One of the most inefficient, costly, time consuming but critical steps in the sales process is the live product demonstration (usually known as just "the demo"). Ask any B2B sales professional if their demos are an efficient part of selling and they’ll almost always respond with a resounding “No.” However, there are two sides to the demo coin. When they tell you how time consuming and repetitive demos can be, they will also say that the demo is one, if not the, most important and essential step in the sales process. Why so cold and hot? When you understand the benefits of demos, then you'll see why demo automation can be so powerful.
What are the benefits of a live demo?
Doing live demos has its benefits. During a live demo you often:
Get a better read on the customer’s interest in certain aspects of your product (e.g. you hear things like, “Wow, I really like that feature” or “That is critical to us”)
Find out what is truly most important to the customer and what is not (e.g. “Can you move on--we’ve seen enough of this section” or “Can we look deeper into this part of your solution?”)
Discover and engage other members of the buying panel (e.g. “Wow, this has been a great demo, can we set up another time to show it to some other people in our organization?”)
Why automate something so important?
In spite of all of the benefits, doing live product demos (whether in person or using web-based screen sharing) comes with heavy baggage:
It’s time consuming and expensive
You spend 45-60 minutes per demo (and many spend much more than that). Time well spent? Maybe. You often have to demo 4-5 times before you close the sale because of the large buying group. If it's an in-person demo, it most likely requires travel expenses which can add up fast. Calculating the labor costs alone can terrify even the bravest business leaders.
It draws out the sales cycle
If you have to demo 4-5 times to reach the different stakeholders in your buying group, and it takes two to three weeks between each demo to coordinate schedules, we’re talking between 3-5 months before we can close the sale from the time we hold our first demo. It’s no wonder some companies have year-long sales cycles!
- It requires a high level of expertise
Many organizations employ "demo specialists" who spend years learning their product lines. Often known as Sales Engineers or Solution Consultants they are in high demand but it takes a long time to train people to get to that level of expertise.
It’s not scalable...at all
Because it’s live, and because it takes up so much time, it puts an incredible amount of drag on your organization’s ability to scale. Each sales professional has a limited caseload they can handle. Moreover, each new salesperson or sales engineer has to learn how to do the demo, taking longer to ramp up new team members.
It’s not repeatable or predictable
Every salesperson or sales engineer does the demo differently. This adds a huge amount of variability into your messaging and customer experience and makes quality control a pipe dream.
It forces you to pick and choose which prospects get the best service
Because you cannot do a live demo for everyone, you have to choose which potential customers get live demos and which don’t, potentially leaving large segments of potential customers grossly under-serviced.
There are huge opportunity costs
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What would my sales people be doing if they could reduce the amount of time they spend doing product demos by 75%?” Hopefully the answer to this question isn’t “improving their golf swing.”
So just what is “Demo Automation” anyways?
If a textbook was to define “Demo Automation" it would say that it is the use of interactive web and mobile technology to automate the product demonstration so that sales professionals can spend less time demoing and more time closing sales...ugh, that was so text-booky. Here it is with some color: smartly crafted new SaaS technology lets each prospect get a personalized video product demo, so sales people can focus their client interactions on closing and/or making-it-rain.
What demo automation isn’t:
Sometimes people confuse demo automation with posting a video on Youtube. While that makes the content accessible, it inherently leave some gaping holes. It is not:
Simply posting videos online. While they are available and you can track general analytics, you get no actionable insight for each prospect, and no personalization.
Posting a link to a PowerPoint presentation. While it does make content available, it doesn’t personalize the experience and usually isn’t engaging. How many of us like to watch PowerPoint really? Even with someone showing us the PowerPoint, it’s just not that interesting.
An attempt to replace the salesperson. The goal is to put tools in their hands that engage customers, and that will make sales people more efficient, allowing them to both handle more customers and, more importantly, accelerate the sales process.
How do you effectively automate a demo?
In order to effectively automate a product demo, you need to address the following concerns. It needs to:
Personalize the content to each prospect’s unique interests and needs so that they are fully engaged. Self-configuring personalization should speak to different verticals or other criteria and should offer additional ‘drill-down’ content if the prospect wants to go further.
Be available any time and anywhere.
Notify the salesperson when the prospect watches or shares the demo so they can engage the prospect at the time they are most actively engaged.
Track individual analytics about how each prospect interacts with the demo so that the salesperson can tell what is important, not important, and understand the prospect’s reaction to the product.
Collect analytics across all demo views so you can see trends in customer interest and engagement.
Encourage and track sharing to help the salesperson discover and engage the buying panel early in the sales process as well as reduce the number of times live demos are necessary.
Be educational AND persuasive in order to get the prospect to take action.
I sometimes hear the phrase, “The demo is such an important step where I connect with the customer and get a read on them, and I just can’t afford to automate it.” Don’t get me wrong, automation isn’t going to replace personal interaction. It will simply make those interactions exponentially more efficient and effective. An automation platform allows you to put your sales process into overdrive. It will help scale your sales, increase sales productivity, shorten the sales cycle, and decrease the cost of customer acquisition - all while delivering incredible customer insights. In light of these benefits, how long can we afford not to automate the demo? If you want to read more about some of the benefits, check out this post on how automation can add asynchronicity to your sales. For tips on delivering an effective demo, check out this post.
Why Still Do a Live Demo?
Why do some organizations still do live product demos? The most common reason is “My customers need that extra-special personal touch.” In short, the salesperson can adjust to the customer’s needs on the fly and personalize each demo to their prospects unique interests and needs.
The second most common reason is that the salesperson knows it is a critical time for under-cover intelligence gathering. When face-to-face (or over the internet) the sales professional can ask as many questions as needed to know exactly what the prospect is thinking.
Who is Demo Automation For?
Demo automation is for:
- Sales Development Reps (SDRs)
- Pre-sales Professionals including Sales Engineers and Solution Consultants
- Account Executives
- Channel Partners who are surrogate salespeople
- Product Marketers
- Account Based Marketers (ABM)
Short answer? Whoever is doing your live demos now. Again, I'm not suggesting you complete replace your live demos, but instead reduce how many you do and make the ones you do wildly more efficient and effective. Bring multiple stakeholders to your demo educated and ready to talk specifics. Understand ahead of time what is driving each stakeholder's unique interests and where there is alignment and misalignment across the buying group.