Don’t You Dare Just Demo
Sellers get all types of excited when they schedule a demo, and rightfully so. It’s not exactly Christmas morning, but it’s the stocking stuffer that fills heavy commission checks. We get excited because it's a good sign we’ve got a legit sales opportunity in the pipeline, and the likelihood of winning the deal becomes tangible. If sales really is like dating, at this stage they're definitely into you, at least a little bit (Queue up: So you’re saying there’s a chance?)
The demo, short-hand for the demonstration of your company’s technology, is a key step in the sales process across all the subcategories within “Tech Sales." It’s notoriously known as the most important part of the sales cycle, especially when talking about mid-market and enterprise level clients. It’s particularly important because software by nature is intangible – all the positive affirmations from a sales person mean nothing until the prospect sees the product, helping it become real. Makes sense since seeing is believing, and believing is buying.
The problem is sellers have the habit of only showing features in their demos instead of conveying value. More specifically, the opportunity to link functionality to business objectives are missed. The effect? The meeting falls flat, feels like a waste of time, and your sales cycle doesn’t move forward. Now they’ve seen something real, but it’s not viewed as a must-have. My biggest fear is a prospect leaving my meeting feeling like they gave me their time and they received nothing in return. So instead of "just demoing," here’s how to plan and execute an effective and compelling demo:
Know your ask. A successful demo has and meets a goal – what’s yours? Decide what they ideal outcome would be for this specific meeting, and plan your conversation so it aligns with your goal. Personally, I aim for the product demo to be a stepping stone that sets up my closing call. I’ve learned what’s their needs are, how my product addresses it, and most importantly, I’ve quantified with them the impact of not making a change. If I’ve executed correctly, then asking for a meeting to cover a proposal and steps to getting on-boarded feels natural and expected. All the better if they ask you how to get signed up. Bingo.
Communicate expectations. Basic as it may sound (and hopefully is), it starts at your agenda. You’re an experienced seller, but that doesn’t mean you’re speaking with an experienced buyer – make it easy for them to say yes to you. Let them know from the jump that you’re in control simply by being in control. Tell them what you're focusing on, why you’re focused on it (aligning with their business goals), and mention concisely what your ask will be at the end. This is dictated by your sales cycle. I personally wrap up the agenda by sharing that if all goes well and our solution matches their business needs, then I’ll follow up with a custom proposal which we will review together.
Teach, don’t show. Don’t you dare just show features over screen-share. Even most Below The Line buyers (BTL) aren’t convinced by a bunch of check marks next to their requirements list, and Above The Line buyers (ATL) will ignore follow-up emails like texts from a drunk ex if you waste their time with 50 minutes of feature dump.
You’ll be much better off asking why than showing what. Everyone buys to either save time (personal interest), improve their brand (how they’re viewed), or cut costs (revenue). In short, how are you making their job easier? Or making them look good? Or helping them make their bottom line? As such, every functionality you take the time to explain should also hit on these key elements. How much time does your proprietary dashboard save them? Why is this a priority at all? What happens if no change is made? Maybe you learn giving back 5 hours per week to your BTL buyer incentivizes them to make the intro to their boss, or perhaps you now understand your ATL buyer isn’t so price sensitive as she is ROI-minded. Small facts that can give you the upper hand.
Bonus: if there are multiple stakeholders in the room with varying interests, then address them as such during your agenda, then again when the portion of your presentation aligns with their specific needs. It shows mindfulness to their interests, leading them to trust you with their business. Buying is an emotional process, and signatures aren’t given, they’re earned.
Have the answer. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Technology sales are just that, technical. 99% of sales people don’t know every shiny part of what they’re selling. If you don’t know the answer, that’s okay. If you don’t have the answer, always know how to find it – this avoids getting caught on your heels or distracted from your talk track. Communicate clearly to your prospect that you don’t know off-hand and you’ll get back to them by a specific day/time with that information.
You don’t need to know it all, but you better be damn smooth with what you do. And by this I mean, have a playbook. You know what your company does, what they do well and where they lack, so build your talk track with this in mind. Have solid questions poised at specific marks in your presentation to ensure you’re engaging your audience, again, especially if there’s multiple stakeholders present.
Close your ask. Conclude the meeting with an agreed next steps, which is a mutual request anchored on your ask. When deciding the next steps both parties need to agree on the tasks and set a completion date. This keeps you accountable to them (trust), and it keeps the prospect accountable to your timeline (aka your forecast date to your boss).
Do you remember what my ask was? A proposal. This is where I hold myself accountable to them by asking who I should meet with to review a proposal. I address this to my decision maker, or at least my perceived decision maker. Here the inner circle is formed: responses like “That's me, Devin. How's Tuesday look for you?” is probably an ATL buyer, the leader of the group who is able to execute a contract. In contrast, “You can send it to me, and I’ll present it to my team” is typically a BTL buyer waiting for more approval before beginning the buying process. These details compose your deal navigation and consequently increase the value of this meeting with your prospect.
So how do I know my demo landed? This takes many forms, but there’s a few signals that reflect you’re in good shape: increased response rate, faster response, friendlier demeanor, asking for your opinion, or even most obvious, a contract sent. Separate yourself from the herd of sellers fighting for the same prospects, for how you communicate value is just as important as the product itself.