For the past weeks, I’ve been exploring the current state of pre-sales engineering and the product demo. A software buyer’s early product experience, or demo, is arguably the most critical part of any software cycles cycle. Which is a major headache for most software companies: every buyer expects to experience the product as part of their initial evaluation and education but pre-sales resources are at a premium. Go to any pre-sales engineer meetup or get-together and chances are that every pre-sales manager there will mention that they’re hiring. Our research shows that while demand for tailored, in-person demos is up, the ratio of pre-sales to sales has halved, going from an average of one pre-sales engineer for two sales reps to one pre-sales engineer for four sales reps or more.
Since it’s not possible for pre-sales to give every demo, software companies are looking for ways to scale their pre-sales resources and demo process, that satisfy buyer needs for more and earlier product experiences. So far we’ve explored the following demo options (click on the links if you’d like to read my previous blogs on each topic):
In-person demos with discovery
Today, we’re examining my favorite type of demo, and probably yours too – in-person demos with a full discovery process. In-person, tailored demos are where we get to truly demonstrate our skills, part showperson, part geek, part industry expert, part teacher. There’s no other profession that allows you to exercise so many skills at one time! We all know the importance of a discovery call, not just in terms of helping us tailor our demo to the specific buyer’s needs. But also because if we’ve done our homework and are asking the right questions, buyers will share information with us that they might not want to give to our sales rep. There’s no doubt that a great demo can help close a sale. So what’s the problem?
- This demo process is almost identical to the way I gave demos at Ariba back in 1997. We keep our product (the demo) under lock and key and only allow a prospect to see it after specific steps have been completed. When a prospect hits a certain lead score, they can see the product. Why? Because we’re insisting that buyers fit into our selling process. Versus adapting to how today’s buyers want to buy.
- In-person demos are effective, depending on the type of product we sell and where the buyer is in their buying journey. However, early in the sales cycle, buyers don’t want or need a full demo; they just want to take a look at the product, get a quick product experience. How many sales opportunities are lost because we introduce so much friction into our current product demo process?
- Pre-sales is one of the most valuable resources in any software company. Yet we’re artificially limiting how we use those resources by insisting that they can only give demos in-person, after a full discovery process. What a waste! Think of how many additional sales opportunities could be generated by using technology to scale your best demo content for each product and give every early stage buyer a tailored demo. And save your scarce resources for the live, scripted or technical product demos required later in the sales cycle.
What’s your experience of in-person, tailored demos?
Thank you to those of you who’ve already contacted me to discuss your demo challenges. This week I’m particularly interested in the number of in-person demos a prospect company sees before they become a customer. What are your current challenges in scaling your demo process?