Why I Hate Most Webinars and Demos

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Hate is a strong word, so strong that many of us won’t let our young children use it. But it has its appropriate place in our lexicon. There are things I hate and I’m sure you have your own list, too. I hate cancer. I hate the herb rosemary. And I hate the word “presentation” – especially when pronounced by salespeople with a long “e” – preezentation.  There’s an entire chapter in New Sales. Simplified. expounding on the most painful and embarrassing experience of my sales career that forever ruined the word for me.

Recently I’ve been observing several clients’ webinars and demos which have caused me great anguish. Here’s the reality, salesperson:

The vast majority of your webinars and demos are awful. In fact, they’re worse than the typically horrible face-to-face presentation because the online format only amplifies the flaws in your approach.

Here’s why I hate most webinars and demos:

The focus is wrong. Contrary to what you may believe, you are not the center of the universe. And you, your company and your solution should not be the focal point of your webinars and demos. The prospective client and their situation, needs, desires, issues, challenges and desired results should be. If you took an honest step back to dissect the content of your presentations, I offer that you may be stunned realizing how truly self-absorbed it is. As I’ve shared dozens or hundreds of times: No one cares how smart you are or how great you think your company or solution is. 

It’s premature. I am continually perplexed why salespeople (or sales organizations) feel the compulsion to “present” so early in the sales process. In my book (literally), discovery must precede presentation. If I had the power to make it so, that would be a law. Salespeople tend to rush to the demo stage. Maybe it’s done to build credibility or to create interest. Whatever the reason, I see way too many premature presentations where the salesperson truly doesn’t yet understand the prospect’s situation or how to tie the webinar/demo directly to issues that are front and center to the prospect. And presenting prematurely, particularly when we’re not even in the same room, is what leads to the awful, yet typical, show up and throw up or spray and pray approach deployed by salespeople.

They’re monologues. Newsflash: no where is it written that a presentation/webinar/demo has to be a monologue. Yet in the vast majority of selling webinars I observe, the vast majority of the words are spoken by the sellers. Presenting is not a synonym for selling; presenting is only part of selling.

They’re boring. Ok, I’ve said it. Be offended if you will. But the harsh truth is that very often you’re boring the heck out of your prospect. Too many words. Too many bullet points. Too small a font. Too much on a slide. Too few pictures or images. Too much techno-jargon. Too few good stories.

It’s the same old thing everyone does. Why do companies and salespeople think we can differentiate ourselves in the mind of a prospect with subtle nuances in our presentations? Fine tuning and tweaking the wording of bullet points is not going to get you noticed or help you stand out from the competition. Yet, almost every webinar/demo I observe looks the same. Same, same, same. Same is not safe; same is dangerous because you aren’t doing anything to set yourself, your company and and your solution apart.

Overzealous techies obsesses with their own features. Do I even need to add an editorial comment here? We’ve all seen this a hundred times, and yet somehow most salespeople haven’t figured out a way to prevent it. Blunt truth: your technology isn’t as cool or special as your techie guru thinks it is. And in almost every case, the prospect’s business issues, even when you’re selling to other techies on their side, still trump the feature set of your supposed whiz bang demo. After 20 minutes during almost any demo, I either want to scream, cry, hurt someone, pull my own hair out, or just take a nap.

The dynamic is awkward and uncomfortable. It’s hard enough to communicate we’re on the same side of the table when presenting in person, but it’s even more challenging via a web conference. Sellers do a lousy job setting up the webinar by sharing their agenda, getting buy-in and input from the prospect, and most importantly, communicating that they are there to work with, as opposed to pitching at, the potential client. When we come across like Billy Mays pitching like a madman in an infomercial, we invite the buyers to sit back, cross their arms, become cynical or grab their smartphones to scroll through emails.

I am curious if you have the same reaction to most webinars and demos that I do. Here’s my one very strong suggestion: Sit in on a few of your colleagues’ webinar/demos. But don’t sit in the conference room with your team. Go home or to a private office far away. Login to watch and listen to the webinar the same way the prospect does. You’ll be surprised what you can see as the outside observer. And I guarantee you that you’ll make changes to your approach.

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