Friday, May 8, 2009

Running a Sales Demonstration Solo

While I always plan taking in a "friendly" face into a demo, there is always the case that you end up in the room demonstrating the product on your own with the customer.  Maybe your sales rep called in sick that day, or you get separated at the customer and you are in a different meeting. Also you may be in the situation where your "friend" in the meeting cannot help you. They might be acting impartial, or not have the information or experience to carry your side.

The main thing to realise in this case is that you can't just put your head down, show the demo and go home. You have to be the whole sales team in that meeting.
  • At all times, you need to remember the goal - how this meeting is moving the customer forward, 
  • You need to note down any action items,
  • You need to present the corporate and commercial side for your organisation
  • and you need to do your normal side of the presentation as well!
All of these tasks are equally important. 
How to drive the customer forward:
Every meeting should be there to bring you closer to a deal. It is about moving your way closer to the decision maker, and then moving them towards the decision. Don't stray from this focus - distractions can waste a lot of your time, and can also move you further from the goal. If you can't progress in the meeting because the right people aren't there, don't give away the means to come back and see them. If a technical demo at this stage would take away any urgency to see the customer again, don't do it!
Action items:
The most important piece of kit you take to a meeting is your notepad (and pens!). Mine is just a spiral bound pad of A4 paper. I use it to take down notes, draw diagrams, and ensure that I know what I have promised to do for the prospect. I also note down what they promise to give me. Don't be timid in taking actions away from a meeting, because each one is an ironclad reason to come back and continue your dialog with the prospect.
Corporate and Commercial:
Because you are acting solo, it is even more important for the customer to know who they are dealing with as a company. You need to explain how your organisation is able to support them. 90% of all sales is fulfilling the need of the customer, and they need to know that your company will be around to help them. If your aren't very commercially inclined, this is the minimum you should fulfil. 
Secondly keeping in mind the aim of the meeting, you need to discover how to move the customer closer to buying the product. Simply by seeing a demo doesn't achieve anything. You need to know what business needs are being solved and map out how your product provides those needs.  Taking this further, help the customer make their decisions on showing how elements of the solution provide that value.
Find out who in their organisation is responsible for the buying decision.
Your normal demo:
It is important to ensure that the technical side of the meeting is also fulfilled, but because you are taking on the extra responsibility, keep it briefer than normal, and watch your audience closer than normal.  You need to know when they have seen what they need to, explain how this meets their requirements, take away any action items (Does this work on our platform XYZ? I will find out for you!). Make it briefer and slower to learn who is your champion in their organisation.
It is very important to debrief after the meeting. Chances are that your sales rep will be the one to follow up (Hello - I just wanted to check how your meeting with our techie went the other day...) so fuel them up with all the relevant information.  If you show them that you have moved the sale forward despite their absence they will see the value added and your working partnership will improve immensely.

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