Building Consensus | Garin Hess at Consensus

For sales engineering teams, assembling demos can be exhausting and time consuming. Each demo must be tailored to meet the needs of prospective clients, and that can take hours out of your day, if not days out of your week. Garin Hess learned this firsthand when leading a tech startup earlier in his career.

After one long dispiriting day of putting together these demos, he resolved to find a better way. And that’s how his current startup, Consensus began.

On this edition of UpTech Report, Garin explains how his product dynamically assembles sales demos based on the needs and interests of the client and why he believes this style of personalization is key.

More information:

Garin Hess is a serial entrepreneur whose entire career has been in enterprise software, including in several roles acting as sales engineer. Garin has founded two software companies, three industry conferences, and a non-profit organization. He is currently the founder and CEO of Consensus, the leader in intelligent demo automation software.

Consensus helps sales engineering teams use interactive video demos to scale productivity by reducing wasted time doing repetitive unqualified demos so they can do more of what they do best: solution consulting. Garin recently published a book called “Selling is Hard. Buying is Harder.” that emphasizes an “buyer enablement” approach to B2B sales.

Outside of work, Garin enjoys reading history, mountain biking, hiking, writing, playing tennis, choir conducting, and spending time with his wife and their children.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Garin Hess 0:00
More than half of the industry said that 30 More than at least 30% of their demos were unqualified. And that means that they’re spent, you know, third of a third of the sales engineering teams are just spinning their wheels doing these demos with people that aren’t interested in progressing necessarily.

Alexander Ferguson 0:25
Garin, I’m excited to be able to chat with you today. To begin, very briefly, five seconds, how would you describe go consensus?

Garin Hess 0:35
Oh, the consensus platform is interactive video demo software that helps sales engineering teams scale, the pre sales function,

Alexander Ferguson 0:45
scaling the pre sales function. Tell me where did the problem for this concept first originated? How did you see it? And then how did that develop into where you are today?

Garin Hess 0:55
Well, like most solutions, there, they’re kind of born in the seedbed of pain in some fashion. And every I remember, in my last technology startup, which was years ago, we were at that company, we were selling collaborative course authoring software. And my sales team was totally booked up, we had tons of leads. And so I jumped in there and was helping with demos. And I remember one day, I did six demos back to back. And it was exhausting. And we also were struggling with this problem of trying to decide who to demo. So we’d get hundreds of leads every month. And we’re we had a small team at the time. And we had to choose do we download to this client or that client, we just couldn’t demo for everybody. And that seemed like a bad trade off. And I realized after doing those six demos, not only was I exhausted and sort of demotivated because I could have done that in my sleep. But it was pretty much the same thing over and over with the exception that I just changed sort of the order and emphasis of things based on what their unique interests were. And after that day, I thought there’s got to be a better way to do this. And that’s kind of where it originated. And then it just evolved from there.

Alexander Ferguson 2:13
I love the statement of there’s got to be a better way to do that. I feel like everything begins with that statement was all great solutions out there’s got to be a better way. You saw that the repeating yourself over and over. And that was led to now consensus. And I realized it was saying go consensus, because that’s your website, or website. Yes, every domain name is taken these days, you have to add something right? Tell me then the your target market, your use case of someone be able to use as you described, yours should maybe share another one how today people are using it, and how that sounds like it’s automates the process a lot more. So maybe could have been more?

Garin Hess 2:49
Sure, yeah, our target market or sales engineering teams inside enterprise software companies. So sales engineers, by nature are highly technical, highly qualified experts add a product. And they’re usually also good at consulting. And they’re brought in to be able to consult with the prospective customer and understand their problem trying to recommend the best solution given the different products and solutions that the company they’re representing has to offer. And one of the big challenges that sales engineers and these teams face is unqualified or under qualified demos. So in a sales engineering workload survey that we did earlier this year and published earlier this year, more than half of the industry said that 30 More than at least 30% of their demos were unqualified. And that means that they’re spending, you know, third of a third of the sales engineering teams are just spinning their wheels, doing these demos with people that aren’t interested in progressing, necessarily wasting your time. Yeah, and part of the reason for that is because Gartner research, there’s this research that shows that 58% of people will take a demo, even though they’re not really interested in a buying cycle. They just want to see what’s out there. And so that’s that’s just one example of a huge time sink and a productivity loss. And it’s not just this loss of productivity, but it’s also morale, because these highly technical experts have to spend a third of their time sometimes more than half of their time. Just doing these what I call harbor cruise demos. I’ll just take you to show you around. What do you think, kind of thing. And it’s it’s pretty demotivating to them, which I can relate to because of you know, those experiences that I had. And so what what consensus does is it It simulates basically, a a automated and automates a simulated demo experience from a sales engineer. So it’ll ask them questions and say, what’s your role? And based on the role at branches you to a certain set of demos. And then once you’re in a demo, it will say Well, these are the different topics we’re going to cover, tell us if these are very important, somewhat important, or not important to you. And based on that, we’ll actually uses a patented process to pull together video clips and documents dynamically. And it stitches together this unique experience for that person. So the goal is to use technology to automate the personalized experience. And then this data flows back to the sales engineering team, so that when they actually do engage, and to the sales team, when they do engage in a live conversation, they have this data to inform the conversation. So we’re actually driving more effective conversations, as well as making the sales engineering teams more, you know, efficient and productive.

Alexander Ferguson 5:47
I’m going to give a little pushback and just see what kind of response on why wouldn’t someone just build their own library of videos and content? Just send them here, take a look at this and make that decision?

Garin Hess 5:58
Yeah, well, that’s what we tried to do back in, when I told you about that experience that started this whole idea, we immediately started trying to do that, right, let’s just get a screen recorder, record our demos, and you know, put them on YouTube, send them some links. And you can certainly do that. And and a lot of companies are trying to do that in the same survey that we did. About half of the industry is trying to automate demos in some way. So there’s certainly nothing wrong with trying out you can also do that with say WebEx or Zoom meetings, right, where you record your meeting and you got a link, you can just send that out. But there’s some inherent challenges with that one, you don’t necessarily know when they actually watch it, how much they watch. And it’s not necessarily personalized, that that demo could be an hour long. And a lot of people are not going to just click and, you know, sit there and watch the whole thing. And so if you if you don’t have a really good way of personalizing it, then you know, that creates some challenges from an experience standpoint. And then also, you don’t get the data. And this is one of the key things. Not only can you see when they’re engaging, but you understand what’s driving their interest. And then you can also see who they share it with, because it’s not just about educating the one the one prospect or champion, but it’s who they start sharing it with. So you can discover that buying group, all the other stakeholders that need to get involved to make that decision. So it was a long learning process for us to learn why what you just suggested isn’t really that effective. It’s better, perhaps, than not having anything, but it doesn’t really substitute for a real demo experience.

Alexander Ferguson 7:39
cobbling something together works, but a truly automated system that allows you to track and personalize gives the ability to scale and grow, it sounds like that

Garin Hess 7:49
and really create a great experience for the for the customer to

Alexander Ferguson 7:55
so that that’s what matters most, giving a good experience for the end customer that they enjoy that process. We’re moving toward a world of chatbots and interfaces where you know, follow this this flow. Have anybody frustrated though, that they just want to get to a piece of information, they just want to ask a question and how have you addressed that in your platform?

Garin Hess 8:16
Well, it’s a great question. And one of the challenges that the industry has is this lag time between somebody who wants a demo, and when they get a demo is already on average a week, and sometimes more. So if you can go from having to wait a week or more than a week to get your question answered to watching a demo in the next five minutes, you know, which would you choose? So I think it’s a massive improvement. And there are ways to integrate live chat right into the demo, for example, so that as they’re going through the demo, if I have a question, I can just hit the chat button, start chatting with somebody. So there’s different ways that we incorporate, you know, the trying to connect them with salespeople.

Alexander Ferguson 9:01
instantaneous gratification answers is definitely the direction in the world we’re in right now. What is the more recent or just most exciting feature that you guys have introduced, that you would love to be able to that you’re excited about and you would want to share?

Garin Hess 9:19
Well, you know, it’s actually one that we’re working on which should come out in the next few months which is called the personal rep intro video. Right now the the sales engineering teams will build a reusable library of interactive video demos that then the sales team uses to send and track out and and all of that that I described. However, what can take it to the next level is for the sales rep to record just a quick intro video of themselves with their webcam saying, hey, Alexander, I’ve got this demo and I thought you might want to use it because of our conversation on the phone or whatever the setup may be. And so I handed Take this for you. And by the way the guy in the demo is, so and so. And he’s an expert at such and such. And, and, you know, if you have more questions after watching this, we can set up a call with him to go and you know, more depth. So we’ve done some experimentation with that with kind of prototypes. And it’s proven to really drive up just the engagement and a phenomenal way. So I’m really excited for that one to come out.

Alexander Ferguson 10:25
And that naturally just fits in before the rest of the demo that they would go through.

Garin Hess 10:29
That’s right. So they would just immediately see that as the first thing that comes up, and then it would flow right into the demo. Now it’s almost like

Alexander Ferguson 10:35
replacing the need for things like soapbox or vid yard or, or, or looms, little recordings, that you can personalize, send a message, you can now use it,

Garin Hess 10:45
kind of think of that as the as, like a loom consensus, for example, already has this ability, just like loom or video, or whatever, to record an instant video, but it’s, but it’s sort of separated from the reusable demos, right, the video demos. So we’re basically just combining this ability to record that, and then have that show up on the front. And then of course, track it all on the same experience.

Alexander Ferguson 11:10
These sales teams that you’re you go after what typical size and demographic Are you are targeting these pre sales companies.

Garin Hess 11:20
So, you know, we really like to see companies that are at least 200 employees or higher, most of our customers are 1000 employees or higher. But we have quite a number of you know, customers and between that 200 and 1000 employees as well. Examples of some of these teams include SAP and Oracle and ADP. So there are lots of large companies, and those would be the ideal because they have, you know, just amazing expansion potential and, and all of that, but but we’re really into helping what we call the mid market enterprise space. Although when small business approaches us, we do have plans for them as well. But no, it’s not something we’re targeting

Alexander Ferguson 12:04
your your mindset. And the platform you’ve built is really for those who had the complexity there. And the sales team that truly allows needs the automation to be able to scale.

Garin Hess 12:16
Yeah, most sales. Most small businesses don’t have sales engineers per se, you know, they might have product specialists or something but but the larger companies almost always evolved to have these specialists that are sales engineers that help support the sales cycle selling process. So that’s why the focus is there.

Alexander Ferguson 12:33
Mostly these teams would have other systems, what do you integrate with? Do you have any other integrations or API connections.

Garin Hess 12:41
And the most common integrations that are used on a day to day basis are simple integrations with, say, Chrome or edge browsers. So to make the the workflow really smooth, so that so when you’re grabbing a custom link for a prospect, tracking the information, you don’t have to go log into the web application. We all saw those similar types of integrations to Gmail and Outlook. And then some pretty substantial integrations and native applications into CRM and marketing automation tools like Salesforce and Eloqua.

Alexander Ferguson 13:17
I’m sure those are definitely desired. That data is coming back and forth. Exactly. Where do you see your company in the near term next year? So in interesting world that we’re in right now, and then long term, where are you headed?

Garin Hess 13:35
Well, you know, our goal is to really trail transform the sales engineering industry to help drive exponential results with these existing resources. So right now, I would say if you think about the adoption curve, you know, we were on early adopters. And I really think there’s a lot of momentum right now. And what’s interesting about the sales engineering and pre sale space is that the the market or this market segment has been is not has suffered from lack of community, in the past, lack of cohesiveness as a group, even though they are a true segment, right, they all share similar characteristics have similar goals and needs. But there haven’t there have been fewer associations, no conferences to speak of, you know, we held the first sales engineering conference, this ourselves because there was one missing earlier this year called Demo fest, and we have this goal of having 500 people attend or sign up, and we got over 3000 and it was fantastic. And as and as and as is really this moment, where in this industry where people are starting to come together and as a as an industry. So we’re playing a big role as as part of the facilitator role to do that. So I think, you know, where we see ourselves next year is just beginning to cross that chasm and getting into the mainstream adoption and You know, three to five years from now, you know, we really hope to, to be in, you know, 30 to 50% of all enterprise software companies in the English speaking world.

Alexander Ferguson 15:12
Where can people go to learn more? And what’s a good first step for them to take?

Garin Hess 15:17
Well Of course, and watch our demo. So, you know, the tool we always ask people to do is the best converting asset we have. Because people experience it and they get it and, and so you just got out to that website and hit watch a demo, and that’d be the best place to learn about it.

Alexander Ferguson 15:38
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview, you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you subscribe to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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