Demo Is a Four Letter Word

By Tibor Shanto

This is not about bashing demos, but more about how many sales reps use, or misuse them, and the lost opportunities that result from the misuse. The fact is that many in sales love demos because they feel that it creates the sale for them; and while it would be easy to blame the rep, it is often part of the corporate approach. Many sales processes are built around the demo rather than discovering, deriving, driving and delivering value. Nothing is more of a throwback to feature based selling than selling by demo.

What differentiates a good demo from a bad one is the demo’s timing and sequence in the sale. In most instances, a seller meets a prospect, they have the right title, a pulse, and agree that they have the time for a demo; once completed, they spend time and effort retrofitting the “needs” of the buyer to things that seemed to appeal to them in the demo. The net result is a longer sale, with more work, and generally reduced value for both the buyer and the seller.

The typical scenario is you get the opportunity to meet with a potential buyer, after a few obligatory questions, what most will consider and tell you are qualifying questions; three check marks, and a demo is offered up. All this before you have learned anything specific about the buyers requirements, objective, and here we are not talking about product objectives. We’ve all seen the example where the seller does not probe or explore beyond the obvious, beyond the range of their own product, after all, they took an appointment with a copier rep, so they must want a copier. Yet the buyer’s objective could extend far beyond the obvious, and beyond the one demoed product, and to other potential services.

Rather than selling, this resembles more the routine of throwing enough demos against the buyers in the hope that some stick. This is especially worse when the demo consists of giving the buyer a free XX day trial. Same process as above, the variation is instead of just sitting through a 20-30 minute live demo, the buyer gets to test drive it for 14 days, then the rep comes back, sees if the buyer is ready to buy, if not, then they probe a bit more, hoping to uncover further information. It really needs to be the other way around.

I remember working with reps who would do the above, and when asked what they were hoping to get out of the exercise, the response was always a sales. But rarely did they have the results to validate the process. To be fair, the reps not only get pressure from their managers to provide demo accounts, but since the market has conditioned the buyers, they too want a demo before agreeing to exchange valuable insight.

A much better approach is to think of the demo as a closing tool, not a selling tool; a proof of concept that is the bow on the sales, rather than the heart of it. I remember selling information services, the market had been conditioned to expect a trial, and “then we can talk”. The reps would return after the agreed on period (the better ones would actually call the buyer once, even twice during the period) to hear the buyer’s verdict. I use the word verdict, because the decisions, and reasoning behind it was very much done behind closed doors, without the knowledge or input of the rep.

The preferred approach for me was to actually keep the product/service under wraps as long as possible, right to the end. The strategy was to spend time with the buyer, understand their objectives, buying criteria, buying process, qualify financially and agree on a solution. Once that was successfully completed, you could offer a demo under two specific conditions, first was that other than the demo, there were no barriers to the sale. That is if the demo did in fact demonstrate and address their criteria and delivered against expectations that were set, there was in fact a deal in place. The second was that if the demo validated 80% of the key criteria uncovered and agreed to, and there was a specific means of addressing the fifth, again the deal will happen. As stated above, the demo needs to be a proving point that seals the deal, not something that happens before any discovery or qualification takes place.

No doubt it takes work to do it the right way, but that is what selling is about. Furthermore, your close ratio on sales where the demo is the closer is always higher than when the demo is the “light show” before the sale begins. This is usually because the demo in the latter scenario often kills the opportunity, because it is not tied to any specifics driving the buyer; be that financial, productivity gains, efficiencies vis-a-vis time, individual interests or risk avoidance. It is a light show looking for an audience. If the demo is not directly tethered to the above factors and objectives, it is just a light show that requires you to work much harder as you now have to breakdown misconceptions, and still build the case for value.

There are a number of ways to uncover objectives and drive the value factors; we obviously like our GAP Selling approach. But real success lies in the sequence and execution, done in the right order the right way it adds value to all involved; wrong sequence just creates grind, risk, and lost sales.

10 Ways to Realize Hidden Opportunities

By: Jeff Beals

“Great moments are born from great opportunities,” said the late Herb Brooks, one of the world’s most famous hockey coaches.

Brooks certainly seized opportunity during his career. He agreed to coach the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that beat the “unbeatable” Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York during the famous “Miracle on Ice” game on the way to winning the gold medal. It was a modern-day “David vs. Goliath” matchup. Many coaches would refuse such an overwhelmingly difficult job. In fact, several did.

But Brooks saw opportunity in the monumental challenge of leading a bunch of young, amateur, college all-stars against the essentially professional players of the Soviet Union and other European hockey powers.

That opportunity paid off, to say the least.

Whether you’re talking about sports, business or any other subject matter, seeking, finding and capitalizing on opportunity are among the most important things a professional must do.

There’s one big problem with opportunity, however. It is often hard to find and even harder to harness.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations,” said Charles Swindoll, an American religious author.

I agree wholeheartedly with Swindoll’s characterization. The best opportunities are often hidden. They are often located in places we least expect to find them and are presented by people we least expect to provide them.

That reminds me of the old story that sales managers like to share with their young trainees: “On his way back from a three-day fishing trip, a multi-millionaire visits the showroom of an upscale, luxury car dealer. The salespersons, seeing an unshaven, disheveled, poorly dressed man, essentially ignore him. Offended, the multi-millionaire buys a top-of-the-line model the next day from a direct competitor.” There are a lot of ways to tell that classic missed-sales-opportunity story, but they all sound something like that.

If opportunity is so important to our success, and so difficult to find and recognize, we need to focus more of our energy on it. Unless you’re naturally good at it, finding and capitalizing on opportunity needs to be a deliberate focus: 

Open your eyes and ears – we can no longer afford to be indifferent, or even worse, oblivious to the world around us. Be on the lookout for ideas that could lead to new opportunities. Even more important than eyes and ears, keep your mind open too. Many of us miss opportunities, because they don’t fit into our pre-existing paradigms.

Remember that all people count – sometimes we get so obsessed with the “right” people, we miss out on valuable opportunities from people, who on the surface, can do seemingly nothing for us.

Fight through the fear – one of the biggest reasons we miss out on extraordinary opportunities is because we are too afraid to leap. Herb Brooks wasn’t too afraid to leap; we shouldn’t be either.

Let your creative juices flow – the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgi once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” The more creative you are, the more opportunity you will discover. See the world in a different way, and doing things like nobody else, and just watch the opportunities that manifest.

Take risks – As the old saying goes, “nothing risked, nothing gained.” Unless you take a chance and do something new, you’ll keep running into the same old opportunities.

Work really hard – “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work,” said the great inventor Thomas Edison.

Set meaningful goals – make those goals specific too. The more you clarify what you really want, the quicker you will recognize it when it shows up.

Find quiet time – many people have found great opportunities, because they prayed for them or spent time meditating about them. Such activity creates focus in your mind, and a focused mind is a powerful mind.

Believe – visualize success and tell yourself that good things will come. A positive mind is more receptive to hidden opportunity.

Prepare – as the old Boy Scout motto says, “be prepared.” You never know when the perfect opportunity will open up. If you’re not prepared, you might not act on it quickly enough. In his autobiography, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he believes in “relentless preparation.” He constantly prepares for crisis, so he will perform properly. Same thing applies to opportunity.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his “Business Motivation Blog” at

How to Motivate your Slacking Sales Team

Paul Cherry, Pbresults

Her name was Cindy, but around the office, she was better known as “Solitaire Cindy.” Whenever I walked by her desk, the Solitaire screen on her PC was running. Frankly, it bugged me. Why should Solitaire Cindy game her day away while I busted my hump in my job, along with my fellow employees? I asked her manager how she felt about that. She sighed, “For what we pay Cindy, she does a decent job, so she’s earned the right to futz around.”

I even talked with Cindy myself, hoping to encourage her. But, she shrugged as she flipped a card with a click of her mouse.

Cindy wasn’t motivated. But I blame management. They neither confronted her nor gave her any motivation. Like so many managers, they took the path of least resistance. People would prefer to put up with mediocrity than make waves with employees.

You Have Choices on How to Address Mediocrity in Your Sales and Marketing Organization.

For instance, would you:

• Disconnect Cindy’s Solitaire software to force her to step up to the plate?

• Confront her, running the risk of annoying her and losing her (and finding her replacement)?

• Ignore Cindy’s overall mediocre performance because of the things she does do well, risking a ripple effect on the other employees who work hard while Cindy follows her own path of least resistance?

• Initiate a meaningful dialogue with her to find out why she’d rather play computer Solitaire than be a proactive worker in your sales organization?

If you were like some of my large business-to-business sales organization clients, you probably think installing programs to monitor and restrict employees’ Internet access is the answer. But that only treats the symptom, not the disease.

If you were like most misguided managers then you feel it’s not your job to inspire excellence. You would choose to ignore Cindy’s overall mediocre performance. I’m sorry but chances are your sales team will not magically motivate themselves. You must address mediocrity issues ASAP so they don’t snowballs into a major problem.

An effective sales team leader would:

• Initiate a meaningful dialogue with their sales team

• Remember all members of their sale team are individuals with motivations as different as their work styles

• Respect and respond to those differences so their sales team performs above and beyond expectations

• Understand their employees like they understand their customers

• Find out what their sales team truly values

You risk losing your best workers if you don’t discover ways for them to feel successful and accomplished in their positions. And, the only way to understand what people value is to engage. That’s why I strongly suggest that you talk with your sales team. Really listen to what success means to them!

8 Questions You Must Ask Your Sales Team So You Can Take Them to the Next Level

Armed with the answers to these 8 questions, you can implement meaningful reward systems, programs, and promotions that’ll turn mediocre employees into happy and productive sales performers.

1. What do you feel is going well for you at our company?

2. What have you accomplished so far that you’re really proud of?

3. What else besides a bigger paycheck would make you feel more successful at work? In life?

4. What would you have to accomplish in order to feel successful five years from now in your sales career?

5. What do you enjoy most about your sales job?

6. What two things would you most like to achieve in the next six months?

7. In order to make your sales career more interesting, what would you like to do more of? Less of?”

8. How do you define success?

Get Your Sales Team Motivated

If you want your sales team to feel successful and triumphant in their jobs, you must make them feel valued. I can’t even begin to count the number of times clients have called asking to help them motivate their employees. Over and over, they tell me their business would improve if only Joe or Jenny Worker would “step up to the plate” or “put in that extra effort.” But all they have to do is ask their employees what motivates them, and how they want to be motivated!

Remember, motivated employees have the drive to succeed. So start asking questions and motivate your sales team today, so you can grow your business tomorrow!

Why Sales People Make Better Problem Solvers

By Jonathan Farrington

As far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed solving problems and that has certainly been of great assistance during my sales career.

You see, creativity is problem solving. That’s the essence of successful selling.

The foremost function of the mind is problem solving; we solve problems with our imagination, and imagination is a function of our creative ability. A creative salesperson is a problem-solver.

The basics of the selling process:

  • Determine desire
  • Present the product to satisfy desire
  • Help the prospect find the right reasons for a favorable decision

Selling is nothing more than an exercise in problem solving. By constantly keeping your imagination and creativity at work, you will develop the best attitude for problem solving. You will build an unending source of ideas. You will become an idea producer and this will be your source of “value add” that will differentiate you from your competitor.

Differentiate Between Activity and Accomplishment

Activity relates to being busy but accomplishment equates to getting meaningful things done. It takes energy to fail. The successful salesperson channels their energy into creative, productive channels leading to pre-defined goals.

Accomplishment is measured by the amount of creativity involved.

Value Added Asks …

“What service or benefit can I add to what I give my customer, other than my product?”

Not just service in the sense of speedy delivery, prompt follow-up and personal attention, which are normal adjuncts of any real sale, but a real plus idea, something extra of value to him beyond the immediate transaction, that goes beyond the nine dots of your job.

Value add, through idea giving, is the ingredient that earns you the right to ask for the order, and to expect it.

Effective Account Management and Contract Renewals

“Baby it’s cold outside” – One of my all time favorite holiday songs!

It’s edgy and somewhat risk taking and sassy–just how I like it!  I


Effective Account Management and Contract Renewals.


How does it make you feel when a service provider/vendor only

contacts you when it’s time to renew your contract?  Do you feel

respected, special and valued?   Or is there a feeling of being used,

abused, unattended to, unprofessionalism, etc.?

We all know what the definition of a contract is, right?; A written

or spoken agreement, esp. one concerning employment, sales, or

tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law.

While this is the formal definition of a contract, most a-player

professionals want more than just this definition.  They want to

create an experience for the clients so when contract renewal comes

up again, all feelings are positive and forward thinking from the client.

Account Managers needs to realize that it takes a strong effort to

make a client feel good about themselves in order to remove price

from the decision making process at contract renewal.  When an

Account Manager never calls, emails or checks-in all year round and

only makes a ditch effort to reach out a couple days before renewals

occur, the amount of value placed in that company and the Account

Manager who is representing the business, diminishes terribly.  I

have first hand knowledge of this every year with one of our service

providers.  It’s gotten to a point where I’m ready to move this

service over to another provider because of the lack of attentiveness

or caring there is from this business.


Big Fat Note to Account Manager’s out there;  Call your clients, ask

them how their business is doing and at least “act” like you’re

engaged!  It will go a long way.


Learn to sell like the geniuses at Apple

By Tom Searcy 

If you’ve ever visited an Apple store, you know that the friendly, low-key nerds sporting “Genius” t-shirts are not your typical hard-charging sales reps. How frequently do you hear them use heavy-handed tactics to close the sale of an iPad? Yet, somehow, Apple as a company has been able to limp along to a meager $81B cash position, the second largest market capitalization in the world, (right behind Exxon), and break sales records, including THEIR OWN year after year. They must be doing something right, but it sure doesn’t look like “selling.”

Sure, they’ve got great designs and products, but we all know companies who have great designs and products who are a far cry from Apple. So what gives? The answer is the buying experience.

The store-based experience at Apple is great. Easy access, knowledgeable sales people, pay-where-you-find-the-product ability and get an email receipt. It’s every techie and technophobe’s dream – online booking for training, help and easy, no-questions-asked repairs and returns. (Albeit, they do get a little snitty if you drop the iPhone in the toilet, but really, can you blame them?) I can go on, but here’s my point: They have a great buying experience and that’s a great contributor to their record breaking numbers.

So how does your company stack up? Are you on par with Apple or is your company a rotten orange when it comes to your customers’ buying experience? Take a quick survey and see how the buying experience you provide stacks up.

1. Finding the right product or service

a. Customers define their perfect solution based upon quick, customer-friendly assessment

b. Sales reps help customers find the best solution through assessment

c. Customers can select from a limited number of product options

d. Customers can “take or leave” your one product

e. Customers can have whatever color of black phone they want

2. Response time to issues

a. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed immediately

b. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed within 4 hours

c. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed within 1 day

d. Complaints, concerns and questions are addressed within 3 days

e. All communication is handled by fax with an outsourced service bureau in Slovakia…and this month is a national holiday

3. Available information on the company, products and services

a. Information is detailed, online and organized by FAQs

b. Product information is online and organized by product name or #

c. Some product information is available online, but most is in manuals

d. All information is provided in the manuals

e. Some information is provided in the manual, but in a different language than the customer’s native tongue

4. Customer satisfaction validation

a. Customer experience is requested and posted, unaltered with scores (similar to eBay or Amazon)

b. Customer experience is posted with scores

c. Customer experience is handled by email survey

d. Customer experience is independently commented upon on blogs

e. Customer experience is the subject of Twitter digital firestorms

5. Contracts

a. Our agreements are Statements of Work with clear expectations

b. Our contracts are simple agreements written in standard language

c. Our contracts are multiple page agreements with Statement of Work

d. Our contracts always require multiple revisions before signature

e. Our contracts are draconian one-sided documents designed to trap and punish

6. Guarantees and Returns

a. Products or services are 100% guaranteed for life

b. Returns are easy, no questions asked, just present product

c. Limited time guarantees or returns are allowed

d. Restricted guarantees for broken or damaged goods are allowed

e. No returns are allowed

7. Sales and Service Staff

a. Our people are selected and trained to be friendly, knowledgeable and “concierge” in approach

b. Our people are friendly, but not technically knowledgeable, that is handled by other people

c. Our people are technically knowledgeable but not trained in the customer experience

d. Our people are relatively fast with a tag scanner

e. Our experience is on par with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, including the “take a number” personal touch

Now total the number of each letter that you have.  If you have mostly A’s and B’s — great work.  Keep it up.  Mostly B’s and C’s — not bad, but there is room for improvement.  All E’s — you’re rock bottom, and no one will confuse your customer service experience for that of Apple’s.  To get even more feedback, take the survey online to see how you stack up against other companies.

Also on stacking up – read my recent blog on how honest your competitors really are and how to get even.  Like what you read?  I’ve got a webinar this Friday morning 12/9 on the same topic – “how to throw your competition under the bus without leaving fingerprints.”

7 Hiring Mistakes and How Not to Make Them


I am not throwing the first stone here (or the last). I have personally been guilty of half of these. But, alas, it is how one learns.

Hiring Out of Desperation

One of the fastest ways to build an underperforming sales force and burden yourself with human resources nightmares is to hire out of desperation. If you desperately need someone to fill the position, or if you are filling the position because you need to make headcount, you will make mistakes and you will hire poorly. Instead, spend time recruiting the right candidates before you have a need. Build a pipeline of candidates while you are fully staffed, and give yourself time to be more deliberate and more thoughtful in your hiring.

Too Little Time Interviewing

Interviewing takes time, time you don’t likely have while you are busy with your real job. It’s easy to take short cuts and to spend too little time interviewing. But it’s not just a mistake to spend too little time interviewing in general, it’s a mistake to believe that you can learn all you need to know in 30 minutes or an hour. Invest the time to interview a lot of candidates. See more people than you believe necessary. Then, invest lots of time interviewing the candidates that might be a good fit for you and your company. Spend time learning about them, and making sure that they are likely to succeed before you hire them.

Too Much Focus on Experience

For some reason, we act as if the fact that a person has a similar sales experience to the sales position for which we are hiring, that it is more likely that they will succeed. When reviewing resumes, we look for the experience, and not finding it, we move onto other candidates. But our own hiring results continually punish us for making the mistake of placing too much emphasis on experience at the expense of other attributes. If experience isn’t going to be the primary factor that allows a salesperson to succeed or fail, then don’t make it your primary consideration. If you have the ability to train and develop salespeople, then look for factors that will later prove to be a greater indicator of success (more on that next).

Too Little Focus on Attitude, Beliefs, and Behaviors

Because we place so much value on experience, we tend to ignore the real factors that lead to success. We ignore just how important the hard-to-quantify attributes that don’t show up on resumes, like attitude, beliefs, and behaviors. Later on, when the employee is failing, we notice that the root cause of their failure is their attitude, their belief systems, and the behaviors. Eliciting a potential salesperson’s attitudes, their overarching belief system, and their behaviors will give you more insight to how that salesperson is going to perform than will their past experience. Asking questions to pull out these factors will do much to eliminate some easily preventable hiring mistakes.

Believing Skills Are Transferable

Back to experience. Because someone has sold, we believe that they can sell. But there are major differences in the skill sets, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes required for different types of selling. A salesperson that did well in a transactional sales role may be ill suited and struggle in a longer sales cycle. The reverse is true, too: someone who managed a complex sales process may struggle in a transactional role. Make sure that main skills, attributes, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors exist before hiring someone. Hire them into a role in which you are certain that you can help them succeed based on these factors.

Your Opportunity

You have a sales position to fill. The candidate in front of you is seeking a sales position. So you begin to sell them your opportunity, telling them how wonderful the company is and just how great it is to work there. You sell them the position because you need them to take it, not because they are the right hire. While you are doing all the selling, you aren’t learning anything about your candidate. Save the sales pitch. You need to be sold on the candidate before you do any selling. Your time is best spent asking the questions, listening to the answers, and making an assessment as to whether or not you can help this person succeed should you hire them.

Not Discovering Verifiable Results

If someone has worked in sales, they will have had clients. They will have made lots of sales calls. They will be able to speak about the clients they won, the clients that they lost, and the clients that they should have won, but didn’t. It is a mistake not to identify some of the clients that they won and how they did so. Ask if you can speak with some of their past clients. Verify that they did in fact win their business, and ask their client what they did that allowed them to win the business. These are results that you can verify, and they are indication of what you might expect from the salesperson sitting in front of you. Hiring well isn’t easy. It’s easy to hire someone you believe will be a star only to be disappointed. If you have hired for any time at all, you will have had the experience of taking a chance and hiring someone who wasn’t nearly qualified on paper that ended up outperforming the rest of their team. But it isn’t all voodoo and magic. You start hiring well by first avoiding the most common hiring mistakes.


  • What are the biggest hiring mistakes you have personally witnessed?
  • What are the biggest hiring mistakes you have personally made?
  • What are the risks of hiring out of desperation?
  • Why do we spend so little time interviewing? How much time does it take to really know enough to decide if a person is a good fit?

What are your best tips for hiring effectively?