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7 Product Demo Tips for your Next Demonstration

Seven Product Demonstration Tips

Technical product demos can be a challenge–these 7 demonstration tips will help you do a great demo next time out.

1) Know your audience

Gathering data about your prospect’s needs before the demo is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Some information comes from sales, some from a demo request form and some is gathered on-the fly during the demo.

The key is to piece together what each decision maker cares about and why. Armed with this information you can be sure to cover the topics they care about and to drop the ones they don’t.

Knowing who will be in the audience means that you know who the most important decision maker in the room is. This is the person who needs to hear your message loud and clear. If they are not in the meeting you may need to reschedule for a time when they can be.

Here is a PDF Demo Form that you may find useful for capturing the information that you need to know about your audience prior to your demo.

2) Know your product

By the time they agree to a demo, today’s savvy prospects have researched your product and your competitors’ on the web and have a very good idea of what they need. At the demo, they will have very specific, detailed, technical questions that they have not been able to answer through their research. They expect answers and if they don’t get them they will take their business elsewhere.

You are the product expert.  Prospects expect you to know how your product solves their problems. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t answer 85-90 percent of the questions asked during the demo–you’re not ready.

3) Understand the issues faced by your prospects

Compelling demonstrations demand a deep understanding of the issues faced by your prospects and customers. Understanding lets you to map the benefits of your product to your prospects needs. How has your product or service helped others like them? Bring this out and you provide a valuable service to your prospect and put them at ease.

4) Use a story based structure

Structured demos are memorable demos. If you just string together feature after feature, the prospect won’t remember what you showed them.

Instead, why not try a time-compressed story based on a “day in the life” of your prospect. This style demo mirrors what happens in their world, making it easy to follow and remember. The key thing here is to only cover what the prospect cares about in your story, drop everything else or you are asking for trouble! Check out the video below on using a time compressed story based demo format:

5) Use customer stories and references

Customer stories show how your product solves problems and third party references can do amazing things for your credibility. Ask other members of your team for stories they use and build a collection for all to share.

6) Practice your demo

If your demo looks clunky prospects will get spooked. Find a safe way to show the good stuff, then practice until you can do it on autopilot. Never change anything just before your demo, if you do you run the risk of breaking the demo in unforseen ways.

7) Add some spice

The last thing you should do to improve your product demos is to add some spice, specifically: humor, quotes and props.

  • Humor can put your audience at ease and help them feel more comfortable with you.
  • Quotes, as long as they are relevant to your product, can make a demo more memorable and interesting.
  • Props are a great way to clarify a point or to punctuate your demo to make a specific feature stand out.

Have a tip that improved your demo? Let us know in the comments section below.

Learn More About Our Demonstration Skills Training

We can create custom training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. Give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form

How do a B2B Software Demo


So, why should you read this article? 

Before I Wrote This, I Took a Surf Around the Web Looking for How To Demo Articles.

I was looking for specific advice on doing product demos to industrial clients, with the specific purpose of selling high-ticket B2B software (or software controlled products and instruments).

As a result of my hunt for demo articles on the web, I found that most had the same three issues:

1) They Were Not Specific to B2B SalesWhile there is a fair amount of information on doing demos for consumers (B2C), I found a dearth of information on business-to-business (B2B) technology demos.
For example, an iPAD demo is clearly for a consumer audience, ditto for showing off the latest version of Windows.

2) They Were Not About On-site Company DemosThe articles that were B2B specific often focused on demoing for large audiences and events. For example, the DEMO Conference which is focused on giving a six-minute demo to introduce/launch a new product to a large audience; not very relevant to on-site B2B technology demos.

3) They Were Bad Advice for a Sales Situation – I had to flat out disagree with some of the advice that was given, such as: Don’t allow questions during your demo! Yikes!

This post is offered up as specific advice for doing on-site B2B demos of complex technology products.

If You Don’t Sell Complex Software to Technical End Users and Managers Stop Reading

Let me be clear about the type of demo I’m talking about; for the sake of this discussion we’re talking about a business-to-business (B2B) software or software controlled product demo.

This demo is done on-site, for a team (2 to 25 people) at a company with a specific need for your type of solution.


The Demo in a Complex Sale

This type of demo is one phase in the sales process of a so-called complex sale where you’re typically dealing with multiple contacts on the client side.

Some of these people will make the buy decision (Management), some will influence it (Techies), and some will have no effect at all on the outcome (Dilberts? or Miltons?). Additional aspects of the complex sale are:

  • The dollar value for a complex sale is often large.
  • The decision process can take anywhere from a few months to many months or more.
  • The product is typically complex in nature. (Selling this type of product requires that you understand how the product/technology can help your prospect solve critical business issues that they need to solve, and/or to realize a vision that improves their results.)
  • One or more visits with the client are required to close the sale.
  • The Selling is typically done by a sales team comprised of a Sales Person and a Sales Engineer (AKA an FAE)

How to Create and Deliver an Effective B2B Product Demo

I have been selling and demoing technology products (and training others on how to do it) for a long time. Many of the large sales that I or my sales team have made, have included and on-site demo.
This section outlines the procedure for creating and delivering a winning demo.

The Goal of the Demo

The goal of a demo should always be to move the sale forward in the sales process.
All prospects are in search of one or both of the following things when they go looking for new products:

  • A solution to a problem
  • A path to achieving their vision

In a typical B2B sale, senior management has the vision and is aware of the problems. Technical end users and line managers are responsible for the realization of the vision or the resolution of the problems identified by management.
To move the sale forward you need to:

  • Understand their specific critical business needs (visions and problems)
  • Be sure that they are motivated to achieve the vision or to solve the problem using a solution like yours
  • Be sure that they have the budget to purchase your type of solution
  • Show them, in terms they understand; using examples specific to their world, how they can solve their problems and enjoy the ROI of using your solution.
  • Engender trust and gain credibility so that you become the trusted and preferred vendor.

The Winning Demo Method

Now, lets take a look at how we would prepare and deliver a demonstration using the step-by-step method that I teach in my demo skills training classes.
Use a Demo Creation Worksheet to capture all critical aspects of the demo such as:

  • Who are the decision makers
  • What are their key business issues and visions
  • What is the impact or implication of these issues on their business: what happens if they don’t address them.
  • Who is the competition, what are the issues
  • What are they doing now, what do they want to change. To keep?
  • What do you want them to remember
  • Which customer success stories are relevant to them?
  • Map benefits of your solution (success stories) to their specific needs and visions.
  • Create the shortest, most compelling and customer relevant demo sequence possible

Outline for a Winning Demo:

Answer the questions they have in their head

  • Tell them what you will cover
  • Tell them Why it matters to them
  • Tell them it’s their demo: encourage questions

Most important Message First

Solution to problem or realization of a vision

  • Use a time compressed scenario format, based on a success story
  • Be ruthless, only show the detail that sells


  • Summarize the value
  • Ask about the next step in the process

Credibility Tips

As you deliver the demo, you need to be sure to gain credibility with your audience. Here are a few tips:

  • Know your stuff – If you can’t answer around 80% of the questions asked, you don’t know your stuff well enough.
  • Gain facility with industry tools. Practice sequences until you are fast and impressive. This goes a long way with customers as they can see that you have spent some time in the trenches.
  • Anticipate questions, have great answers.
  • Do some product support. This will give you insight into real world issues faced by your customers.

Learn More About Our Demonstration Skills Training

We can create custom training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. Give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form

Sales Presentations How to Avoid Filler Words, Ums and Ahs

Filler words are killer words that can overshadow an otherwise great sales presentation by driving the audience to distraction.

Filler words are those verbal pauses and missteps like Um and Ah, or thrown in words such as Ya Know or Like.
For an example of the negative effects of filler words we need look no further than today’s YouTube headlines. Caroline is a serious-minded and intelligent person. Her content is strong, but, the filler words weakened her overall message. (Watch the Video Below.)
We can see how filler words can weaken your message; what can we do to avoid them in our sales presentations and demonstrations?

Verify That You Have the Problem and Define the Scope

You may have been told by a colleague or manager, you may have even caught yourself slipping in an Um or and Ah. The first thing you need to do is get some feedback. I have found the following helpful:

Record Yourself

Record yourself doing a presentation or demo in various phases of the activity. Sometimes it’s the Q and A section that will bring out the dreaded Ums and Ahs–sometimes it’s when you are in front of a large group. If you are doing a software demo or slide presentation, you may want to record the screen and your audio at once. This helps you gauge your progress (by looking at recordings over time as you practice) and also to get a better idea what actions may trigger problems as you present.

Join a Local Toastmaster Group

Toastmasters is a great organization if you want to learn to stop using filler words such as: ums and ahs. They actually have a person at each meeting who will count filler words as you speak (Called the Ah Master). This helps you to be more self-aware and to reduce these filler words through real-world practice.

Enlist Others to Help You

You may want to enlist the help of colleagues and even family members to be on the lookout for any filler words or sounds. Kids especially enjoy catching a parent and it can be a good learning experience for them as well.

Quantify the Problem

Each time you speak, try to keep a rough mental count of each infraction. This should help you assess how extreme the issue is and what to do about it.

How Can We Stop?

Once you’ve identified when you’re most likely to use filler words, what can you do to stop using them. (For reference, most people have trouble when answering a question, at the beginning of a thought or at a natural pause in the sentence.) Here are a couple of ideas that can help:

Learn to Catch Yourself

As you become aware of this problem you’ll begin to notice when you do it, and when others do it as well. Try to catch yourself before you make the mistake. As a side benefit, watching others will reinforce the value of reducing this behavior in you own speech patterns.

Learn to Love the Power of the Pause

Add impact to your message by taking adding a 2-second pause before you start speaking. Adding a pause will also give you time to think and to give your audience time to process what you just said. If you’re answering a question, pause for a beat and think about what you want to say; you may even want to ask a clarifying question to give you a bit more detail and time to think before you answer.

Practice Speaking in Soundbites

For most sales presentations and demos you’ll have plenty of time to practice. As you practice, concentrate on speaking in “sound bytes” or “chunks” In time, most of the common sales messages will become second nature to you and you will rarely make a mistake. Finally, if you are having trouble dropping the Um and Ah habit, there may be one bright spot: some studies suggest that you may actually be perceived as more outgoing if you use these verbal pauses in non-business conversations. If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out our Sales Presentations Primer.

Be Prepared

Like a boyscout, or Girlscout (do they have a motto?), you should always do your best to think about and prepare what you want to say ahead of time. This step alone, can help dratimaticly reduce your tendency to use filler words.

Try to Relax

In some situations this is easier said than done, I know but it turns out that nerveousness can bring out the dreaded filler words in most people. many people find  that if they imigine that the  audience is happy they are there and receptive to the message. Others find  that thinking about the preperation they  have done and my sincere desire to bring the audience value helps them to relax. 

Software Demo Training: How to Structure your Demo

Learn More About Our Software Demo Training

We can create custom software demo training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. To learn more, please give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form 

Time Compressed Story Based Demo Video

--You should have seen the demo from Acme! Wow! We gotta get us some of that and fast!

Watch the  Video: Creating a Demo Story ..

To Succeed, a Software Demo Must be Memorable.

Ideally you want everyone who saw your software demo to tell everyone else what a great product you have and why they need to buy it!

I have seen way too many demos where the sales engineer says: “and another cool thing is…”

After the third cool thing, all features sound the same. No context. No Story. In our Software demo Training Classes we cover a number of ways to help with this problem, lets take a look at a few.

The Solution

Use a time-compressed story structure for your demo. (Check out the video above for more detail on how to create a time-compressed story.)

Top 3 or 4 Issues

Using information that you gained in discovery, you will want to come up with the top 3 or 4 issues that your prospect is facing. This step is critical to your success since missing an important topic leaves the prospect wondering if you can handle it and covering a topic they are not interested in wastes time and can make the demo and the product look more complicated. Here’s an example PDF Demo Form that you can use to help capture your prospects key issues.

A Time-Compressed Story

Your demo story needs to show how your solution solves the prospect’s top 3 or 4 problems in the shortest most compelling way possible.

The Story should reflect a “day in the life” compressed down to the essentials. You do need to be absolutely ruthless when it comes to cutting out unnecessary detail. As you do your research, always try to determine the most important problem for your prospect to solve and look to remove any parts of your demo that are not needed.

To round out the demo structure, simply add a demo opening and a demo close.  

 The Demo Opening

The demo opening is typically a recap of what you believe their top issues are. If they have any changes or additions they will voice them at this time allowing you to add these changes to your demo. You also want to verify that the right people are present for the demo and that you have enough time. If a key decision maker is not available or has to leave early you may want to make adjustments to cover what is key for them or even consider rescheduling.

The Demo Close

The demo close can be as simple as asking for the next step in the sales cycle. In complex B2B sales this may be an evaluation or Proof of Concept or a formal proposal.

The Best Demo is Always the Shortest

Sometimes, there is one issue that is so severe to your prospect that if you can solve it nothing else matters. In this case the best demo may be one that shows how to solve that one problem, short and sweet, and nothing else! 

Good Selling!


Learn More About Our Software Demonstration Skills Training

We can create custom training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. To learn more, please give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form 

Do Your Demos Add Value?

Learn More About Our Demonstration Skills Training

We can create custom training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. To learn more, please give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form 

Think about the last presentation or demo that you did. What value did you add, what problems did you help your customer solve?

Prospects demand value. They can learn all about your products on the web; your value-add is what makes them want you.

Fail to provide value and you’ll most likely lose to the sales team that does.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways to add value in your next presentation or demo:

Share knowledge

Prospects get tons of information from your web site, but you can still add value by sharing your:

Company/Product Knowledge

  • Understanding and explaining complex license policies
  • Helping with complex configurations
  • Helping them select the best solution for their needs
  • Acting as an ombudsman and advocate for them with your factory

Industry/Market Knowledge

  • Alerting prospects to industry best practices that they are not aware of
  • Sharing success stories from your exposure to others in their industry
  • Sharing trends that your are seeing that may affect their business

Technical Knowledge

  • Tips about implementing a new technology
  • Examples of how to increase efficiency through new products
  • Things to avoid when adopting new technologies
  • Ways to use related technologies as part of a complete solution

Do industry research

Once you understand your prospect’s issues, think about ways to help them.

Learn all you can about related products and services. Aspire to be the go-to industry resource that provides valuable insights and actionable ideas.

Improve your communication skills

Become proficient at explaining key industry concepts and technologies to all types of audiences. Make the complex accessible, and you’ll be the go-to resource when your prospect needs an industry update.

Reveal trends

How many software and product demos have you done–hundreds, more? This gives you a great window into the issues faced by your prospects. This experience is invaluable to your prospect. Keep in mind that customers are busy and only exposed to the issues unique to their microcosm. Take the time to share useful insights and trends that will help them do their jobs better.

Make introductions

Does one of you prospects need a CTO? Perhaps you know of someone who is a great fit. Why not do a little matchmaking?

Know of an adviser, consultant or perspective board member that could help you customer? Why not hook them up? In the end you will make an ally regardless of the outcome.

Have other ways to add value, let me know in the comments section.

How to Handle Tough Sales Questions

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We can create custom training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. To learn more, please give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form 

angrysalespresentationHandling questions is a critical selling skill. In every sales presentation or demonstration, some questions will be hostile, pointed or negative. How you handle these tough questions can make or break the sale.

Unlike politics or debate, in sales you must not only persuade your audience to agree with your point of view, you must also answer all questions. In essence, you need to get the audience to emotionally “buy into” what you’re selling.

Why are your prices so high.. Why is the interface so slow… Why can’t you do it, your competition can…
–typical day in the life of a salesperson

Here are 5 tips for answering tough sales questions.

1) Stay cool – Some questions may be hostile or reflect a negative agenda on the part of the questioner. Sometimes the express purpose of the question is to get you to react or get you off your game.

If you hope to win the sale, you can’t get emotional in these situations. Carefully analyze the question and dispassionately come up with an answer that moves the sale forward or at least keeps the conversation positive. Remember, the prospect is focused on their interests and not yours. Don’t take tough questions personally–it’s just business.

2) Answer the question – How many times have you seen a politician respond to a question by giving a mini-speech that’s unrelated to the question. In sales non-answers are the kiss of death–you’re basically telling the prospect:

  • I don’t understand the question so here’s some BS
  • I don’t want to answer this question
  • I don’t have a good answer so I guess I’ll dodge the question

None of these approaches moves the sale forward so please don’t use them. Here is a process that I use to be sure that I answer the question that is asked:

  1. Rephrase the question in your own words to verify that you understand it. The prospect will let you know if you are off track.
  2. Factor in the objectives of the person asking the question in your answer. Managers want to hear about ROI and Vision attainment, end users want to know about implementation issues and day in the life impact.
  3. Ask a follow up question before you answer if you need too, if you try to answer before you understand the entire situation, you may say something that turns off the prospect.
  4. Answer honestly and succinctly
  5. Ask them if you have answered their question. They will let you know if you haven’t

3) Show what you know – Sometimes there’s no good answer to a question. I’ve seen this in technology sales when products on the market don’t handle a situation well.

For example, if most products handle about 80% of a problem but fall short in an area that’s of concern to the prospect you should:

  • Talk about the issue and show that you understand the implications.
  • Outline possible approaches and why they may be of interest; discuss why no vendor has implemented them.
  • Explain that since all other products have the same issues, your product is up to par.
  • Show how your existing customers handle the situation and if possible how your solution helps to mitigate any shortcomings.

4) Use humor to defuse the situation – If the audience is generally on your side, but you have been asked a difficult question, you may want to use a bit of self-effacing humor to lighten the mood. As an example:

With a smile: ” I’m so glad you asked that question…” then acknowledge that it is a thorny issues and that it is important to address it.

5) Be respectful – We have all done it. A prospect asks a question that we covered earlier in our presentation and we can’t help but say: “As I said before!” then answer the question. Don’t do it! Ever! It shows a complete lack of respect and alienates the person asking the question. You are much better off to simply say something like: Good question, here is what we do…”

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Getting Results from Trade Show Demonstrations

Ever done a trade show and wished that you and your team had uncovered more hot prospects, set up more post-show appointments and done more effective demos?
If this sounds familiar, you’ll want to read this step-by-step guide to trade show success through better demos.

Qualify prospects

Trade show demos are a perfect time to learn about your prospects; booth visitors expect questions, so don’t miss this important opportunity. Here are the key steps to qualification during a trade show demo:

1) Look before you leap – Never just jump into your standard demo; ask background questions like:

  • How are they doing things today?
  • What do they like and dislike about the product they’re using, what would they change?
  • Why are they at the show, what are their goals relative to your type of product?

2) Relate to their needs – Based on their answers, give examples of how your solution has helped others like them. Ask which areas are most important to them.

3) Drill down for detail – When a prospect asks a question, use it as a springboard to ask more questions and expose the big picture.

Disqualify poor leads

Nothing’s worse than doing post-show follow up on a so-called “hot” trade show lead only to find that it’s a dud. Demos are a great way to weed out the clunkers–here’s how:

1) Avoid misunderstandings – Pay attention and ask questions. Prospects may have misconceptions about your product; the quicker you find out, the better it is for both of you.
As you demo, check in with the prospect with phrases like: “Does that make sense?” or “Is that similar to how you do it today?”.
Watch their face; if they look confused ask if they have a question.

2) Verify urgency and need – Ask questions to see how urgent their need is.

  • How are you doing this now?
  • Are you looking at getting equipment like this?
  • What would happen if you don’t make a change?

If they say they are in the market, is it an immediate need or longer term?

3) Be sure they are decision makers – Ask questions to see how well they understand the decision process. If a prospect can’t answer basic process questions, it’s either early days or they’re not part of the process. Here are some example questions to get you started:

  • Who is on the decision team?
  • Will they be doing evaluations?
  • What are the key criteria they are interested in?

Close for post show demos, evaluations or meetings

If you find a hot one, close for the next step NOW–before they get back to their hectic world and get too busy to return your call.
Here are some example closes:
“It looks like we are a good fit for your application, what would be a good next step? We will be in your area next week and can do an on-site demo for the rest of the team and set you up and evaluation. Would that work for you?”
“It looks like an evaluation would be the next step. Why don’t I quickly get that set up for you now?”
Make sure you have a solid next step, even if it is only a commitment from them to take a phone call on a specified date and time. Trust me, if you don’t close now it will be much harder to reach them when they get back to the office.

Do more effective, compelling demos

If you and your team would like to improve your trade show demo skills, check out our demo skills class or contact us. We will customize the training to your exact needs and can often combine training with in-booth coaching sessions at one of your upcoming trade shows. This let’s students master the skills from class and become productive right away.

Learn More About Our  Training

We can create custom training for you and your team. It starts with a no hassle conversation about your unique needs. If it makes sense, we will create custom training  that meets your time and budget requirements. To learn more, please give us a call (1-800-421-5824) or click below and fill out the contact form 

B2B Sales Tip–Improve Your Sales Forecast with 2 Simple Questions

At the end of the month when the heat is on to close business, what would you rather say to your manager?

–spoke with “Jim Bakus” in purchasing, the order will be issued in the next 2 days


–called my main contact for an update, he’s out of the office until the 3rd of next month, sorry.

The first answer is way better, right?

Sales Managers need accurate forecasts. As a sales person you’re measured–at least in part–on forecast accuracy.

Let’s take a look at 2 questions that will make a big difference in the accuracy of your forecast right away.

1) What could stop this purchase from happening ?

Ask the prospect if there is anything that could stop them from moving forward with the purchase. You will be amazed at the amount of valuable information that this simple question brings.

Most people are optimists and may not be mindful of all the issues that could scuttle the purchase. This question get’s them in an analytical mindset and focused on possible obstacles.

2) What is the purchase process?

If you can get a reasonably detailed description of the process, you can better estimate how long the process will take and what could go wrong.

In addition, having the names of people involved at each stage of the buying process will be invaluable if things get stalled and you need an update.

If the prospect can’t explain the process, they may not be as involved in the purchasing decision as you thought. Keep digging, until you’re sure you’ve found the decision maker.

Always remember, without a solid understanding of the purchase process, you’ll be relegated to ridiculous emails and phone messages asking for an update or “just checking in”.

(For a great article on the value of a forecast check out this post at selling power.)

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

B2B Sales Tip–Fast Follow Up Wins More Deals

Ever have a prospect that contacted you but didn’t call back when you responded? They just might be working with the rep that got back to them first!

Prospects have a myriad of choices at their fingertips. A quick Google search yields a screen full of your competitors to contact. If you want to win, you must get back to prospects quickly!

Busy prospects simply don’t have time to chase sales people. When they contact you, it’s probably because they’ve put your company on their “short list” of vendors to consider.

Next time you get a lead be sure to call right away and keep calling until you reach them.

If you don’t, someone else may be cashing your commission check.

B2B Sales Trends for 2010–Are You Ready?

The rules of B2B sales are changing. You need to address these changes or risk being left behind and losing sales.

B2B sales challenges for 2010

New trends in the B2B market are having a dramatic effect on sales success. Here are some of the biggest changes along with some steps you can take to address them.

Prospects have more information and knowledge than ever before

Social media and the web are having a huge impact on how prospects get information about technology, products and companies. Gone are the days when prospects relied on salespeople to keep them abreast of the latest products and technologies. Today’s prospects can subscribe to RSS feeds, twitter, LinkedIN and Google alerts to get timely updates developments in their market.

Social Media has made it simple to check up on your companies reputation

The wisdom of crowds is in full effect. You can join user groups and forums and ask people directly about their experiences.

Prospects don’t contact sales until much later in the sales cycle

Since information is so easy to obtain, prospects often wait until they have a solid understanding of what they want and what it will do for them. They have also created a “short list” of vendors that look like they can help. Armed with this list they finally contact vendors to ask specific, detailed questions.

Prospects are demanding much more from sales people

Once a prospect contacts you they are often very direct and expect quick accurate answers to their questions.

Prospects are even more difficult to reach and busier than ever if you do

If you decide not to wait for prospects to contact you and reach out to them, you will find that they are hiding behind voice mail and email and can be almost impossible to reach. If you do manage to reach them, you have very little time to capture their interest before they blow you off.

Impact on B2B sales

All these changes have a direct effect on your world. Let’s take a look at how they can affect your success and how you can start thinking strategically about addressing them.

Sales has less time to make an impact

Since prospects are contacting sales later in the process and they are busier than ever before, you have a very short window to impress them. You need to:

  • Gain their trust
  • show that you are knowledgeable and can help them
  • Demonstrate that you and your company will be around for the long haul
  • Understand their needs

Salespeople must be more knowledgeable to keep pace with prospects

By the time you engage with a prospect they have probably seen a webinar, read several white papers and seen product demos on the web. They know a lot and if you expect to earn their business you need to know more.

Sales needs to provide feedback to marketing to ensure better qualified leads

Marketing is working hard to keep up with increased demands from prospects as well. to that end, you can help marketing by providing detailed feedback on why prospects buy your product and the types of problems they solve with it.

In the next installment of this series we will look at why this issues make it crucial to change your sales approach.

B2B Sales Tip: Touring the Prospect’s Facility is Pure Gold

On-site facility tours are one of the best ways to learn about your prospect’s needs

Gathering information about an account is an ongoing process–you need to ask lots of questions over time. Here are some quick tips to help you gather information the next time your prospect says: “Would you like a tour?”

Do your Homework

Visit their web site, talk to members of the team. Once you have a solid understanding of their world, you’re ready to ask insightful and effective questions during the tour.

As the prospect extols the virtues of their products and processes, you can ask questions that direct the conversation to areas you want to explore.

Create a List of Topics to Explore

Throughout the life of a sales call, you can only ask a finite number of questions before the call starts to look like a scene from Perry Mason.

The tour represents a fresh start to the sales conversation. The prospect will be more open to questions since they are in the role of tour guide. Use this time to ask more detailed questions that you have not been able to cover so far.

Ask Process Questions

To show how your product or service can improve the prospect’s situation, you need to understand their unique challenges. The best way to discover ways to improve a situation is to ask questions about how things are done today and what would they like to improve if they could. As they explain how things are done, think about ways that your product could help.

Ask Forward Looking Questions

As you take the tour, be sure to ask what the plans are for the future. What are the goals and initiatives they are planning and how do your products map into the plans.

Be Sincere not Pedantic

Never ask a question just to show that you did some research. Show genuine interest in the prospect and what they are doing. Think about ways that your product or service can better their situation and focus on that.

Let your Prospects Talk

I have been on calls with sales people who don’t understand the basic purpose of a sales interaction: to let the prospect tell you about their situation. On a facility tour remember to ask your question, then be quiet. Allow your prospect time to answer, and only chime in if they stop talking or if clarification is required.

Understand Before you Pitch

Ask for additional detail to be sure that you have a complete understanding of a topic before you even think about talking. You want to be sure that you fully understand the situation as well as the effect it has on the prospects world. Armed with this information, you can begin to formulate a presentation that specifically addresses the needs of you prospect.

If you enjoyed this article why not let us know in the comments section.

5 Tips to Make your Next Software Demo More Interesting

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A client recently asked me how to make their software product demos more interesting. It’s a pretty common question for people working to improve their presentations or technology demos so, I thought I’d do a quick post on it. Here are 5 key tips to make your demos more interesting:

1) Know your Audience

The most common cause by far of boring demos is too much detail; in other words your demos are too long!

Your product has a ton of killer features, but if our prospects don’t care about them they will make the demo look confusing and bore your audience.

The only way to avoid showing too much is to learn who will be there, what their role is and what they care about.

Armed with this information, you can pare the demo down to 2 or 3 key things and keep your focus on the decision makers in the audience.

2) Be Enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is contagious. Don’t be afraid to smile and enjoy yourself.

3) Have a Strong Opening

The opening is crucial to an interesting demo. This is the best time to draw the audience in and grab their attention. Here are a few ideas for a great demo opening:

  • Open with a question
  • Make a provocative statement
  • Tell a short customer success story that relates to your prospects needs

Regardless of the opening you choose, be sure the opening is relevant to the unique needs of your audience; you want to engage them without distracting them.

4) Show a Day in Their Life

To keep prospects engaged, you need a demo that shows them how your product solves their unique problems. The closer you can come to their situation in your demo, the more interested they will be. I find that a time-compressed demo that reflects the typical tasks they need to accomplish works best. To keep things as streamlined as possible, be sure to focus on the decision makers in the room and their needs first.

5) Add Some Spice

Once you have a demo that you are comfortable doing, you can begin to improve it. Try adding a little spice to sections of your demo such as:

  • A bit of humor (related to their needs)
  • A prop that shows a complex topic in an easy to understand way (perhaps a schematic, a block diagram or a 3-D model)
  • A question, designed to bring home a point

Have any tips on making software demos more interesting? Let us know in the comments section below. If you want to improve your demos, you may want to check out our Demonstration Skills Training or download our FREE Winning Demo Ebook.

Remote Web Demonstrations: Tragedies Tips and Training

Would you believe… The Cone of Silence

Remote web demonstrations are marvels of modern technology: inexpensive, powerful and ubiquitous, but if you’re not careful they can be your worst nightmare.

If you have never seen the TV series “Get Smart” you’re in for a treat. Watch the clip below. It perfectly captures the dark and funny side of communicating with technology (the fun starts about 23 seconds in):

I think the “Cone of Silence” gives you a pretty good idea of the kinds of things that can go awry with remote web demos. Lets take a look at common web-based demonstration problems that arise and how to deal with them.

Is everyone on the bus?

Getting everyone logged in can be a big hassle. Most web conference systems are pretty good, but they all have quirks.

Make it a point to provide clear instructions and encourage everyone to log in a few minutes early.

As the host, jump on the line at least 5 minutes before the call. Finally have a back channel (phone number and or email) for those having problems. Publish an email address and phone number for anyone to use if they have issues signing in.

Audio Issues

Audio problems are very common. To avoid most issues, try these tips:

  • Use a land line when possible (cell reception is still not perfect)
  • If you must use a speakerphone, verify the quality
  • Try a headset
  • Don’t use the Internet Voice (VOIP) option unless you have tested it with all attendees
  • Explain to all how to mute and unmute their line

Can you see what I see?

Be sure that all attendees can see the screen. A sales person at the prospects site is a great way to get feedback. You may also want to try logging in from a second system at your desk so that you can see exactly what the audience is seeing.

Show everything that’s pertinent to the demo

Showing your software is a given for most demos, but what about hardware. If you are using an instrument, tool or some other piece of physical gear–show it. You can often do this with a web cam. If you don’t have a web cam, take a picture so that you can reference it as you explain what’s happening.

Be Exciting Be “E” Exciting

OK, maybe I watched one too many cheer-leading comedies! The point is that you need to keep the audience engaged. Ask questions, use polls if the software supports it. If you feel yourself prattling on and on, check in and make sure the group is still with you.

If you do remote demos as part of your job, you may want to check out our Demo Training Programs and Workshops.

Have other issues with web demos, share it with us in the comments section.

Improve Trade Show Demos–4 Tips to Success

Need to improve your trade show demos? Here are four tips that will improve your demos and trade show success rate.

Stop doing “Drop off” Demos

Drop off demos are where the sales person walks up to the demo guide and says: “Joe from Amalgamated wants to see a demo”, then wanders away leaving the sales engineer alone with the prospect.
Sales should be asking qualifying questions before they initiate a demo.
By asking simple types of questions like:

  • What do you hope to accomplish with this product?
  • Do you have something you use for this today?
  • What types of functionality are important to you? Why?

Armed with the answers to questions like these, sales can make a smooth and productive introduction to the sales engineer. Using the information from the intro, the sales engineer can focus on specifics and not waste time trying to cover everything.

Do a quick sanity check

Review the items they want to see, make sure you are in sync with the prospect. This is also a good time to provide a brief menu of other things they may want to see.

Qualify more deeply during the demo

The introduction from sales was a great help in understanding what the prospect wanted to see, now it’s your job to find out more. As you do the demo, ask probing questions like:

  • How would this work in your environment
  • How do you do this today
  • What would be the value in terms of time, money saved…?

As you drill down, you can uncover more needs and more fully understand the prospect’s situation.

Maximize the conversation

As you do the demo it may become clear that the prospect is not a good fit. Maybe sales didn’t get a chance to fully qualify them. That’s OK, you can still get useful information and maybe make a contact in the process. Here are a couple of things to try:

  • Ask if they know of someone who would be a fit in their company, also ask if it’s OK to use their name–this works remarkably well at trade shows.
  • If they don’t use your type of product or handle things another way, ask about it. This is great information for the marketing department.
  • Try to help. If you know of a company or product that can help, suggest it. Pass the name along to the other company’s sales staff; giving leads is the best way to get leads.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help improve your trade show demos, please visit our demo training workshop page.

Web Demos–Winning Sales in Your Pajamas or Flying Blind?

Remote web demos are great.

You don’t need to travel or tote around heavy equipment. You can work from your office with all the resources and support you need at your fingertips. Some lucky people can even do them from the comfort of their own home.

With all this Internet demo goodness, what are some of the shortcomings of remote demonstrations and what can we do about them?

Remote demos have a hazy kind of feel to them

You show the money shot–the software dashboard! Lots of great information, great organization… Audience Response: silence and a blinking cursor. You can’t tell if they’re watching your demo or checking their twitter account.

Worse yet, what if your internet connection cuts out and they lose the visual.

Remote demos stifle your ability to see, hear and “read” your audience. Anyone who has done face-to-face demos knows that being able to see, hear and relate to your audience is a big advantage. So what can you do to make up for the lack of feedback in an internet based demo?

Coming back to your senses

Here are several things that I have suggested to students in our Demonstration Training Classes:

Fly-on-the-wall – Have your sales person on-site with your prospect during your demo. They can act as your eyes and ears, providing valuable feedback to keep you on track. You still save 50% on travel and reap the benefits of being in your office.

Ask Questions – Open the phone line or use the built-in chat function in your web conferencing software to ask them if this screen is relevant to the way they do things. (With hope, you will already know this from your pre-demo discovery questions.)

Watch your own demo – A second system logged in to watch your demo is an excellent way to be sure that your audience sees what you want them to see. Be sure to watch with the sound off to avoid feedback issues. Some companies use a partner to watch the demo, allowing you to focus on the demo itself.

If you’re interested in learning more about improving your web demos, please check out our Software Demo Skills Training page.

Face to Face Demonstrations–Tips for Success

On-site demos act as a rallying point for technology purchasing decisions.

In fact, the demo may be the only chance you get to persuade some busy decision makers.

Here’s five tips to help you be more effective in your face-to-face technology demos :

1) Do Your Research

When highly-paid decision makers come to your demo, it costs your prospect’s company serious money; you owe it to them to be as prepared as possible.  Before the demo make sure to:

  • Interview all key players–understand needs, goals and issues
  • Find out who is FOR you and who may be AGAINST you in the sale
  • Discover ways in which your prospect would like to improve their business processes
  • Understand who your competition is

Based on this research, you can prepare a demonstration that is crisp, effective and contains exactly what they want to see.

2) Have a Teamwork Plan

Teamwork between sales and sales engineering is critical to demonstration success. To avoid mishaps, have a strategy for helping each other during the demo.

Here are some examples where planning ahead makes a big difference:

  • Hide demo set-up – While the sales engineer sets up the demo system, sales can do the company overview. The presentation takes the focus off you so that you can get your demo running without the pressure of a roomful of eyeballs on you! Agree on a signal to let sales know that the demo is up and you are ready to go, so they can quickly wrap up their presentation.
  • Reduce the impact of crashes – Sales should monitor the demo (as opposed to thumbing their Blackberry) so that they can come to your aid if a “bad thing” happens in your demo such as a crash. Sales can interject a comment, taking the audiences attention off you long enough to recover. Another good suggestion is for sales to keep a pack of Oreos in their bag so that they can “remember” to take them out and offer them to the prospect, buying you a bit of time. (This is especially effective with techies!)
  • Know what can be shown – Sales must be aware of what can and cannot be shown in the demo. Sometimes equipment or software is not working or a feature is not enabled–be sure to talk ahead of time to avoid embarrassment .

3) Make a Connection

All things being equal, prospects will buy from people they like. Making a connection is a combination of professionalism, social skills and competence.

  • Professionalism – Acting in a professional way, lets the prospect relax and focus on your message. Prospects expect you to keep things business like. Save political and religious topics for your friends. Be specific in all communication; make it easy to work with you.
  • Social Skills – Although, your purpose is strictly business, sales is a PEOPLE business. Learn to move smoothly between pleasantries and your business message. For technical people this can be as simple as talking about fun or  interesting technology as a way to lighten up the call, then moving back to business. Remember, most people are busy and don’t want to spend a ton of time on small talk, but they do want to get a sense for you as a person.
  • Competence – If you don’t know your stuff, today’s savvy prospect won’t want to work with you no matter how nice you are. Everyone has lots to do and if you waste their time once, it will be the last chance you get to do so! Work hard to become a knowledgeable resource for you prospects and customers.

4) Build Credibility

Come off too slick and prospects will suspect they’re being misled. To be credible, you need to prove that you understand their world and back up any claims that you make.

Early in the demo, you may have to show every feature to prove it’s real. As the demo progresses–provided you project honesty, knowledge and understanding–you will be able to say more and show less.

5) Close for Next Steps

As you conclude the demo, make sure to recap and outline what should happen next.

  • What have they asked about?
  • When will you get back with them?
  • What is the next step in the process: an evaluation, another meeting?

Based on your pre-demo goals, you should request specific actions that move the sale forward.

If you are interested in improving your face-to-face sales demos, please visit our Demos Skills Training page.

Software Demos 4 Tips for Improvement

Get some toothpicks for your eyes and a case of Red Bull, were gonna do a software demo!

Software demos are the cornerstone of technology sales. Here’s 4 tips to make your next software demo better:

Short Software Demos are Best

Our demos are too long. That’s probably the most common issue about that I hear about when I do Software Demo Training Classes. The reasons it’s so prevalent are:

  • We hate to leave any of the best features out, even if the prospect might not care
  • We like to show things a couple of ways to prove how flexible the product is
  • We’re used to doing product training where we show every single menu
  • Our product is very technical–we have ton of detail to cover
  • We have a big product stack (lots of different products) so it takes a while

Let’s take each of these in turn and discuss how we can do better.

The most important thing you can do to shorten your demo

If you’re having issues with long demos, the most important thing you can do is to spend more time understanding the prospects specific needs.

Talk to your sales person. Have the prospect complete a demo form outlining what they want to see. Once you understand their needs it’s easy to decide what to cover and what NOT to cover!

I hate to leave any important feature out of the demo

Engineering worked hard to put these features in, you may have even been the one who requested some of them. I get that, but here’s where it can hurt you.

You’re showing things your prospect isn’t interested in. That means:

  1. They will get bored.
  2. They may see something that turns them off on the product!
  3. The extra detail we show will make the product look complex and hard to use

Next time you do a demo, try to get more detail from sales on what they want to see and what they don’t–only show that. You may be surprised at how much smoother things go.

I want to show how flexible the product is

Showing things multiple ways is fine for training, but it’s a disaster for demos. Next demo, pick the best way to do something and only show that. I’m not saying you can’t show off some GUI bells and whistles; just pick the slickest looking path and weave it naturally into your demo.

We are used to doing product training

When technical support or the training group are asked to to demos, too much detail is a very common problem. Support people have little or no training in sales, and as such don’t know what to show. Without guidance they tend to show everything. Worse, yet, they may know the screens and menus very well, but they often lack the big picture understanding needed to relate the product to the prospects real business issues.

To help people with no sales experience do better demos, you need to be explicit about what they should show for each prospect. You may even want to script out what you want them to do and say. In time, many will be able to better demos with less input from you.

Our product is very technical

This is often a byproduct of poor qualification of the prospect’s needs. Technical product are complex, but the business problems they solve are less so. If you can understand exactly what the prospect wants to see and what they don’t care about, you can drop tons of unnecessary detail.

For you next demo, start with a short succinct list from your sales person, then focus on creating a demo path (a story) that shows how the business problem is solved. Make this path as short as possible while maintaining the integrity of the demo story.

We have a big product stack

This issue is common in larger organizations that have done lots of company acquisitions to build out a more complete solution for their customers. I’ve seen situations where the sales engineer (or a team of sales engineers) is expected to show the end-to-end solution for 10 or more products!

Multiple product demos are a burden for prospects interested in only a portion of your solution. No one wants to sit through the entire show if they don’t need what is being covered. In these situations, it’s crucial that you focus on your prospects specific needs and show as little as possible in the best way possible.

Use the right approach for the medium

Modern demos can be live, web based, and even canned (down-loadable, CD based, etc…). Each mode has unique advantages and disadvantages, be aware of them.

Web demos, are less interactive and you often can’t tell if the audience is with you or not. There are several ways to fight this:

  • Have a sales person on-site with the customer to act as your eyes and ears. They can help keep the audience engaged and let you know when you need to change course to keep them interested.
  • Take advantage of the polling and online question features provided in web demo software.
  • Ask questions and allow the audience to respond.

Live on-site demos allow you to use physical props and to easily see the audiences reaction to you talk. You can also keep things interesting by going to the chalk board or even letting the customer try your gear (if this is a safe thing to do).

The down side of a face-to-face demo is that if something goes wrong, all eyes are on you. You can’t surreptitiously bring up another version of the app in the background as you can in a web demo. Next demo, be mindful of these subtleties and you will fare much better.

Encourage questions

If you are doing a sales demo for a single company, you have to allow questions–period.

It’s their show–you have to give them what they need. If you don’t they won’t do business with you. If there are dangerous questions or audience members who are hostile to you cause, be prepared to deal with it.

If you are doing a demo for multiple parties and companies, I would still say that you must allow questions, just be prepared to redirect or to ask to take the question off line if they try to take you too far afield.

Pay attention to things that elicit questions in your demos, incorporate them into your standard demo and be sure to develop a killer answers for each question. Questions are the key to audience involvement, without them you will never do your best demo.

Don’t pounce

Pouncing happens when you get a question from the audience for which you have a killer solution.

At first blush, this appears to be a perfect lead-in to you pitching the killer feature. Be careful. With highly technical products, it’s critical that you fully understand the question it’s impact on the prospects world before you answer.

The best approach is to drill down and try to understand why they want to do the operation. Ask what the effect of not having the feature is now. Ask them how they think they would benefit from it in the future.

The key is to sell value, not features. Prospects only see value when you relate your product to their needs. By jumping into your pitch as soon as you hear a question, you’ll miss the opportunity to get the full picture.

Please let me know what you thought of this article and ask any question you like below.

And be sure to check out our Demo Skills Classes

Sales Presentations-5 Tips for Handling Hostile Questions

Hostile questions can quickly derail your sales presentation or demo. These questions occur for any number of reasons including:

  • The questioner has a chip on their shoulder
  • The person wants to feel superior and raise their status in the group
  • They like the competition’s product or service
  • Your product or service threatens them or their job
  • They want to show that they know more than you do

I’m sure you can think of lots more.

Hostile questions can cost you the sale–or at the very least waste valuable selling time.

So, what can we do to handle hostile questions before they create problems?

Here’s 5 tips:

1) Avoid hostile questions in the first place – Know your audience, if someone on the team is against you, try to add points to your presentation that will preempt their objection.

2) Stay focused on their issues – Keep your presentation focused on the issues your prospects care about. Bring up a topic that’s not relevant, and you run the risk of hostile questions and comments.

3) Look for common ground – You may have a valid difference of opinion with your prospect, that’s OK if you try to find areas where you agree.

Let’s say they don’t agree with a new process that you are advocating. Find common ground by reminding them that they’re unhappy with the existing process and, while not without flaws, your process may help.

4) Defer to power – Often, if someone is hijacking the meeting, it’s bad for the prospect as well.

One technique that I often use is to ask the highest ranking manager if you should continue on this thread or in the interest of time, handle it off-line. The ball is now in the managers court. If they want to continue, hang in there. More often than not, if the questions are off topic or too hostile, the manager will help you get back on topic.

5) Defer to the audience – If you don’t know who has the power, you can ask the group as a whole if they want to continue on a thread or cover it off-line. Often they will be on your side and you’ll be asked to table the topic for later.

Here is another great post on handling tough questions from Steve Martin at Heavy Hitter Sales

If you want to learn more about our training classes please visit sales presentation skills training

Sales Presentations-Practice Without Powerpoint for Better Presentations

Has PowerPoint has become a crutch that tempts you to give presentations without proper preparation?

Selling complex B2B products often requires that you perform very detailed product presentations. As a result, most have come to rely heavily on PowerPoint as a substitute for product knowledge, and preparation.

So Many Slides, So Little Time

Most companies have voluminous sets of slides, created by marketing that attempt to cover every imaginable scenario. Worse yet, well-intentioned marketers often add lots of detail so that the slides double as product training for the sales force.

Armed with these slides, most salespeople mix, match and modify the slides-then head out to do their presentation.

So, What’s the Problem?

In competitive B2B selling, you only have one shot at delivering a great presentation; with PowerPoint as a crutch a myriad of things can go wrong:

* With PowerPoint in control as both the message and the media, you fade into the background
* You use way too many slides; hoping to cover everything, you ensure that they remember nothing.
* You read every bullet on every slide: they can read, your job is to say only what is relevant to them.
* You run short on time and have to rush through way too many slides
* You know the answer to their question is somewhere in the 100+ plus slides-now if you could only find it

The Solution: Practice Without PowerPoint and Stand Out From the Crowd

Next time you are preparing a presentation, try to practice it without the PowerPoint deck. Here’s how:
Understand Your Prospects Needs and Create a Story

First, think about the major issues that your prospect is facing, and the goals that they want to achieve. Armed with this information, pick the top three.

Next, come up with Case Study (user examples) of how your product helped other prospects in similar situations.

Finally, create short stories that relate how these customers stories are relevant to the problems faced by your prospect. With these simple stories, you are ready to create a presentation that sells.
Practice Your Presentation Without Slides

Now comes the practice. Do the presentation without slides. Start with an opening that summarizes the prospects situation, then relate the success stories. For complex technical products, you may want to go to the white board and diagram the topic. With practice you will get comfortable without the slides and learn to focus on the story that you are trying to tell.

Now Add Just a Few Slides

Once you are comfortable doing the presentation, it’s time to add in just a few slides. Be ruthless about removing the slides that you don’t need. In addition, you should limit the detail on each slide that you chose to keep. Try to use the slides for diagrams and data that are hard to reproduce by other means.

A good rule of thumb would be one slide for an opening, one for the current sitiation and one each for the stories. Your last slide should be a summary and call to action. The goal is to limit the detail on any slide and to limit the overall number of slides.


When it’s time to deliver your sales presentation, you will be ready to focus on telling the audience how other companies like theirs solved problems with your products.

Sales Presentations 5 Creative Powerpoint Tips

PowerPoint has become the poster child for bad sales presentations; so, how about some ways that PowerPoint can enhance your next sales presentation? Here are  5 that I use in my sales presentation training seminars.

Make a Joke

Humor can be very effective, but be sure your that you have the right audience when you use it.

How about a slide of the Windows Blue Screen of Death to get them thinking there was a crash. (Would work best with an anti-windows crowd.)

You can also use the onetime 1-second flash of a bullet item to give a funny subliminal message. For example if you really want to get across the point that you are local to the prospect and you have mentioned it once or twice already, you could have a note flash by saying: did I mention that we are local.

Draw Attention to You

PowerPoint often upstages you by drawing the attention of the audience. Why not use this to your advantage. Try creating a slide that prompts the audience to ask you questions of a specific nature.

Put the Elephant in the Room for You

Need to bring up a sensitive topic? Try creating a slide for it that gets the audience thinking about it. For example try a slide like “What our customers say about our prices” that highlights the pluses.

Hide Detail Until you Need It

This is especially good for technical products with lots of detail or for the dreaded Company Overview. Try creating your main topic slides and for each core topic, then create additional slides that flesh out the detail.

To allow quick access, number the detail slides using the format: end slide number + 20+ main topic slide number, that way you can use the select slide number menu in PowerPoint to quickly locate the detailed slides.

Create a Proforma Scenario

Similar to the Elephant in the room, this tip can help you to make standard terms and conditions more acceptable. Using a slide codifies the policy as official and makes the prospect more likely to accept it.

For some great tips on PowerPoint in general you may want to check out check out this Rules of PowerPoint post by Guy Kawasaki.