When is the Right Time for a Live Product Demo?

Source: Flickr, Hiking Artist, licensed under CC

There are many different sales methodologies out there in the world and all of them claim to have the most effective sales approach. To name a few, theres solution selling, challenger selling, trust selling, scientific selling, and strategic selling.  To name a few more, there’s SPIN selling, AIDA selling, needs satisfaction selling, consultative selling, relationship selling, ARC selling, mood selling, barrier selling…the list goes on and on and frankly it is making my head spin.  Many of these methodologies talk about the ideal time to ask questions regarding implicit and explicit problems, the ideal time to propose solutions to the client, when to discuss benefits vs features, when to go for the close, etc. However, none of these methodologies address the topic of when to give a live product demo.  Do you know?

Why even care about finding the perfect time to demo?

Jumping into a demo too early can jeopardize the sale.  If the prospect isn’t ready to evaluate the product in depth or don’t quite understand what their needs are, they sure aren’t ready to sit through a long and seemingly irrelevant presentation.  Waiting too long to demo can annoy and frustrate the prospect because they have already made a purchase decision (hopefully to buy your product).  So when exactly is the right time to demo? In this post I will give a quick checklist of things to do and discover before you demo, so that when you do jump into one, it happens at just the right time.

1.  Fully understand their position in the buyer’s journey

There has been extensive writing on the subject of the buyers journey so I won’t dive in too deep, but it does deserve a quick mention.  You may be thinking, “the buyer’s journey, isn’t this a marketing thing?” Yes, but not exclusively.  Understanding how your customer becomes aware of your product and how they will evaluate it will help tailor your sales messaging appropriately.  For more information on the buyer’s journey, I recommend this article by David Skok.

In higher value (larger deal size) sales, your first discussion with the client is most likely an inappropriate time for a demo.  Your client has just become aware of your product through your marketing and advertising and is starting to investigate how it will help them.  The prospect has some inclination as to what their needs and problems are but may not know how to voice all of them or understand the implications of them.  Later on in the buyer’s journey when the prospect is evaluating your product or multiple options, a demo is more appropriate because all of the prospect needs have been clearly defined.

2.  Use that all-powerful key word:  “If”

Prospects don’t want to be bludgeoned by the hard sale (it’s not the 30’s anymore) and you certainly don’t want to come across as a snake oil salesman.  Probing into the needs of the prospect is crucial and is a first good step into beginning the sales process.  It gives you better insight as to why they are evaluating products and if your product can help them.  That key word, “If”, is one you should discuss with them openly.  Don’t be afraid of losing the sale.  Genuinely hold their best interest in mind and you’ll close more deals.  

There are several different approaches to investigating the prospect, for example in the SPIN methodology, Neil Rackham preaches the use of 4 different types of investigative questions: situation, problem, implication, and need pay-offs.  The Challenger Method by Matthew Dixon adds a confrontational spin on this type of questioning in order to control and dominate the conversation while gaining the role of an expert and authority on the matter.  Without borrowing too much from previous methodologies, the importance of an initial investigation cannot be understated.  Key things that need to be discovered in order to provide a relevant solution are, for example, current state of the prospect, what types of problems they are experiencing, why these problems are important enough to investigate solutions, and what type of solutions are needed to fix the current problem.

3.  Focus on your product/market fit

Your product is not the best fit for every prospect – so why are you demoing to everyone? Alternately, not every customer is a great fit for your product or company (if they can’t pay, for example).  Developing and having an ideal customer profile that is more defined than “can afford my product” is a great place to start.  When you have a strong understanding of your product’s benefits and features and a strong value proposition, you can back into an ideal customer profile.  If you need help developing a value proposition, there is a great article on forbes that can help.  Once you’ve decided that the prospect is a good fit as a potential customer, it’s a good idea to start analyzing their needs and aligning those needs with your product’s benefits…”If” they are a match.

4.  Personalize it.  Please, just stop talking, listen, and then personalize it

Your customer has revealed their needs to you and now it’s time to prescribe a solution.  Focus on an integrative approach to selling, i.e. focus on creating and expanding on value that is relevant to your prospect AND to you.  This approach will establish a positive relationship with the prospect and establish yourself as an expert and advocate for their problems.  It’s a good practice to remind yourself to talk about benefits rather than features.  Discussing features without a well-understood need can seem irrelevant to the prospect and can negatively impact your sale.

Finally, it’s time to demo!

You know what problems your customer has, you’ve discovered that your product is a great fit for their needs, you know that they are an ideal customer for your business, you’ve discussed the benefits and advantages of your product – tailored to their needs – and now it’s finally time to take the prospect on a test drive and show them what your product can really do. The demo is the perfect opportunity to show how relevant your product is to their needs and give them a first hand look at how it benefits them.

Depending on the length of the sales cycle and whether it’s a high value or low value sale, the demo may happen on the 1st call, or the 5th.  Either way, it’s good practice to do the due diligence and prepare for the demo and make sure that the prospect is ready to see the demo.  For more insight on demoing, check out 11 tips for a more memorable b2b demo.

Consensus is Intelligent Demo Automation that scales your presales function.
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