With all the competition and dynamics in the school market today, it’s more important than ever that your leadership team think about ways to keep your product or service relevant to your customers and prospects. In this, the third article in our Education Market Leadership Series, I'll examine one stage of the sales process that is very common, the product demo. For continuity, I recommend that before you continue, if you have not already, you read article one and article two, and also listen to their companion podcasts archived on the SellingToSchools Radio network.
I’d like to discuss, and to encourage you to take a close look at a critical step of most sales processes, one that I always examine with my clients because of its importance to the bottom line: the product demonstration, commonly known as “the demo.” Two issues come immediately to mind when discussing the demo stage of the sales process:
I firmly believe that when it comes to demos, it’s better to leave show-and-tell to the kindergartners, so please – no more dog-and-pony shows! Here are the key reasons why I call most demos “dummos” – along with my advice for improving this important step in the sales process:
The Four Rules of Engagement are always at work when two or more people are involved in the sales process. But if you aren’t making them work for you, they’re probably working against you. Here they are:
In this article I will focus on Rule #1: “Everyone is always right.” I’ll discuss Rules 2, 3, and 4 in future articles in this series.
Throughout the sales process, it’s important to remember that your prospect is always right. His or her perception of you, your products, and your services is the only opinion that matters, because it’s theirs – so it is right. It is only when your potential customers believe that you (or your sales rep) understand them, and that your product is relevant to them, that they will seriously consider buying it. Anything that honors their perception is right; anything counter to their perception is wrong.
While some demos start with a set-up question, such a pat approach is hardly sufficient to learn enough to make the potential buyer feel honored and respected (or “right”). The best way to honor the customer is to ask questions, actively listen, and then ask more questions. When you let your prospects do the talking, they will reveal what they would like demonstrated.
Some listening and questioning should be done early in the sales process. It is critical to qualify thoroughly before scheduling a demo. Then, when you or members of your sales team learn to echo the prospect’s words and refer to their needs while presenting your products and services, your demo will start to be about the prospective customer. Even if your sales team already knows a great deal about the potential buyer, it is critical not to skip the honoring process: the prospect needs to feel your respect long before you start your demo. So remember: if your demo is more about your product than about your prospect, then it’s likely uninformed and, possibly, misinformed about what your prospect wants and needs. If that’s the case, your demo is a “dummo.”
Successful sales people spend most of their time listening and asking questions, because they understand the Four Rules of Engagement. When you reference a potential client’s issues during the sales process, you are validating their rightness and making them and their needs central to your presentation. Whatever you are selling, you can use this technique to help shift your prospect’s perspective and help them see your solution as meeting their needs.
The most important aspect of the sales process is helping prospective buyers shift their perspective so they can see themselves reflected in your product and using your product. If you ask good questions and create an easy-to-do demo, they can do the demo themselves: they can feel the power of your product personally. When you do this, the First Rule of Engagement will work for you rather than against you. Understanding and applying the Four Rules of Engagement is the key to successful communication, and ultimately, to success in your sales career. You’ll eliminate meaningless dog-and-pony shows and instead create the kind of head-nodding enthusiasm and friendly handshakes that close deals.
In article four of this six-part series, I’ll discuss the second Rule of Engagement, “Everyone’s greatest desire is to be right.” I’ll explain how you can apply this important rule to convert potential buyers into new business for you!