Sales Presentations: No demos….EVER!

I recently spoke at the NY Xpo for Business at the Jacob Javitz center on the topic of “Knockout Sales Presentations” and one of my tips that drew the most controversy was when I said, “During a sales presentation, you never, ever, ever, ever give a demo.”

Before I fully explain my position, I want to give credit where credit is due.  Much of the basis of my presentation comes from the Pitch Coach himself, David S. Rose, who provides advice to entrepreneurs looking for angel investors.  If you want to view his presentation, its on his blog here.  What my presentation did was rather than look at presenting to raise money, it was how to take theses ideas and apply them to making a killer sales presentation.

I plan to post on all of the points that I brought up in the presentation, but I’m going to start with the most controversial point: NO DEMOS!

When I mentioned this in my presentation, I immediately had about 10 hands go up to challenge my claim.

“But… my company sells video conferencing, and I have to show them how my quality is better than my competition.”

“But… unless I show them my great interface, they won’t understand how I’m better than competitor X.”

I challenge all of this.  If you can’t articulate the value that you provide over your competition, or that value you bring in general without a demo, then you aren’t going to get the sale anyway.  If you make video conferencing software, then tell me that your algorithm was developed by listening to the mating calls of owls or whatever makes your technology great.  If I can grasp and believe WHY you built your product the way it did and am sold on your thinking, then the demo is icing.  If I don’t believe it, then the demo is wasted time.

Demos are a chance to screw up.  What if the product doesn’t work during the demo?  You lose all credibility with the prospect and you killed the sale.  Convince the customer of the value that you bring to them, and you don’t need a demo.  If you convinced them of the product benefit, then the demo either confirms the sale that is already won, or it kills it.

Why are salespeople so shocked by this statement?  Because giving the demo is easy.  It takes up a lot of time in the presentation.  You feel busy, as if you did a lot to move the sale forward.  But you didn’t.  Spend that same time focusing on how to convince the customer of your value and save the demo for after you’ve sold them on the value of your product.  I have even gone as far as to say that software salespeople should not even be given a way to log into their software.  When you focus on the features of your product, you take focus away from the value that you bring to them.

I sold a $2M contract before the customer ever saw the software.  I convinced the largest marketer in the world to trust me for SMS voting on a live TV program without ever seeing the software.  What did I talk about in my sales presentations?  Why my company was great.  Why we were different from the competition.  How we were providing great service for their competition, and other companies in industry.  How our algorithms would protect them, etc.  THESE are the things that matter – not what my interface looked like.  The interface can change, but the reason we were a great company – is much harder to change.