In my last post, I wrote about Evaluating Dynamics 365. In that post I glossed over the part about demos, because it felt like a bigger topic, that deserved a post of its own. I will start writing now, and we’ll both see if that is case shortly. A product demo is a very common first step with a new customer, more than just a box to be checked, in most cases, it is “make or break”. It is the first impression that you do not usually get a “do-over” on. If you are going to succeed, you need to be able to do this right.
Albert Einstein is attributed with the quote “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough“. This is Demo 101. You can certainly spend a goodly amount of time on a pre-amble, pontificating about all of your certifications, and tossing out phrases that you know the customer won’t understand in order to make yourself look smart. But that won’t make any light-bulbs go off over the customer’s head. Illumination is the entire goal, if you don’t get there, you have wasted the time of two people, you and your customer.
I not only do a lot of demos, but I also have a lot of demos performed for me. I am always on the lookout for ISV solutions that might fit what we are doing. I recently was talking to a seller whose entire goal was to get me to schedule a demo and pass me on. Obviously, this was a checkbox on his lead qualification process. More out of curiosity than anything else at this stage, I bit and picked a time the next day. At the appointed time, I logged in and was greeted by another person who asked me to hold on while she spun up her demo environment… the Seller was not on the call. A few minutes later she said, “Okay, let’s begin” and proceeded to perform the demo that she had obviously done a hundred times before. She continued non-stop for 35 minutes, without taking a breath. At the end she said “Do you have any questions?”, and I said “Nope”. She said goodbye and left me there, feeling like I had just been side-swiped by a car. If she had indeed done this Demo a hundred times before, then that was at least a hundred wasted opportunities.
Apps vs. Business Solutions
Maybe the hit-and-run style demo can work for an App. If you built something that is specific, and non-configurable, and can only do one thing, then I guess seeing that one thing demonstrated, should be all anyone needs. If that is the case, save us both some time and send me a link to a video. This style of demo would never succeed for Business Solutions like Dynamics 365. I mentioned in my last post, that between the myriad of capabilities delivered by Microsoft, and extensibility, there a literally millions of combinations of solutions. What are you going to demo? Are you going to show every customer the same canned demo? I am fully aware that this is what Microsoft does, but you should not copy that motion. Regardless of what the customer might want to see, Microsoft will demo the “sizzle”.
You can’t really fault Microsoft for demoing sizzle. There is a swath of customers that will buy on sizzle alone. Unfortunately, in too many of these cases, the sizzle soon turns to fizzle. Eventually the customer wakes up from the euphoria of Shiny Objects and says, “Wait a minute, what about my actual business problem?“. Demoing Sizzle is a form of slight-of-hand, you distract the customer from their actual issues by overwhelming them with “Wow”. At the conclusion of a sizzle demo, it’s all oohs and ahhs, but when the customer team re-convenes internally, they realize that they did not actually see anything meaningful to them. They will not ask you for another demo.
Can I have your Attention… Please?
Back in the olden days, before cloud, when most of our customers were necessarily local, we used to do in-person demos. Yup, we would haul in our trusty ViewSonic projector, show up about 15 minutes early so we could have everything setup in the conference room, and then the customer’s team would file in. Our close ratio was way higher back in those days. The reason? Faces… we could see them. You could actually feel, and see, the vibe in the room as it swayed up and down, and it served as a guide to where you should either drill in, or gloss over. Today demos are all done online, you have no clue what is happening on the other end. The entire customer team could have gone to lunch in the middle of your demo, and you wouldn’t know. The only way you can know is to stop… frequently, and ask, “Is what I am showing you now, relevant to your needs?”, or “The next item I was going to demonstrate is XYZ, is this important to you?”. Obviously, in a “Press Play” demo approach, this is all missed.
I mentioned in my last post, that when a customer says “We’ll get back to you”, it usually means you will never hear from them again, as they are going to try and figure it out on their own. I should have also said, that just as often, this phrase is code for “We are also looking at a competitor”. More often than not, that competitor is Salesforce, and they absolutely kick-ass on demos, at least for customers they want. If you are in a Salesforce compete situation, and Salesforce actually “wants” that deal, you should gird yourself. Salesforce is an elite professional sales organization, that sells one thing. Their direct sellers are trained to extract from the initial customer conversation, the things that are important. This information is passed to a demo development department, where a crackerjack team crafts a highly customized and targeted demo environment, that borders on a POC. This is very high cost of sale, but also very effective. Where you may have to suggest to the customer team that they will need to use a little imagination, Salesforce just shows them. It has nothing to do with whether Salesforce is better or worse than Dynamics 365 for a particular customer, by the end of the demo, Salesforce makes Dynamics 365 look like a toy. This is difficult to overcome, because Salesforce is willing to increase their cost of sale to a stupid level, just to keep a customer they want, away from Microsoft/you. You cannot afford to match that level of effort, and Microsoft shrugs, and points to sizzling shiny objects.
So how do you demo Dynamics 365?
First, you must understand that a demo is not an opportunity for you to sell your company. If you have pre-amble slides of how big you are, and all of the customers you have helped, take them out. If you got to the point of them giving you their time for your demo, you cleared that hurdle. You must have gathered in the initial call, the customer pain points, there is no reason that Salesforce is the only one who can do that. The goal of a demo is not to see how long you can keep the customer online; that you forced a customer to sit though 90 minutes is not proof of any level of commitment on their end, you just annoyed them. Your goal should actually be to get through the demo as fast as possible, while accomplishing everything you need to. And what is it that you need to accomplish? Focus, remember sizzle fizzles, so use it sparingly.
There are ways to introduce limited sizzle into the focused approach. For example, if one of a customer’s issues is Lead Activity tracking, you can obviously show them how the Social Pane looks and works on a Lead record in the Web Interface, but you can easily jump over to Outlook and show them how it surfaces there, and also the mobile app and show them how it surfaces there. This is a way to show off other areas, where Dynamics 365 has an advantage, (Outlook and Mobile) in a way that the customer will pay attention as it relates to an issue of theirs, Lead Tracking. Don’t show them things they did not ask about, even if you personally think they are cool, it will distract them from absorbing how Dynamics 365 can solve their identified issues. A customer does not need to be exposed to every single thing a product can do, in order to move forward. But they better see that it can solve their specific issues. You will have plenty of chances to show them other cool things, assuming you pass this test.
If the answer is “no”, then your demo failed. I’m sorry, you are not clairvoyant, you did not answer every question they were going to have in your demo. You either did not take a breath and allow for it, or they felt you were not smart enough to answer their questions, or you were so far off of their focus that their unasked question felt out of place, either way, you failed. In a webinar with many participants, it is reasonable and more effective, to save questions for the end, otherwise the entire audience is slowed to the pace of the dumbest participant. But in a live demo, you should make it clear that the interruption of your flow is perfectly acceptable, and wanted. Never tell the customer to save their questions until the end… I mean, who the hell do you think you are? In fact, you should be consciously interrupting your own flow to allow for it. And never say “There are no dumb questions” because there always are, and that’s fine, they are the easiest ones to answer. At the end of a successful demo, there should always be a next step. A demo is a means to an end, not an end. If there is no next step, you failed. Consider recording the demo and sending it as a followup. This can also serve as a reference for the questions they asked, because you will forget later, and you will know you forgot, when they respond to your proposal that you missed a bunch of stuff.
The irony is not lost on your customer, when you are demonstrating Skype for Business features, that you invited them to a Go-To-Meeting. You should have a couple of options handy, at least two. Always suggest a Skype meeting first, but offer maybe Join.me as a second choice, unless you know that they already have Office 365, then just send a Skype meeting link. As a Microsoft Partner you should not be using Go-To-Meeting, or anything else as your “preferred” meeting tool. This is just bad messaging. Don’t forget to record the demo call; if someone was unable to attend the demo, this could save you having to repeat it. Before I used to record my demos, I often ended up having to repeat them multiple times for different stakeholders who were hard to pin down. Unlike a canned video demo, this one has their specific issues addressed, so 90% of the time, it is fine. Also, those hard to pin down stakeholders, can now watch it on their own schedule.
That’s about all I got for Demos, if you have any additional points that I missed, please add them below. If you strongly disagree with anything I said, kindly keep it to yourself.