Now THAT Was a Good Demo… Or Was It?

Bill Balnave
4 min readSep 29, 2022

“That was an amazing demo! Well done!”

If you’re a sales engineer, you’ve probably heard this or something similar and felt that surge of pride. The prospect was positive, and the sales rep with whom you worked is very pleased. She’s sure this will move the sales cycle forward. You attribute your success to the time you spent prepping. You vow to do that every time. Then it’s on to the next demo.

Which, when it happens, was not as well received as the previous demo. Despite your prep time. You leave that meeting with an uninspired prospect. The sales rep, in an attempt to stay positive, says she’ll follow up and get the deal back on track. You’re upset with yourself. Maybe your prep wasn’t enough after all. Maybe you handled an objection poorly. Or didn’t message something the right way. Whatever the case, you shoulder the blame and wonder what you can do to avoid this happening again.

The reality of the situation is - you can’t. At least, not with your current approach to demo performance.

The only criteria to determine if a demo was good is the prospect’s reaction. That’s it. If they are happy, it was a good demo. If the opposite is true, the demo was bad. It’s a precarious position to be in. But it’s the reality of sales. Of course, it’s important to ensure you address a prospect’s challenges. That is table stakes. If you don’t, your prospect will certainly not react favorably. But there are other factors involved. If you don’t consider and control them, you have zero chance of influencing the prospect’s reaction. You’ll have more success resigning and finding the nearest craps table or roulette wheel.

So then, what are these other factors? What do you need to do to ensure you achieve that outcome?

While every sales situation is unique, it is possible to develop a set of standards that give you the best odds of succeeding. Some of these standards will be common for any product demonstration, and some are specific to the type of prospect, the industry, the typical cost, and the complexity of the solution. One of the best ways to codify these standards is in something called a rubric. Originally, a rubric is a set of instructions or rules. It dates back to Medieval times when a word or section of text was written in red ink for…

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Bill Balnave

Half geek half sales guy wholly opinionated writer who found sales engineering and made a good living at it. Giving back to help those looking to do same.