Have you ever been on the receiving end of a product demo that seems to go on interminably until you feel that you have lost the will to live? Ever felt that the sales person is simply lobbing feature after feature at you, desperately hoping that that at least one of them will be of interest? Ever believed that they aren’t going to let you out of the room (or off the call) until they have shown you absolutely everything?
Well, you’re not alone. That’s exactly how most prospects that have been subjected to a classic “everything bar the kitchen sink” product demo feel. As a fellow victim recently remarked, “it’s as if they are just flinging a random stream of s**t against the wall in the hope that some of it will stick”. And these deluded demo-ers aren’t just boring or irritating their victims with this approach (as if that wasn’t bad enough, anyway) – scientific studies have shown that this information overload has a slim-to-none chance of being retained.
The argument for delaying the demo
Don’t get me wrong. Demos have a place in many complex sales processes. But far too often, they are used way too early in the sales process – before the prospect has any context for what they are being shown. It’s been said before, and it bears repeating: your prospects are not interested in your products, they are interested in how you can help them to address their business issues.
And if the demo-er doesn’t know – and hasn’t agreed – what the prospect’s critical business issues are, they are inevitably inclined to show them everything in the vain hope that the prospect might somehow be capable of joining the dots up for themselves. Which – unless you’re in an early adopter market full of smart dot-joiners, is unlikely.
If you’re in a mainstream market, then you’ve really shot your bolt, because what sane prospect would want to subject themselves to more torture later? The simple fact is, most demos happen too early. And even if your prospect has asked you to show them your product, you should hold back, until you know enough about what they are interested in to show them something that is specifically relevant to their situation.
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Demonstrate potential solutions, not products
That’s what I meant when I declared in the headline above that you should NEVER demo your product. But it does not mean that you should never do a demo. It simply means that you should defer your demonstration until you’ve got to the point where you have a clear sense of what a potential solution might look like, and show the prospect that.
When you demonstrate a potential solution, rather than a product, good things happen:
- You can be selective about what you show the prospect – and restrict the demo to things that you know are going to be relevant to them
- You can put each feature in context with what you know that the prospect is trying to achieve in their own business
- You can construct a compelling narrative and storyline that allows the prospect to visualise how your solution could work in their environment
Of course, this requires preparation. It requires a proper discovery process. It requires that your sales people invest in understanding their prospect’s situation, and not just their own product’s capabilities. But the rewards – in terms of demo-to-close ratios – can be spectacular. It’s not unusual to see a 10-fold (or more) advantage between a properly tailored demonstration and a spray-and-pray approach.
Flinging is not a strategy
Here’s a final thought: if your sales people are happy to take a “flinging s**t against the wall, hoping it will stick” approach to demos, what do you imagine they might be doing during the rest of the sales process? And how much of it do you imagine any sane prospect is going to be prepared to take?