04/16/2014 05:32 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For

I have the pleasure of working with many teams each year on how to shorten sales cycles, avoid pricing pressure and accelerate growth. I was working with a top-performing group recently. This past quarter they crushed their goals. Several of their reps have already hit their targets for the first half of the year, barely one quarter into the year. But, they still face issues.

Specifically, they get too many requests for demonstrations of their product.  You might be wondering "Why is that a problem?"  With such explosive growth, the company realizes that they have to be selective about their growth. The company's goal is to quickly determine whether or not the person contacting them is a good fit for what they are selling.  Doing a product demonstration for a client is a run through of your product's features; it's not the means for determining fit with a client.

Despite Best Efforts
Let's say you already do a good job of understanding your client's situation before pitching your product or service. You know that if you make the mistake of jumping into the demo, that you'll sound like a pushy salesperson. Furthermore, until you understand the potential customer's situation, you have no way to know whether or not you can deliver the results they need.  Still, customers call you just asking for a demonstration and asking for your price. The problem is that a discussion about price or a demo is premature until you do a bit more discovery. Getting an early demo is not in your best interest or that of your client. Why do customers make those requests early on?

The Source of the Problem
My client found a surprising source for these customer requests. Someone was directing their customers to request a demo. The problem was, it was their own website. While the salespeople wanted to determine if there was a fit, the marketing call-to-action (CTA) said "sign up for a demo."  The potential customers were doing exactly as they were directed. It just was not aligned with what the sales organization wanted to have happen.

It is perfectly reasonable for marketing to think that the goal is to get someone to request a demo. This highlights the importance of getting sales and marketing better aligned. In fairness, my client's sales organization recently shifted from just getting demos to better qualifying the potential client. So, their talented marketing department just hadn't yet made the shift.

How Do You Fix It?
Instead of suggesting that the customer request a demo, you could simply change the site to say "Complete this form to see whether or not we might be a fit for your situation." This slight change in wording would set the proper tone with potential clients about determining a fit, rather than scheduling a demo.

Your Turn
What are you asking your customers to do that is contrary to what you really want? What's the funniest example you have seen?