When you're selling B2B solutions, at some point in the sales process you're likely to end up doing a demo.
Too bad. Most demos are useless.
They usually don't help the prospective customer make a good choice. They just confuse and bore them.
And they don't help the vendor make the sale, either. That's especially true for software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.
A demo isn't a sprint
When most vendors prepare a demo for a prospect, they treat it like it's the speed round on a game show.
The Account Rep or Sales Engineer - all wired up and ready to go - look at the demo as a sprint. How many features can they show in whatever amount of time the prospect has allocated?
The demo they put together is all about the features... and as many of them as possible.
Lost in this approach is one fundamental notion:
Even the label, "demo," is all wrong. Demo means "we'll demonstrate our product to you."
Instead, it should be called something like "solve," as in "we'll show you how to solve your problems using our solution."
For SaaS, feature fixation is especially pointless
For SaaS companies, in particular, demonstrating one feature after another is especially pointless.
For one thing, many SaaS companies will add new features regularly over the life of the subscription. Whatever you demo today will be out of date in a few weeks or months anyway.
Besides that, customers are buying more than a set of features. With SaaS, they're buying support, reliability, performance, integration, and security as well.
Prospects are making their purchase decision based on whether they think you understand their problems and you have the knowledge, resources and commitment to solve them.
They're buying into a relationship, not a set of features.
Build trust, solve problems
Demos don't have to be useless... but you need to show prospects more than feature, feature, feature.
You need to talk about your experience in their industry, about other customers you've worked with and their results, about the entire scope of your solution.
In short, you need to solve their particular problems, address their particular concerns, and help their business.
Stories beat features every time
I'm not saying you can avoid showing the product. If you're selling an enterprise solution, you'll invariably get pulled into shoot-outs and bake-offs.
I've been through lots of these, sitting on both sides of the table. Most of the time, every provider does a good job ticking through the complete list of tasks that the customer has specified.
In fact, after 3 or 4 of these demos - "We can do this. We can do that, We can do this too." - all of them look the same. The prospective customer can't tell one solution from another based on the features.
Here's what sets the winner apart:
The winner doesn't do it with features alone. They win with the story that goes with them.
(Image credit: thomasbonte)