In one of my earlier posts I talked about one reason why you should consider presenting first in a sales cycle: so that the audience will pay attention to you during a long day of demonstrations. This is just one of the strategies that you can apply in a “Demo Marathon”.
If you have never been on the buying side of a corporate purchase, you probably don’t have a sense of just how tiring an evaluation can be. It takes you away from your normal activities, and that may be exciting for a bit, but writing RFP questions, grading the responses, talking to vendors and attending endless meetings can quickly become a drag. It’s no wonder that many prospects choose to cram all the vendor presentations into one day: it allows for easier scheduling and gets everything over at once. But demo marathons can be a disaster for vendors because the audience is often burned out after the first or second demonstration.
That is the argument for going first: you want to avoid presenting when your audience is getting tired. But if you can’t present first (often you are not in control of the order) there are a few other things you can do to be successful during a demo marathon
- Wow them in the first 2 minutes.
- Make coffee or caffeine containing soft drinks available
- Nail your follow-ups
- Change presenters several times
- Give them a rating sheet
This is a good rule for any presentation, but it applies particularly well when you are trying to deal with an overloaded audience. Studies have shown that people pay the most attention at the start and end of a presentation, so you want to make a powerful first impression. The critical factor here is to deliver your most important message first thing and make it memorable. Don’t waste time introducing your company, your team, etc… Instead, just tell them the one (or two, or three, if you can make it short) things that will matter most about your product. You can even say “If you forget everything else you see today, I want to be sure you remember these three things about our product…”
I have mentioned this before, but if you want your audience to be more receptive, you should make it available before your demo. Studies have shown that caffeine puts people in a more receptive mood. It has been suggested that this factor is more important than any other in a presentation. So bring that Starbucks coffee-in-a-box with you!
Almost every presentation I have given ends up with follow-up questions that could not be answered on the day of the presentation. Often these can drag on for a while and prospects or vendors will forget about them. If a prospect has just been through a demo marathon they will probably be getting the vendors mixed up in their heads after the demo. If you can follow up on any questions quickly, you will have an opportunity to stay top of mind. Instead of researching the answers to every question, get as many answers together as you can in 24 hours or less and send them to the prospect. Make sure to include the reasons why they should purchase your product along with your follow-up answers.
The rule about the start and end of the presentations commanding the most attention applies for each presenter. So that means if you change presenters often you have additional chances to deliver your message. Even if it is just the Salesperson standing up for 5 minutes to discuss company financials, breaking up the presenters can have a positive effect. Of course this needs to be choreographed well to avoid confusion, but it can increase the impact when you have an important message to deliver.
Although prospects often have some sort of rating sheets (I will have a post about that soon), you might consider giving them one for your product if they don’t. This is particularly effective if there is a large scripted demonstration. If you give them a grading sheet that follows their script and has a check box or rating box after each item you will encourage them to follow along with your demonstration. And if you are the only vendor that gave them a rating sheet it will make a very personal leave-behind that will be brought up in further discussions. Either way it will help keep their attention during a long demo day.
Those are just a few examples of ways to keep attention focused on your products during a demo marathon. I welcome other suggestions for readers in the comments.