Selling by Word Alone Doesn’t Cut It in Today’s Market

Vintage Map of MissouriSelling isn’t just about the words you pitch. A much more powerful approach is to show the customer your work and let them interact with it early in the sales process.

Today’s post is by Ken Rutsky, author of Launching to Leading (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

In an 1899 speech in Philadelphia, Missouri Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver is reported to have said,

I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.”

And from that day forward, Missouri has been known far and wide as the “Show Me State.”

Today, marketers and sales teams alike should take heed of this advice and move beyond telling and describing their value to showing and demonstrating it to buyers early and often in the buying cycle. After all, what’s really left to tell since the customer has probably already visited your website?

There is no shortage of materials and advice out there on the topic of content marketing. Content Rules, by Handley and Chapman—a popular book in marketing circles—spends a lot of time focusing on just that; and it is necessary and recommended reading and table stakes for today’s sales and marketing efforts.

However, stopping there would fail to take two critical variables into account: engagement and experience, the “Show Me” factor of modern sales and marketing efforts. One of the hallmarks of breakthrough market leadership is very high levels of engagement and experience delivered in our marketing programs and sales experience.

We can look at both engagement and experience as continuums. Engagement measures the level of interaction that the customer has with our content; we are most engaged when we are interacting, least when we are reading. Engagement, through multiple senses and interaction, creates memorable content-marketing engagements.

From an experience perspective, we can describe or demonstrate our value, or have the customer participate in understanding the value. Communication of value via experience is vastly more effective at winning customers’ preference than description. The combination of engagement and experience is the holy grail of marketing and sales effectiveness. Let’s take a look at an example:

Nimsoft Accelerates Sales Cycles with Online Demo

Nimsoft, a provider of IT monitoring products and SaaS services was facing a critical juncture in 2009. Positioned as a “me too” provider, Nimsoft’s tagline was “The Big 4 Alternative,” alluding to the fact that they were easier and less costly to implement than the four traditional large providers in that market space.

They created a high-impact go-to-market positioning around “Unified Monitoring, from the Data Center to the Cloud.” This was backed by a well thought out and articulated set of go-to-market messages around this viewpoint that drove their value home. Most importantly, they created an online marketing demonstration hub at, which allowed customers and prospects to see and interact with unified monitoring in action.

Unified Monitoring Demo
The Nimsoft Unified Monitoring Demonstration Portal brought the Nimsoft value to life for buyers.

Traditionally in their market, demos were customized and delivered in the third, fourth or fifth sales engagement, and then when a systems engineer could be scheduled. This process normally took as long as 4–6 weeks from lead to demo. Once the Unified Monitoring demo portal was launched, sales reps would demo this as part of the first call. This did three things for Nimsoft. First, it cut up to four weeks out of the sales cycle. Second, it showed the prospect the business value of the Unified Monitoring approach in a dramatic way. And lastly, it tilted the playing field strongly in Nimsoft’s direction, putting them in the pole position for the sale. Nimsoft’s parade was led by this high-velocity implementation of their viewpoint story.

This high-impact, high-velocity approach positioned Nimsoft for both growth and the eventual acquisition by CA, Inc. in March of 2010.

Conventional wisdom in B2B sales tends to argue against standard demonstrations of value early in the sales or buying cycle. The first objection is rooted in the solution/diagnostic-selling mindset that says until we can specifically describe the value of our solution and customize the demo, we should not show the product. Contrast this approach to breakthrough sales, where the company has established a context for discussing the value of their product, then proudly points the customer to an online demo in that context.

In the meantime, our solution-selling counterpart is still establishing need with the customer, who will now view everything in the context of the first provider. That’s a tough sell.

The second objection to showing interactive demos is commonly that “our product is just too hard to demo without someone from our team showing it.” As the Nimsoft example shows, with commitment and creativity, even complex technical solutions can be demonstrated with high levels of engagement and experience.

Paraphrasing Representative Vandiver, today’s buyers are clearly saying,

I come from a company that’s focused on doing; long winded sales reps and frothy eloquence and whitepapers neither convince nor satisfy me. To sell to me, like the folks in Missouri say, ‘you have got to show me.’”

Launching to Leading– Ken Rutsky is Founder and President of KJR Associates, Inc. and author of Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades, and Ignite Movements (CLICK HERE to get your copy). For more information, please visit or

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