Labcast: The Right Way to Use Demos in Technology Sales

In our latest Labcast, B2B sales veteran Tibor Shanto outlines the right way to use demos in tech sales.

Tibor Shanto is a recognized speaker, author, and sought-after trainer. He’s also the co-author of Shift! Harness the Trigger Events that Turn Prospects into Customers. A 20-year veteran of B2B sales in information, content management, and financial sectors, Tibor has developed an insider’s perspective on how information can be used to shorten sales cycles, increase close ratios, and create double-digit growth.

Podcast Transcript

Kevin: Hello again, and welcome to this episode of Labcast. I’m Kevin Cain, and I’m joined by today by Tibor Shanto, a 20 year veteran of B2B sales and information, content management and financial sectors. Tibor is a recognized speaker, author, and sought after trainer. He’s also the co-author of “Shift!: Harness the Trigger Events that Turn Prospects Into Customers.”  Thanks for joining us, Tibor. How’s it going?

Tibor: Good morning. Very well, thank you. How are you?

Kevin: Very well, thanks. So, I wanted to start off today giving people a sense of what we’re going to talk about, and that’s really what the right way is to use demos and technology sales. So I guess my first question to you is you’ve gone down as saying that demo was a four letter word, and so I’m curious to hear what you mean by that.

Tibor: Well, what I mean by that is that in some ways it’s something that is often used the wrong way, and often, I think, not only slows down a sale but perhaps costs the salesperson a sale. So, the four letter word, I was trying to get people to look at the way that they are doing demos now in sort of a negative connotation, i.e., such as a four letter word.

The general view, and I’d be happy to get into specifics as you like, but I think generally what I think is that too many people selling “solutions” tend to demo too early, and it’s generally to the detriment of the sale, both from the customer’s point of view and the seller’s point of view.

Kevin: Right. So, then in your opinion, what exactly makes for a good demo?

Tibor: I think for a good demo is that you’ve actually gone through the sales process and have clearly understood and inventoried the client’s objectives, what they’re looking to achieve, and how it is that you both agree that your product or application is a means of helping to achieve those objectives. The demo is there to validate that everything that you’ve agreed on is, in fact, there in the product or the solution, and it’s the last, what I would say, piece of the puzzle that pulls it together, that the demo validates everything that you’ve told them it would do vis-à-vis their objectives and the only thing left to do is to move forward.

So, I think, to me, the demo should be one of the last, if not the last, steps before coming to an agreement with a buyer.

Kevin: All right. So let’s assume that you’ve got a good demo. What’s the right way to use it?

Tibor: Well, I think the right way to use it is to go into the sale not being dependent on the product or the demo. If you will, the demo is the ultimate feature benefit dump. Rather than doing your job as a salesperson, you sort of bring out your demo and you hope that it’s shiny and wows the buys into taking action.

So, I think the right way to do it is to, again, make sure that you’re engaging with the right people, and again, that could be multiple people in the company, depending on the nature of the application. Once you’re engaged with them, go through a full and thorough discovery process, understanding not only what their objectives are but what’s the impact for them individually and for them as a company if they achieve those objectives, and really understand why they’re in the market to begin with, what’s precipitated the current exploration or potential purchase.

Once all those things are on the table and you have had an opportunity to have a true dialogue with the buyer and they have an understanding of how your application can help, they also have an understanding of, maybe, what are some of the current elements of what they’re looking for that are not available in your application but why that’s not a negative or why that’s not an issue that can be addressed.

Then, ultimately once you have all of the elements in place, then the demo’s there, as the word implies, to demonstrate that, in fact, your product has those capabilities. So I think I would stick with the traditional approach of really coming to an understanding of what the objectives of the client are, and then explaining to them and getting them to agree that the elements of your solution can address those objectives or drive those objectives. Then the demo is there just to validate or leave the ribbon on the wrapping, as it were.

Kevin: So, you’ve been in the business for more than 20 years now. Can you give us any real life examples of times where demos went really well or went really poorly, and sort of, what happened?

Tibor: Sure. I used to sell information or online content, as we used to call it. When a demo went well is when, again, I can give you a financial institution up here in Canada where they were actively looking in the marketplace. They were looking at ourselves and our major competitor, both international brands.

Our competitor gave them a demo relatively early in the process. They wowed them. They gave them a bunch of passwords, and  the idea was go to town, and the competitor’s view was that if they can get them addicted on the content, it would be hard for them to give up the demo, whereas we kept talking to the various stakeholders, the various users and really understanding what it is that they’re trying to achieve.

So, as they were struggling to learn the features of our competitor’s product with a 30 day free trial, we were actually learning what their frustrations were, what they were really trying to get to, what the noise in the product was that was preventing them from getting to that and so on.

So, when we finally unveiled, for lack of a better word, our product and demoed it, we were able to demo it in a way that highlighted those things that they wanted to see in the other product, highlighted those differentiators that made our product more suitable to their need at the time, and also allowed us to, in a sense, de-emphasize some of the things that both products had in common that were not exactly favorite features of the users.

An instance of a good demo, several of them I’ve seen where, again, people agree on all of the terms, and at the very end, the customer is given an opportunity to use the product, whether it’s a piece of software or, in our case, it was online information. It delivered all the things that they were expected to do.

I remember this one particular case where we worked through some of the business implications that they were trying to achieve using information. This was a marketing department, and they were clearly looking for competitive intelligence and so on. We took a long time understanding what some of their work environments were, what were some of the competitive aspects that they were trying to get a view on in advance of the market and so on. We were able to set them up where parts of our service were highlighted that hits their needs directly. When they saw what they can get without the noise, without a lot of work, and without a lot of effort on their part, they agreed that everything we had talked to, all of the needs and all of the requirements that they had listed were actually met by the demo. As a result of that, they became customers or online users.

Kevin: That’s great.

Tibor: If I can add one thing, I think with a lot of things in sales, sometimes it’s the simple things that make a difference. I think if people focus on the buyer’s objectives and needs and spend time understanding what those are and then work towards addressing them, I think you will find that demos work a lot better because you’re going to spend time on that. If salespeople approach it, and some companies do this, all I have to do is get them to a point where I can do a demo, or some of them even do a premature demo without knowing it, where as soon as they get into a selling situation, once they do the small talk and introduction, they pull out their PowerPoint deck and put everybody to sleep in the process. In a sense, they’ve just demoed the deal to death.

Kevin: Right. This has been really interesting, Tibor. So, just for the sake of our listeners, can you tell us where they can go to get more information from you?

Tibor: From me?

Kevin: In terms of your blog or online presence.

Tibor: Sure. The easiest place would be www.SellBetter.ca. The blog can be found at www.SellBetter.ca/blog. They can find me on Twitter @TiborShanto. If you’ll allow me one last shameless plug, they can always phone me toll-free at 855-25-SALES.

Kevin: That’s great. Well, thanks so much for your time, Tibor, today. We really appreciate it and look forward to catching up again soon.

Tibor: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity. Have a great day.

Kevin: You too.

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