The Dark Side of the Moon

A great deal of debate in the pre-sales world revolves around the idea of a “technical win.” 

Many leaders embrace the concept of a “technical win” (also called a technical close, technical decision, technical victory), while some are vehemently opposed to it.  

I recently spoke with Dave McCulley, Co-founder and EVP of Presales for Provarity, a company dedicated to help sales leaders bring predictability and process to the execution of product evaluations. I asked for his opinion on the great debate and difference of opinion over technical wins.

Dave told me that he always tries to approach anything from the perspective of, “What does the customer want?”

You have to be prepared for whatever the customer wants and follow your process accordingly. With that in mind, Dave likes to refer to it as a “technical validation.”

At the end of the day, your customer has a problem and you want to make sure your solution can solve it. That is  technical validation. 

Semantics aside, sales engagements that require a product evaluation (POC, POV, pilot, custom demo, etc.) in order to secure that technical validation, can be the most challenging part of our role as sales engineers.  

When deals enter the evaluation stage, we tend to lose visibility and insight into where we are, how close we are to success, and whether or not we’re making progress. Dave refers to it as the “Dark Side of the Moon.” It’s the unknown. 

In this stage, we lose visibility into the status of the deal from the technical validation perspective. We’re often left wondering, “What does the customer think?” “What is the timing of this deal?” “Are we hitting their criteria?” “Why (if any) are these delays happening?”

Evaluation truly is one of the hardest tasks in the sales cycle. 

On behalf of all pre-sales professionals, I asked Dave, how can we find greater and more consistent success in this (arguably the most challenging) part of our role?

Dave had quite a few insights to offer:

  • 90% of winning technical validation is having good relationships. “People buy from people.”
  • Set the success criteria for your customer. Bring the structure to the table. What should they be looking for?
  • Agree on the close date upfront. Set the expectation. 
  • Be likable. Dave told me he’s had some technical evaluators barely look at the chart of success criteria after a POC because they liked the SE they were working with and were ready to commit. 

The goal is to set ourselves up for having the best chance to execute an evaluation that leads to a technical win. 

At the core, I believe that our primary responsibility is to provide validation (technical and otherwise) at every step of the customer’s journey. I even tested my own theory by looking up the definition of the word validate: 




demonstrate or support the truth or value of. 

As sales engineers, that is precisely our role: “to demonstrate the truth or value of.” That’s what we do. We are the trusted advisors of the sales team. 

If you’re interested, you can connect with Dave McCulley here, or learn more about his work and his company by watching our full interview.