For many, many, years we lived in a period where prospects and consultants provided unencumbered access to their organization in order to find almost everything we needed to build a business case for our solution. The prospects wanted and needed us to gather information because they knew we needed to understand their organizational needs so they could learn enough about our solution within the construct of relevance to compare solutions and perform their final selection. I refer to this period of time as the Renaissance period of discovery. We have now entered the Post Modern age of discovery where if we are provided access to our prospect’s, it is at best limited and relatively uninformative.
What Happened and When?
The Renaissance period came to a rapid close in 20?? with the viral rise in the use of of YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook. This social phenomenon brought with it a flood of information that solution providers willfully posted about their products, services, people, and mission. While this was taking place, web postings and videos by independent third parties and individuals about our solutions began appearing and, not only did we have zero control over the postings, the informal rules of social behavior encouraged it. This combination of information led to prospects and consultants consuming huge amounts of intellectual property and inside information about us resulting in their seizure of control over the sales process.
The Post Modern Discovery Realities
We have the honor of global relationships with clients like Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce.com, FIS, Microsoft and Cisco. Across our entire client base and throughout the world we have heard from them their frustration with the new realities of discovery. The professionals that are chartered with performing demos want the salespeople to insist on discovery, sell it harder, make it happen. The salespeople are equally frustrated with the way they are stonewalled for discovery by the prospects and their consultants while at the same time under tremendous pressure to deliver orders. Fewer and fewer large, multi-year or even multi-month implementation projects are available. Prospects want and need rapid implementations of technology that provide immediate return. Cloud solutions have provided prospects the leeway to choose and implement a solution today that they replace, if necessary in 24 months.
The Improvisational Demo
“Just do what you normally do” states the salesperson in response to their sales consultant asking “what do you want me to show them?” And, I’m not referring to a €15,000 deal. This is happening in €1,500,000 and larger opportunities! This style of demo reminds me of an improvisational (Improv) stage routine where two people are given a word like “cats” and they have to build an entire story, together around that single word. One of our global clients calls it “Demo Disco” because of the dance that takes place between the solution consultant and the prospect.
When faced with an improv demo with little or no discovery information, a solution consultant’s ability to transition from a demonstrator to a facilitator is crucial. The prospect is expecting to see some solutions…quickly. There is no time (or point) to a fifteen minute corporate overview by the salesperson. At least not at the start of the demo. What needs to take place almost immediately is a demo of a portion of the solution that will almost certainly provide the highest value backed by insights and evidence of its successful use by other clients or support by leading analysts and experts. Now this is where the improv happens. At this point the solution consultant needs to move into a facilitation of discovery with the prospect. This means the SC must blank the screen of the solution, let go of the demo device, move out into the audience and perform that facilitation. This must take place whether the demo is in person or performed virtually. Physical or virtual whiteboards become the note taking medium and after some discovery is performed, the solution can be further explored.
In this form of improv demo/discovery, the SC needs to make an early decision, as it will shape their entire approach to the demo. The question that shapes this decision is, “are we trying to provide this prospect with innovation or are we trying to align?” If the interaction early in the demo leads to innovation the SC must be prepared to offer demo vignettes backed by insights, benefits, and value that proves the solution will provide an innovation for the prospect. However, if the decision is to align, the SC needs to be prepared to demo solutions that minimize the footprint of the implementation, provides excellent interfaces, and benefits that support an improved process.
As simple as this sounds we spend hours across multiple coaching sessions with clients on improving the execution of this challenging new reality. But, make no mistake about it. This isn’t a temporary shift in your market, continent or country. This is the new reality… Are you ready for it?