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Master the Discovery Demo to Balance Prospect Demands with Your Needs

by Hank Barnes  |  October 11, 2016  |  Submit a Comment

Demonstrations continue to be at the top of the list of things that influence technology buyers.   And, as technology skills continue to expand across the workforce, buyers often want demos sooner rather than later.    For providers targeting SMB buyers using online channels, this is an accepted part of the strategy–they offer free trials, videos, etc.

But for more complex products and buying scenarios, many providers shy away from the “early demo.”   This reluctance is often accompanied by what I consider the “old school” approach of “We don’t demo until we know there is a need and budget.  It would be a waste of our time and resources.”

A discovery demo in progress

But what if they customer can’t easily describe what they need and want, or be willing to commit budget, without a demo.   You are kind of stuck.

I think there may be an answer—the Discovery Demo.

A discovery demo should be very different than traditional demos (many of which are still awful—focusing on features rather than value.  Read my thoughts on the perfect demo here).

In a discovery demo, you use your product to uncover needs and wants.  Rather than focusing heavily on features and a well defined script, you introduce potential scenarios and pause for questions.   For example, let’s say you have a solution that is designed to build applications that are triggered off of events (like a form being submitted, a specific date/time, etc.).    When you start to demo that, you could show the idea of the event trigger.  Then pause and ask the demo attendees, “are there situations in your company where you do things in response to events like this?”  That is obviously a very general question.  If you’ve been able to uncover some general areas of interest you can be more specific.  For example, “I understand that you are looking to improve the responsiveness of your customer service team, are their situations where triggering activity after an event like a just showed you could help you do that?”  Then based on the response, follow that path to show how you can address the need.

A discovery demo strikes a nice balance between giving the prospect what they want (verification that the product exists) and what you need (to understand their requirements and drivers).  It requires skill and preparation.   But, done effectively, it will get you farther faster (in most cases) then trying to withhold the demo until you know more.  Or, doing a traditional product demo when you really don’t know what matters to the audience.  (Note:  This happens all the time in vendor briefings.   I have providers show me things like how cool it is that they can resize a window and adjust the layout or changing menu layouts–without ever connecting them to why a customer would care.)

The next time a prospect asks for a demo before you think you know enough, don’t say “no.”  Instead, use the demo to facilitate discovery.   There is a good chance you’ll both be pleased with the result.

Additional Resources

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: buying-cycle  demonstration  discovery  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio




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