If you demonstrate software, the "Bridge-Building" concept is the most
important fundamental you can learn. This technique involves bridging
the mental gap between how your potential users perform their job today
and how they'll perform it with your software in the future.
prospects perform their jobs day-in and day-out using their existing methods,
procedures and software (assuming they're automated). It's a habit they've
formed over a great deal of time. Their existing methods have the powerful
force of inertia behind them. Webster's dictionary defines inertia
as "an object retains its state of rest or velocity along a straight
line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force." In business
speak, that means change is hard. Your prospect has an inner physical
or mental force that says, "I don't want to change." In fact, my experience
has taught me the only person who likes change is a two-year-old child
with a dirty diaper, and even he needs to be coerced!
no doubt asking yourself, "How can this be? After all, my potential user
sent out an RFP (request for proposal), assembled a selection team, hired
a consultant, set a timeline for a decision and established a financial
budget for a new system. Clearly this is someone who wants to experience
change. Right?" WRONG!
Sure, your prospects receiving your demonstration have a desire to improve
their operations. But deep down, they don't want to change. Change is
risky. It requires sacrifice, disruption and dedication. Why do you think
95 percent of the wealth in the world is controlled by only five percent
of the people? One big reason is because 95 percent of us are averse to
change. Now, you could get lucky and have one of the "five percent folks"
in your demonstration, but the odds are against it.
all likelihood, change is being forced on your prospect. They're
probably facing some compelling or significant event. It's your job to
identify this event, especially as it relates to the ultimate decision-maker.
Compelling events come in many shapes and sizes. Some examples include:
- A change
in ownership or management.
- A change
in financial condition (e.g., computer lease is expiring).
for their software has been discontinued.
existing software vendor is out of business.
- A customer
requirement that their existing system can't fulfill.
a deep canyon. At the beginning of the demonstration your prospect is
on one side of the canyon (with their software). You're asking them to
move to the other side (to your software). The prospect knows there's
good reason to cross this canyon (compelling event). However, they're
not very excited about it (fear of change).
are you going to get them across the canyon? You need a bridge, right?
If you think the prospect will build a bridge themselves, you're fooling
yourself. After all, how many people are willing to be a construction
worker on a bridge over a deep canyon? (Maybe five percent, right?) It's
your job to build a Demonstration Bridge (or Bridge for short).
do you use to construct your Bridge? You'll build it with knowledge and
- A knowledge
of your prospect and their needs.
- A knowledge
of your software.
- The technique
of demonstrating how your software will address and improve their process
matters, almost all prospects are afraid of heights. In spite of this
fear, they insist on looking down. This will happen many times during
your demonstration in the form of objections and points of clarification.
You've no doubt heard the cries from the audience such as, "Wait a minute!
Do you mean we're going to have to ?" or "Hold on a minute. Can you please
go through that process again? I didn't quite get it the first time."
You know what your prospect is really doing? They're telling you they
are scared. What are you going to do about it?
helping somebody with a fear of heights crossing a bridge over a deep
canyon, you're going to take them by the hand and lead them across. You
need to help them close their eyes and visualize being on the other side
of the Bridge (using your software). They'll be hesitant at first (beginning
of your demo), but if they trust you (you've built credibility), they'll
follow you across the Bridge to your software. In fact, if you do a really
good job on the first half of the Bridge, some of your demonstration audience,
but probably not all, will let go of your hand and walk the rest of the
way on their own. If that happens, feel good about yourself. You'll have
developed into a highly skilled Demonstration Bridge builder!
The Hard Way
My first major defeat as a salesperson was with a chainsaw distributor
in North Carolina. At the outset, we were sure to win the business. My
company had the experience of successfully installing our product at another
well-respected chainsaw distributor in Florida. The distributor in Florida
was a close personal friend of our prospect in North Carolina. I swooped
into North Carolina knowing I would knock their socks off with
our software. For the next two days, my teammate and I showed them every
feature and function in our software. After the demonstration was finished,
we were told they preferred an older product sold and supported by a local
competitor because "they seem to understand our business better." What
had dumped all of my high quality bridge pieces in front of my prospect
and assumed they would know how to put it together. My much smarter and
more experienced competitor had inferior materials to work with, but actually
built the Bridge for the prospect so it was easy for them to walk across.
Most demonstrations focus on features and functions and ultimately become
a training session. This style of demonstrating is totally ineffective.
You're asking your prospect to both change and take all the risk. Don't
do this to your prospect. Don't ask them to build the Bridge to your software
by themselves. Remove the risk of change by taking them on a knowledge
(not a feature) journey. Fearlessly build and lead them across the Bridge
by demonstrating your software in their world. Demonstrate how you will
improve their existing process flows as opposed to demonstrating all of
your software features.
yourself this simple question: "Have I ever lost a deal to an inferior
product?" If your answer is yes, I'll guarantee that one of the prime
reasons for your defeat was because your competitor was a more effective
Bob Riefstahl has performed hundreds of demonstrations to all sizes of
companies and audiences throughout his career. His firm Demonstrating
To Win! LLC, offers workshops, consulting and professional speaking to
technology companies around the world. This article is from his book Demonstrating
To Win, available through www.demo2win.com.