When salespeople give demos – success or failure?

Posted by Greg Dickinson on Jun 5, 2019 11:30:00 AM

Sales demos may be costing your business more than you thinkAnyone involved in software sales or revenue generation will agree that the demo, or early product experience, is probably the most important part of any software sales cycle.

Which gives us a big problem – pre-sales resources are at a premium. The reason? The ratio of pre-sales to sales has halved, going from an average of one pre-sales engineer for every 2 sales reps, to one pre-sales engineer for 4 sales reps. In some markets, that ratio drops to 10, 20 even 30 or more to 1. Plus, today’s buyers expect an “early stage” demo as part of their initial education and evaluation (they may still require a full, scripted or custom demo for closing as well), meaning that demand for demos and product experiences is up.

Given that pre-sales can’t give every demo, software companies need to look for different ways to deliver more demos with fewer traditional pre-sales resources.

As you think about different demo options, remember the importance of a great first product experience. Does your demo process help achieve vision lock with buyers – give your buyers that “wow” moment, and accelerate your sales cycles? Or is it driving buyers away?

Sales Demos (demos given by salespeople)

In theory, it makes total sense for salespeople to give initial demos to buyers. They’re already on the phone with the buyer, plus buyers typically ask to see the product within the first three minutes of a call. So, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty!

Findings from a recent survey of 200+ pre-sales engineers show 87% think that sales reps not only do a poor job demoing, they actually hurt the company’s chances of winning the buyers’ business. At the same time, research shows that 80% of buyers consider the first, high level, generic demo as not ideal and missing the mark, some going so far as saying that it was a waste of time or the reason they went to another vendor.

Why salespeople give bad demos

I am not saying that all salespeople give a poor demo. However, in order to understand why the majority of demos given by salespeople miss the mark, consider the following:

  • Buyers don’t really want to be sold to early in their buying journey. At this stage, buyers learn better and retain more about you and your company if they self-discover.
  • We hire salespeople to sell. We train them to sell. We invest in technology that helps them sell. None of our investment in sales hiring, training or tools focuses on the demo.
  • Sales give generic, high-level overview demos based on what they know, not on what the buyer may want (in most cases, sales don’t yet know what that is).
  • Opportunities for feedback are minimal. Other than “Thanks – great demo!”, sales get limited or no additional insights into buyer interests and intent.
  • Lastly, and maybe most importantly: when a buyer gets a poor demo – one that doesn’t address their specific interests, that has poor flow, that jumps around – the buyer assumes that your product is a bad fit and moves on.

The hidden cost of sales demos

If you’re fortunate enough to have a sales team that gives killer demos, congratulations! However, what’s the cost to your business and your bottom line?

  • There’s high turnover in sales, particularly for inside sales/business development reps. How much time and effort are you going to invest in teaching new reps how to demo your product? And retrain them with every new release? As soon as they are proficient, they leave or are promoted.
  • How much time and effort does it take your pre-sales engineers to provide the training and, in some cases, certification? What’s the ROI on the investment of time versus the conversion rate of early stage demos?

What’s your experience of demos given by salespeople?

I’m exploring different demo options, tools, innovations and techniques, and reporting on my findings based on conversations and surveys with pre-sales engineers and sales leaders. If you’re a pre-sales engineer, work with pre-sales, or are interested in demos in the buyer’s journey, please join me as we delve into the modernization of the pre-sales process and the demo. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to cover, leave a message in the comments section below, or send me a message.

Topics: Buyers journey, "Product demo", "pre-sales"