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:
- They will get bored.
- They may see something that turns them off on the product!
- 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.
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.
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.
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