Home Resources Newsletters Tactic Deep Dive: Demos

Tactic Deep Dive: Demos

November 28, 2017

Look around and you’ll see them; things that many people do, but relatively few do well. Whether attempting home improvements, cooking, dancing or ordering wine in a restaurant, most of us know we’re not experts but due to necessity (trying to save money), foolish pride (trying to impress someone) or both, we make the effort.

The same phenomenon exists when it comes to b-to-b demand creation tactics. Despite their ubiquity, we commonly get questions about how to improve their performance, including when/how they should be used and for whom. To address these queries, SiriusDecisions launched a series of “deep dives” focused on optimizing a range of demand creation tactics. In this issue, we take a closer look at demos.

The Demo Trio

The term “product demonstrations” has often been used as a catchall for a wide range of evaluation activities. SiriusDecisions has defined three categories of product demonstrations, all of which are designed to give prospective customers different looks at a vendor’s offerings and capabilities:

  • Demos. This first category generally refers to guided demonstrations that are shared in person with a prospect by a sales rep or other resource, or available on a Web site for prospects to view at their leisure.
  • Trials. Trials are offered as either a download or via a Web portal to prospects. Enterprise software trials often have a limited feature set or database, so they do not truly represent the “live” environment (particularly from an integration perspective). Trials often have a time restriction such as 30 or 60 days.
  • Proofs of concept. These onsite installations are much more in-depth in nature, usually requiring the support of a prospect’s IT department and advanced vendor resources. The length of the installation varies, but it often encompasses a pilot phase of 90 days or more.

Self-guided demos are effective at the beginning of a buying cycle, as they save sales from wasting time on prospects that are only gathering information. These demos are comprised of a narrated series of screen shots or interactive vignettes that illustrate business issues and how a particular offering can ease a pain point or help achieve a vision. Self-guided demos usually leverage multimedia technology, such as Flash or video, to make them visually engaging and interactive. We recommend that guided demos are aligned to key customer segments such as industries, geographies or job roles; messaging, vernacular and visuals should be specific and relevant to the segment.

In-person demos are usually leveraged during the middle stage of the buying cycle to help reps articulate a value story, and to demonstrate alignment between the prospect’s specific needs and the proposed solution. Their configuration typically requires a great deal of effort; an engineer or rep must be able to interpret a buyer’s business issues/needs, then tailor the demo accordingly. Because it’s nearly impossible to create a demo that can target all opportunities, demos must allow a sales engineer or specialist to customize the data, fields, content or features to a prospect’s unique situation.

 

Demos: Common Mistakes

The fact that demos are used in almost every b-to-b sales process doesn’t mean that most – or even many – organizations maximize their effectiveness. Following are the five most common mistakes we see organizations make when it comes to creating and executing demos:

  • Appears amateurish. Self-guided demos must engage prospects and be credible enough to prompt them to take a next buying step. If you don’t have the in-house talent to create a crisp, professional-looking demo, consider outsourcing to an agency. Write the script as a story with a plot that presents a business problem or objective; it should illustrate how the characters representing the buyer roles involved solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity by leveraging the solution. Do not pontificate, or get too cute/clever; maintain a professional, informative tone and ensure that any humor is both tasteful and presented within a business context. Keep self-guided demos short; vignettes should be no more than five to seven minutes in length.
  • Bad timing. If a rep opens up his/her computer at the wrong time, a buying process can be derailed. Align your demo strategy to the information needs of buyers at the appropriate stage of their cycles, and design the demo to move the buyer to the next stage. One of the biggest complaints in high-tech organizations is that sales engineer resources are often wasted on calls that aren’t yet appropriate for them. Before issuing a demo request, develop a series of questions to test whether the prospect has been qualified, and is ready for the demo.
  • Weak backbone. Demo support is getting more complex due to the various applications available for demo creation, as well as the technical nuances of webcast and Internet delivery platforms. If your organization needs to deploy demos globally, make sure your webcast provider can support country-level dial-in numbers. While VoIP may be more cost effective, many large enterprises or government agencies don’t allow it because of firewall and security issues. Finally, use a demo content management system that allows the hosting of demos in a central location; this maintains consistency between reps and lessens the likelihood of malfunctions or bandwidth issues on a rep’s laptop.
  • Missed measurements. Consider the demos on your Web site just as you would a downloadable white paper or other content; a registration process helps to acquire information about a prospect before providing access. Without an automated solution to aggregate this activity with the rest your tactics, you’ll miss out on gathering another opportunity to further refine a prospect’s lead score.
  • Faulty execution. Presentation format and delivery skills are key, especially when performing a demonstration over a Web meeting that doesn’t allow for body language cues to understand a prospect’s reaction. Training is not enough; you must ensure that your training efforts and demo investments are being internalized by sales through a dedicated certification program.

Product or solution marketing must play a critical role not only in demo creation, but also in enabling sales to effectively deliver demos by architecting the storyline and creating content. Sales operations or field marketing typically owns the infrastructure, process and support of the online demo center and the internal demo library. These teams are also responsible for defining sales requirements and driving the enterprise-wide demo strategy, and collaborating with product/solution marketing to ensure alignment with sales’ needs.

 

    The Sirius Decision

    While demos are a necessary component of any b-to-b high-tech sales process, they are often overlooked by product/solution marketing as a tactic for sales enablement, and by sales management as a distinct behavior that must be cultivated through dedicated training and skills development. When either – or both of these – occur, chances are you’ll be demonstrating an inability to understand your buyer’s business issues, and to communicate to them effectively. Talk about the best laid plans backfiring.