No one wants to see your demo! Really!!

The Demo

If you sell any type of product, a demonstration is typically how you show your prospects your capabilities. Service companies typically have a capabilities presentation, which is analogous to a product demo. Yesterday, I sat through a software demonstration. I found the whole process fascinating as it highlighted everything that's wrong with the product demo. Here are a few of my observations. 

1. Demo-centric.
The entire sales process was centred around the demo. I recently heard from a client about a new CRM platform they were considering that sounded intriguing. I went to the vendor's web site and expressed an interest in knowing more. Marketing automation took over and, while trying to sound personalized, bypassed my particular interest and lined me up for a demo of the software. Numerous "personalized" reminder emails came to me as we approached the demo date and time. 
2. Superficial discovery.
When the time for the demo came, the salesperson asked me three or four questions so he could "personalize" the demo for me. The questions were superficial and simply gave him a perspective from which to demonstrate his software. 
3. Irrelevant bells and whistles.
I was very impressed with the software. It introduced some fresh ideas and approaches and I could see how it could be very useful. Unfortunately, all the bells and whistles were not sufficient to address my fundamental issue of how embedded we are with our current solution. 
4. Filling the funnel with low quality opportunities.
I am now in the salesperson's funnel and will no doubt hear from him in a week or so with some "personalized" follow up. 

How Can We Do Better?

1. Understand that demos don't sell. 
The demonstration amounted to nothing more than satisfying my curiousity. Bells and whistles may get your prospect excited but they are insufficient to get them to acquire complex solutions in complex environments. 
2. Understand that demos have a specific purpose.
The purpose of the demo is not to initiate the sale, it's to close it. Vendors who use demos to stimulate interest end up burning a lot of calories with no return. They are leaning on the demo to do the heavy lifting for them. The purpose of the demo is to demonstrate/prove to the prospect that you can deliver a specific functionality that can satisfy a particular need.
3. Understand that professional salespeople should sell the problem first not their solution.
They should uncover the specific requirements the prospect has and, equally important, they should understand the status quo and what is required to move the prospect away from the status quo. We have standardized on Salesforce.com as our CRM. There are other pieces of software that integrate with Salesforce and there are customizations we have made to the platform to streamline our workflow. Without understanding any of this, my demo jockey didn't have a chance of convincing me to shell out a hefty monthly subscription fee, a significant implementation fee and significant heartache in the transition process. Had he exercised some patience and engaged in a more thorough up front investigation, he could have helped me understand the pros and cons of changing platforms and zeroed in on a particular advantage - having everything on one, simple, elegant platform instead of having multiple software solutions. 

Conclusion

Selling today is less about selling and a lot more about helping people buy. There are some fundamental steps that we have to get right if we are going to help people make the transition from their current state to their optimized future state. Rather than lead with your demo or presentation, lead with effective questions and rich dialog. You should only ask the question, "Would you like a demo?" when you and your prospect are crystal clear about the problem that needs to be solved, the cost of the problem, the value of solving the problem and the specific functionality needed to solve the problem. "Would you like a demo?" is another way of saying, 'If I can prove to you that I can deliver your required functionality, are you ready to proceed to implementation?"

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