Long before they ever took their first sales job, almost every rep probably had to take part in “show and tell,” when they were in school - where they stood in front of their class and talked about something they loved. Unfortunately, that may not have been the best way to learn about what it takes to conduct a successful demo with a customer.
Sure, some of the key elements are there in “show and tell.” You have to be comfortable making a sort of prepared speech. You have to get a feel for your audience, manage the time of your presentation according to some established parameters, and you have to be ready to handle some questions at the end. With sales demos, though, you don’t always get to talk about something you love (like a pet or a toy) but a product or service. And you’re not just trying to impress your friends or your teacher -- you’re trying to close a deal.
Reps sometimes make the mistake of thinking of demos as a slightly modified version of this grade school assignment. They think of demos as a sort of “show and sell,” where they present a set of features, pricing information and other details and then wait for a customer to say yes or no.
If that were true, selling through demos would merely be a matter of memorizing what’s in your deck and perfecting the art of making it sound exciting to the target audience. But selling is not a one-way performance, it’s a dialogue that requires just the right kind of interaction with the customer based on what they’re hearing in the demo.
Think of this approach as “show and gel.” The idea of something “gelling” refers to two elements that come together in a positive way. A great demo should accomplish that, by having a rep use tools such as Sales Cloud to bring relevant and precise information about the customer into a conversation which is merely driven by the demo. Here’s what you do:
We all know how demos tend to go: an overview of the company, details on the product, the pricing options and then, finally, time for Q&A. Most reps would never be foolish enough to tell customers to save their questions until the end, but if “Q&A” is the last item on your agenda slide, it can send a similar message.
Without belaboring the point, make it clear from the get-go that you’re hoping for questions throughout, or comments that can indicate if you’re on the right track or not. You gel with someone by inviting them to be part of a collaborative process, rather than a captive audience listening to a one-way monologue.
If your company has ever produced live webinars, you might have run a polling question or two near the beginning or middle of the event. Questions could include how the audience rates their knowledge of a particular subject, or what stage of pursuing a common business objective their company has reached. The webinar host then waits for a minute or so before showing a slide with the results, which help everyone watching and listening in get a sense of how they rank among their peers.
You can repurpose the results of such polls by integrating them into your demo and asking your customer the same kind of question. Then, your next slide shows them the results, but in this case you can ask for their reaction to the numbers on the bar charts. If your Webinars do not include this, some research from Sales Cloud might offer some representative stats to create a “results” slide, as could looking online for research studies that relate to the discussion.
Reps may sometimes think of demos as the final lap in a race towards a sale because getting to that point means they already have an interested customer. The demo is usually only agreed upon once the customer has had a “discovery call,” where reps do their best to understand what the potential buyer’s key challenges or pain points are, what their purchase process involves and what kind of potential barriers may need to be overcome.
Perhaps as a result of those discovery calls, customers expect reps to show up or begin an online demo with something customized to their particular needs. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t start a call with some followup questions that can get customers speaking in more detail about the issues that matter to them.
If the discovery call brought up common problems in terms of productivity at the customer’s firm, for instance, your demo can contain something with productivity-enhancing features. As you’re showing those features off, though, you could ask when or how they reached the tipping point where they needed to look for a solution in the first place. How has the way they measure productivity changed over evolved over time? What would the ideal scenario of productivity look like -- and is the problem happening across the board or within particular departments?
Answers to any or all of these questions will show that you’re deeply interested in the customer’s business. It also sets you up very well to discuss how your product’s features will address the various challenges they talk about. Use the data in Sales Cloud that highlights similar kinds of companies to pepper your conversation with thoughts on how others have achieved the kind of benefits your audience would like to emulate.
Sometimes customers will ask a question or make a comment that deserves a response, only to be told, “We’ll get to that in a little bit.” That’s a good example of when you’re not gelling, but forcing the audience to follow the flow you’ve set up and rehearsed.
As with any other aspect of designing an exceptional customer experience, though, it should really work the other way around. If pleasing customers is at the centre of everything you do, be flexible about jumping ahead a few screens to show a detailed answer to the issue they’ve raised. If they want to get a sense of pricing earlier on to make sure the whole demo isn’t a waste of time, so be it.
Yes, this may mean your demo might end early or skip over things, but your goal here is to have a conversation, where the demo is a tool for offering ways to support what you’re saying. If you end up closing a deal in the end, who cares if you didn’t get through every single slide?
When selling, you learn as you go along, and some of those learnings aren’t just about your own products and services. The data in tools like Sales Cloud offer a unique glimpse into the moves your customers have taken to help them grow.
Even if it doesn’t directly relate to the features you’re describing in your demo, talk about some best practices that provide extra value. If the customer has never heard about them, they’ll ask for more details. This keeps the conversation going, but more importantly it establishes you as a trusted authority within a particular space.
Closing the deal isn’t the only way you’ll know you’ve gotten the “Show and Gel” approach down pat. It’s when those same customers call you first the next time around, when they want to move from phone-based demos to an in-person meeting, or when they start to make more time for the demo overall.