Demo staff – techheads or actors?

I have had many a discussion with people regarding the skill level of demonstration staff.

Is it enough to have a basic understanding of your product or do you need to be an expert? Do you sell via smoke and mirrors or can you answer any and all questions?

I remain a little vexed by this topic however my firm belief is that product demonstrator ought to know enough to be comfortable with the product, have an air of confidence and be able to handle the majority of questions on the spot.

Having worked in IT for many years and demonstrating complex applications one was expected to know a lot about the product. At the same time a pre-sales person may lack the experience in installing and configuring the application. This leads to the question – is it better to be an expert or someone who can relate to the audience?

I continue to vote for – relate to the audience. I used to demonstrate amongst other things Human Resources and Payroll solutions. I was a Payroll Manager before getting joining IT firms. I could interact with the prospect at the “I have done what you do” level and I believe that the engagement and credibility was strengthened by this experience. In comparison the same application could have been demonstrated by an IT professional such as a programmer and what would be missing is the understanding of the users real needs.

Many years ago I asked a programmer to join me on a visit to a client. The client was not happy with a few aspects of the application and wanted to be heard. They were a little aggressive and wanted action. The discussion on the drive back to the office was most interesting. Firstly they were amazed that clients talked to us in that manner. Secondly they admitted to starting to get an idea of how the application was used by clients and therefore better appreciate the issues raised. Vote 1 – taking the tech staff to meet a client!!!

So experience and a grasp of reality makes a big difference. Imagine that you were walking through a shopping centre and someone was demoing some kitchen gadget, how much interest would you show? Would your interest level be different if the demonstrator was a recognised chief? I suspect it would. What about an x-tradie at a hardware store demonstrating a new power tool. The “been there, done that” credibility is very powerful.

So, can we make having the required, credible background experience part of the job spec for every demo person? We can, and then we start to compromise.

If you can not have x-users demonstrating your product then have experienced staff available to mentor your demo staff and get the new demo staff infront of existing clients to gain real world experience fast and often.

Ultimately, it is an investment in quality.  Quality of the sale, quality of the users product experience and quality of the referral to the next prospect.

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