Why I Pulled The Plug On A Recent Demo

Me: “Can I make a suggestion”
Suspect: “Sure”
Me: “Based on everything you’ve said, in my opinion and do tell me if you disagree, I believe we should agree to end the demo early, we’re not a good fit and here’s why….”

Here’s what happened…

4 weeks ago, I was due to run a Discovery Call with my suspect (someone I wasn’t sure was a prospect just yet), Sharon.

The Discovery Call was in the calendar for 11am and due to finish at 11.30, unfortunately Sharon was running 20 minutes late and she struggled to get on our Zoom screenshare

At the start of our call I asked, that given there was only 10 minutes left of our allotted time if she had a hard stop to which Sharon confirmed she had 45 minutes until her next meeting and that we were good for time.

On the call I started to get a feeling it was a bad fit… Here’s what I heard:

  • The sales team are all ‘seasoned’ with 10+ years in the role.
  • The team, collectively have missed targets two years running
  • Sharon has had success as a sales manager in another division and been moved across to ensure this year is a success. She has 11 months to turn this team around.

I dug deep here and asked how she planned to turn this misfiring team around. In Sharon’s credit and I quote she is prepared to ‘rewrite the rule book and ‘shake things up’ a ‘complete revamp is needed’ she will ‘pull out all the stops’ to ensure come next October they hit targets.

Great. Just want I wanted to hear.  

I asked Sharon if she was prepared to start recording and coaching calls – “yes, without a doubt”. However, she felt her team needed telephone coaching first “How do you mean?” I asked.

Sharon explained the two weaknesses of her team are that they’re afraid of the phone, “It’s a graveyard on the sales floor” and when they do sell (she referred to it as order taking) they have no commercial acumen and never upsell. Opportunities are never maximised.

Sharon therefore wanted to coach her team to pick up the phone.

I started to think this team weren’t ready for a conversation intelligence platform. My concerns were then confirmed when I asked how she planned on coaching the team. She replied that her management style was to incentivise the team by providing chocolate bars and walking on to the sales floor delivering praise verbally for everyone to hear.

That is not coaching.

My goal had now shifted, I was no longer looking to secure a demo, I wanted to qualify my suspect out. At this moment Sharon interrupted me. She said she had to go, something had happened that needed her attention immediately. We’d only had 10 minutes of call time. She said I’ll be in touch, I want to see a demo. The she was gone.

If I’m honest, I half expected to never hear from Sharon again. To her credit an hour later she sent me a calendar invite and screenshare link for a demo. If she hadn’t have said she was prepared to rewrite the rule book and pull out all the stops, I’d have been 100% confident this demo wasn’t worth either of our time but she’d dangled a carrot that this was perhaps worth 30 more minutes of my time.

I therefore did what I normally do ahead of a demo, I replayed the call back in Refract and made a situation slide documented ‘what I heard’ on the Discovery Call. (Slide below)

At the start of the demo I took Sharon through my ‘what I heard’ slide and got her to confirm everything there was accurate:

Pulling The Plug On A Demo

I was 5 minutes into the demo and Sharon said ‘my team wouldn’t like their calls recorded, they would feel like I was micro-managing them’

I replied with the following

“If I’m honest Sharon, given what I’ve heard, I’m surprised you say that and here’s why…

You’ve told me you want to record calls, understand what the team are saying in their conversations and use that insight to coach your team to success, you also want to capture and profile what good looks like to drive excellence across the team.

You’ve explained that everyone in the team you’ve inherited has been in their role for 10 years or more and that they all lack the knowledge, capability and confidence to pick up the phone and upsell”

Sharon, given they’re in sales and sales people by nature are competitive and proud, if they’re not hitting targets and haven’t for 2 years, how many of your team do you feel would turn down call recording when its intention is to help them improve, sell, earn commission and to be successful”

Sharon replied “all of them”

I was stunned.

I shared with her that in an assessment of over 2 sales people only 6% were found to be ‘elite’ and the other 94% could all improve.

Before I could ask if she had any ‘elite’ sales people she said, “everyone in my team could improve”

I asked how she planned on helping her team improve their sales conversations without listening to their calls.

“I can’t… but before I listen to their calls, I need them to actually pick up the phone”

I said that was a fair point, but I just played back to her the conversation we’ve effectively had and pointed out I’d have lost my job at every company I’ve worked for if I never picked up the phone. I then asked if she felt she had the right team to ensure come October 2019 she’d hit her targets

“no, I don’t… but because they’ve been here for more than 10 years they have too much knowledge and if I sacked them we’d lose that knowledge” (the knowledge they’re not using on the phone)

At this point I said ‘Sharon, can I give you some advice [she said yes], a great way to capture and share knowledge is by recording and sharing calls, making them available for new hires too’

Sharon then said ‘I understand what you’re saying but at the same time, sales people are just bullshitters, I need my team to just continue bullshitting and we’ll hit targets’

That comment irked me – I fundamentally disagreed with it and I told her that as well. I know first-hand you can, if you want improve your sales skills and the impact coaching can have, I’ve actually written a post that demonstrates using real data how coaching has improved my sales skills.

At this point, we were 10 minutes in I’d decided this was a waste of Sharon’s time and mine. This was a bad fit prospect.

“Sharon, based on everything you’ve said, in my opinion and do tell me if you disagree, I believe we should agree to end the demo early, we’re not a good fit and here’s why….”

I then explained that it sounds to me like her team are fixed in their ways, they’re not going to start picking up the phone and they’re not going to accept call coaching – despite not hitting targets for 2 years. It feels like the company isn’t ready for a platform like ours and problems run deep.

Sharon agreed, I could see in her face she knew she’d taken a big challenge on when she moved divisions and that she really did need a new approach and shake up.

I wished her well and my parting advice that if anyone in her sales team, who hasn’t hit targets for two years and would refuse to have their calls coached shouldn’t be in her sales team and she agreed.

We ended the call positively and she said she hoped to call me in 3 months time and revisit Refract. We shall see…

A few years back I'd have carried on, feeling like I had to complete the demo and I'm positive my prospect would have been too polite (or perhaps 'British') to suggest this was indeed a waste of time.

When you find yourself on a demo with a 'bad fit' prospect do you 'pull the plug', or do you 'Keep Calm and Carry On' just out of professional courtesy and 'just in case' - likewise, if you're on the receiving end of a demonstration do you simply sit through until the end, not really paying attention or do you suggest you're a bad fit and that the demo should finish early?

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