Presales Futures and Demo Automation imagines a world where some form of demo automation becomes mainstream, in earlier demos, how sales, marketing and presales teams can utilize these new solutions to their best advantage.
Author’s note: this space is so new that, we don’t know the term that’s going to be decided on for these sorts of tools. While we don’t really like the phrase “Demo Automation,” nor do we love the phrase “Product-Led,” we are going to use them here for lack of better alternatives. Should the market settle on a better name, we will revise this post accordingly.
But even with the hype, there are real concerns about what these new solutions, such as Demo Stack, Consensus, Reprise or Navattic mean for the future of presales jobs… From presuming that jobs will be taken by the increased functionality of automation (I for one welcome our new robot overlords), or even concerns around the nomenclature of “automation”, to the fact that it’s such a new space, the messaging around what the platforms are (and aren’t) isn’t entirely clear. As Demo Coaches, we see a world of opportunity, and this world does not preclude presales teams or replace live demos. Like any other technology, these solutions are merely tools (good tools, but still tools), and require skilled craftspeople to wield them. Bad Demos will still be demos if the messaging, delivery, talent, and process are not good to begin with, and without the right process, talent and messaging, your deals will still be stuck mid funnel (or worse).
We have some suggestions as to the implementation of new technologies and how to make them work for you, (or not)! Below, we go over a few of the pros and cons of demo automation, and, later this month, we will offer exclusive interviews with vendors, along with some sample automation product reviews so you can understand the potential place these tools might fall in your own stack.
Pros of Demo Automation
Keeps live software from breaking: One of the biggest complaints in revenue organizations are maintaining the demo environment. In fact, for some enterprise organizations, maintaining demo environments is a full time job (sometimes there’s a whole team dedicated to it). These new tools promise a future where demo environments are available for team members to use, without the overhead of a technical team to maintain them.
Sales cycles: In our coaching sessions, one topic we often we discuss are the ways that a poorly timed demo can derail a deal (or simply be a waste of time). These solutions are poised to allow customers to “self-demo” (more on that later), but can also make it easier for non-presales resources (SDRs, AEs, etc) to run a short demo in an early meeting. This way, presales can focus on the deals that are either 1) more likely to close and/or 2) need their help.
Audience Unification: Especially in the case of complex, enterprise sales, it often takes several demos to advance a deal. If you are demoing to mixed audiences (i.e. business and IT) or if you haven’t been able to get the decision maker(s) in the room, ,it might take some cycles to get there. Or, you may end up having trouble determining how high-level or low-level a demo needs to be. Automated demos offer customizations that help you send the right demo to the right audience and, when it is time for a live demo, you have the right audience for the right solution and can ensure everyone is on the same page.
Quantitative Analytics: When demos are primarily mid-funnel, it can be difficult to truly measure the impact that they have on a sales cycle (conversions aren’t necessarily immediate, like they are with an SDR booking a meeting). . We watch hours of Gong calls and demos and while we do have quantitative metrics, largely, measurement is qualitative. Automated demos offer a whole new world in terms of analytics that can add substantially to discovery and our understanding of what clients are looking for. Some areas to measure and observe would be heat maps, engagement polls, and time spent/rewound on certain functions. Even just knowing that the client watched the demo can help determine how serious the buyer is.
Cost: Live demoing and demo environments are incredibly expensive. More and more money is being raised on demo automation and solutions because it is cost prohibitive to maintain custom demo environments and, as we’ve discussed, proofs-of-concepts can take tons of resources.
Cons of Demo Automation
Some of the cons of Demo Automation are precisely what makes live demos so expensive and effective. You simply cannot beat a live demo, delivered at the appropriate time in a sales cycle, by a talented presenter. If you have rock stars who have worked together for years, AEs and SEs who work well together, and you have a process that runs smoothly, the investment may not be worth it.. Great demos and presenters have a way of reading the room (or Zoom),(subtle and obvious emotional clues), engaging all members of the audience, and closing businessl with the solutions they deliver. What is more is they are usually supported by teams who are helping give them the right information and preparing the client for the demo all along. As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, there are not that many presales teams that get it right.
Process: In order to integrate automated demos, you will need to modify your process. We recommend using an outside consultancy to rebuild your process around an automated demo. You’ll have to determine which stage is best to deploy these demos, when intervention from a human is most important, and test those assumptions. If you don’t have an effective process now, adding another tool isn’t going to solve that problem. So, we recommend getting your “house in order” (so to speak) before bringing in another set of tools.
Sales Cycle Burden: You run the risk of abandoning a product early with an automated demo or extending the sales cycle with reminding your audience or members to watch it and interact with it. It’s the same problem as trials have – if you give a client a tool to play with, they may or may not do it. That can add weeks (or even months) to your cycle. And, if your automated demo is not compelling enough to view and get people interested, it can end up hurting your deal.
Personnel: If your teams are used to operating a certain way with a certain process, then they may not be receptive to changing (change is HARD). Again, you may be best served to bring in a team to transition and train for new skills. Some team members may flourish and some may resent the changes. There are many sales personalities that really shine and do their best work in person and automating aspects of their standard process might handicap their abilities. A lot of this comes down to how the tools are positioned – it needs to be clear that these are in support of the team, not a replacement. And, bee sure that there is supplemental training for automation onboarding.
Makes Complex Software Harder: It is a presenter’s job in a live demo to make software seem simple. In an automated demo, there is a much higher risk that the complex software seems more complex (or, as your developers might say, “robust”). This is because “product-led” can shift the onus to understand the demo from the presenter to the. Generally, we like to be able to control the narrative, and engage the audience the so they interact with us. By leading with a product-led demo, you’re giving up control, which can be risky.
Discovery: We potentially miss discovery opportunities in an automated demo. Each time we interact with a client, there’s an opportunity to conduct discovery, which could be as simple as basic observation and questions. We miss this opportunity to see faces, hear voice intonations, clarify use cases, and much more with a demo automation. Of course, we will be delivering the live demo after, but if a client is turned off by an automated demo, you may not make even make it to the live demo.
Messaging: The last potential con is messaging. Your messaging needs to be expertly crafted and tested on a variety of audiences. This often requires a strong partnership between sales and marketing, which, as we’ve discussed, isn’t always the easiest thing to do. We recommend hiring an expert, outside of your existing marketing to audit the product messaging and to make sure that any product-led or automated demo is delivering on that message.
We hope Presales Futures and Demo Automation was helpful for those considering implementing demo automation. All in all, we really consider companies developing these products to be solving some very important pieces of the presales puzzles and cannot wait to share more insights. If you have questions about your existing process and onboarding solutions we have for demo automation, let’s have a chat. We fix demos, automated, or live.