Vendors, you just suck at Demos and Web Meetings!


Sometimes the best way to share ideas is through dark humor, I expect this will hit a nerve with different people in different ways. Some might say, “OMG- YES”, some may say “WTH? - what are you talking about”, yet the reality is with all the vendor choices and aggressive sales teams and fierce competition you can often get a degradation in quality of presentations, demo’s and meetings in general.

Having just been involved in a few RFP processes, I find myself getting more and more agitated at how they go down.   There are four types of pitches personas I’ve seen recently: (and excuse the dark humor)

  1. Blinders Bobby: Bobby is the presenter that is smooth, knows his pitch and likely has given it 200 times in the last month, often these types of presentations are done by sales engineers, that their core role is to Demo the product in a sales fashion.   Deaf Bobby is just that, he is focused on his presentation and how good he sounds, vs what the customer has to say. This presentation typically has lots of information with a few obligatory questions along the way? “Any questions” is the first identifier of this presenter. This is great for learning about a new product. Not so good if you have a big group and the presentation is about “ME” and how you it would work in a Day in the Life of Me.   Deaf bobby may present a retailer to a publisher, or a publisher to a hotel or vice versa.   Get what you can out of these presentations but lower your expectations if you want to be understood.
  2. Tab Tammy: Tammy is the killer presenter that has 40 tabs open when demo’ing the product. Sometimes this can work for speed sake, but in the world of SaaS and cloud-based products, part of the evaluation is latency and performance and demos can help you assess this at an introductory level. The Issue I have with Tab Tammy is, she flips through tabs so fast, a user can’t evaluate how to really use a product. They typically chase ideas and response and get lost in most cases searching for the right tab. Annoying to large groups. This works well for savvy users, not so well for people that don’t live in a product every minute of the day.
  3. Slideshow Joe: Joe is the one that leads with 30 minutes of slideware on a product demonstration. They are so concerned about you knowing about the company differentiators that they lose sight that you are evaluating a software product and want to see it live. Slide Joe is typically with the larger companies that sell “BIG and Credible” as a key selling point.   Makes sense, if you have a BIG BAG to sell as it requires more setup. If you are so big, do you really need to sell your company?
  4. Transition Sally: Sally is the one that brings 8 people to a product demo or RFP call and feels that everyone should talk. This is annoying for online or video-based meetings and even worse if you are showing how a day in the life of a user would survive and thrive.   The other issue Is with distributed workforces, you get suspect connections, so inevitably you have echoes, lost connections, fuzzy voices.

As a vendor, I’ll give you a few tips:

  • Prepare better, put yourself in their shoes. wouldn’t you hate to listen to a long dialog, constantly switching screens, and hearing about how they helped sell women's shoes when you are a shaving club?  I get it that  you don’t always have the luxury of preparing for every presentation but force it when you can and be an option, not a method to get to another option.
  • If you get a demo, you better know their business and style and adapt to that. Canned pitches are for inside sales teams and low-end budgets.   Throw out the slides and focus on SHOW ME versus TELL ME
  • Get people involved early, often, especially on the phone. .and don’t ask silly questions like “Have any questions?” Go back to sales 101 and construct questions that spur dialog and input and can gauge interest or not, open ended, close ended, trial close. Conference calls are tough, web conference are even tougher, but that doesn’t excuse making it about you and not them.
  • Focus on Day in the Life. We have used that style for years to help the client see how it would be like to work with you. Create vignettes vs slides. You can choose to use a slide on how you support a client with 10 bullets and your support structure, but wouldn't it be better to paint a picture of Sally marketer and how it would be during training, ramp up, when things go wrong, quarterly reviews? Don't make the client translate, you'll get uneven results. 
  • Lastly, demo what is real. There is far too much BS ware out. Demonstrate live, its ok if there is latency, but with so many options, trust is a key factor. Don’t be the one seen as having “sleight of hand” in demos…   Its ok to say, I will simulate a query of 5M records with 7 filters and have it lag for a minute, or a customer report. If you prepared and know where latency is, you can fill with valuable information during the latency.

Now to balance out this view, marketers I have a bit of advice too:

  • Don’t allow people to waste your time. If you invested in getting people together and the vendor is wasting your time, CUT it short or refocus them. It may throw them off, but that is also an indicator of if they are adaptable. Being passive aggressive when evaluating vendors doesn’t create any value for you, only a time suck
  • Guide the demo. If you leave it to the vendor to figure out who you are and what you want, you are wasting their time and yours. Be specific about what you want to see, how you want to see it and who will be there seeing it with you.   This is a value exchange. Set the vendor up for success. Your end goal is NOT to eliminate the crappy vendor, but to have as many Killer vendors to choose from.
  • Lastly, make them stop and think. Build in questions that will help you see what you need, don’t’ rely on instinct. How many times have you been on a call and didn’t know exactly what to ask, because you were so intense, trying to understand.   This is fine for NEW technologies and areas you don’t know that well, but for Email, orchestration engines and things you use to operate every day, have your questions ready before going in and you can really assess if they are BS’ing the home team. You also need to know how they handle misdirection and clarification. E.g. do they speak your language or they from mars and you are from Venus?

In the end it's all about value exchange and time is money, don’t waste it by being unprepared!

May you all find a match made in heaven.

Title: Vendors, you just suck at Demos and Web Meetings
About: Saas Product Demonstrations
Audience: Digital Marketers
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