Should You Demo on the First Customer Meeting?

cdc0514a3a3cd5fe11a267cc816935a1I recently got into a discussion with a colleague about whether it’s appropriate to do a demo on the first call with a new prospect. This SE was frustrated because there is no qualification work being done prior to jumping on the call with a customer. This is resulting in qualification and demo-customization on the fly.

My position is that it can be perfectly acceptable to do a demo on the first call–assuming a couple caveats. Without going through the full dialog, we arrived at some common ground:

  • The first call the SE does with the prospect is almost never the first touch point with the customer
  • Reps should minimally be attempting to gather 3-5 technical datapoints that will assist your demo prior to the call, ideally a few days ahead of time
  • The SE should write down and prioritize the top ten technical qualification questions so the rep doesn’t have to guess
  • The SE should put the time in to develop a scripted demo for each major use case of the product. This allows for a lot of perceived customization of the demo on the fly, even if it is fairly rehersed. I’ve sold some very complicated and open-ended solutions before and even then most use cases could be covered by 10 major variations of a demo–something easily learned by a seasoned SE
  • Requiring a separate, dedicated qualification meeting prior to the demo can get your company perceived as “hard to do business with” or “overly complicated” especially if your competitor says “sure we can show you a demo, how about tomorrow”

You can argue that if a propsect won’t agree to a demo, that prospect must be a tire kicker. That’s a good rule to live by. Time permitting, I have no problem demoing to tire kickers. Worst case you’ve better educated a potential future client, best case they see something so compelling that it converts into a real initiative.

The higher the ratio of reps to SEs means that more qualification is needed to prevent demo fatigue of your SE team. More than 4 demos a day can be very mentally draining given the concentration and precision demanded of the SE.

If you are in a situation where you find yourself (or team) doing a high volume of “harbor tour”-type demos, your company should host an open weekly demo you can offer to poorer qualified prospects to ease the burden on field staff.

I’m curious if any of you have implemented other guidelines to help streamline this process?

Comments here.