Demo's are all well and good, but...

…they shouldn’t be a substitute for good selling.

I was given a great demo earlier this week of some learning software and it reminded me that we talk to a number of pretty sophisticated organisations that use demonstrations of some sort as part of their sales process. Recently this has included a software company offering a demonstration of their latest whizz bang application, a technology business bringing developers from overseas to showcase their new device and a large training organisation offering a taster of one of their flagship courses.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a good demonstration – the secret however, as is often said about great comedy (which this isn’t as you will have spotted!), is in the timing. 

As I have said previously in these blogs, I think the high level structure of all good quality selling is straightforward. There are three overarching stages:

  1. Create a compelling need that the customer agrees warrants a change from what they currently do.
  2. Differentiate your capabilities from the other options they may have.
  3. Make it easy to make the final decision in your favour.

There is considerable sophistication and expertise required to do these well however the overall structure remains the same.

What I find interesting (and concerning from a selling perspective) is that the demo is often used in stage 1 as the leading activity in creating the need. There are potential dangers here:

  • It’s easy to agree to a product demo, it’s easy to agree to a free place on a course. It’s a ‘no lose’ for the customer. However putting pen to paper and committing money to buying something is a different ball game.
  • The people who come to see the initial demo or that attend the free course are often not the final decision makers.
  • Because the key stakeholders haven’t yet realised they have a compelling need, a lot of time, resource and expense is put into demos and subsequent deals that many never close.
  • Customers may see features and functions they don’t actually need which may lead them to question whether it’s the right fit for them or in fact, more than they actually need. 
  • Once wowed by a demo, the customer will often ask about cost. How can you link the cost to value (which is what all good value based selling approaches extol) if you haven’t yet created the value?  

So while a demo can show the art of the possible and help challenge the status quo (all of which is good), it should be in support of - not as a substitute for - all the good selling activity that needs to go on in stage 1 to successfully create a compelling need and the urgency to act on that need.

A good argument could also be made that a demo is actually best deployed in stage 2 as a means of demonstrating how your solution differs from other options once the need has successfully been created and a willingness to act has been established.

Bottom line…done well, a demo can be hugely beneficial to successful selling and by ‘done well’ I mean: doing it at the right time, to the right people and showing off the capabilities relevant to that particular customer's need. In addition, it can sometimes be the critical catalyst for a conversation in the first place. However used as a substitute for proper selling, it is both lazy and often fruitless.