Executive Interview With Garin Hess

Remote Selling has become an important focus for every sales organization. Digital sales technologies, by default, are what enables remote selling. In this interview series, we ask executives at leading salestech companies to describe how their customers are leveraging technology, what metrics are now possible, and more. 

Q: What are your customers doing to adapt to - or leverage - the trend towards distributed sales teams and remote selling?

Garin: What we’re seeing among our customers is an increased focus on using self-directed digital resources and methods that enable the buyer to move more quickly through their tasks in the buying process. Essentially “buyer enablement”. I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as a “complex sale” but instead there are only “complex purchases”. When we think of our role as Buying Coaches instead of Sellers, we’re more effective in a remote environment. 

A study I came across recently reported that 71% of B2B buyers don’t want to talk to a sales rep at all. They would rather do their researching and purchasing on their own. Think about your own behavior. Would you engage with a sales rep if you didn’t have to? I’m not saying that Sales isn’t useful, it’s just the role of sales needs to shift from selling to providing the right kind of product and solution education at the right moments in the buying process.

Q: What metrics should customers of Demo Automation solutions use to measure the impact or progress of their activities?

Garin: Two key metrics our customers are finding success within their demo automation strategies are Stakeholders Discovered and Demo Qualified Leads (DQLs). These two metrics combined give a more comprehensive look at the effectiveness of demo automation by looking at the time it takes to engage a full buying group and how much of your team’s time is being wasted on unqualified demos. 

When you measure the number of stakeholders discovered by looking at demo views and shares, you get a better picture of who is going to be involved in the buying process and your team is better prepared to address their unique interests. Again, going back to Buyer Enablement, the focus should be on equipping the champion with what they need to go sell to those other stakeholders.

As for the DQL, or the Demo Qualified Lead metric, companies who implement a DQL-based strategy find they are able to cut down on wasted demos by using an automated demo as a first line of defense for the Sales Engineer. Unqualified demos is a huge problem. In our recent 2021 Sales Engineering Compensation and Workload report, data shows that more than 30% of all product demos are unqualified for most Presales teams.

To solve this, many of our customers are requiring that the prospect engage with the interactive video demo before they will engage Sales Engineering. Once the prospect engages with the self-directed micro demo, they are now qualified to engage a live Presales resource, and they come to the call ready to talk specifics, sometimes with other stakeholders already in tow. This not only qualifies demos better, but also speeds up the sales cycle.


Q: What steps can Demo Automation users take to best facilitate their prospects’ decision-making given that interactions are likely remote?

Garin: The best way to influence your prospects’ decision making in any interaction (remote or in-person) is giving the right person the right content at the right time. You have to seriously evaluate your content and understand which demos and accompanying assets are going to answer the prospect’s questions best to fit their context. 

Interactive video demos are great because you can pull the right assets from your library and allow your prospect to tell you what is most important to them. From there the software adjusts the demo to show them only the content they have identified as important to them. This drastically cuts down the confusion of having a prospect navigate a shared folder or deep content library and gives them something they can share easily with others in their organization, enabling them to sell for you.

Q: What are one or two examples of how a customer is using your solution in surprising ways.

Garin: Autodesk, as an example, uses demo automation to enable their channel partners. Using Consensus, they have been able to create and share interactive video demos that help Partners sell their products better and stay on-message.

Another example of a company using demo automation in a different way is in the post-sales process. Some of our customers have implemented demo automation to streamline and standardize their onboarding and implementation processes, which increased overall adoption rates of their products and decreased customer churn when it came time to renew accounts.

Now associates around the globe anticipate new modules and are anxious to learn and earn loyalty points redeemable for the company’s games.

Q: How can Demo Automation be done effectively when reps are remote?

Garin: Research shows that buyers spend only 17% of their time with vendors, so whether or not reps are remote during the live meetings, 83% of the time the reps are not in the conversation. How does intelligent demo automation help? We call it “Selling in the Gaps”, meaning the gaps between the live conversations.

So whether you are on site or via Zoom in your “live” touch points, the more important question is “What are you doing to be part of the conversation the other 83% of the time?” Demo automation allows you to equip your champion with content that they can consume and share with other stakeholders during that “gap”. This helps keep the momentum as well as helps the champion discover and engage the other stakeholders necessary to get the decision made.

Selling In The Gaps Infographic

Q: What are the advantages of Demo Automation solutions over sharing a PowerPoint via email and over doing live demos?

Garin: I recently read some research from Gartner that effectively says that buyers find sales interactions that provide “rich technical detail” to be the most valuable. It’s because it is information that cannot be easily faked. People don’t want to be sold to. They want to be educated. That effectively means they want Sales Engineering content.
PowerPoint decks may be useful for the very top of the funnel, but there are actually six different types of product demonstrations that buyers needs before they are able to make a final decision. Six different types because they need varying levels of depth and focus depending on their stage of the buying process. So it’s just not possible to help them get what they need with a slide deck.

As for benefits over live demos, first I want to clarify that we’re not attempting to replace all live demos. And again, we’re not talking about the Sales presentation. The demo we’re talking about is the sales engineering demo, the product demonstration. Five out of those six different demo types that buyers need can and should be automated. However, the technical demo should not be, and actually cannot be. One of the benefits for Presales teams using Consensus is that it frees up as much as 10 hours a week for sales engineers to spend on true solution consulting rather than repetitive early stage demos.

One of the challenges with live demos is that sales engineers are so over-requested as a resource, that the average lag time in the industry from the time a prospect wants a demo to the time they get one is at least one week, often two weeks or more. This is a terrible customer experience. Contrary to some people that suggest that an interactive video demo would compromise the customer experience, it’s just the opposite. This is how today’s buyers want to learn: on their own, personalized, and immediately. Sales engineering teams reduce the Demo Lag Time down to near zero by leveraging demo automation. That is a big improvement in the customer experience and also leads to shorter sales cycles.

These elements – collaboration, processes and governance – ensure the right assets that sales will actually use are being created and that they are tagged so that they are easy to find. The goal is to produce the smallest set of highest quality assets that the company can afford.

Q: What is the impact on organizations that adopt Demo Automation software?

Garin: Within sales engineering teams they are able to double presales productivity, reduce unqualified demos to near zero, and improve the customer experience. Business impact benefits include shortening the sales cycle by as much as 68% and increasing close rates by as much as 44%.

Q: What steps should organizations take if they plan to implement Demo Automation software?

Garin: You need to recognize that you’re changing the way you go about selling, not just adding a new piece of technology. You’re moving from a seller-centric to a buyer enablement process and both SEs and AEs become buying coaches as opposed to sellers. 

You need to identify someone who is going to lead interactive video demo content creation. You’ll get many people involved, but someone needs to oversee the process. I can’t emphasize enough that this needs to be led by Sales Engineering, not Marketing. 

Sometimes Marketing still has the old school belief that they are in charge of all digital content. That may be true for very top of funnel content, but sales engineers should be leading the content creation strategy and tasks, otherwise Marketing will end up making content that is completely useless in later stages of the buying process.

Speaking of content, we like to say, “Think YouTube, not Hollywood.” That’s because authentic screen recordings get 3X the engagement when compared to highly produced motion graphic content. Again, SE content, not marketing content is what buyers want.

Q: How will selling be forever changed – will remote selling be the new norm?

Garin: Selling is changing forever because buyer behavior is changing. Think of the way that changes in retail sales have affected how we purchase in retail. While it will never be quite as simple for major B2B IT purchases, buyers are demanding that as vendors we make it easier and faster, and more pleasurable, to learn about and buy from us.

Buyers want to do more on their own and that will never go back. So the question is, how can you get them what they need, when they need it, personalized to each stakeholder in the buying group. I recently published a book called “Selling is Hard. Buying is Harder.” that your audience may want to take a look at. It details a new buyer enablement framework and gives you a map for how to effectively meet the needs of the new B2B buyer.

And yes, the world was already shifting towards remote buying before the pandemic. Most organizations on both sides of the table saw that it is much more efficient. I believe it will be the mode of choice for most buyers moving forward.

Q: What are the top three features in Consensus Demo Automation software that make it so effective?

Garin: First, prescriptive personalization. You give one link to your champion and no matter how many stakeholders they share it with, each person has their own unique experience. Consensus uses our patented personalization engine to deliver video clips and documents to each stakeholders tailored to their own interests. One customer calls our demos, “Digital Demo Experiences” because it’s much more immersive than a simple video.

Second, the way that our demos are shared with other stakeholders helps you discover and engage stakeholders more easily, and more organically. It’s a key KPI measured in our Demolytics. You know you’re getting strong traction in an organization when they are not only engaging, but also sharing the demo around to the other decision makers. Visibility into that buying group is huge.

Third, the Demolytics. Being able to see both aggregate and detailed analytics about demo engagement, stakeholder engagement, and what is driving interests among buyers leads to stronger more relevant conversations. Engagement plus sharing also is evidence they are more qualified, leading to fewer unqualified demos.

To learn more, experience an interactive video demo here.

Garin Headshot Circle

Garin Hess

CEO, Consensus

Garin Hess is a serial entrepreneur with over 19 years of hands-on in-the-trenches experience. Garin has founded two software companies, two industry conferences, and a non-profit organization, and is the author of Selling is Hard. Buying is Harder, a new “buyer enablement” approach to B2B sales that drives digital selling and shortens sales cycles. He is currently the founder and CEO of CONSENSUS, an intelligent demo automation software company that helps sales organizations scale presales and the technical sales function.