3D movies can be entertaining to watch. They can make special effects jump right out of the screen at you. But if over-done, they can also give you a headache. And if you’re a sales leader, that’s exactly what sales people who adopt a 3D approach to selling can do for you - give you a throbbing headache.
It’s probably worth explaining what the 3Ds stand for in this case - and it isn’t three physical dimensions. The three dreadful Ds I’m referring to are Demo, Discount and Develop. On their own, they can be deal breakers. But when combined together, they are a formula for sustained sales under-performance.
The sequence normally goes something like this:
1: Premature Demo
The sales person, rather than really investing in understanding the prospect’s needs, jumps straight into a product demo. Because they lack the context for the demo, it typically consists of a parade of product features, none of which can be related to the customer’s specific situation or priorities.
To be clear: product demos often have a key role to play, but they are most effective when they are designed to showcase how your product deals with a set of already-agreed, specifically defined needs. The problem with premature demos is that they tend to focus on your features rather than the rospect's problems.
The chances of getting meaningful sales traction after a premature demonstration are somewhat remote. But on occasion, the prospect (usually because they are too junior to have anything more substantial to do with their time) allows the sales process to continue. But because the “opportunity” is not based around addressing a clearly defined set of needs, there’s also a tendency for the prospect to throw in a raft of “wouldn’t it be nice if...” feature requirements.
Of course, the product doesn’t (today) include many of these features - and because the sales person hasn’t developed a clear set of economic drivers, they can be hard to argue against. The prospect isn’t showing any urgency to buy, so the sales person offers the worst possible incentive…
2: Irrelevant Discount
In the absence of any more credible incentive, the sales person then offers the prospect a special, never to be repeated, end of quarter or end of year discount. But because the prospect has no pressing need, and because no credible economic case for change has yet been established, the offer isn’t taken up. And after all, the prospect knows that they can get the same or a better deal at a future date if they play their cards right.
3: Unnecessary Development
The third flawed strategy is for the sales person to offer to include the additional missing functions the prospect doesn’t really need but thinks they would like to have in the next release of the product. So the development team end up with an even longer backlog of features they need to add into the product, many of which - if they had only been subjected to the proper forensic analysis - were never needed in the first place and will never be actually used anyway.
Demo > Discount > Develop: You can see how this can quickly develop into a negative spiral. So how can sales organisations break away from this energy-sapping black hole?
Never demo until you have established a need
First (and I’m referring to detailed product demos here, rather web-based automated “tasters”), sales people should never go near a product demo until they have established a clear set of needs and priorities with the customer. Generic product demos typically end up as an unstructured feature tour; with the prospect exposed to a series of functions they won’t remember and can’t imagine a use for.
The lesson is simple: do your research first. Understand what’s really important to the prospect. Try and associate a clear business value with each capability. Restrict the demo to features that have a clear relevance to the prospect’s situation. You’ll do fewer, better demos as a result.
Never negotiate on price until you have established value
Unless you’re locked into a transactional sale for a generic product, or boxed-in to a airless discussion with a procurement functionary, price is never the prospect’s most important priority. You need to get the prospect to acknowledge the value to them of solving the problem or addressing the issue you have identified. Your solution must have a clear value.
If you do this well, you stand the chance of showing that your solution represents fantastically good value even at list price. But if you do have to negotiate, at least you can do so from a position of greater strength. And anything you negotiate away can be matched with a concession of equivalent value from the prospect.
Never sell what your current product cannot deliver
OK, there are some caveats here. You can sometimes make a rational case for selling your future vision or product roadmap, but you’re always going to be in much better shape if you can persuade the prospect that what they need right now is the stuff you can ship right now.
But you can’t achieve this if you haven’t clearly understood what your prospect is trying to achieve, why it’s so important to them to achieve it, and whether they couldn’t achieve the same or similar benefits from implementing your current solution in a creative way.
Take off those 3D goggles
Maybe it’s time to take off those 3D goggles and look at the world from a simpler perspective. There are certainly a raft of good reasons why you need to avoid getting into the Demo > Discount > Develop cycle.
p.s.: one of the ways in which you can avoid the Demo > Discount > Develop death spiral is by focusing on prospects that fit your idea prospect profile and whose needs can be satisfied by what you can ship today. You can download the guide here.