Which Solution Had That Pretty Green Chart?

Early in the 2016 Republican Primary season, Donald Trump boasted that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”.  Aside from the loyalty of his supporters, many of whom said that almost nothing could make them change their mind about voting for him in the presidential race, Trump was also benefiting from a non-stop 24/7 news cycle.  In an always-on world, where sensationalism sells in journalism, there’s always the next big story ready to push the last one out of the way.

Software evaluations can sometimes mimic the onslaught on an endless news feed.   Earlier this year, I was evaluating the remarkably fragmented salon management software space.  I discovered over 50 unique vendors, and after considerable online research, I booked demos with 8 of them.  While the demos themselves were highly forgettable, the sheer volume of information I was exposed to made it difficult to easily distinguish between each solution.  All of them essentially approached the needs of salons the same way, with modules for booking and managing appointments, employee scheduling and management, marketing tools for reminders, referrals and loyalty programs, and product and services management.   Each vendor walked me through most of the modules and at the end of those 8 demos, I couldn’t remember which one was which.

None of these vendors took advantage of the many ways they could have made themselves memorable before or during their demo, but then they missed yet another opportunity by also failing to differentiate themselves after the demo.

How do you stay top of mind with a prospect after your demo is over, especially knowing they’re going to be seeing competitor solutions before and after yours?  In addition to delivering a differentiating and memorable demo, there are few more effective tools than the Leave Behind document.

What is a Leave Behind?

A Leave Behind document can refer to any document that highlights, summarizes, or explains in full, information about your solution and how it can solve your clients key business issues.  While most recap what was discussed and shown in the demo, they need not be limited to just that.  The best Leave Behinds are those that:

  • Stand on their own – there are two main audience types for a Leave Behind – demo participants, and those who either didn’t attend the demo or who were only present for a portion of the it.  Those who attended the whole demo might have seen other vendor demos before or after your solution, or may review the Leave Behind many days later, often forgetting the context in which your messaging was delivered.  Those who didn’t attend the demo at all will have even less context.  Because of that, the Leave Behind needs to tell a story – it shouldn’t just be a set of slides with attractive screenshots.  Include an Executive Summary, and use the opportunity to reframe the prospect’s key issues, and explain how your solution solves those problems, with relevant screenshots to support your claims.  If there was an agenda or set of scenarios covered in the demo, include slides or content that illustrates how you addressed each of those items, always including value statements explaining why the reader should care.

  • Are Distributed Immediately – Ideally the Leave Behind is created before the demo and can be printed out, bound, and distributed to the meeting attendees on the day of the demo.  In some cases, as with long Proof of Concept demos with considerable prep work, there may not be time to finalize the document before the meeting.  If so, at the end of the demo, let the prospect know that you’ll be sending a summary document with all important agenda items recapped for their review, or to distribute to any colleagues that might not have attended.  The emailed document should be sent as soon as possible afterwards to reinforce your messaging and remain top of mind.

    When distributing printed copies on the day of the meeting, consider handing them out at the end of the demo, as they can be a potential distraction for the audience if available during the demo.  If emailing the document afterwards, make sure to distribute in PDF format so the document isn’t editable.

  • Are High Quality – You and your team likely spent considerable effort preparing and delivering the demo and you don’t want to waste that with a Leave Behind that doesn’t reflect the same level of quality.  Like all public-facing assets, the Leave Behind should be well formatted, have well written messaging highlighting your understanding of the prospect’s issues and how your solution is best positioned to solve them, should include well-cropped, high-resolution screen shots, and should be written to appeal to a broad type of audience (from the decision maker to the end user).  And don’t forget to have at least one colleague review and edit before you send to the prospect.

  • Show That Personal Touch – Like every other touchpoint with the prospect, the Leave Behind is a sales opportunity.  If you’ve printed out Leave Behinds to distribute at the demo, take the extra time to include a personalized cover page, with name and job title, for each participant that you know will be there.  Make sure to print out extra copies with a generic cover page for anyone that attends who you didn’t know about beforehand or for those who can’t make the demo.  You’ve presumably taken the time to customize your demo with the prospect’s branding (logo, color scheme) and you should do the same for the Leave Behind.  Take the time to personally distribute each Leave Behind to the meeting participants – they’ll help you further develop a connection with each person.

If done properly, a Leave Behind document will help reinforce your messaging, remind the prospect that it was your solution, and not your competitors’, that had those great features and benefits they saw and heard, and can help the prospect’s PM sell your solution internally to those who weren’t at the demo.  Leave Behinds can be a lot of extra work, especially if you’ve already put considerable effort into a full-blown POC, but they should be looked at as a way of protecting that investment – making sure that it’s your solution the prospect remembers when they walk into their evaluation meeting the week after seeing multiple vendor demos.

If you’re a Presales or Sales Leader, I encourage you to incorporate Leave Behinds as a standard practice in your sales engagement model.  Aside from their obvious benefits, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage by not offering them – there’s a good chance at least one of your competitors already is.

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