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Are Your Sales Demos like Dilbert or Thom Finn?

Posted by Brian Geery on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 Early in my B2B software sales career, I ran into a competitive situation that turned out to be a major learning experience. If you’re a Sales Leader at a company that sells B2B software, you’ll enjoy this.

The situation

I worked for SoftPoint Data Systems, selling software that helped pharmacists improve the prescription fulfillment process. Everywhere I turned, prospects would tell me, “No thanks, I bought a system from Thom Finn.” (Name changed to protect the innocent.) Thom worked at Script Systems, a primary competitor.

I always found it interesting that pharmacists would say
they bought from Thom Finn; not Script Systems.

I later learned it was because Thom showed the pharmacists how to solve their business challenges. As such, they felt they were buying from Thom, a trusted advisor, not Script Systems, an anonymous company. Realizing I couldn’t beat them, I persuaded SoftPoint’s CEO to hire Thom. (Hey, got any better ideas?)

With Thom on the team, I learned his secret. It was the effectiveness of his software demonstration.

While I was doing the usual features & benefits run through:

"Here is how easy it is to enter a new patient’s name...[eyes glaze over]
You can spell Rodriguez multiple ways and find the patient... [yawn]
These are the drop downs where you select an insurance plan with an automatically validated number… [zzzz]”

Thom was demonstrating how to solve real business problems.

How Thom demo'd

Thom would take out a stack of six prescriptions that he'd collected when visiting the pharmacy.

Then he would ask, “Mr. Pharmacist, would you please time me using the second hand on that clock on the wall? I’m going to fill these prescriptions. I’ll explain what happened afterwards.”

Thom would pick up prescription #1, enter it into the computer, flip it over, and do the same with each copy. When done, he would ask, “How long did it take me to enter those six prescriptions?

The pharmacist would answer, “Five minutes.”

Thom would say, “OK, that's 75% faster than the 20 minutes it currently takes you. Let me tell you about what we just accomplished along the way. While entering these prescriptions, we identified an expired insurance plan, enabling the pharmacist to require a cash payment. If I recall, you estimate that you are losing $2,500 per month on expired plans. We were also able to substitute a brand name when the generic was not in stock, increasing your profit by $2.50 on just one subscription. And, by the way, if this were real life, no customers would have left because of a long line, as now happens during your busiest times.”

Wow. While I was merely demonstrating how my software worked, Thom was demonstrating how his solved real business problems (and cost justifying along the way).

Key takeaway

If you want to help your Reps to sell more, be sure they are demoing how your software solves business problems and makes financial sense, and not how it works. Showing how it works is training and training should take place after the sale, not during it!

Sometimes, prospects do ask “How do you?” questions. For example:

Prospect - “How do you enter updates to a customer’s account receivable record?”

Rep - “It’s quite simple. We actually have you do a few sample entries during the training session. Tell me about the type of information you need to track in your customer’s accounts receivable record, and I can show you how the software will deliver that information when you need it.”

Of course, your Reps need to be able to show people how to use basic features, but it is more important that they can demonstrate how your software solves the business challenge!

What you can do today

List five business challenges that your software solves. Roll out an incentive program for the best “problem solving demo” and watch your team’s demo-to-close ratio improve!

Thanks for listening. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Having just completed Customer Centric Selling I thought this timely. Thank you for sharing.

posted @ Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:57 AM by Karen Doherty

Great post, exactly right and while it may be a little of a stretch that's how it works on questions asked. 
Show why the overall answer affects them not just the details of how. appreciate it.

posted @ Wednesday, March 14, 2012 9:07 AM by joe

You combine simplicity with tremendous value in this post Brian, covering the proper execution of the demo. Admittedly, I have caught myself going down the features path, aka "the shotgun approach", which usually means I did not get enough information upfront. Sometimes this is on me, sometimes it is because the demo was set up too quickly, but the key to Thom's success is also in the preparation that he did. That is, discovering ahead of time what the prospect's pain points are, and then focusing the demo on how the product helps solve or reduce them. I find it is not always easy to get that info from a prospect, which usually is an indication that they may not be serious. In those cases, I try and keep the demo short, and cover the main differentiators in my product, and listen for the "that would really help us" comments to know where to focus. If none, then it's a walk away. 
Great post! 

posted @ Wednesday, March 14, 2012 9:07 AM by Bob

Good point on walking away. If a prospect is reluctant to share their business problems in advance of a software demonstration, it is not worth investing many of your valuable sales minutes! Top producers know when to walk.

posted @ Thursday, March 15, 2012 1:18 PM by Brian Geery

Thank you for reminding us that the value and benefits of the product is what really sells it. And of course, a more personalized approach like Thom's, where the customer can totally relate to his demo because it is a problem or a challenge that they are familiar with.

posted @ Monday, March 26, 2012 12:48 PM by Ayeen Benoza

Brian, thanks for the post! 
I like this quite a lot: 
Showing how it works is training and training should take place after the sale, not during it! 
I have a question based on my own experience. Usually I like to make product demos interactive, where the customer is contributing to a) what is going to be demo'd and b) is actually using our product themselves so they can get a concrete idea for what it's like to own the product. I've found that letting a prospect get user experience boosts likelihood of a close so I always make demos interactive. 
Would you say this is at odds with the Thom Finn method, or is there a way to integrate the two?

posted @ Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:47 PM by Kevin Bebak

You are a pro! 
Making your demonstrations interactive is a best practice and not at all at odds with the Thom Finn method. In fact, since some pharmacists wanted to buy and could afford to buy, but hesitated because they had trouble understanding how their staff would adapt to using the software, Thom used to have pharmacists enter a few prescriptions themselves.

posted @ Thursday, April 12, 2012 6:38 PM by Brian Geery

Brian, thanks for the feedback! 
I'd say it's going to be a while before I'd call myself a 'pro' but it's good to know I'm heading in the right direction.  
As a follow on question, and to play devil's advocate to my own way of doing things, did you ever encounter situations where a one-way demo was more effective than an interactive one? or would you always recommend staying on the side of interactive? 

posted @ Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:02 PM by kevin bebak

Interactive is always best. For example, even if demonstrating to large group of unknowns with limited time, you could open with an online survey tool listing 10 problems your software solves and use the results to identify the top 3 your demonstration will focus on.

posted @ Friday, April 13, 2012 8:25 AM by Brian Geery

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