Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Your book proposal for your first book is among the most important documents you’ll ever prepare. It often represents the formal beginning of your journey to a published book.

Book proposals serve two primary, and several secondary, purposes:

  1. Sales piece. If you’re hoping to have a conventional publisher sell your book through online and through bricks-and-mortar retail bookstores, your book proposal functions as a direct-response sales letter intended to them to invest time and money into your project. It has to spell-out the inevitability of your book’s success to skeptical readers.
  2. Marketing plan. Regardless whether you are looking at trade publishers, or intend to publish your book yourself, your book proposal must describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after it’s publication. Your proposal has to describe the market your book addresses, the benefits it offers, how it differs from existing books on the topic, and the specific steps you’re going to take to sell it to its intended readers.

Secondary purposes include providing a sample of your ability to communicate in print. In many ways, the style and detail of your proposal are as important as the contents of the proposal. A professionally written and presented proposal communicates to literary agents and acquisition editors that you’re an author worth paying attention to. Even if the proposed book doesn’t meet their current publishing needs, a proposal can open doors to other opportunities.

But, a rambling proposal that hasn’t been thoroughly edited and proofread can close the door to future possibilities.

Elements included in book proposals

A book proposal includes seven sections. These provide the structure needed to communicate the details of your project. The sections include:

  1. Engagement. The proposed title and the first paragraph of your book must immediately engage the interest of your agent or publisher in the first paragraph, or two. The title and opening paragraph must communicate at a glance, describing what your book is about, how it differs from the competition, why it will sell, and how you’re going to market and promote it. The first sentence and paragraph of your proposal must “hook” your prospective agent or editor’s interest and “sell” the importance of reading on. Each sentence and paragraph must continue selling, providing details that support the premise, or big idea, behind your book. If the initial sentence and paragraph fail to convince, the remainder of your proposal probably doesn’t have a chance, either.
  2. Description. The second section, sometimes called an overview, provides an opportunity to step back and provide the details necessary to support the promise offered by your book title and first paragraph. Think of this section as the 30,000 foot view of your project, your qualifications, and how you came to propose the book.
  3. Market. Next, you have to prove that a market exists for your book. You have to describe the characteristics of the market you’re writing for and their goals and objectives. You have to prove that you know how to reach your prospective readers and tap into their urgent need for assistance solving a problem or achieving goals. In addition, this section must include a review of existing books, so you can show how your book provides a fresh, needed perspective that goes beyond any currently available book.
  4. Contents. After you have proven the existence of a market and the need for your book, you have to prove how your book will live up to the promise expressed in its title and the premise described in the opening paragraphs. It’s not necessary to completely write your book, but it is necessary to show that you have put a lot of work into organizing your book into sections and chapters. Each chapter should be described in a couple of sentences, followed by 7-10 bullet points corresponding to the main ideas you plan to include in each chapter.
  5. Author platform and promotion. This section begins with an overview of your current online presence, and goes on to describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after its publication. Limit your marketing plan to the print, broadcast, public relations, and social media that you realistically expect to employ for marketing and promoting your book, and list the marketing affiliates and professional services you intend to work with. Remember that your marketing plan will be judged on both its detail and its creditability. Avoid unrealistic promises or a laundry list of media alternatives, but do emphasize your network of professional connections in your field.
  6. Qualifications. Why should a publisher trust you with their money? How do they know you will deliver. Rather than list your academic credentials, family situation, or employment background, place the emphasis on your accomplishments and achievements. It’s not important that you “love to write” or have “great passion for your topic.” It’s more important to communicate that you are driven to succeed and do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. (Note: you don’t have to say you’re a good writer, because the writing in your proposal should speak for itself!)
  7. Details. This section, like the previous, can be relatively short. In this section, describe the anticipated size of your book and the number of pages you’d like to see in the printed book. Describe the number of colors and illustrations, or photographs, you intend to include. And briefly mention topics for follow-up topics that will expand the book into a series. Finally, provide a realistic date for completing the manuscript, following receipt of a publishing contract.

Your proposal is an investment

If the above sounds like a lot of work, it can be!

However, your book proposal is an investment that doesn’t have to be repeated! Once you have your proposal, you have done the hard part—you’ve identified a book that needs to be written, and you have identified the information needed, and you have organized that into a logical order.

You’ve also created a marketing and promotion plan for selling your book.

Many authors find it harder to prepare a book proposal than it is to complete a book!

Writing is easy when you know what you’re going to write, and marketing becomes easier when you know what you want to happen, and when.

Writing a book proposal can be a lonely proposition, unless you’re working with an experienced book coach. But, when you’re actually writing your book, you typically have access to editors and proofreaders who will provide the feedback and support necessary to create a successful book.

Prepare your book proposal as carefully as you’d prepare a marketing plan for your career. Your book proposal can be the catalyst that transforms your career and, with it, your life!

Take Care of Your Top Employees

by Robert Driscoll on January 21, 2010

The marketplace in 2008 and 2009 was unlike any other in the past 70 years.  Businesses saw their top line revenue drop overnight.  Access to capital dried up and continues to be difficult to get.  While organizations had to trim their workforce, they continued to “protect” their top talent.  I put the word protect in quotes because while businesses kept their top employees, they expected them to do more with less.  While the top employees cannot wait for the market to get back to “normal”, they are still hungry for opportunities, but still need a break from overwork and pressure.

Everyone is working hard to survive, but businesses need to be careful not to put too much pressure and strain on their top employees because when the economy recovers and companies start hiring again, if businesses aren’t careful, they will lose their top talent as they accept offers from competitors.  A company’s top talents are important assets and will help the company achieve its short-term goals during this recovery period, but just as important, during the growth period after this recession.

Most employees today are burned out as they’ve taken on more work, stress and responsibility.  Because of this, employees’ loyalties to their companies have diminished as they are looking, more now than ever, to take care of their concerns.

In a recent report by Gartner, senior executives identified retention of top talent as a key concern.  In a 4Q09 survey done by Gartner, they asked senior executives to identify their top 5 concerns for 2010, and attracting and retaining top talent as number four on their list.

In the report conducted by Gartner, they made the following recommendations for companies:

–          Clearly define your “top talent” – profiles, behaviors and skills

–          Assess the state of the top talent from (2) perspectives:

  • Identify business areas where the top talent is sufficient to achieve short-term plans for recovery and return to growth.  At the same time, identify talent gaps or misalignment with business plans.
  • Assess the attitudes, expectations and “climate” of your top employees.  Determine positive and negative attitudes, people and business functions at risk, and the nature of the risk.

–          Address your findings head-on and discuss these issues with your top talent.  Design incentive and reward programs to address any of these issues.

–          Conduct periodic assessments and adjustments to actions until your top employees and risk return to normal levels.

Whether you are a manager or senior executive in a large company or an owner of a small business, remember to take care of your top employees.  If you don’t, your employees will take care of their concerns which may not include you or your company.

Are You A Partner or Opponent In The Marketplace?

by Robert Driscoll on December 31, 2009

85925361_partnerHow we use words in our day-to-day life, both in our personal and professional world, are very important.  Through language, we use words to convey our thoughts and feelings.  As we communicate with others, we need to be cognizant of how others are interpreting our words to ensure our message comes across the way we intended it to and get the reaction we want.  “Partner” and “opponent” are words that can used to describe the relationship between two individuals or companies in the marketplace, but their meanings are very different.

When most of us think of the word “opponent”, we think of our competitors or rivals in the marketplace.  We think about victory and defeat or winning and losing.  In the marketplace we are constantly trying to “beat up” our opponents.  “Aggressive” is the key word here.  Very few people can handle a tough marketplace and become successful.  The strong take advantage of the weak and the majority will quit never quite realizing what they could have made of themselves or their company.

For many in today’s marketplace, the attitude is, “Only the strong survive.”  Too often though we forget to ask ourselves if the goal is really to survive or is it to grow and use the knowledge you’ve gained to evolve?  With an adversarial attitude, the only thing that grows is yours and your competitor’s ego.  You could say that a person who has a “take no enemies” approach to business and has “accomplished” a lot, when in reality they might be over-stressed and are sadly unfulfilled as they are never satisfied and want to “conquer” the next task.  Succumbing to this opponent attitude is futile as your struggle is always with yourself.

Now, think of the difference in both your personal and professional life if you shifted from an opponent or adversarial role to a partner role.  When you do this, you stop looking at life as every man for themselves and instead you look at the skills you bring to the table along with those of your partners, whether they are your colleagues at work or other companies you work with.  The environment becomes one of increasing progress versus a mindset of kill or be killed.

A great partner learns to adapt to the environment they are in and recognizes the skill level of the other people they are working with and encourages everyone to work at their greatest potential.  Pushing and challenging your partners will be just as intense as when you were looking at the marketplace as full of opponents.  The difference though, is that instead of creating an offer by yourself, you learn to partner with others to create offers in the marketplace that have marginal value and that make you unique in the marketplace.

Changing your mindset from an opponent to a partner one can help in making you a trusted advisor to your clients as you seek to create solutions that are specific to their concerns and not developing solutions that differentiate you from the competitor who is bidding on the same contract.  A partner mindset will allow you create uncommon offers without having to think about what the competition is offering.  Addressing your clients specific concerns will make them feel like they are in a win/win situation and your clients will want to return to you again and again.

Making Expensive Sales or Lucrative Relationships

by Guy Ralfe on December 30, 2009

Star-RatingsI have just returned from vacationing with relatives in Colorado. The vacation was great except for the frustration caused by one purchase over this festive season. Steve was due to take delivery of a new vehicle yesterday that they had ordered 3 weeks before.

Buying a car is likely the most expensive discretionary item most people purchase. There is often a lot of thought and time that goes into the purchase even if you are not a car fanatic. Whatever make, model, style and financial commitment you settle on, you have to live with for 3-5 years before you get to change it without incurring unnecessary cost.

During our vacation we got to hear a lot about this transaction… After a less than stellar sales interaction the paperwork was complete and the deposit paid. The expected delivery date was given with a 98% certainty. Steve requested weekly updates even if it was that there was no new information, to which the salesman assured him he would get.

After two weeks he had to call the salesman for an update. The salesman promised to get back to them, which he didn’t until they called back again a day later. Only news was that it still appeared to be 98% certain to be available on the promised date. On the promised date no call was received by 10 am, so a call to the dealership was made for an update. The salesman wasn’t available so the sales manager promised to get back with an update shortly. By 4pm still no response so another call was placed to the dealership.

On being put through to the sales manager and requesting the update, the sales manager said they had been extremely busy with a number of other customers and that Steve would have to wait. When Steve asked if he wasn’t also a customer having committed to spending more than $35,000? The sales manager  took everything to heart and rather than addressing his concern, attacked him and told him he could come to the dealership and collect the down payment for the vehicle if he was so dissatisfied with the service – which he could guarantee delivery of in 10 min!

Having waited 3 weeks already, he assured the sales manager he wanted the vehicle and was not concerned when it came, just that he expected some information so that he could plan around that. The sales manager then said the manufacturer was off and the systems were not updated so it could take up to two more weeks to get the vehicle. Steve was fine with that but upset he wasn’t told that initially when he called and said “… great then I will expect it in two weeks”. To which the sales manager then responded “…but I expect you to get the car in the next two days!” Steve then became frustrated as he asked the sales manager – how can you make that assurance when you have just told me the system is not updated? In frustration the sales manager then offered his down payment again, which Steve refused and responded that he will work to another 2 weeks delivery and maybe he will be surprised – and the dealership will call him early!

Based on this interaction (there is always two sides to every story and a lot more detail but…) Steve will wait out his delivery but as a consequence he has already made two commitments:

  1. He will not use the dealership for any service and maintenance
  2. He will post on online review forums about his experience

This is where the tragedy lies and so much damage is done without the salesman even being aware of the situation they have caused. Instead of viewing the transaction as a relationship where there could be ongoing goodwill through referrals and future maintenance of the vehicle this is now a once off transaction that is likely going to cost more than the expected sale. Secondly, this is the ignorance of a salesman/sales organization not yet accepting the power and influence of Social Media and the cost it can have on:

  • The salesman – any online post will likely name the individual and the power of Search Engines will quickly find that for future customers and employers
  • The dealership – also named in the online review will produce a negative customer valuation which can affect traffic to the dealership
  • The dealership network – often a dealership is an affiliate or part of a larger network (across multiple brands). Again the power of search engines will make the association of the individual dealership within the larger organization thus tainting their reputation.
  • The manufacturer – the dealership represents the retail storefront for a global manufacturer, who works hard to promote and protect their image. In the realm of social media they are dependent on their product and dealers to preserve this image.

As consumers this is the magic of Social Media – no longer are we told through marketing and advertising what our perceptions should be, our peers and fellow consumers tell us firsthand. Social Media has given us the power, we need to use it wisely, to both promote and demote based on actual interactions which helps everyone.

This is a simple illustration coincidentally involving the behavior of a stereotypical car salesman, but this applies in all transactions – Understand and engage at all levels as if you were in a relationship as Social is how the world moves today.

How To Qualify Opportunities When Meeting With Your Customers

by Robert Driscoll on December 17, 2009

56503918You’ve developed your customer profiles and you’ve set up a meeting with your customer with an objective and an agenda.  So, how do you identify and qualify opportunities during the meeting?

The purpose of you meeting with your customer(s) is to indentify concerns they have, create an offer that takes care of these concerns and they accept, which in turn takes care of your concerns of meeting your sales goals for your company.  To help uncover current and future opportunities, start off with open-ended questions.  Use some of these questions to help you determine your customers willingness to work with you:

  • Tell me about your vision for the organization.
  • What are your plans to support that vision?
  • What plans have you defined for each of these goals?
  • What would you like to improve in the organization?
  • What opportunities do you see in your marketplace?
  • What process do you go through when you make decisions like this?
  • Who besides yourself will be involved in the decision-making process?

As you ask these questions, be certain to understand how every issue impacts the organization.  As you ask each question and a concern is brought up, be sure to ask one of the following open-ended questions:

  • What impact will this issue have on your organization?
  • How do you measure/define the impact?

As you start having these conversations, you can start seeing gaps that exist between where your customer(s) organization is today and where they want to be.  Listening to your customer(s) and paying attention to their background of listening will allow you to create offers that are specific to your customer(s) needs that help fill these gaps.  These conversations in turn allow you to open your space of possibilities with your customer(s) for creating new offers.

90079650You’ve been trying to get a meeting with a client for quite some time now and now you have one.  Now what?  In my previous post (Developing Opportunities), I discussed what you need to do when trying to identify and develop opportunities before you meet with your customers.

In this post, I’ll discuss how when you secure a meeting with your customer, it’s important that you set the objective and create an agenda so that both you and your customer clearly understand what you will be covering and to ensure that you have the right audience.  Setting the objective will allow you to seize and maintain control of the process as well as help ensure you set the tone to effectively gather the desired information.

As you state your objective in your meeting with your customer, it is important to let your customer know that you are looking for ways to measurably impact their business.  You can continue this conversation by stating that you are looking for opportunities to help them increase their revenues, control their expenses, increase their productivity and/or efficiencies.  To help you uncover this, the next step is to go over the agenda for the meeting.

In your agenda, the last thing you should talk about is your company.  In creating your agenda, follow these steps:

  • It is important first to learn as much as possible about your customers’ organization.  This will help you not only understand their concerns, but help you create the best offer to meet their business needs.
  • Next, discuss the criteria they will use to determine which provider is best for their company.  Do this to ensure that you provide them with all the information they need to evaluate your offer.
  • Third, discuss the process the customer will be using to make a decision and their timeframes to ensure that you bring the desired information to your customer in a timely fashion.
  • Finally, talk about your company and the products/services you can offer them and how it can help address their concern.  During this part of the meeting, it will help you determine whether or not your company has an offer that can address your customers concern(s) and whether or not your company could possibly be a good long-term partner for your customer.

Today, more than ever, employers are asking more from their employees.  Remember this when meeting with your customers and be respectful of their time.  Stating a clear objective and having a defined agenda will help you keep your customer(s) focused, ensure that they have the right audience for your meeting and in turn, further help you identify opportunities.

Developing Opportunities

by Robert Driscoll on December 3, 2009

76092355On October 29th, the US Department of Commerce stated that the US economy grew in the third quarter for the first time in over a year, signaling the end of the worst recession in over 70 years.    Even though we are “out” of the recession, do you still feel like your customers are not buying and hesitant to move forward on projects?  Do you feel more and more pressure to bring in new opportunities for your company?  Unfortunately, regardless of the economic condition of the marketplace, as salespeople, we are required to perform as our company’s success is directly tied to our individual success.

In a previous post (What I Wish I Knew More About In Sales #2: Know What To Quit), I discussed how it’s important to learn when to quit opportunities so that you can focus more time on those that have a higher probability of closing.  Following this process in today’s difficult marketplace is more important than ever as it’s more difficult today to find qualified and real opportunities, but just as important to focus more on those opportunities that are realistic. 

In today’s post, I will discuss some basic steps that you can use to develop an ideal customer profile which are the business characteristics that your organization looks for in your customers to sell your products and services and to drive them to do so now. 

In developing the ideal customer profile, go through your list of accounts and try to answer the following questions for each one:

  1. What does your product/service do?
  2. What do your customers do in lieu of your product or service? 
  3. If they are using a competitor’s product or service, what marginal value does your product/service offer that the competitor’s does not?
  4. With your product/service, how would it improve your customers’ productivity, efficiency, security, etc…?
  5. What characteristics would cause your customer to have/care about your product/service?
  6. Without your product/service, who in the organization is likely to benefit if they were to have it (individual contributor through CEO)?

Going through your list of customers and being able to answer these questions results in:

  1. A list of information to gather to determine where we have opportunities
  2. Targeted contacts who will be interested in solving the problem

The next step is to gather information about your customers.  Decision makers are not necessarily the right contacts for gathering information.  In addition to looking at any sales history you might have and any research you can gather via the internet about your customer(s), you can also gather information from secretaries, receptionists, their sales people and their customers.

Once you have answered the questions above and gathered information about your customer(s), you are now ready to sell the appointment with a targeted executive and to truly start developing your opportunities.

Remaining Competitive over the Long Road

by Guy Ralfe on November 26, 2009

long_range_targetThanksgiving marks the beginning of the 5 weeks of holiday season in the USA. For many it will be a time when people’s focus is on the near term line in the sand, marking the end of the year – this will have people working to make/protect their targets, others resigned and looking forward to seeing the back end of this tough year and hoping for a better start next year and many public companies working every angle to close the quarter with the best results they can.

Whatever the case people are suddenly driven by the appearance of a tangible situation that they can  now envision. What we need to be mindful of is that what we do now in a tactical manner is still part of fulfilling our longer term strategic plan.

I’m a subscriber of Rajesh Setty’s newsletter (you can subscribe here) where he just  shared a beautiful story about “The Daffodil Principle” read it here. What this story exposed for me was the power of a long term vision and also that we need to achieve and produce over our entire careers and not just focus on the here and now. We would all like the quick win – like winning the lottery, but statistically that is as close to impossible as you can get – don’t get me wrong people do win the lottery but there is nothing other than buying a ticket that you can control the outcome of that situation.

Ultimately most of us are going to need to produce for our full careers to meet our ambitions. We must not forget that we are also playing for a longer term game, our careers, as we approach the year end. Think carefully about the consequences of the actions you may choose today, to meet your short term objectives, that you don’t have to live with the consequences after the horizon has passed.

I see similar action taking place on projects in the same way as careers. Projects have a lifecycle that we can equate to a career, but when we get close to delivery dates, slack is gone from the system, pressure is everywhere and people make rash illogical decisions to keep a delivery date. This action is the same as what happens in the marketplace approaching the year end deadline. As in projects, the consequences of shortsighted action always surface later and the consequential cost to resolve quickly becomes far more than the cost to have acted correctly in the first instance. An example I hear at this time of year  is how sales are completed in the closing weeks of the current year, which have a significant impact on the start of the next year when the fulfillment comes into play.

My message here is very similar to the ancient story of the tortoise and the hare, just that today’s market also requires some traits of the hare mixed in with the tortoise. Whatever we do we have to act with regard for the future consequence but at the same time remaining better than our competitors.

Remaining ahead of the competition is beautifully demonstrated by this slideshow shared with our organization today in preparation for the coming year. Enjoy and wishing a happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

Assessment, Assessment, Assessment

by Guy Ralfe on November 18, 2009


I am sure we have all experienced how when we meet someone for the first time we draw a gut feeling about someone – the saying goes “first impressions count!” What many people don’t realize is how this impression affects their decision making.

Let’s say we go in to buy a car at a dealership, the smooth looking salesman walks over and introduces himself and immediately gets down to business of asking pointed questions so that he can make the quick kill sale. Your immediate reaction is to draw a negative impression about this individual and you prepare yourself for the situation ahead of prying questions and being cornered into signing on the dotted line! Our muscles tense, our bullshit meter goes into the red and we physically begin shutting down. We would challenge everything they claim and scrutinize every detail of the paperwork presented to us – if we even got any further with the individual.

What then if the same salesman cracked a joke about his approach saying he was only joking, just wanted to see our reaction and then graciously introduced himself and offered his help in an open and friendly manner. Provided we see the funny side of the situation we would have our bodies relax, we might then engage in conversation and move forward in working with the salesman. What we will find is that as the salesman addresses us by name and provides references we trust or believe we may then begin to like interacting with the salesperson.

Are we losing our minds? Here are the same two people coming together for the same reason under the same situation and yet the situation changed so much in the way we wanted to interact. I am sure most people can associate to a similar situation in their lives if not often.

Now let’s look at the results of these two situations –later when the buyer asks does the car have climate control? The sales man replies and says “yes, it has air conditioning”. To the piqued buyer at the initial reaction, they will inquire further – does it automatically adjust and how many zones does it have? The salesman can then answer that “no that is only available on the next model up costing $X more”. To the buyer when they had warmed to the salesman and were now trusting of the salesman, they will accept the response and likely ask another question, but in their mind they will have come to the conclusion that they have an electronic climate control with the features they envision.

This is not about the stereotypical auto salesman or placing in doubt the ethical nature of the sale – the issue is that the buyer comes to believe that they are told by the salesperson that they have climate control when the salesman answered “air conditioning”.

I see this happening in many areas of business. For me it shows up often on projects where people build up their own interpretation of what the future situation will be based on their wants and desires – this can be a shock when they confront reality and realize that the situation they were expecting was based on assessments they drew, from their own answers.

Life is too short not to make gut decisions – so where decisions matter to you, make sure you have a good assessment for granting someone your trust, then ask the questions you need to make the right assessment.

The Worst Demo I never Got

by Wayne Turmel on November 16, 2009

demo wrongIf 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?