Eight Suggestions to Assure a Great Software Demo

Whether you are a software vendor, and IT consultant or a software customer, you have probably endured your share of software demos. Unfortunately, not every software demo is successful and, when things go wrong, it can be frustrating, and disappointing, for a customer and devastating for the vendor or consultant trying to sell a product.

In my mind, there is NO reason for a software demo to go wrong! But, if the vendor or consultant wants to ensure success, there are a few primary considerations.

  • The sales/technical team must have done its homework and truly understand what the customer wants and needs and how they will use the software.
  • The team must have a comprehensive understanding of the features of the product and the supporting services.
  • The team must understand the principles and components of a good demo (enough of the right information, not too much mind-numbing detail and no crucial gaps).

In order to make your demos consistently excellent you must remember one thing above all else:

Every customer has different needs and there are no cookie cutter demos!

Hopefully, your management team supports the concept of sustained excellence but, if they don’t, you may have to get creative. Ask around and find out who is the best closer on your team and shadow them through a few demos. Notice how that person engages the customer and how they use the features and benefits of the software to address the customer’s need. Notice the fact that they have done their research and that they use the information they gleaned to hit the right targets, expand where necessary, answer questions concisely and pay attention when the customer may be getting bored or seem confused.

Jump on the Citizen Data Scientist Bandwagon!

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions to help you prepare and execute a great software demo:

  1. BE PREPARED: NEVER go into a demo unprepared. Don’t assume that your software will sell itself. Remember that the customer will likely see many competitive products and you will want them to remember YOURS. KNOW what the customer needs, know their pain points and know the skill level of their users. Know the gaps and issues they want to address and be ready to clearly and quickly demonstrate the product to provide answers for their issues. Show them that you have been listening. Know whether they will need to integrate the product, know how they currently produce reports, know WHO uses the existing system and who will use the new software. DO NOT show every corner of the product. Show what matters to THIS customer. You should be prepared to answer questions and clarify (although your demo should ideally, provide most of the answers if your preparation is thorough enough). ANTICIPATE and be ready!
  2. TEST YOUR DEMO:  PLEASE schedule and execute a test run with your team. Role-play is a great way to see if you are prepared. Have a trusted team member play the role of the customer, ask appropriate questions and give you feedback later on how to improve the presentation.
  3. MAKE IT REALISTIC: When you are creating a demo environment, be sure to use the company name, logo and REALISTIC data. Customers don’t want to see things that look obviously fake. Think about watching a movie and being jarred out of the moment by a bad edit or cut or something that is obviously wrong for the scene. You want to immerse the customer in the demo. Just like a walk-through of a home sale, you want the customer to picture THEIR data in the software and to see themselves using the product and getting things done!
  4. FOCUS ON THE DEMO: Keep your introductions and general overview information short and sweet. The customer wants to see the software in action. They do not want or need a 60-minute slide presentation! You can provide handouts that describe the history of the company and include referrals or testimonials. Don’t try to sell yourself or the company. Sell the innovative products and services as they apply to the customer needs!
  5. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT AND BE SURE IT WORKS: Know what your product can do and be sure everything is functional and ready for an audience. There is nothing worse than having technical problem or being uneducated about a particular aspect of the software. Test connections, test equipment, test, test, test, and be READY. Do not make a customer wait for a glitch to be resolved. That is just unprofessional and will likely lose the sale.
  6. TELL A STORY…AND PACE YOURSELF: Don’t be SO immersed in the software that you forget to explain what you are doing or what you are about to do. Remember that the customer probably hasn’t seen the product before and, while it may be easy enough for a three-year-old to use (in your mind), the customer will feel more comfortable if you can ‘story board’ the experience as you go. Go quickly enough to avoid boredom but not so quickly that the customer will get dizzy trying to follow your cursor!
  7. WATCH THE TIME: Respect the customer’s time. Do NOT run over the allotted time for the demo and do allow time for questions. Stay on track and watch the clock. You will have to adjust your pacing and schedule to accommodate questions and other issues but you should always know where you are in the flow of the presentation and have a mental grasp of what you MUST compete before the end of the session. Be flexible enough to know what has to be done and what you can eliminate if time is an issue. Sometimes people are called away during a session and you need to know how to handle issues related to planned vs. actual time available.
  8. CALL FOR ACTION: ALWAYS end the demo with an agreement on where things go from here. When will you talk again? Will you follow-up to answer questions? How does the client reach you? What does the customer expect in terms of a schedule? DON’T be pushy or demand a decision but DO leave them with a call to action.

The best software demos may seem effortless but the key to success is in the preparation, and the research and a solid grasp of human nature, as well as how people like to receive information, and how customers analyze information to make a decision. Get yourself a good mentor and practice, practice, practice. You (and your team) will see a definite improvement in conversions and customer satisfaction and, as the first face of the business, you will establish a great customer rapport and help your enterprise reputation!

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