Solution Provider Advice: Spend Matters Briefings and Sales Demos

My earlier pointers were more focused on the carrot side of the equation – giving you the benefits to be had by adopting “our” philosophy. I put that in quotes since I think it is just sound advice, nothing that we have invented here at Spend Matters. So, let me switch gears and look at the negatives:

Waste of time. This is perhaps the saddest aspect of all – using up time talking about trivial features that are not really of interest to write about (primarily because these features have become tablestakes over the years – e.g. everyone can store an attachment and track the expiration date of an uploaded document). This is time that could have been far better spent discussing the meatier parts of your solution offering.

Annoying the audience. You not only waste time but also risk ticking off the audience by belaboring basic points and concepts. If we're talking about true high-end cutting-edge differentiators, it's a different story. In that case, do go into the details!

Don't be clumsy! You have to be ready to go off-script. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” as the von Moltke lesson goes. If it becomes clear that the audience is clueless about this kind of technology, turn it into a more educational experience. If the “opponent” is an industry analyst, you might need to adjust in the other direction. Float like Ali’s butterfly with the stinger – i.e. be flexible and ready to strike the right tone and the right area. This is probably the hardest skill of all to master, and a good reason why we advise you to bring your best team  Having been a solution demo jock myself – while not at all claiming mastery – I do know that successful demos of complex enterprise solutions are tricky to pull off.  For example, you need to dynamically be ready to adjust your pitch based on your feel for these issues:

  • Which feature area is of real interest?
  • What are the pain points?
  • Are they mostly scared of the consequences of not doing anything – or are they forward-looking and focused on the opportunities change will bring?

If the sales team has done a good job of qualifying the prospect and communicated the expectations clearly, you stand a far better chance of hitting the right note on the first try.

Control the court. I realize that pitching to an analyst is a little different. Since we’re not going to actually buy the solution, we don’t have a crisp use case for you to drive toward. In this case, show us how you have solved one client’s interesting challenge well, and let us extrapolate – this is better than being all over the map.

Ask for feedback! Realize that I probably have more patience with solution demonstrations on rough terrain than most buyers ever do. I'm quite happy to talk to you about your performance and how I think it could be improved. Unless you have really good rapport with the buyer, it is rare that they will give you honest and detailed information after a non-winning demo.

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