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Don’t waste a demo: 5 key questions to ask your potential vendor

At this point in the buying cycle, the salesperson has got you hooked on the dream of business transformation and the ‘wow’ factors that have lined their pitch; but you need to see past the buzzwords and get visual with your potential purchase.

This is when Sales Engineers step in to solutionize the product features. Responsible for building out product demonstrations (demos), Sales Engineers are able to create solutions that address your specific requirements and challenges. Every Sales Engineer has the best of intentions when they embark on a demo, but sometimes the audience participation isn’t there. Sales Engineers need to be challenged - in fact, they like to be challenged. Why? Because creating a lively discussion between prospect and vendor that enriches their knowledge about your business. Overall, constructive participation from the prospective client makes for a more compelling demo experience.

So what should you ask to get to the real meat of the solution? We’ve given you 5 questions to ask for a more meaningful session. These questions can be applicable to a variety of business IT solutions and enterprise applications, so ask as you wish!

How long will the implementation take? What budget should I put aside?

This question is essential to ask, and relatively early in the evaluation. System implementation is the man-hours required to deliver the whole solution, including scoping, building and testing. As you can imagine, this can turn out to be the bulk of the cost in addition to the license or package you are purchasing. Although, setting expectations early is key, the vendor may be hesitant to disclose in the more complex scenarios; project scoping is an art, and this should not be underestimated. Make sure you offer your time to discovery for a more accurate investment; moreover, it’s beneficial to start planning for implementation and putting in place any necessary business continuity strategies to avoid disruption. All in all, no one wants nasty surprises later down the line, especially when it concerns the budget.

What are the most common challenges you see in [x] industry?

A seasoned Sales Engineer should be able to tell you specific challenges that organisations in your industry encounter. The real opportunity for you here is not only hear about how they solved familiar pain points, but also to take advantage of any insight about potentially foreboding hazards your business may encounter too. Take the opportunity to ask this question to learn from other’s mistakes by avoiding the wrong path and adopting business applications that will help you stay ahead of the curve.

How often are updates made available? What does it involve from our side?

In the world of SaaS especially, frequent innovation is commonplace. These vendors know all too well how easy it can be for for an organisation to ‘rip and replace’ one platform/application for another. Adding new features and making old ones more intelligent is one way they prove why they should be your vendor of choice. So, when you ask ‘How often’ it can be used as an indicator of innovation.

Now we have established how promising it is for a vendor to be doing regular updates, it is then wise to ask after the time and effort required from your side. Is it going to be a repeat of the first implementation? That’s probably not what you want to hear. The other end of the spectrum are systems that run automatic updates without any strenuous participation from you and your team. Take the move to Salesforce Lightning Experience. The new user interface was made available to it’s customers with a flick of a switch; and it was just that, a flick of a switch that was both easy and gave the customer control.

Can I automate that?

Simple, but effective question. One of the greatest measures in business application ROI (return on investment) is time saved by personnel in carrying out their daily work. For example, when considering CRMs, the leading contenders will be able to amaze you with workflow automation to make your people more efficient and your data more reliable.

If it’s not a standard, you can ask: ‘Is there a workaround?’. If there’s code involved, how feasible is it to write some (you know your own experience) or alternatively: ‘What would the cost of a developer be?’. This should all be included in your cost estimate, as we covered previously.

What other systems/applications should I evaluate also?

Here, we’re not necessarily referring to competitors (I doubt any vendors will list off their true competitors), but instead ask about complementary applications that can extend the system. Asking this means you will get recommendations for solutions that are robust, integrate flawlessly, and overall will build a more holistic solution than you may not have considered initially.

Take Salesforce’s AppExchange as an example, the virtual store where you can purchase applications that complement Salesforce-owned technology. As Salesforce Consultant and solution salespeople, we frequently amaze people with what apps they can download, for ‘quick win’ functionality - and even better if they’re free!

There are the 5 questions that we, at enxoo, believe can make a good demo great. Always bear in mind that you need to give the Sales Engineer or consultant information to work with; this means sharing your pain points. Being prepared with your metrics is beneficial too. Although you are the prospective buyer, you have a limited amount of time in which to sap as much information as possible, so you can go away and make an informed decision that is the best thing for your business. Don’t waste a demo - it’s an invitation to transformation that’s awaiting you.


About enxoo

enxoo were born in the cloud, and we can fuel your business.

We empower our clients by combining business instinct and technical knowledge deliver exceptional results - but not just limited to information systems. As a Salesforce.com Gold Partner, we offer a full business transformation package from business analysis and consultation, through to Salesforce implementation, as well as offering nearshore development resource for our partners across Europe.

Check out the rest of our website for more information on our completed projects and customer stories.