In 1895, the first electro-mechanical life science research machine was invented by Willem Einthoven. He called it the Electrocardiogram, or “ECG” for short.
That same year, Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous poem, “If” which starts with:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too”
I often think that the opening lines of Kipling's poem could very well describe the tenacity needed by salespeople and marketers in our life science instrumentation industry over the last two years, i.e. as we have navigated the challenge of selling research instrumentation during the COVID pandemic. Of course, human beings always step up to a challenge and this crisis was no different. Most of our businesses pivoted their sales and marketing efforts to address these unexpected changes. We accepted that it would be some time, if ever, before we would be generating significant leads from trade shows and so we re-directed resources into other forms of marketing, both direct and indirect.
On the selling front, the solutions were less obvious. Yes, products that were either low value or high value but very well established and/or simple to understand had often been sold using an inside sales model. However, for more complex and novel high-end systems, the default selling tool had been the demonstration. This happened either by a representative visiting the customers lab and demonstrating the product or by the same method, but to bigger audiences, at either trade shows or on promotional tours and workshops.
As governments restricted travel or institutions barred visitors, many of us moved from an in-person demo style of presenting to a remote version. In our European office, we equipped an AV room with lighting, multiple cameras, special software etc., to allow us to effectively demonstrate hardware and software simultaneously via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, and other channels.
This was and is a great solution, but there is a catch - these presentations can sometimes have a tendency to become more like broadcasts than proper sales demonstrations. What do I mean by this? Well, a broadcast is something akin to live TV or a webinar. It is highly scripted and has only minimal space for prospect interaction. Great salespeople NEVER ran sales demonstrations that way. One word is common in describing the demonstration techniques of every successful salesperson that I have met and that word is:
A great sales demonstration is, at its heart, a structured dialogue. In our rush to make use of the fantastic technologies available to us, this concept of structured dialogue is often lost and forgotten and when we forget to use structured dialogue in our demonstrations then we lose sales; and losing sales is the definition of a screw-up!
So if you feel you may have drifted into the broadcast style of remote demos then what should you do to improve things? The answer is simple. Remember the wise words of business guru, Stephen Covey,
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
In this case the main thing is a structured dialogue i.e. the heart of the traditional demonstration. So let me remind you what the elements of this Structured Dialogue, as applied to a sales demonstration, are:
1. Introduction: Explain who you are, who your company is and show your credentials. Then ask each attendee what their involvement with the system you are demonstrating will be. Some will be users but others may be supervisors/PIs or IT/QA people from the institution. Understanding why each person is there will inform how you should present your solution.
2. Find out the customers needs: Ask open questions, listen and note answers (the prospects needs and wants).
3. Present the Product, Company and Yourself: Match the product to customers needs and wants. Remember what Zig Zigler famously said about selling:
“If people like you then they will listen to you,
but if they trust you then they will buy from you”
Trust sells! So, when presenting your solution, don’t forget to also emphasise your credentials and those of your company.
4. Test the Match!: Yes, don’t try to close before you have tested. I always recommend two separate tests. 1. Test logic (does it fit specified requirements), and 2. Test emotion (“Can you see our solution working in your lab?”). If both of these are positive, then move forward. If not, then find out what you have missed and address it.
5. Ask for Advancement: Not every demo ends with a purchase order. In our industry, the demo is often one of many steps towards the sale. However, every demo (remote or in-person) should end with some agreed advancement. This could be a commitment to apply for funding, a request for a specific quotation to review, etc. Never finish a remote demo without agreeing what the advancement for the deal (next step forward) will be.
All of this requires a lot of live discussion with the prospects you are presenting the remote demo to. Simply put, a great demo is a dialogue and NOT a monologue. This formula is, like so many things in life, simple - but not easy. It requires practice, but as Aristotle said over two thousand years ago:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.”
In your remote demos, make structured dialogue your habit and may all your demos lead to sales!
If you want to find out more about what a good demo process should look like then watch our video at: https://vimeo.com/239956503 or just send me an email.
Thanks for reading.
January 18th, 2021
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