The Lengthy Demo

A client writes "When a prospect expresses interest in my company's product, we encourage them to sign up for our hour-long demo. Many balk at this, saying they don't have that kind of time. They ask if we have a shorter one. We don't. It's a frustrating situation for management and the salespeople.

"We spent a lot of money and resources developing this demo. With potential customers well informed about our product when they contact us, I assumed they would be ready for this level of detail. What are we doing wrong?"
Long demos, multi-page white papers, and emails with six different attachments. Buyers I know complain about this frequently. It's a problem.

A Big Disconnect

We all know the buying cycle has changed. Customers spend time educating themselves about a product or service, then contact the vendor. They have moved through part of the sales cycle before speaking with a salesperson. Except that part of the way differs from all of the way.  Companies misunderstand this and inundate prospects with information.  

Differentiate Between Interested and Interested

When customers express some amount of interest in a product, reps often optimistically misinterpret it. One person's "some interest" differs from another's - regardless of how much time they've spent researching the product online. Salespeople need to determine the customer's actual level of interest in and knowledge about the product before proceeding. Questions should include:

  • How did you find out about us?
  • Tell me about your needs in this area.
  • How do you handle this issue currently?
  • How is that working out?
  • Have you looked at our website / blog / LinkedIn page?
  • What was of particular interest to you?

Inquiries like this help the salesperson distinguish between prospects who:

  • remain uncertain as to whether or not they absolutely need the product
  • know they need / want the product but are shopping around
  • have almost made their mind up about which product they would choose (yours)

Appropriate Next Step

Companies must create and make available to reps: webinars, presentations, product demos and marketing information of varying lengths and types appropriate to the customer's level of interest.  

As reps get better at asking questions and listening to the answers, they'll start to more clearly understand each situation and which one works best in that particular situation.

Keep it Brief

Instead of offering all prospects an hour long demo, create a 10 - 15 minute presentation. Almost everyone has that kind of time. Customers communicating enthusiasm for the product will likely either agree to see the presentation right then and there - or schedule a time to take a look.  

Reps offering a short demo make no hard and fast assumptions about a prospect's interest level, respect their schedule, and provide appropriate "next level" information.  This paves the way for another sales interaction.

Final Thoughts - The Hour Long Demo

If a customer conveys a genuine interest in the product, backs this up with facts or figures from their online search, has a recommendation from a colleague or assures the rep your product is far and away their number one choice, you could potentially interest them in an hour-long demo. But if they balk at this time commitment, you could irritate or scare them off. Where do you go from there?

Few prospects watch an hour-long demo spontaneously or by themselves. Most want to schedule it at a time that works for them and ask several other employees to participate in the process (a good sign). It should be reserved only for those prospects at the appropriate place in the sales cycle and worth everyone's time investment - yours and theirs.