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Qualifying Your Account Executives Before a Demo

Qualifying account executives

If you’re a solution consultant (SC), sales engineer (SE), or any other role that does sales demos, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than going into a demo and not knowing what you’re aiming for. Qualifying your account executives prior to the demo is a practice that’s beneficial to everyone, including the buyer.

The cold hard reality is there are always going to be situations where you have to tap dance through a demo with little or no discovery beforehand. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory, but that doesn’t mean you should just accept it.

Play the role of coach with your account executives and show them some new tactics that will help both of you have more success throughout the sales process.

A Typical Demo Scenario

Here’s a typical scenario. Your account executive has been given a lead or uncovers an opportunity where someone has an interest in your products. In a lot of cases, the contact person is a lower level project person that’s been tasked to find a solution. In other cases, it’s a would-be user that sees an opportunity for improvement in his/her job and takes the initiative to go find a solution.

The lead gets forwarded to the account executive (AE) as “someone that’s interested in a demo.” The more experienced AEs will usually do a deeper level of qualification than the less experienced AEs, but nevertheless, both feel compelled to get a demo scheduled.

Even though the odds of winning a bottom-up evaluation are incredibly slim, many AEs feel like any chance is better than none at all, especially if their pipeline is anemic. The demo meeting is on the calendar with little or no discovery.

As the SC/SE, you start asking about the prospect’s needs, problems, goals, etc. and you get the canned answer – “you know, improve efficiencies, eliminate manual processes, reduce errors, the standard stuff.”

Now you feel better, right?

How to Qualify the Account Executive

There’s nothing wrong with raising the bar for your AEs in terms of what they owe you prior to a demo. What you’re asking will help them too, even though they may not realize it at first.

It’s a pretty simple tactic. There’s one qualifying question/statement that will tell you how thorough your AE was in his or her first qualifying conversation with the prospect. Here it is.

Tell me why they’re interested, and how our products are directly related to one or more top priorities for their organization.

You can expect one of two responses as follows:

  1. The sound of crickets (no response).
  2. A legitimate answer to the question.

Here’s the thing. If this is a legitimate top-down evaluation by the prospect, and they’ve simply tasked a lower level person to do the initial legwork, you’re OK. That person can usually give your AE enough information to answer the qualifying question above. 

If you get a legitimate answer to this question, there’s a good chance your AE can also tell you what they buyer is trying to accomplish operationally with the product, why it’s important and the obstacles standing in the way, giving you a good target for your demo.

If it’s truly a bottom-up unbudgeted initiative with no compelling event, that should be a red flag to the AE in terms of the amount of time and resources they spend on it. Just remember, salespeople get paid to be hunters and logic doesn’t always prevail.

Free eBook: Top Down Customer Discovery – Uncovering THE BIG WHY!

Delivering the Demo

In either case, you’re on the hook for a demo, so here’s your plan. 

Prior to the demo meeting, ask your AE to send an email to the account contact with a proposed agenda. Make sure they get confirmation on that agenda. Go to this article to get the agenda template. 

The point of this agenda is to get the buyers talking first, giving you answers to  the key WHAT and WHY questions so that the conversation around your demo will have some direction in terms of business outcomes the buyer is looking for, why they’re critical, and the obstacles standing in their way. 

Sure, you don’t know exactly what to prepare for but since it’s an introductory demo and probably a smaller audience, your goal is to get them excited enough about the product that they come back for more if the deal is real.

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The Reality of Demos

Here’s the reality for SCs/SEs when it comes to product demos. There will always be situations where you have to do a demo with little or no discovery beforehand. It’s not always a bad thing because you get to lead the conversation throughout the demo, showcase your facilitation skills and do some meaningful discovery between scenarios.

Consider yourself a coach to the AEs, especially those that don’t operate with much discipline, and help them understand what they can do in the way of discovery and qualification so that collectively, you both have a much better chance of succeeding throughout the sales process.

Thorough discovery before a demo is analogous to the effort good painters put forth preparing the surface before applying paint. The better prepared the surface, the better the quality of the paint job. 

Product demos are no different. The better prepared you are, the greater the chance your demo sticks!

If you want to learn the art of outcome-based demos, how they simplify everything, and how to use the demo as a discovery tool, contact us about a personalized Product Demo Skills Course or enroll in our on-demand course and learn at your leisure.

Click here if you want to experience the easiest way to learn product management, product marketing, pre-sales demos and customer success with our unique hands-on learning format. Be sure to check out our Product Management Framework that simplifies everything by making customer outcomes the starting point for building, marketing, selling and delivering strategic value.

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by John Mansour on May 24, 2023.