size and cost of deals -- as well as on the time-to-solution decision -- through responding to requests for proposals (RFP), qualifying the risks and effort associated with the deal, and working out the technical details. But traditional sales force automation (SFA) products focus only on the needs of sales reps, overlooking the SE. SEplanit extends existing SFA products by aligning pre-sales opportunity analysis with sales reps. SEplanit Technical Opportunity Planner helps SEs make optimal use of their time, fully understand the requirements of the project, and grow the list price of the deal. As a result, SEs achieve efficient and repeatable "solution closure," Salesengineering.com's phrase for closing the deal. The SE Management Dashboard analyzes and reports current and historical SE opportunities. The default dashboard includes many alerts and performance reports for SE opportunities, including when deals have dirty or inconsistent data, are predicted to close soon but are still unqualified, or do not have a good cost-benefit ratio in terms of effort expended. "We are pleased to introduce this first-ever pre-sales force automation product to market. SEs and SE managers finally have a product specifically designed for their unique needs," said Phil Janus, founder and president of Salesengineering.com, in a statement. "Our clients are using SEplanit to systematically analyze their opportunities to grow deals and reduce the time to a favorable solution closure." SEplanit can play a unique role in the sales process, according to Janus, in a subsequent interview with destinationCRM and CRM magazine. "Many companies think they already have this as part of their SFA," he says. "We get to show them just what it is they don't know." No industry analyst could be reached by press time, but it's important to note that, while Salesengineering.com describes SEplanit as a pre-sales tool, the technology appears to sit right in the middle of the sales process itself, aligning the vendor's technical capabilities with the salesmanship of the front-line sales rep. It's rare that any SFA vendor has discussed such functionality with CRM
magazine, the assumption usually being that the sales team just has the knowledge and ability to get a technical close on the way to an inked contract. Whether more vendors play up this aspect of their products -- or introduce it where it doesn't already exist -- remains to be seen.

Related articles: Feature: The 2007 Market Awards: Sales Force Automation SFA is evolving into something larger and more comprehensive than it has ever been. Sales Configuration Vendors Are Splitting and Tangling Recent market research from Gartner shows overall consolidation but with divisions appearing between specialists and megavendors. Viewpoint: Integrating CRM and ERP Why it makes sense to unify now. Feature: The Alignment CRM capabilities and business processes enable technology to shine. Feature: Custom Fits Whether off the shelf, on demand, or built in-house with open-source software, companies will need to customize their SFA systems. Feature: Steering the Sale Guided selling applications can automate the process of steering a customer to the product that's right for both them and for the manufacturer. But they don't come cheap and require serious institutional self-enlightenment. Diverse Options Are Still Available in SFA SaaS and mobile options continue to grow while buyers can choose from best-of-breed or suite vendors, according to Gartner; SFA will grow more than 13 percent annually through 2010. Come In and Take a Glance SMBs can use Glance for effective and efficient marketing and sales initiatives. Schneider Electric's CRM Success Begins A set of indicators helped Schneider's sales engineers move more smoothly through the sales and customer service process. Market Watch: Collaborative Selling Collaborative selling proponents claim it helps companies realize higher close rates, shorten the sales cycle, and gain higher-value deals.
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