Sales Demos are challenging no matter what. You get an hour and you need to accomplish a whole lot of things in it. You research about the prospect, the participants in the demo and try to cater the demo to them only to find that come the demo time few new insurgents get in. That coupled with the unmistakable issue with projector’s reluctance to be punctual is enough to make sweat appear on your forehead.
If in-person demos aren’t challenging enough, doing a remote product demo on the web takes it up another notch. You now have to contend with the painful experience of installing some plugin (WebEx being the worst) and then have audience spread across different locations, some on screechy VOIP phone. Given all the force majeure possibilities, the least you could is to be well-prepared for the demo, when the all the stars finally align.
While there are challenges aplenty in a remote demo, there are some bright sides too. With a few smart techniques you might be able to achieve more in a remote demo than in an in-person demo. Here are some simple techniques
- Make them a stakeholder: Once the date for the remote demo is fixed, get working on finalizing the agenda. Instead of trying to define the outline for the demo yourself, make the audience (mainly the sponsor on the customer side) have a stake in the demo. Empathize with them that despite all the “inconveniences” of a remote demo, your goal is to ensure they get everything they are looking for in the demo. And hence you would like them to define the agenda. Send her/him a one slide deck with bullet points of what you could be covered and what you think the audience would takeaway. At this point you are better off not making a ask. The last thing you want is the remote demo audience to arrive disenchanted about having to deal with another sales guy who is trying to peddle another product that they might not need. Indicate to her (the sponsor) that the agenda bullets you sent are just placeholders and you would rather that she come up with the agenda and what she (and her team) would like to see and takeaway. Once you get her to define the agenda, unbeknownst to her you have made her a stakeholder in the demo’s success.
- Seek information without implying as much: While designing the bullet points for the preparatory one-slide deck, while listing takeaways, deliberately put roles of each decision maker(CEO, CFO, CIO…) you think would be present on prospect’s side and leave the takeaway column in front of their name empty. This will now serve as a template for the sponsor to fill in. Given that you have put specific roles there, they will now be forced to put expected takeaways for each/most of those roles. If they did not put anything – atleast you know that that role might not be a decision maker/stakeholder or present in the demo. See now without being very intrusive you have sought out some critical information. At worst, you might get people with those roles invited to the demo.
- Target their agenda: One more thing you will benefit from is that in addition to receiving the agenda, as part of it, now you’ve got a clear outline of what they are expecting out of the demo. An in-person demo might not have yielded this information as easily. Not to sound presumptuous, but typically we leave a lot of things for later, as discussion points, to be done during the demo. Here now due to the constraint (it being a remote demo), you now know upfront, their expected takeaway. So you have the luxury of tailoring your demo to the target (the takeaways).
- Keep them involved: Now that you are better prepared, conducted the demo slowly and have the sponsor guide you through the agenda. Make an explicit request for her to guide you in terms of what/when to move forward. Tell her that, given that she is in the room with the stakeholders and can see the sentiments, she would be in a better position to guide the demo. By involving her, you are now keeping the entire lot on the other side of the phone engaged. If the sponsor on the other side happens to be the Big Boss, (with her being the demo guide) the participation would be great. If the sponsor has her boss in the room as an attendee, you will be helping her win brownie points with her boss on her leaderships skills. So it is a win-win situation.
- Leave-behind just in time: One of the critical things about product demos is the leave-behinds. You need to have something that keeps your value proposition fresh in their mind after you leave, atleast until your follow up call. Considering that you are not going to be there to leave behind things, have all those documents ready before the demo. When you are half way through the demo, send them via email. If you time it right, you might be able to bring up a topic that is in the leave-behind material and mention that if the sponsor checked her inbox she should have a brochure/whitepaper/datasheet that will have more information on that topic. Don’t send it ahead of time, they will have looked into the material and that would reduce the intrigue. Sending it just as you are mentioning it in the demo makes a big impression – believe me. It also speaks to your well-preparedness. (My assumption here is that the sponsor would come to a presentation with her laptop/iPad and would get to see your email with leave-behind material trickle in, if not make that a request ahead of meeting under the guise of just in case).
- Close before you end: One of the key objectives of sales demo is to eek out the next call where you can discuss the next steps. Most sales demos go long and by the time it is 5 mins to end the demo most participants start drifting out. The sponsor, herself, might be already thinking about the next meeting she has to hop to. In a remote web demo, this phenomenon might occur even earlier. So make sure that before you get to the end of the demo/presentation, create a close. Identify something in the “sponsor-proposed” agenda that you can provide follow up/deeper information on and agree on providing that as a follow up. If you can eek out a in-person meeting given that you might “coincidentally” be in the area (might work for a local prospect) that would be great. Once that accomplished, then end the demo.
I have tried this model a few times, starting with parts of it and finally settling with the outline above. Nowhere in the whole process did I come across as peddling something or presumptuous already knowing that the prospect needed my product. Nothing puts off clients as someone who comes to a company with very little knowledge and professes to know their needs. I will tell you from my personal experience, while being on the other side of the table, making buying decisions, I have spared no time shooing away such pests.