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Don’t Demo Yourself Out of a Sale

Using the product demo to help close a sale

A product demonstration can be the killer of a sales opportunity. I’ve seen many a sales call go down in flames because the demo did not address the prospect’s main issues and pains. This usually happens when the Sales Process is either out of whack or non-existent.

What often happens with the demo is that the sales person tries to show what his product can do too soon. He tries to show off his wonderful product and all its glorious features before he knows what the prospect needs. And it doesn’t matter if he’s demonstrating a software product or decorator window coverings. The results are the same. The prospect ends up hearing about a bunch of features and functions that don’t interest him nor solve his specific problems. This is the same thing as talking too much or too soon.

A sales person needs to ask the right questions first, and then listen carefully to the answers BEFORE explaining his products and the benefits, so that there’s a good fit. It’s equally bad with the demonstration, sometimes even worse, because when the sales person has the opportunity to “show his wares”, he can take this as a sign of interest on the part of the prospect. Sometimes it is, but frequently it is not. It is only a sign that the prospect wants to see how your product might help him. But if you haven’t asked him what specific problems he is having, then what exactly will you be demonstrating? The answer — A whole lot of what he doesn’t need and possibly a little bit of what he does need (if you’re lucky).

Your goal should be to spend a lot of time during the first meetings with a prospect learning and understanding what his pains are. This takes patience. You can easily try demonstrating your product at your first meeting, but it would be premature. Given what you learn in your first meeting, you can then customize the demo to perform some of the functions your prospect will relate to. These small customizations will help reveal exactly how your product can solve some of your prospect’s problems.

Sometimes you are forced to show your product or do a demo before you’ve had a chance to ask the questions you’d like. The prospect gets right to the point – “Show me what you’ve got!” or “I can only make a decision if I see what it is I’m buying!” In these cases, I always cause some sort of a “hidden” stall or delay. In my business when I’m demonstrating a CRM product, I have the perfect built-in delay. It’s called “boot time”. Yes, that’s the time it takes my laptop to boot up. I also add in there the time involved with pulling it out of my bag, hooking up the projector and associated wires, plugging it in, and anything else I can think of to buy me more time, and I take my darn sweet time doing it too.

What do I do with this extra time? Ask a million questions! Sometimes I say, while hooking things up and booting up my laptop, “I can give you a demo that will last for days because there’s so much I can show you. But I don’t think you’d go for that. So in order for me to focus on the specific functionality that will help you make a decision, would you mind if I ask you some questions while I’m setting up?” They ALWAYS agree to this, even if it’s simply to prevent an awkward silence while I’m on my knees reaching for the outlet. You have to be good at asking questions and listening while juggling other things. So this may take you some practice. But I can assure you that it is extremely effective. You just have to do it and not get tempted to just jump into a demo showing them everything that YOU think is important, instead of what’s important to your prospect. One time I actually got so engaged in a conversation with my prospect about his needs that I ended up not doing the demo at all – and I won the deal! Instead, while I was setting up the demo, we discussed his pains and how we can solve them with our technology and services. It was a totally benefits-oriented discussion that worked perfectly.

So what have we learned? A product demo can make or break a sale, depending on its timing. We have to get the prospect to tell us where it hurts so we know exactly what to demonstrate, and good listening skills are required to make this work successfully. We learned that patience is a virtue and to not get tempted by showing our product too soon, before we know what they need. We also learned to customize the product so the demonstration closely resembles the ultimate solution or so your prospect can easily visualize how it will help his unique problems. Finally, we learned how to create natural delays to stall the demo when the prospect wants it before you are ready to give it, so you can use that time more effectively to learn about his needs. So don’t demo yourself out of a sale. Use the demo as a closing tool.

Good luck and good selling!

By Russ Lombardo