Published June 17th, 2016 by

What Makes a Great Demo Great?

For those who are conducting demos (most probably, the sales team), this is such a hard question to answer. Well, because it is. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is no answer – there is, and only the most pragmatic salespeople know the answer. We’ll let you in on a secret – here are some of the ingredients that make a software demo so great you’ll close the deal in an instant. Hopefully.

great demo

Onward a great demo

1) Show the best first

There’s a reason why we always say ‘pros and cons.’ It means you need to show the good first before showing the bad and the ugly if there are any. As such, a demo must always start with why your product is the best there is. If possible, show it in a single comprehensive screen or a series of screens. You have 60 seconds to do this. And guess what? This is a good way to catch your audience’s attention.

2) Walk them through

Give them at least 10 seconds to grasp the fact that there is indeed a solution to their most pressing issue. Then, address the process on how you end up on the screen or screens. Don’t go into the details yet, though. Bring in adequate verbal comments how your software operates while it is running in front of them. Do this in the most confident and smoothest manner. This should only take 3 to 5 minutes.

3) Dig into the details

One way to know if they are 100% hooked to the discussion is if they will ask you to show them how you actually came up with the screens. Be as detailed as you can. Show them what they want to see including the key capabilities of your software. Questions will be thrown here and there, so this might take up to 20 minutes or even more, depending on their issues. The more questions they ask, the better. Just be honest with the answers.

That’s it. Done. Closed. Or, N-O-T?

Now, let’s talk about the opposite – failed demos. Have you ever wondered why a demo fails? Have you experienced it before? It’s an admittedly cathartic moment. What have you learned after that? Many a reasons a demonstration would fail. But, even these reasons are not created equally. Some have easy way out while some would prompt you to hide under the table. Below is a list of these grounds.

Anatomy of a failed product demo

Failure to get the message across

At times, it is all about the story that you choose to tell your audience. A story is good – it is better to have one than no story at all. But if it is confusing, too long, too dull, unclear, or has no point, it can get really awful. Your audience will get lost in the story eventually. No, they won’t appreciate it. They’ll only think that you didn’t know your product too well to even perform a demo.

Failure to address the business needs

Although this can be easily resolved with prior research, still, some sales personnel fell short in gathering critical information about the business. They underestimate the power of knowing the prospect’s needs. Eventually, they will realize that the prospect does not need the discussed features. Or, that the audience has a broad range of requirements and yet the software cannot address the majority of them.

Failure to coordinate properly

Common to disorganized and unorchestrated demos is the lack of proper coordination. The disconnect between the sales staff doing the demo and the demonstrator or the one operating the software and hardware is so obvious that the audience senses the tension. Overall, the issues will then become clear to the audience that the demonstration either lacks clear objectives or that the demonstrators lack the right skills.

One of the key features failed

There are instances when even your product fails you in front of your prospect. At the back of your mind, you wish that it is just an equipment failure, but it’s not. Dreaded as it may seem, but it happens. It’s a reality. Software bugs are inevitable. The same applies to crashes and outages that are beyond your control.

The first three reasons are much easier to address and more workable than the fourth reason.

great product demo

You need to develop the necessary skills that directly and indirect impacts the success or failure of your demonstration. You also need to prepare so you can best present and represent the capabilities of your product. You cannot do demonstrations without knowing the critical business information. Your demos will be more targeted this way. Finally, you need to crystallize what makes the software product unique. Sell the benefits, not the features. This means expecting the worse and preparing for it so that the negative implications will be minimized.

For the fourth one, however, we might have to discuss this more in-depth. The question now is – how can you reverse the product demo fail? Thankfully, there’s a way around it.

Don’t fumble around

An outrightly awkward and embarrassing situation to be in, but never do what most people do – desperately clicking around, rebooting and hoping that the system goes back to normal operation. Also, never attempt bridging the lull period with small talks. This is too amateurish and won’t do any help to your demo. Instead, try to appear as calm as you can.

Don’t spread stress

An impending demo fail can make every salesperson nervous. Nonetheless, don’t be too agitated because your uneasiness can affect the decision-making process of your prospect. Instead of giving you a second chance, they’d put up a wall since they are feeling stressed about the whole situation, too. Make them feel relaxed despite the situation by feeling nonchalant yourself.

Don’t tell lies

A tendency is to say that that situation had never happened before. No one will believe you. Did you know that even the live Windows 98 demo crashed? Murphy’s law says anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So, deal with it. Disarm them with honesty, if you must.

Do focus on the value

Always put the spotlight on the bigger picture, telling them why your software is still the best solution despite of what hat happened. Indeed, tell them that it is unplanned. And seeing that the opportunity presents itself, you might as well discuss and show them what to do when something goes wrong.

Going back, certain things make a great demo great. First, focus on your product’s capabilities and benefits to the users. Second, acknowledge that a demo may fail at any time. Third, when it does fail, grab this as an opportunity to demonstrate that any product-related failure can be corrected. Think of it this way – if you haven’t experienced a product demo fail before then, you haven’t provided enough demos yet!

The real secret – YOU!

Software companies suffer the cost of bad, poor, boring, misguided, and misinformed demos. What’s worse, these companies are not even aware that they are losing millions of dollars. There are direct and indirect costs involved down the drain as a consequence of ineffective, inefficient, and untargeted demos.

Setting up a demo may cost you around $1,000. But, how the failed demo impacts the entire business is more staggering. A product demo is the culmination of all the people’s hard work from the product developers to the marketing staff. It can be doubly hurtful if this is the only product that your company is selling.

Not to mention the direct costs of your prospect that you failed to respect in the first place. Do you have any idea what they have to go through to arrange a meeting for your demo, especially for the C-suite? Do you know what it takes for a company to seat eight personnel in one room to watch your demo? It means thousands of dollars lost for them, too!

Thus, if you are wondering, the financial impact of a failed product demo is equal to the value of a sale as well as all the sales potentials that the customer may bring forth (i.e. future business with them and referrals). The value could be higher if you are providing additional services with each software sale such as consultation, installation, support, training, update, etc.

The most important part of a demo, therefore, is you. You are the point of convergence between your firm and the target customers. You are the connection between your company and the prospect. You are the representation of your company’s values and ideals. You are considered as the conduit of success or failure. Not only your demos need to be great, but it takes a great salesperson to do just that.

Remember, you only have 30 minutes to connect with your audience and do business with them. If you fail to do what you need to do within 30 minutes then, you fail the hopes, expectations, potentials, and opportunities of all the people working in your company. Five words: You can’t afford to fail! Go on, be the demo master that you ought to be.

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