Sales Engineers: It’s Not About You

There are two facts about people that are universally true: The first is that people love talking about themselves. The second is that no one likes it when the person they’re talking to only talks about themselves. For a sales engineer, knowing these two simple facts about people can revolutionize the way you give sales demos. Read to learn the subtle switch that can transform the way you give demos.

“A Little Bit About Me…”

I can imagine that many of us have lived through this exact scenario: You’re on a first date at a nice restaurant. Before the date started, you were hopeful that this person had the potential to become a partner. But after about ten minutes, you’ve had enough. All your date can talk about is themselves! You know all about their hobbies, interests, accomplishments, etc. – but you aren’t even sure they know how to pronounce your name. You ask yourself, “Why am I even here?”

Within minutes, the date is effectively over (although unfortunately, you have to sit through the full meal). Your date might not have had bad intentions – they might not be a selfish person. Perhaps they were nervous and were simply trying to impress you, by sharing all the things that people are usually impressed by. But you aren’t impressed – you feel neglected and unheard. You feel no connection. There is no second date.

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Unfortunately, this is how our prospects often feel when they receive a demo. As the sales engineer, we want to share all the exciting features of our solution and how it can help our prospects! But we don’t take the time to engage our prospects, ask them questions, or get inside their heads – so they feel no connection to us. At the end of the demo, they have no comments or questions. They just say, “Thank you, we’ll be in touch.”

Why weren’t they engaged? You explained the features of your product and how it could benefit them. You demonstrated the versatility and utility of your product. You gave relevant examples of how others in their industry have had success with your product. They should be getting their metaphorical checkbooks open, ready to buy!

But they don’t – because they feel like you felt on that bad date. They feel like you talked their ear off about your solution, without really understanding their problem. All of your valuable information was lost on them, because you left it up to them to connect the dots between your offerings and their needs. Ultimately, it’s not your job to tout all the features of your product. It’s your job to help the prospect see how those features can make their lives easier.

Shift the Focus: What’s In It For Them?

In a sales demo, everyone wins when the focus is on the prospect and their needs. Because again – the goal of the demo is not to show the prospect what your solution does. The goal is to show them how your solution can do what they need to get done.

With every engagement you have with your prospect, ask yourself: What’s in it for them? Learn their goals and incorporate them into every conversation you have.

This starts by conducting an effective discovery call, in which you clarify their goals, needs, current state, and any factors that might affect their ability to use your solution. If you aren’t getting this information out of your discovery calls (or worse – if you aren’t even conducting discovery calls) – stay tuned for a post about how to ask better discovery questions.

Flip Your Script

Focus on Goals

Once you know your prospect’s goals, you can practice finding ways to incorporate them into your demo. Here’s a useful exercise for sales engineers: Take your demo script and highlight anywhere you start a topic with talking about you, your company, or a product feature. Then, switch your vocabulary to focus on the audience. For example, if you usually start a demo with, “I am here to show you how my product can do x,y, and z,” instead shift the language to, “Based on our previous conversations, streamlining product development with an easy to adopt solution is key for you … Let’s talk through some examples of how we see that working at companies like yours.”

Demonstrate Business Value

Another way to shift the focus back to your prospect is by committing to communicating about features in terms of business value for them. Let’s say your software has a feature called the “Epic Board.” If you begin your explanation of this feature by saying, “This is the Epic Board,” then you have said nothing to capture the audience attention. Do they care what your feature is called? No. You sound like Doc talking about the flux capacitor. Tell me about time travel and my ears will perk up, but keep using product-specific language and you’ll lose me.

Your audience doesn’t care what you call the feature; they want to hear how it will help them. If you want them to look up from their electronic devices and listen, then change your language to, “Now, let’s take on a role of a Steering committee member. I need to understand which initiatives are underway and whether there are any bottlenecks. This Epic Board view will provide visibility to help you answer those questions.”

Bam! With the latter intro focusing on the audience (Steering Committee member) and their goals (what is getting in the way of our initiatives being completed?), you have framed your communication about this feature in terms of business value.

This might seem like a big change for some. To ease yourself into it, I recommend starting with changing the order in which you are presenting. Where in the past you may have mentioned the feature first and then the value, start instead with the value and then mention the feature only to identify it. Eventually, you’ll learn that feature names truly don’t matter.

Learn More

This is a subtle but powerful change, that can have a major impact on your performance. Want to learn more ways to help you stay focused on your prospect’s goals? Check out this blog post.