I remember one time reading a win/loss report that went something like this.
“We were interested in buying Host and it made our short list. When we invited you in for a demo with our team and the CFO, things went wrong. After 20 minutes, your sales team was still talking about the product so the CFO left the meeting and didn’t want to evaluate your solution anymore.”
Huh? What! We spend a few hundred dollars to get a lead, maybe a few thousand to get it converted to a sales opportunity, we give it to our sales team and then they “show up and throw up” on a prospect, talking for so long that the key decision maker leaves?
Yes, salespeople love to talk, but this can’t happen. I remember another time a prospect called me.
“Look, I’ve been using EPM systems for 25 years. I’ve used Hyperion, Essbase, TM1, and BPC. I’ve been in FP&A my entire career. I have an MBA from Columbia. I am fully capable of determining my own needs and don’t want to play twenty questions with your twenty-something SDR and then play it again with some sales consultant before I can get a live demo of your software. Can we make that happen or not?”
Ouch. In this case, our well defined and valued sales process (which required “qualification” and then “discovery”) was getting in the way of what the eminently qualified prospect wanted.
In today’s world, prospects both have and want more control over the sales process than ever before. Yes, we might want to understand your requirements so we can put proper emphasis on different parts of the demonstration, but when a prospect — who clearly knows both what they’re doing and what they want — asks us for a demo, what should we do? One thing:
Just effing demo — and then ask about requirements along the way
Look, I’m not trying to undo all the wisdom of learning how to do deep discovery and give customized demos, espoused by world-class sales trainers like Barry Rhein or in books like Just F*ing Demo (from whose title I derived the title of this post ). These are all great ideas. They should be your standard procedure.
But you need to remember to be flexible. I always say don’t blindly be driven by metrics. Don’t follow process blindly, either.
Here’s what I’ve learned from these situations:
Avoid triple-qualifying prospects with an SDR, then a rep, then an SC. Make SDR qualification quick and light. Combine rep and SC qualification/discovery whenever possible. Don’t make the prospect jump through hoops just to get things started.
Intelligently adapt your process. If the prospect says they’re an expert, wants to judge for themselves, and just wants a quick look at your standard demo, don’t try to force a deep discovery call so you can customize – even if that’s your standard process. Recognize that you’re in a non-standard situation, and just show up and do what they want.
Set expectations appropriately. There is a difference between a “Product Overview” and “Demonstration.” If you think the right meeting is 30 minutes of slides to frame things and then a 30-minute demo, tell the prospect that, get their feedback, and if everyone agrees, then write “Product Overview” (not “Demonstration”) on the agenda.
Don’t make them wait. If you say the presentation is a one-hour demo, you should be demoing software within the first 5-7 minutes. While brief personnel introductions are fine, anything else you do up-front should tee-up the demo. This is not the time to talk about your corporate values, venture investors, or where the founder went to school. Do that later, if indeed at all.
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 A great book, by the way. My favorite quote: “in short, I stopped trying to deliver the perfect demo for my product and starting trying to deliver the perfect demo for my audience.”
Hallelujah!!!! I could not agree more. I’ve had sales cycles get derailed for asking the same questions over and over again.
This is a tricky one though. Often times, the ones that think they have it all figured out already have a vision of what their criteria should be and sometimes that plain and simple isn’t you. When you just effing demo, it’s a one and done waste of time. You don’t meet their requirements and you haven’t been able to reframe. Also, whoever has the prettiest UX often wins – you haven’t built up enough value.
If you don’t have the convo up front to reframe the requirements, you are at the mercy of whatever vision the buyer has for the solution, and sometimes, that vision isn’t in their best interest, it’s whatever vendor has influenced them before you.
It’s a fine line though. Interesting topic and the point of aligning your selling experience to what the buyer wants is of course what every VP Sales is looking to do.
Generally agree with what you’re saying but if you’ve promised a demo (and maybe you shouldn’t have promised one so early in the cycle), but if you have promised one, and that’s what the big boss economic buyer wants to see, then just show it to them. Otherwise, they may well leave and you won’t live another day to build relationships and learn more about business requirements. I concede it’s also possible you’re being walked in front of a firing squad if the agenda has been totally rigged against you and you are flying blind. But I’m assuming, for now, good faith and an educated buyer who doesn’t want to be triple qualified.