Is Demo Short for Demolition?


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Earlier this week I spent two days with a technology company client in New York City.  As with every other tech company with which we’ve been engaged, I was asked about my opinion on demos.  The discussion prompted this post.

On the sell-side, the precise approach to demos will differ company-by-company, product-by-product. Selling  iPhones?  Demo early and demo often.  Selling a relatively undifferentiated piece of application software?  A early, generic demo will further commoditize you in the eyes of your prospect.  You’re just asking to be in a bake-off and ultimately a price battle, because you are drawing their attention to common features, not how you can uniquely improve their business.

On the buy-side, the lower down in an organization you’re selling, the more important the demo is.  One of the best salespeople I’ve ever worked with always sells high in his customers’ organizations.  He still says, “The best demo is no demo.”  He’s closed many multi-million dollar deals without his SE (sales engineer) having given a demo.  “With our software, there is absolutely no upside giving a demo.  But the risk is substantial, so I avoid them unless not doing one will cost me a deal.”  He doesn’t sell sexy iPhone apps.

Sam Reese, CEO of Miller Heiman, wrote a post a few weeks ago on the subject.  It’s a short post, but covers a couple of critical points.  It’s worth the read.

Another consideration:  When you’re selling software into companies with an IT organization, sometimes they’re your toughest competitor—not the other software company.  Giving IT an early demo without having already established your credibility with the business managers who need your solution provides IT with an opportunity to learn about all the reasons you shouldn’t be considered.  They could easily block any further progress by providing evidence to those business managers why your software just won’t get the job done, be compatible with the current architecture, etc., etc.  Hold off on the demo, and you can have the time to immunize the business managers against the inevitable IT nay-saying.

There are a lot of things to think about when formulating your company’s demo strategy.  For a technology company, this is a critical component of building an effective sales process.   Doing a demo as an unplanned reaction to a customer request (or demand) is never the right approach.  Neither is letting your salespeople lead with a demo because they don’t know how to carry on a discussion with the right people about the customer’s business.

Photo: © James Steidl –

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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