Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges faced by presales folks is the lack of information provided by sales before a demo. “Just give them an overview” is what we often hear – resulting in the dreaded Harbor Tour demo... Here are a few suggestions to address this challenge:
Call your sales person as soon as you receive the request for a demo and try to get the key pieces of information needed to complete a Situation Slide (Job Title and Industry, Critical Business Issue, Problems/Reasons, Specific Capabilities, Delta, Critical Date). Often, sales people have this information in their heads but won’t write it down or send it to you in an email message (or enter it into the CRM system). However, by interviewing your sales colleague and asking the questions, you may get what you need to prepare a reasonably focused demo.
A stronger approach is to do the same thing, but also open a WebEx or GoToMeeting session and share your screen with your sales counterpart. That way they can see you typing the answers they provide to your questions – and they often take a stronger level of ownership of the results, accordingly. In the best case, you’ll get what you need. In some cases, you may both recognize that you don’t have sufficient information for a demo and that the next call with the customer should be a Discovery session, instead of a demo. I recommend using double question marks “??” to indicate areas where more information is needed – this seems to help drive the realization that these gaps need to be filled before a demo…
Next, if you have sales people who consistently do not provide sufficient Discovery information prior to a demo, you should go to your manager and have him/her “push back”. Your managers should (and need) to support a culture of Discovery first, demo next (if needed)…
In many organizations, the presales team has greater longevity with the company than the sales people – many of later may be relatively new hires. A terrific approach is to simply state that “We always work to complete a Situation Slide prior to presenting a demo” or “We always do Discovery before delivering a demo…” Make it a part of the corporate culture.
Finally, there may be situations where you still can’t get a reasonable amount of Discovery information prior to a demo (in spite of the selling team’s best efforts). The Menu Approach is an excellent self-rescue technique that should help to avoid delivering a mechanical Harbor Tour demo. You can find an article on the Menu Approach on my website at www.SecondDerivative.com/Articles.html. (It is called, “The Menu Approach - A Truly Terrific Demo Self-Rescue Technique”.)