Two weeks ago, I wrote this article about how demos and presentations are like snack foods. One of the comments, by Jason Kanigan, said:
"Traditional selling revolves around the demo/presentation. The result is we end up giving many presentations to unqualified prospects. Hit a lot of rejection. Spin our wheels.
Move the demo/presentation phase to the END of the process. Only show how you do what you do to fully qualified prospects. Otherwise, you are merely giving a free education to someone who will thank you, but buy from another person who can give it to them at the lowest price. And you'll be sitting there, wondering what the heck happened."
Jason is right, but it's more complicated than that. He nailed the location/timing of the demo/presentation as well as the likely outcome. But, he didn't explain what must happen instead or why it is failing to happen more than 75% of the time. To be fair to Jason, I covered what must happen instead in that article, so I'd like to discuss why selling effectively isn't happening more frequently and with more salespeople.
Consider some of the major innovations that have been introduced in the past century:
- Personal computers replaced typewriters, calculators, journals and even people.
- Email replaced fax machines and is significantly reducing the demand for mail.
- The internet is replacing the library as a source for research.
- Cars replaced horse-drawn carriages.
- Satellites and cable television have replaced roof-top antennas.
- Cell phones replaced pay phones and are reducing the demand for home land lines.
- Indoor plumbing replaced outhouses.
- Electric lights reduced the demand for candles.
- Television reduced the demand for and changed the programming on radio.
People WANT these advances in technology; they wait in line for new products at Apple stores! Conversely, salespeople STILL WANT TO PRESENT. For most salespeople, the presentation and demo are what they do best, what they have the most confidence in, and how they define selling. They don't see anything wrong with it in much the same way that a young child doesn't realize that it's wrong to act out in a public indoor gathering.
Until salespeople can be shown just how ineffective it is to demo and present early in the sales process, and until they realize that presenting is not selling, they will not demand or even embrace change. Until they realize that a sales cycle consisting of nothing more than presenting, explaining, demoing, proposing and chasing is inefficient and ineffective, they will not change. Until they understand that to differentiate, decommoditize, and build a case for their offering, they will need to sell consutatively and follow a structured sales process they will not change.
I know from first-hand experience how long it takes for this series of events to unfold. We can get a sales force to recognize the error in their ways, understand the benefits, and buy-in to a new sales process and corresponding methodology on the very first day of training. However, getting them from buy-in to mastery is another story all together. Consultative Selling requires a reliance on effective use of advanced listening and questioning and lots of it. It usually takes 3 months before salespeople can begin to have quality conversations and resist presenting, and another 3 months for them to become comfortable. It can take 8-12 months before they become consistently effective. While salespeople typically don't realize just how much work and practice is required on the first day of training, they certainly figure it out by the third month of training. By then, they not only want to improve, they have tremendous urgency to outsell everyone else on the team. After all, at this point they finally recognize that what they used to do wasn't really selling.
If you want your sales force to strive for sales excellence, the bottom line is that your salespeople won't drive this transition and neither will a sales manager. You have to drive it. You must commit to it and it must be a sustained commitment. It's not a do-it-yourself project, so you must also be prepared to do it correctly, get help from a results-oriented firm, and lead by example.
Demos and presentations are powerful, but not until you have an interested, motivated, qualified buyer.