The Horror With Product Demos

ozzy-osbourne-200pg052110I will never forget the time about 23 years ago when I showed up for a sales meeting, and was planning to give a demonstration of the software I was selling to the CIO of Daiwa Securities of America in the World Financial Center, downtown New York City. It took me weeks to finally set up the meeting, and on the day of the meeting everything seemed so perfect. The sun was out. It was warm. I had rehearsed the demo with my SE to the point that I had it memorized word for word. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, I found out!
Way back around the time of dinosaurs, PCs used floppy disks to transport data. Software demos were loaded onto floppy disks, and once we were on sight at a customers office, all we had to do was pop in the floppy disk, and the demo program would start. Seems easy doesn’t it?
Well it was easy until I found that the prospect’s PCs all had old 5 1/4″ floppy drives in their PCs, and not the newer 3.5″ floppy drives. Fortunately someone had both the 5 1/4″ and 3.5″ floppy drives on their new PC, so we went over to that PC, and popped in the media to begin the demo.
But nooooooo – The program was incompatible, and we had we could do to get the program to run on the PC at all. To add insult to injury, whenever I pressed the button to print out the image, the document came back from the printer in the size of a postage stamp. The font was so small you needed an electron microscope to read it. End of show…

The Bigger Problem: Technology companies place a great deal of reliance on demos to showcase their products and services. While a demo is a great way to show off your product, often it is not being properly utilized to close business. Salespeople arrive, anxious to show how their product will improve the prospect’s situation. They demo every feature and discuss every benefit. Typically when the demo is finished, the prospect expresses their interest and says they need some time to think it over and invite the salesperson to follow up in a week or two. Whatever the final result, too little business seems to be closed as a result of the demo.

Analysis: It’s yet another case of the buyer using his system successfully. They get the salesperson to cough up his information (the product demo) early in the sales cycle, carefully avoid making a commitment when the demo is concluded, and force the salesperson to invest considerable time following up. Unfortunately, companies believe that if the prospect would just take the time to see how the product works, they’d recognize the benefits and buy. Too bad that doesn’t happen as often as it should. The real problem lies not with the demo itself, but with the way the salesperson deals with the opportunity.

Solution: Any prospect that asks for, or agrees to a demo is not necessarily a qualified prospect. Take the time to find out not only what the issues are, but also their budget and decision making process. And when you do agree to do a demo, make sure you’ve asked these three questions beforehand:

•    “What issues do you want the demo to address?”
•    “How will you determine if they were addressed successfully?”
•    “Assuming we are able to address your issues successfully, what would happen at the end of the demo?”

By getting answers to these questions you’ll be able to accomplish several very important things. First, you can focus the demo on the prospect’s ‘pain’, and avoid showing other features that may not be relevant. Second, you’ll get an understanding of how your demo will be measured and you’ll have the right to ask whether or not you were successful. Finally, you’ll know what the next step should be after the demo and avoid the ubiquitous “I need to think it over.” In fact, you may even get an order…

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