If you spend your days going from demonstration to demonstration and are continually frustrated that your close rate is not high enough then this article may offer some insight that can help.
Last year we ran an education event for our partners titled “Demonstration Masters”. The goal of the event was to show the attendees how to run solution demonstrations that significantly improve the likelihood of a sale. After all, isn’t that the primary goal of any sales activity.
To prepare for the event we researched the subject matter and then added our prior experience into the mix. Whilst a simple article on the subject cannot pass on all the content we delivered through the event I am going to identify the major themes that we delivered here so that you can start the journey to improving your solution sales efforts.
A quick note before I do that: What I am talking about here is the Technical Proof demonstration. That is a demonstration to prove the credibility of a solution. I am not talking about the Vision Generation or Spray and Pray types of demonstration. In my view the Vision Generation type of demonstration, where you show prospects a range of solutions you can deliver and hope they like something, should be used for lead generation in many to one events like boardroom lunches. I would avoid Spray and Pray demonstrations, where you basically show a prospect all the software features you can cram into an hour, at all costs. They are a very costly and ineffective way of doing lead generation.
Don’t demonstrate too early
Eliminating this bad habit is the number one way to close more deals. What we see in market is well intended. The sales lead finds a pain or opportunity that they know their organisation can solve or resolve. They tell the prospect about their capabilities and the prospect is interested. They then consider the next step here to demonstrate the software as soon as the prospect will allow it.
The problem with demonstrating at this stage is that you do not understand the problem at a granular enough level that you can build a CREDIBLE solution. If your solution is not credible then your competitors have an opportunity to beat you to the sale. Even if there is no competitor in the deal you will most likely convince the prospect to do nothing as they have not seen the solution to their problem.
You also need to consider your timing of the demonstration. There are times that are not wise to demonstrate to certain prospects e.g. end of month for a finance team or times where key stakeholders are on leave. There is no point securing a demonstration time that fails to allow the key stakeholders to attend and be attentive.
Opportunity discovery is key to demonstration credibility
The demonstration represents a unique opportunity to blow the prospect away with a credible solution to their problem. To build credibility you need to spend a lot more time doing discovery. The goal of this discovery is to build relationships with your prospect and learn as much as possible so you can reflect that knowledge in your demonstration.
Present, Future and Preference
A straightforward way of thinking about what needs to be discovered is Present, Future and Preference. You need to understand their present situation, their envisioned future state and any preferences they have for how they get to the future state [i.e. a mandated cloud strategy for deployment].
Demonstrate a real ROI
Remember that when we talk about Present, Future and Preference we are not just talking about the technical stuff. You need to understand who the present and future players are in the organisation. These are the people who need to assess your solution. You need to understand the industry they play in and what the future of that industry looks like. Helping a prospects executive understand how they can win in their industry is a great way of becoming a highly valued trusted advisor.
Hopefully in the discovery stage you have managed to determine their ROI preference. Your job then is to make sure you demonstrate how that ROI will be achieved. Helping the prospect meet an ROI requirement is a key enabler for sales success.
Demonstrate only what customers need to see
I can’t stress how important this section is. I want you to think about all the software demonstrations you have sat in over the years. Think about how similar they are. A PowerPoint deck with company credibility statements followed by a run through of basic software functions followed by more complex functions and then finally a demonstration of how the software may solve the client’s problem. By the time, you get to the good bit you have very carefully put your prospect to sleep. We need to stop this.
Try turning things around. Get your prospects into a demonstration and start by showing them how your solution solves their problem. You will be amazed at what happens when you do this. If you have done the discovery diligently you will get an outstanding reaction. Trust me. I have been doing my demonstrations this way for a few years now.
You can still have your slide deck handy and later in the meeting the prospect may want to know more about your organisation and your history. By reversing the order, they will likely be more interested in this information as they are seriously looking at you as a potential solution partner.
One of the analogies used by Peter Cohen in his book “Great Demo” (see below) is that of an onion and the demonstration being the peeling back of the layers of an onion. You show the solution first (layer 1) and then you show other layers the prospect asks to see so that they can complete their assessment. You stop peeling layers when the prospect stops asking. Do not show them layers they have not asked to see.
Hopefully these tips will help you improve the quality of solutions you deliver into market whilst also allowing you to improve your solution close rates.
Final note: Remember the demonstration represents the best opportunity to prove yourself and your organisation as the most credible partner to help the prospect solve their problem or take advantage of their opportunity. Conversely, it is also the best opportunity to prove that your competitor is the best partner for the job. If you choose to put the extra effort into the demonstration you will beat your competitors more often and sell more deals.
To prepare for this event, we researched the four leading texts (based on Amazon sales) on the subject matter. I have included the details of these texts below if you are interested in more information.
If you would like to discuss this subject further please contact me.