HomeBlog Fifteen Ways to Guarantee a Product Demo Fail

Fifteen Ways to Guarantee a Product Demo Fail

September 06, 2016 | By Peter Ostrow

  • Few b-to-b interactions are as crucial as the software product demo
  • Sales and marketing professionals need to up their game at this key point in the buyer’s journey
  • Use these 15 best practices to maximize the chance of losing a deal

Congratulations! You’ve been asked to demonstrate your technology solution for that big b-to-b deal! Marketing successfully created awareness of and demand for your product, and sales accepted and nurtured the lead, so now it’s time to play show-and-tell via a Web demo – the critical step in advancing the opportunity.

Before you proceed with the demo, however, be sure to follow these best practices to the letter…if you’re dead set on logging an opportunity “Closed Lost” in your salesforce automation system.

  1. Schedule at least an hour for the demo, preferably two. Your prospects want to buy a complex, expensive technology solution and are expecting to see every field, pick list and screen you’ve labored to build. They can remain patient as long as you need them to, have an unlimited attention span, and possess elephant-like capacity for retaining information.
  2. Begin the meeting without introductions, reviewing the agenda or time checks. Darn it, you’ve invested so much time and energy in this product – there’s no way it won’t just sell itself. Dive right in!
  3. Get the least-sales-oriented person on your team to run the demo. Ideally, the lead developer should walk your potential buyers through the product, creating a comfortable, non-threatening environment for your audience. Beware of putting an overly polished marketer or product manager on the call – your prospects will run away from that kind of smooth talk and are more at ease with a dry, terminology-heavy approach.
  4. Commence launch without providing context for the screen you’re showing. Everyone knows the administrator view is the only one that matters.
  5. Answer every question with “We’ll get to that later.” Your audience appreciates a well-structured, linear presentation and should recognize that you’ve prepared dozens of slides and screen shares to address every possible scenario.
  6. Always speak in the first person. Much like the audience at a small, intimate comedy club, demo audiences grow uncomfortable if you get too personal with them. Stick with language like “Here’s our sample SKU pick list. We designed a platform that allows us to program up to 10,000 drop-down options.” Avoid phrases such as “If you’re interested in X, then you can Y” – your prospects will freak out if you imply any insight into their daily lives or business workflow.
  7. Don’t go down the customer case study rabbit hole. No one is interested in how your solution helped another company, and you’ll lose your audience immediately with inappropriate detours such as “One of our customers adapted this field” or “Feedback from our user community motivated us to change that integration.”
  8. Focus all attention on product features, not business value. Solving customers’ problems should go without saying, and your audience intuitively understands the beginning, middle and end of the end user’s business needs. Leave storytelling to the salespeople.
  9. Be sure to run all aspects of the demo within your native, proprietary application. Of course your customers have invested in many other technologies, some of which they’ll need to integrate with your solution. But the demo is all about YOU, not about playing well with others in a dog-eat-dog world.
  10. Keep all the applications you use regularly open on your shared screen. Buyers won’t be put off by seeing your Amazon shopping cart, fantasy football picks and instant messages. Rather, this tactic adds personality and a folksy quirkiness to your overall sales strategy.
  11. Repeatedly use persuasive phrases such as “How cool is this?” and “No one else is doing this” to influence your buyers. Trust me – they work.
  12. Don’t bother with mobile. Innovative presentation techniques such as splitting the screen between end-user form factors will just confuse your buyers.
  13. Keep your hand on the mouse at all times. Your audience loves being distracted by your annoying habit of zipping the cursor around the screen when not pointing and clicking at demo objects.
  14. Don’t listen to the haters. Don’t bother using a live demo system that shows how your product actually works.  Screen shots are equally effective at demonstrating how the solution will run, and they’re WAY easier to prepare.
  15. Genericize your presentation. Your buyers know how much effort has gone into product development, and they’ll be suspicious of your technology focus if you start to address deployment considerations such as industry verticals, different languages or cultural norms. And you’ll only creep them out if you pre-populate the demo with their company name, buyer personas or other highly proprietary data that makes you look too salesy.

Here’s Four Extra Bonus Tips for Industry Analyst Demos!

  1. Spend at least 15 minutes on executive bios. The more buyers know about your leaders’ past success, the better your solution looks before they even see it.
  2. Whip up the biggest, baddest NASCAR® slide that’s ever been seen. Seriously. It’s virtually impossible to add too many logos to this classic display that everyone loves and cherishes.
  3. Never omit a Mercator projection of Earth. In these volatile times, the geography of our planet changes so rapidly. Buyers need to know the location of every one of your company’s offices, or better yet, the location of every end user with a current license.
  4. Remember that “no” is simply not in your vocabulary. In response to any question about features or functions offered by your competitors that your product lacks, use one of these two magic phrases that are guaranteed to work: “That’s in our roadmap” or “That’s also part of our vision.”

Esteemed readers, if there’s a final lesson here, it’s this: Never – EVER – take a sardonic or humorous tone in conveying your message. Modern technology buyers are deadly serious, and they’re most likely to complete the purchase if you focus all your energy on showing the speeds and feeds of your product.

Join us in Austin for the second annual SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange! Register for the only b-to-b conference that focuses on how technology can – and should – be used in sales, marketing and product organizations to enhance alignment and develop your optimized technology stack.

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Peter Ostrow

Peter capitalizes on 20+ years of revenue growth leadership in sales enablement, sales talent management, and operational expertise. Finding a better, faster way to help B2B sales teams beat quota drives just about every topic, company, rep, and channel partner he engages. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterOstrow