In the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to sit through three product demos that were all done using web conference (Goto Meeting and WebEx). Two of these demos went very well, we understood everything we wanted to know and we figured out whether the products will meet our business needs. More on that later.
The third one was an outright disaster. This particular demo was in an area that not many of us knew enough about and we were looking to educate ourselves with not only on the product but also get a better understanding of the underlying methodology. When the demo was set up, we had clearly communicated to the vendor (at least we thought we had) on what we were looking to get. We had also indicated that time was tight and that we probably had 45 minutes max. To make the whole situation tricky, there was the software vendor, a potential professional services partner and an internal consultant who was introducing us to the software vendor.
Here is how the demo went (remember the 45 minutes equates to about 20 min of demo time if you account for the time needed to answer questions during the demo):
- 15 minutes were spent on the corporate slides – here is who we are, when we were founded, we do blah blah blah (nothing I remember right now), here is how much profits we made last year, here are the complex equations that are underpinnings of the technology (I am not joking, there were equations on slides), here are the Fortune 500 clients that use us etc.
- Another 15 minutes of the admin console where everything can be looked at etc.
- In the first 2 minutes of the corporate slides, most of those in audience lost interest and were busy checking their emails
- By the time, 15 minutes were up, we had still not learnt anything that we came to learn about. People were feeling cheated – why are we wasting time on this?
- What followed was tech focused, nothing addressed the business problems we were looking to solve.
- Nothing was professional about the demo, everything looked like a hodge podge.
- These two vendors did discovery work to find out the business problems we were facing and they did this directly with me – before the demo. To their advantage, there were no middlemen.
- During the demo, they focused on our business problems and not themselves (not one word on who they are, how big they are etc.) until they had completely addressed how their solutions could solve our business problems.
- Everything was done in the allotted time. They followed up with emails to check if we had any outstanding questions and enquiring about the next steps.
- Do the discovery call before the demo: If you are the one doing the demo, try your best to engage directly with the customer for a discovery call. Avoid leaving this to a third party unless these folks can educate you well on the customer’s business problems. Find out the business issues faced by the customer, how they are solving the problem today, what solutions they are using etc., timeframe they are looking to solve the problem and if they have a budget. Budget and timeframe to purchase are very important – if there is no budget, it is a lot harder to sell.
- Business problems first: Your prospective customers don’t care who you are, how big you are or how great you are, unless you can solve their business problems. The only reason they are engaging with you is to find out if you can help them. Satiate that need first, nothing else. Everything else can wait. Stuff for the economical buyer (financial viability, your revenues etc.) or for the technical buyer (technology underpinnings etc.) can come later – not in the first demo. Selectively disclose stuff – peel the onion one layer at a time – don’t bury the customer with information, keep it simple.
- Respect the customer’s time: Find out ahead of time how much time you have and who will be in attendance. If the time is insufficient for you to do the demo effectively, ask for more time. Explain why it would be beneficial to allot more time – start becoming an advisor to the customer. Once you know your constraints, honor them. Make sure you hit the salient points customer is looking for during the allotted time. If you do this right, two things will happen – you will get more time right there and then or a follow up demo will be set up to take this further. If either of this happens, you now have an engaged prospect and you are making progress towards closing a sale.
You can choose to avoid doing the homework to your own peril or spend the time during discovery to start building effective relationships with your prospects.
Thoughts? Do you agree?