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  Should I ship an evaluation package to my prospective customers even if I am convinced that I will need to go on customer site to demonstrate and close the deal?

Yes, even if your product is too complex to be demonstrated remotely because of the cutting edge technology you offer or due to the large scope of its use, you should be prepared to send an evaluation package. There are six main reasons to send one:

- Sending an evaluation package is the best way to ensure the motivation of a prospective customer. If he is not willing to spend half an hour to try to install the product, how can you believe he will buy your solution any day soon? Also, running a test means generally getting approval from management to spend time on the evaluation process.

- Guiding a prospective customer through this process is an excellent way to better understand the customer's specific business problems. This is why we advise the sales team to spend time to manage the evaluation process closely. They will be able to custom-tailor their sales presentation with real examples before arranging the face-to-face appointment.

- Bugs and technical limitations are part of the sales cycle, and it is rare to find a cutting edge product that works for everybody. If there is a technical problem, better to know it before going on site to increase your chance of closing business. By installing the solution before stopping by, you reduce the risk of a bad surprise. Remember that an American prospective customer will not let you come more than once or twice without tangible results, even if the problem does not come from your solution.

- Products that cannot be installed automatically become strategic in buyers' minds, and a foreign start-up company may have trouble selling a technology requiring too much support and consulting services. Offering an evaluation package, available on a secure ftp server or CD if it is software, is the best way to convince your counterpart that support is not critical to use the product on a daily basis. You must prove that your offering is a plug-and-play solution to sell it.

- Especially in sales, time is money. If the product is already installed and the customer has already "played" with it, he will understand three times faster than if you start from scratch. You'll double the number of appointments you can handle in a given period of time.

- You have to consider the economical and human point of view: Without an evaluation package, your sales team will travel 80% of the time and you will burn them out. Moreover, travel expenses will reduce your margin dramatically.

If you really cannot produce an evaluation package, target only a local market (select the 5 to 10 closest states) and then travel to visit each customer.

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