24 Apr

Tips for Giving a Killer Demo

I started giving software demos in 1999.  At the time my demo consisted of showing the potential customer the output from our service which was accessed via a browser.   My close ration if I gave the demo within one hour of the prospect first trying our software was about 80%.   The software sold itself, I just needed to show the prospect the value in our offering.  That is one of the key ways you can provide a killer software demo, show the value.  In most cases you are giving a software demo for one of two reasons:  to sell the software (which might be software as a service) or to teach someone how to use the software.   These differences necessitate radically different approaches to the software demo.  The following tips are for someone that is giving a sales demo.

Here are 7 tips that I’ve learned over the last 15 years that will help you give a killer software demo.

Tip #1 –  Use the right presenter.

Do not have trainers give your demos unless they are also intimately familiar with your sales goals.   Trainers inherently want to teach the prospect HOW to use the software whereas a sales engineer wants to show WHY you need the software. The how should always come after the why.

Tip #2- End with the best.

If this is the first time the prospect has seen your software then start with your second or third best feature.   You want to open strong but finish stronger.  Save your best feature for the end. Recency aids in retention.  End with an important feature that people will remember.

Tip #3 – Don’t overwhelm your audience.

Don’t try and show everything.   The human brain likes to remember things in clusters of seven, think telephone numbers.  We are pretty good are remembering between 5-10 new things in one sitting.    If you have one hour to give a demo  then you should be introducing a new idea about once every  5 minutes.  Keep this in mind as you pace your demo.  If you are introducing a new idea every 2 minutes then either shorten the length of your demo or show fewer aspects of the software.

Tip #4 – Make data relevant.

Prepare data in advance.   Don’t hope that your demo has the kind of data that your prospect needs to see.  Modern business software is very flexible and very complex.  Do some planning in advance and find out which of the prospects pain points your software can help with.  Make sure you have sample data in your system that will allow you to demo the features the prospect needs to see.

Tip #5 – Sound natural. 

Use an outline not a script.   Unless you are a really good actor reading a script always sounds odd.  Most people can tell pretty quickly when someone is just reading to them and they tend to find it off putting or worse it erodes confidence in your software.  Without a plan of what you will be showing you will be guaranteed to get to a part of your software that isn’t configured correctly or just isn’t working.   Recovering from that is difficult.  This is why an outline of what you will show and why you are going to show it is critical.  Do your utmost to stick to your outline.  The prospect will do everything in their power to take you away from your plan.  You should avoid that as much as possible.   A sales demo is when you show the best features of your software.  There will be time for how-to demos later.

Tip #6 – Demo the value.

Put the software in context.   Explain to the prospect how features and functionality apply to their specific business.  Use concrete examples.   This is why you need to prepare data for the demo.   The more flexible the software the more critical this is.   I’ve found that most prospects do not understand the software they are looking at well enough to be able to imagine how it will help them.  You have to show them how it is good for their business.  Ideally you’d have statistics to back it up based on what the prospect is trying to achieve.  If the prospect is trying to save money then show them how you can save them money.  If they want better compliance then show examples of that.   The critical thing to remember here is that the point of a sales demo is to get the customer to see why your solution is the best for them.  It doesn’t have to be the best software, it just has to be the best for them.

Tip #7 – Problems will happen.

Your demo will experience some kind of technological problem.   This has happened to Apple, to Microsoft, it will happen to you.   Be ready for it.   Your level of preparation should be directly proportional to the seriousness of the demo.  I personally carry power cords, video cables, adaptors and even my own projector.  I don’t take for granted that any of that will be at the prospects location.

Many demos today take place on-line.   Any kind of a connection issue will prove to be a problem when doing the demo on-line.   Audio is also a problem.  These kinds of problems are hard to anticipate.   Your only recourse may be to reschedule.   It will help if you know your next available demo slot before starting your demo. In this way if you run in to problems you can immediately reschedule.

In preparation for the inevitable problem I also suggest you rehearse a couple of lines that can acknowledge the problem but redirects the conversation back into your control.   You could try something like “sometimes when I go too fast I get ahead of myself and get to a part of the software that I haven’t configured yet, let me show you THIS EQUALLY AWESOME FEATURE and we can come back to this functionality another time.”  What you don’t want to do here is get flustered.   Don’t ignore the problem but don’t act like the software isn’t working either.   As long as you keep the demo focused on value the little hiccups along the way won’t derail your presentation.

I’m sure I could add another 7 tips for presenting killer software demos but I think you have a better chance of remembering these tips if I keep it to seven.   If seven tips are too many then please remember this one key point:  demonstrate the value not the features.