If you’re the VP of Sales for a software or other service company I want you to listen to this cautionary tale. It’s absolutely true and ought to make you ask some important questions about how confident you are in your inside sales or demo teams. More importantly, I can make some educated guesses about how they’re measuring this sales person’s performance and that really ought to make you go hmmmmm. At any rate I was able to avoid a painful experience and what I can only guess would have been the worst demo I’d ever seen.
A cold call/email for no reason: I got a voicemail from someone at a company who “wanted to speak to me” about their software-as-a-service product. I suspect I know which list they got my name from but “that’s okay”, I figured… they’re trying to make a living. I then got an email at about the same time with the same kind of offer. Of course, there was nothing about their product other than the name and a hyperlink. My immediate thought was “If I don’t know what it does for me, why would I want to talk to them?” Something told me this person is cranking out the cold calls because they have a certain number of contacts they have to make. That’s fine, I’ve been there and done that, but I also know it’s not terribly productive except that it keeps their boss happy.
A kind offer to waste my time: I have great sympathy for sales people just doing their job so I emailed back and said (essentially) “tell me what it does and what it has to do with me and we’ll see”. I then got a response telling me what it is (an “email marketing tool”. Thanks for clearing that up!) in a single sentence, but I really should schedule time for a 30-minute demo so I could “really see what it can do”. Note: They didn’t ask or even assume what it could do for ME, just what IT could do. I don’t know about you, I don’t have half an hour (and is anyone foolish enough to think it will really only be 30 minutes out of my life???) to waste just watching someone tell me about a product I don’t need or want. Again, I figured their “sales management process” demands a certain number of demos a week. I know fully well the assumption is that if they do “X” number of demos, some of them will convert. Exactly what is their conversion rate? Do they measure it? Imagine how high it would be if they only did demos to people who actually might buy the product to start with!
It would have been a complete waste of THEIR time too: Had this sales person asked a couple of questions they would have known I’m not a good prospect for them. Instead they invested a phone call, two emails and blocked out half an hour of their time (not to mention putting me in their carefully managed CRM pipeline) without ever asking a couple of basic questions which would have taken me off the list immediately. And let’s do some math: 5 minutes of questioning up front versus 30 minutes per demo to someone completely unqualified who will never buy. It makes no sense, but if I’m being measured by how many demos a week I perform, you can bet I’m going to schedule them. And let’s face it; it’s less painful than filling that time with 15 more cold calls from an obviously flawed list of leads.
Here’s what I avoided:
By not taking up their kind offer of a “30-minute FREE demo” (are there people who charge for that honor?) I avoided several things:
- A carefully scripted (we can only hope… either that or a rambling, unprofessional) 1-way monologue about their product and its features
- A demonstration of all the cool bells and whistles without asking any qualifying questions about my company or goals
- A not-too-subtle avoidance of the price and other key questions until the very end (although that’s probably one of the first questions I have and I’ll sit through the whole thing wondering about it)
- If this person’s demo is carefully scripted, it MIGHT contain a call to action like moving to a trial account. (About half the demos I watch and review for people have no clear call to action so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here). My guess is I won’t have been asked who actually makes that decision or whether we’ve got budget for it (assuming they ever get around to telling me the price) until the very end of our time together.
I don’t blame the sales person here, at least not entirely. The big problem is some assumptions on the part of sales management:
- Measuring activity will get results- you can make 100 cold calls but if you’re calling people who aren’t good prospects you’re wasting a lot of time and effort and demoralizing the sales person
- The demo itself will move the sale forward- Are we supposed to believe that a good pitch will move an unmotivated person to tears of joy and make a sale?
- The function and features will make the sale- If I see the wonder of your product, how can I resist? I can think of 20 reasons not to buy something- starting with I don’t need it
- All customers want the same thing and we can provide it- an interesting notion but you know it’s not true. Find out what I need and give me THAT, then we’ll talk
- Product knowledge is really the critical part of a demo- asking the right questions, acting like you care about my business and showing me what I want to see (especially in the early stages of the sales cycle) is far more important to a customer than your User Interface or the fine details of your algorithm
Basically, I was able to avoid having a half hour or more sucked out of my life by a “well intentioned” person just doing their job and appeasing their boss. Not exactly a constructive way to do business but one we see all the time.
How are you using demos in YOUR sales process?
—This article is contributed by Wayne Turmel, the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings and the host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast. You can follow him on twitter at @greatwebmeeting