5 Demo Tips From the Best in the Business

5 Demo Tips From the Best in the Business
Larson Stair
This week we cover demo best practices from four of the top presales professionals in enterprise sales.

Sales and PreSales professionals have been running software demonstrations for decades and most times, they take prospects through the same generic pitch running them through feature by feature by feature. It results in a stale presentation and poorly differentiated product. This simply won't work in this new remote selling economy when you're competing against 10 different solutions that all appear the same to your audience. It's more important than ever to make a true connection with your prospect and effectively showcase the value of your solution - connecting it to the pains uncovered in discovery.

This week, I asked five different veterans of the preSales profession one simple question: What is your best tip for conducting a product demonstration?

James Kaikis - Cofounder of PreSales Collective

My #1 Best Practice for Conducting Software Demos is:

Speak the Customer's Language.

When conducting a demo, it is mission critical that you are speaking your customer's language. Understanding the way their business operates, their terminology, and the specific details that make that business unique will go a very long way. Why this is so important is because, at times, PreSales professionals generalize because we know our products/platform so well. We call this the curse of knowledge, and when mixed with generalization on similar customer's business, our tailored demo becomes generic. The end prospect looks at us just like every other vendor and believes we don't understand their business, regardless if we do or not. The details are the difference between a good demo and a great demo.

James is the cofounder of the PreSales Collective - A Community for all things PreSales: PreSales Leaders, Sales & Solution Engineers, Solutions Consultants and, aspiring SEs. I highly encourage everyone to get connected with this amazing community via their website or LinkedIn page. They also have a very active Slack Channel with over 1800 professionals discussing all things PreSales.

Ramzi Marjaba - Founder of We The Sales Engineers

My #1 Best Practice for Conducting Software Demos is:

Asking Questions.

I know we are supposed to use the demo to show the customer our solution, however, it is important to keep the customer engaged. The best way I found to keep the customer engaged is by asking lots of questions in between demonstrating our solution. My go-to questions are “How do you see this working in your environment?” or “How do you see this help you in your day-to-day?”.

I love these question mainly because it gives me insight into what the customer is thinking. It shows me tf they sees the value and ROI of what we are showing them. If they don’t see how it helps them, then I know I did no do a great job explaining it and this deal is either going to take longer to close, or I just lost the deal.

Just because it’s a demo, it doesn’t mean you cannot ask questions.

Ramzi founded an incredible website and podcast called "We The Sales Engineers". It's a great resource for Sales Engineers created by Sales Engineers. The goal of this site is to help you either get the career of a lifetime, or get better in that career so you can have a fruitful and fun life. You can also follow Ramzi via Twitter. I had the pleasure of joining Ramzi on his podcast where we talked about career paths for Presales professionals and the unconventional path I took. Check it out here.

Chris White - Owner of DemoDoctor

My #1 Best Practice for Conducting Software Demos is:

Less is more.

My #1 tip for conducting a demo…  I’m reminded of the Mark Twain quote “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”  He went on to say, if you need 30 pages in 3 days, no problem.  If you need 3 pages in 30 days, no problem.  But if you need 3 pages in 3 days, problem.  We face the same challenge when giving software demonstrations – it takes longer to prepare a short, concise demo than it does to just give the “harbor tour”.  But the latter doesn’t sell.  So what’s my advice?  Less is more when it comes to the demo.  Limit the demo to the “critical few” rather than the “insignificant many” that make demos so overwhelming and confusing.  Because a confused mind always says no.  And deliver the demo in the context of the story, in which your customer, not your product, is the hero.

Chris is the Founder and Managing Director of DemoDoctor - the online training resource for sales engineers. He is a veteran of the presales space working with a wide range of enterprise organizations and is well known for his book "The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers". If you're looking for a great resource to level up your demo game, I highly recommend it!

Peter Doro - Senior Solutions Consultant at Iterable

My #1 Best Practice for Conducting Software Demos is:

All demos need goals.

The best demos (or any client interaction for that matter) are driven by clear and well defined goals. Such goals should be specific, realistic and aimed at  meaningfully advancing the sales process. A bad goal might read - 

The prospect will be totally convinced that we have the best product on the market and will probably want to sign later that day

While this is of course the dream and ultimate goal of any sales interaction it rarely happens in one conversation and is generally too complex to measure effectively. Instead Pre-sales professionals should work with their deal team to identify the most important topics that may have potential to sway the deal in a positive direction. A better example for a demo call goal  might read:

Demonstrate the products unique capability to support XX critical, client-specific use case 

Of course, depending on the quality of your discovery and how much more time you think you have with the client you may have multiple goals. They should be prioritized, tied to agenda items and potentially distributed to members of the deal team in advance. When in doubt of whether you will be able to achieve every goal you have set out, cut out lower impact items to create space for unforeseen requests and general sales dynamicity. Conversely, “Generic” demos not rooted in deal specific goals are not only less effective in terms of revenue attainment, but also create confusion (internally and to the client) as to whether the call was a success at all and in forecasting what additional work may remain. 

This depth of understanding of your client can undoubtedly be challenging, but your clients and sales counterparts alike will thank you for not wasting their time with another call without a goal.

Peter is apart of the presales team at Iterable - a growth marketing platform that enables brands to create, execute and optimize campaigns across email, push, SMS, in-app and more with unparalleled data flexibility. He helps support the enterprise sales team in their GTM motions. He has also helped James and the PreSales Collective expand across the nation by starting a regional chapter here in Denver.

David Marsh - Vice President, Global Sales Engineering at MRI Software

My #1 Best Practice for Conducting Software Demos is:

Ask One More Question.

Whenever you are demonstrating software to prospects or customers, it must be interactive - this is a discussion, not a lecture. With that in mind, there should be questions coming in as part of the discussion. The "Ask One More Question" technique is simply to dig one question deeper - if they ask you about a capability of your solution, DO NOT just answer that question and move on - seek to understand. Why is that important to them? Is it a showstopper if you or other competitors cannot do that? Did your competitor set them up with that question? Seek to understand by Asking One More Question.

David leads the Sales Engineering team at MRI Software - a leading provider of innovative real estate software applications and hosted solutions. He helps to support the sales teams in their GTM motions. His career has taken him to goliath enterprise organizations like Adobe, Marketo, and First Data.

I've had the pleasure of getting to know all five of these gentlemen over the past few months and have tried to absorb every bit of knowledge they've acquired of their long careers. Now that we're all working at home and spending most of our waking hours in back to back Zoom meetings, it's more important than ever to focus on strategies to help you make a connection with your audience and differentiate your solutions from the masses. I hope that these different tips give you inspiration around ways to consistently captivate your prospects attention and connect their business pains to the value your solution provides. If you'd like dive deeper with them or have additional questions, I encourage you to reach out and connect with them.


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