If you sell software, it’s likely that your website or marketing emails have offered prospects a demo. Or perhaps anyone who downloads content receives a call from a rep offering to book a demo. On their own, there’s nothing wrong with these calls-to-action, but hurrying to convert a prospect to ‘demo-stage’ is problematic. Putting too much focus on demos could actually lose you sales.

Demos Don’t Bring About Quick Closes

Pushing prospects into seeing a demo smacks of the old way prospects were treated. This stems from how they were viewed in the 19th and 20th centuries, as people who depended on sales for information, where sales withheld information and used it to compel prospects to talk exclusively to them. Prospects in the Internet age have the upper hand, they won’t let sellers railroad them through a demo and an assumptive close. In this age, buyers expect to experience everything that’s in your demo, without needing to see your demo.

You may say, “If they could only see what the software does, they’ll buy it on the spot!” But be aware that a demo can work against efforts to close a deal quickly. For example, if you’re in a category where client data can vary wildly, be careful lest the data becomes the focus of the demo, not your product. If the prospect can’t see how the canned data relates to their data, they won’t envision themselves using your product. What’s more, doing a live demo with canned data may confuse the prospect. It’s like trying to sell a car to someone who doesn’t yet have their driver’s license by forcing them into a test drive. You wouldn’t expect them to have the information (or the state of mind) to make a purchasing decision after being behind the wheel, would you? By the same token, you can’t expect a prospect to see unfamiliar data in an unfamiliar product and come away knowing what they should buy.

Buyers Don’t Want Demos, They want Answers

In actuality, the prospect is never excited about bringing software into their organization. They are evaluating whether the risk/reward proposition your software offers can deliver a net gain for their organization.

When buyers are on your site, much of their effort goes into forming an opinion of you, determining if you are trustworthy. This matters, because after becoming a client, they’re reliant on you for so much more than just your product; they’ve entrusted you to solve their business needs. This trust takes time to build up, and it’s done by giving prospects ways to satisfy their questions. It’s these pre-demo steps that are more crucial than the actual demo.

Before buying, prospects have to answer key concerns like:

  • What does the product solve and what doesn’t it solve?
  • Was the product built with their kind of problem in mind?
  • Is the way it solves their problem superior to the other ways their problem could be solved?

 

Notice that a standalone demo rarely answers these questions. That’s why sellers need to have blog posts and other online content that answers these questions. They should be answered long before reaching the end stage of a buying process, where demos normally happen. Feel free to use different media for answering questions. Can you make short videos showing your product? Most people will be satisfied by the realness of a product video, without getting bogged down in a demo.

You ought to have raised questions or prompted the buyer to ask about all facets of your product well before doing a demo. Rushing into a demo without this prep work invites risk. For one, the buyer might find another vendor who liberally shares this information, leading to the other vendor winning the business, instead of you. Secondly, the demo may make them realize they haven’t completed their evaluation and they go silent on you. But as you’ve played every card you have, you are left with nothing to rekindle the conversation or gain progress updates from them. Remember, demos can also fail, blowing your credibility.

The Right Way to Demo

The demo is best used as a punctuation mark at the end of the buying/selling discussion. It’s simply a proof that your product does what you say it does. The buyer starts off assuming that the product will work in their environment. So if the buyer requests a demo, it’s not to see if your product works, but it’s probably to recap all the internal justifications they mounted for buying from you.

In conclusion, I’m not anti-demo. I’m against prematurely forcing your solution on buyers. They don’t need clamped-down talk tracks to help them decide a purchase, they need open-minded vendors who will help them find facts.