For many in sales, it’s a book with seven seals. For many colleagues in solution consulting, a topic of great discouragement. The dry run. An unloved time guzzler for some, senseless sorting of slides for others. From my point of view, it’s the ultimate weapon for the perfect preparation, making the difference by gaining an advantage in the fight for the customer's favor. But let's start from the beginning.
Dry Run - What is that actually?
As the name suggests, it is a test run. It is about practicing and testing our presentation and software demo before we meet the customer in the final meeting. Ideally this is performed from the beginning to the end using role play - but more about that later.
From my own (unfortunate) experience I can say that dry runs too often look like this:
- The dry run does not take place at all - nobody seems to think it is necessary to practice or test.
- The dry run takes place too late - dry run early in the morning - one hour before the start of the actual meeting - no matter what is practiced now - it is no longer possible to optimize.
- The dry run is used to juggle the presentation slides around or even worse: people only start now thinking about the slides they need.
- The dry run is only used to watch the demo of the PreSales colleagues.
And this brings us to one of the main mistakes, namely that often there is no dry run or only in insufficient form. People are not short on excuses - no time, no necessity, etc. But this takes away decisive advantages.
A good dry run - how does that actually work?
Unbelievably, it’s not that difficult. Below are six very concrete tips on how to make your dry run successful:
- Plan your dry run early - you know very early when the appointment with the customer will be. Now you can plan backwards and enter the corresponding dates in the calendar, so that everyone has a clear timeline or objective in mind.
- Leave enough time between the dry run and the actual customer appointment - the dry run will usually bring ideas and optimizations to light, it takes time to convert them into the presentation and demo.
- Everyone comes prepared for the dry run. Sales has his slides ready, PreSales has the demo story ready. Otherwise a dry run doesn't make sense.
- Invite, if possible, external persons to the dry run. This could be the manager or the colleague from PreSales. Give these colleagues a role from the customer's perspective (depending on who you expect, e.g. CIO). An outside-in view can be very valuable for your story.
- Present in your role - as if you were sitting at the customer's site. So you can fine-tune the interaction and the talk track. You will also receive much more specific feedback from the other listeners.
- Practice how you'll play. Ideally, the dry run will take place in the same way as the customer meeting - either onsite or remote. Best case scenario, this way you can use the dry run for a technical check.
It is important to establish dry runs as a part of your sales or preparation process. It’s a matter of having the right mindset of your employees and should be taken seriously. But doing dry runs is also an investment. Therefore, it should be agreed upon how extensive a dry run is supposed to be, e.g. whether to perform multiple ones or whether the scope may differ depending on the size of the deal or the individuality of the pitch.
Dry Run - Next Level
So far we have been talking about doing a dry run with our internal teams and that is very useful. Now it would be great if we could do a dry run with our customer as well. We usually have a main contact person or potentially even a champion at our customer. This person should be contacted to arrange an external dry run. This variant of the dry run can be cut down on time, but should at least contain your core messages and the value proposition as well as excerpts from the demo.
If the customer agrees, another touch point is created and the customer verifies your work with you in advance, asks questions and gives valuable feedback to optimize the last percentages of story, presentation and demo. In my experience, this also promotes trust and customer loyalty. In any case, your contact person can no longer spend this time with the competition.
Good preparation is 80% of success (It's all about preparation!)
With good customer appointments it's like cutting down trees. If I have 8 hours to cut down a tree, I use 6 hours to sharpen my axe and use the remaining 2 hours to cut down the tree. Baaam! And that's exactly where the dry run belongs - it’s part of your preparation and should be taken seriously with plenty of time left until the actual customer appointment. Then you can get real value out of the dry run and will deliver an even better performance for your customer.
In this spirit, I wish you plenty of success and fun at the next dry run, both internally and externally, and I would also be pleased to hear your opinion and experiences on this topic. In the Sales Excellence Podcast you will also find a small knowledge nugget (German) on the topic of dry runs:
Jan-Erik Jank is a PreSales Leader @ SAP (Customer Experience). He's also co-founder of the Sales Excellence Podcast, where guests share thoughts and experiences about Sales & Pre-Sales Excellence with a Software B2B focus.
Connect with Jan-Erik Jank on LinkedIn.