Whether it’s a product or service, hardware or software, it’s rare these days to be able to get to the point of a sale without the prospective customer having had a demonstration at some point.
And why on earth not? Customers want to experience using the product or service in advance. They don’t just want to know how it works, but how it works for them.
The demo stage is a crucial part of the sales process. Timing is, however, even more important. Too many salespeople seem intent in pushing the prospect to the demo stage as quickly as possible, as if somehow the product/service will sell itself once the customer has seen it.
However, I see the demonstration stage as more of a “See? I told you so!” stage in the buying process.
The demo is there to back-up your claims that your solution will solve the problems that you’ve said it will solve. It’s a validator, used as a tool to help reinforce the sales narrative. It should be wheeled out only once the salesperson has defined the customer problem, and explained and proved (on paper) how the value proposition will address the problem. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from negotiating pricing and terms – and getting the order.
So if demonstrations are so important, why are the majority of companies so bad at them?
Why Demos Lose Sales
Firstly, any demo needs to be built around the needs and wants of the buyer, not the seller. Seems obvious, right? If only.
Most demos are generic, canned walkthroughs or scenarios of how a “typical” user might use the product. The demonstration won’t have been tailored to the way that the prospective customer may actually use the product. The demonstrator will explain how such-and-such feature works, what that button over there does, and why that light over there may glow yellow. In effect the demo has turned into a live, performance art version of the instruction manual.
Guess what? The Customer Doesn’t Care.
The demo will feature the latest-and-greatest bells and whistles, cool new features or new ways of working. The thing is – unless they directly relate to the issues that the customer is facing right now – then The Customer Doesn’t Care.
Stop Hiding Behind Your Demo
A demonstration is not a sales tool used to highlight the product or service. It’s not a way for salespeople to get out of their role in the identification of the customer problem, and the proposal of a solution that addresses that problem. All of this can – and I would say should – be done well in advance of any demo. The salesperson’s job is to inform, educate, and propose a solution. If the prospect is asking for a demo before that, then the salesperson either hasn’t done their job correctly (bad), or the customer doesn’t trust them (worse).
A proper demo isn’t set up in 5 minutes. A proper demo is hard work.
A proper demo starts with the demonstrator, salesperson and (maybe) prospective customer sitting down and going through the particular issues, challenges and problems that the customer is going through. It’s identifying the pain-points, followed by the relevant benefits that the solution offers that particular customer.
Once clearly understood, it’s a question of the demonstrator going through a scenario that resonates with the prospect. No deviations, alterations, modifications or improvisations. Just the walkthrough.
Stick To The Demo Plan
It’s too easy at this stage to get sidetracked into showing this new feature here (which, regardless of how sexy it is, isn’t pertinent to the demo structure as outlined above). Tempting as it is, it’s important to keep away from such detours. You might think that it’s adding to the buying experience, but what you’re forgetting is that you’ve seen this demo 1001 times before. This may be the customer’s first time seeing your stuff, and anything non-essential shown today will – as sure as anything – be seen as confusing an hour/day/week/month later when they’re closer to buying.
Your customer isn’t going to judge how good the demo is based upon how many bells and whistles they see. Most of the time they’re looking for a fit to address their problem, and how easy / fast / convenient / affordable / whatever your solution solves that problem. But it may be something else.
What’s important is to know the factors that the customer is going use to determine whether your value proposition is the right one for them. Not only does that make the target easier to hit, but it stops you wasting time / money / effort in showing them stuff that won’t help you get to where you want to be (i.e. the sale).
Demos Aren’t About Product. They’re About Solutions
A demo is there as real-world proof of what the salesperson has been saying up until now. It should be tailored as much as possible to show how it solves the exact same problems that the customer is currently experiencing. It should make the prospect feel as though the quicker they buy your product/service, the quicker their pains will disappear.
The only people who give a stuff about features, bells and whistles are product managers, journalists and the competition. Customers don’t care about such things. Why? Because that stuff is all about you and not about them.
Buyers only care about how your product/service will make their world better, so that’s what your demo should do. And nothing else.