What process have you taken to enable your sales team to demo a new version of a feature while it's in Beta?
Demoing is SO important, yet unfortunately, we don't often have the product ready for sales teams to demo too far ahead of a launch.
What we do in this situation is have PMs do enablement where they walk through the new features and functionality and answer questions. That way the field can see what the features and products are in action.
Another option when demo orgs aren't quite ready but customers need to show the product--a holodeck. We have the product team take screenshots of the product in a way that mimics a demo flow, and put those high-res slides in a deck. That way sales people can "walk" a customer through the "product" as best as possible.
The sales team should get a demo org as soon as possible--but sometimes that's not possible until GA week, so those are a few options to help prepare them ahead of time.
This can be really hard to manage! Like everything, it really depends on the feature and product readiness. I’ve often done this is in a few stages:
- Early product development: We start by educating our internal teams on what we’re building, the problems we want to solve, and our target customers. That helps them understand what’s coming and often they’ll suggest good customers to add to the beta. At that point, there is nothing for a sales team to demo or show a new customer, but we will give an early preview to customers who would qualify for the beta to give us feedback. We have the PM/PMM do the presentation to the customer in a slide deck, rather than having the salesperson manage the preview. We rarely show actual product during this phase and, if we do, they’re images on a slide, not a live demo.
- During development: As we get into the beta and have more of a product to show, we’ll create a form for our sales team to submit if they have a customer they want to add to the beta or demo the product to. We’ll still have our PM/PMM demo the product and need to vet if the customer’s needs are in line with what we’re building and what level of “polish” they’re looking for before we agree to do the preview. If they are okay with a rough demo, we may pull up what we’ve got. If they’re not, we’ll still show slides. We set guidelines on what types of customers and opportunities qualify to get a sneak peek.
- As we get closer to launch: We’ll enable the product for internal dogfooding. That’s around the time that we’ll also do our sales demo training. We want the team to feel comfortable sharing the product before we launch it, both in terms of functionality but also what use cases to highlight and what is available at time of launch. We ask our sales team to not include this news in every demo until our launch activities happen, but we do give them the ability to give a sneak peek to customers who are up for renewal, need the functionality to go all-in on Airtable, or have another special circumstance.
We follow this system because it’s impossible to keep a sales team from sharing product news before launch, and you shouldn’t try to keep them from doing so. A sales job is incredibly complex, they have a lot to manage and juggle in a customer relationship, and they need to be able to have flexibility in their conversations. That said, it’s important that the product is positioned in the right light and that you’re not overpromising what will be available. We find that keeping that demo functionality gated by a PM and PMM is a great way to do this. It does take up a fair bit of time, but it’s also a great way to test and get validation on messaging before launch that can help strengthen your launch activities.