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Should SEs fear or embrace demo automation?

One of the biggest trends we keep hearing about for the presales field in 2023 is the approach of automation. It’s coming to the presales tech stack, taking over tasks solutions engineers and demo engineers used to do, and it’s even popping up where you’d least expect it.

And that’s got some presales folks feeling a little bit nervous.

Better automation can feel like a threat to your job. What will your role look like when a software platform, an AI bot, or a literal robot can do part of it as well or better than you can?

But we’re not in a movie about the rise of robots—we live in the real world. And here on earth, automation often doesn’t replace humans, especially highly-skilled ones like solutions engineers (SEs).

They simply make doing your job easier and more efficient, automating the low-value but highly manual parts of your day. Those tasks take time away from doing the parts of your job you love, like solving complex customer problems, being creative and building things, and watching Elon Musk demo fails (hey, we all need a break!).

Right now, you might be looking at your screen with some skepticism.

“Sure you’d say that, Chris. You work for a demo creation company.”

And yep, that’s true. So don’t take my word for it.

These presales professionals agree, and they told our Head of Community and Partnerships (and presales guru), Jorge Soto, all about it in their own words.

Here’s where they think the future of presales is heading in 2023 and how automation will complement what SEs already do so well.

Automation is inevitable for almost everyone

I do believe that for the SE role, and for probably every role in professional life, automation is going to start playing a much bigger piece. So anything that can take mundane, tedious tasks and automate those, I really do think that’s showing up more and more places now.

Tomas Bell, lead sales engineer at Automation Anywhere

Even the best forms of demo automation for SEs can’t possibly replace what the real people in those roles bring to the table.

Demo automation can’t:

  • Understand a prospect’s problem when they struggle to articulate it themselves.
  • Tell a story about a customer in another vertical with the same problem and tell a prospect how they solved it with your product.
  • Know exactly which questions to ask at exactly the right time during discovery.
  • Work for in-depth, technical demos

But what it can do is take those manual tasks Tomas is talking about off your plate.

And thank goodness, because solutions engineers aren’t demo jockeys!

Things like maintaining updated info in a demo environment, easily creating a non-technical demo for a new prospect, or emailing your champion a personalized leave-behind demo after a sales call: all of those things take a lot of time without the right automation.

And with those efficiencies and time savings, you can focus instead on ensuring all your demos speak to the most urgent customer problems and tell a compelling story that closes deals earlier in the sales cycle. The automation is just the tool—you’re the one wielding that tool and creating amazing things with it.

More product demos everywhere

The trends I’ve observed in the industry right now are just making demos more accessible, even to AEs.

-Krista Goralczyk, Senior Solutions Engineer at Twilio

Everyone wants a demo earlier and earlier. It’s what’s behind the demo bottleneck at many major SaaS companies today. Patience for those long sales cycles is wearing thin—your prospects want to see if they like how your product looks and feels before they talk to anyone at your company.

So making demos more accessible is what buyers are demanding. But as an SE, you can’t possibly keep up with all those demo requests without incorporating at least some automation into your workflow.

You can easily premake interactive demos for various verticals with the right demo creation software. Your AEs can then personalize these pre-made demos without using any code by swapping out variables like dates, names, and company logos for these early-stage demo calls. Buyers get the demos they want, and you get enough time back to maybe even drink that cup of coffee before it gets cold (dream big!).

Did you Know: Companies that used Reprise experienced a reduction in the number of purely informational demo requests that SEs typically got pulled into? In fact, SEs got 20% of their time back! (A commissioned study conducted by Forrester on behalf of Reprise)

The human element is still essential

I do think that traditionalists may be a little bit reluctant to adopt your platform [Reprise] because they’ll see it as a threat to their jobs, and that’s honestly something that worried me when I looked at Reprise for the first time. I was like, ‘Am I gonna be displaced by this in two years?’

But the more research that I did and the more I thought about it, I realized that you guys aren’t trying to remove the human element from demos at all. I don’t think it would be realistic even if you were. But what you’re really trying to do is figure out how to optimize that human element and make sure that SEs spend their time on the right things.

-Daniel Boasberg, Solutions Engineer at Atlassian

Daniel is speaking directly to the fears that many SEs have about the rise of demo automation—what if it takes me away from my job? What if we don’t need humans anymore to do sales engineering? But that’s not what we’re trying to do here at Reprise (we love SEs!).

We just want to help you spend your time on the parts of your job you actually like—the parts that put your experience, communication skills, and technical and business wizardry to their fullest use.

Focus on what matters most

I think the biggest trend I’m seeing is presales professionals really being able to focus in on and hone in on the things that will get you from a demo happening all the way to the technical win, and allowing other pieces to facilitate the extra things on the outer part of the role.

-Devion Tharpe, solution engineer at Gravitee

SEs are pulled in many different directions these days, with so many demo requests coming from all corners, not just your AEs.

The marketing team wants interactive demos for your website so today’s tech-savvy buyers can experience your product early and often.

Your Product Marketers want demos with the latest and greatest features the same day they drop so they can bring the product’s voice to life for new and existing customers.

And the sales team wants guided product demos to train and ramp new reps faster.

Those are amazing use cases for demos, and that cross-functional reach is why SEs are so widely beloved. But again, they also take a lot of time. And that time is spent away from the core role of your job—getting more deals closed.

With a demo creation platform, you can use the power of automation to help enable all those other people, like Devion says, while getting your actual day job done.

Getting the most value from presales

We’ve done the demo, we’ve done the POC, but let’s also have these other conversations to ensure success for the customer as they go and then implement it into production.

-Nadia Malik, director of North America presales engineers at UiPath

And, of course, presales isn’t only about creating demos. It’s about implementing successful solutions for customers. It’s about building relationships for the long haul. It’s about merging your technical expertise with a deep understanding of a prospect’s business.

No automation could replace those bonds you build with customers and prospects as their trusted advisor for success today and in the future. SEs aren’t going away because of automation—automation will help take you further in your career if you’re brave enough to try it.

Ready to reclaim your team’s resources as an SE and take back your time with demo creation software? See how Reprise can help!