Let someone else make the sale? Sure.

Up a treeSome things drive me up a tree. Demos done poorly are one of em. Death by Powerpoint just isn’t necessary, nor is death by live demo – but it’s far too easy to find.

A couple of weeks ago, Joel closed out his 2007 Fogbugz World Tour and described some findings of his demos. Anyone who sells their stuff at trade shows (software or not) should go read it. It gave me flashbacks:)

One thing that gave me a bit of a chuckle were his comments about asking the demo crowd “How many of you are users?” I’m not sure that he was surprised that there was a nice mix of clients and prospects in the room for his demo, but he did a nice job of making it unclear.

We stumbled upon a similar technique back in the late 1990s at our trade shows.

We used to do a full day free training session either before, during or after the show (usually after). Every prospect was invited, knowing full well that:

- each of them would see something during a full day (well, 9am to 3pm-ish anyhow) that they would never have seen or grasped in the hectic and easily distracting trade show floor environment – and it made the sale.

- someone else would ask the question they were afraid to or not knowledgeable enough to ask, a question that would never have been asked at the booth, much less within their earshot.

- at least 30-40% of the room would be existing users, some way back since the DOS version (which was before my time). They seemed determined to convince all the prospects in the room that it was time to buy. The prospect were all told that they’d meet plenty of existing users at the training and could ask them whatever they wanted. Cialdini was all over the room. No matter how annoyed someone was about a feature that wasn’t done yet or a bug that wasn’t quite fixed, they would still be an amazing salesperson in that room because (as Cialdini says) no one ever makes a bad purchase.

Now, to be sure, almost everyone in that room was serious about their use of the product and that made them better salespeople, and it also made the product more profitable to them, so of course it was natural that the trainings attracted those kinds of people. Of course, we knew that after observing the first few, so we made a point of making sure we let prospects know that “the smartest, most productive users” would be in the room. And they were.

Some would bring several staff members, and they’d start chattering about how they do something vs how someone else does. Next thing you know, you’ve got a mini-convention in the room. Any prospect who was there…no way they were leaving the room without buying after seeing that.

Result: Always an effective day, both for us, and for all the clients in the room. Without the interruptions of cell phones, regular phones, clients coming in for shoots, etc – they could relax, free their mind (many prepared in advance) and really learn. It was a win-win, big time.

Things we learned, some of which relate back to Joel’s post:

- Whoever is talking should not be driving the mouse. Gives the person who is driving all the time in the world to deal with whatever the speaker just tripped over, without making the speaker lose their authority in the room – much less their cool.

- No one wants to watch a speaker bent over a laptop, struggling to figure out what the heck is going on. That’s the driver’s job. Driving and speaking, unless you’re Steve Jobs, is something that will take practice. In the case above, it was speaking and taking questions (and you want to add driving?). Jobs doesn’t even do that.

- Corollary to the above two, whoever is driving needs to know the software even better than the person who is talking, if that’s possible. If you’re driving the laptop and can’t find something, what impression does that make? “Geez, not even THESE GUYS know their own software.” Having a tech person drive is very educational for that person, because they can focus on driving and absorbing all the little comments and observations they hear. Yellow pads and lots of pens are recommended for the driver. They’ll have plenty of room to write.

When you read Joel’s comments about the room, how to dress, etc , keep in mind that his audience is entirely…..geeks. IE: Information technology people. Computer software staff. All the stuff Joel talks about to impress those folks might be completely off-base if your audience is auto mechanics, video store owners, photographers, or golf instructors.

But you know that, right? (by now, you should)

The environment, your dress etc for a day like this depends on your relationship with them and the business you’re in.

The applicability of this technique is not even remotely limited to software. Just make sure the ticket / order size is worth it.

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