When demo’ing your product…

I came across this article, boldly titled “Your product demo sucks.” It takes the tropes & thoughts from Robert Falcone’s “Just F*cking Demo” book that’s on the rise with Amazon buyers.

The whole thing is well worth a read, and it resonated hugely with me as I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we demo our marketing software to our customers & prospects. Moreover, I get called upon by the sales teams to coach them on the best approach to demo the software. I think some commonalities come out with everyone, and are probably relevant to a lot of other businesses too.

Your demo probably sucks

If you have sales reps, are a sales rep or a marketer that needs to get in front of people (whether that be in-person, on a webinar, whatever) to demonstrate a product then you’re probably already doing it wrong if you use the phrase ‘product demo.’

Demonstrating features of a product resonates with internal or existing users who need to understand changes or see what’s up with this product/feature. But external prospects or customers need to see the value that the product/feature can add to their business.

They’re not paying you to make software, they’re paying you to save themselves time, solve a problem or both.

And so, here’s four easy steps to demo effectively to your prospects or customers:

1. Solve a problem

This probably seems obvious. But so many individuals & even full organisations ignore the fact that they’re talking to a customer or prospect because they have a problem they need to solve.

If you’re a CRM, the problem is likely that they have a big database in excel and need a system to manage it. Or they’ve got sales reps that need to be put into a rotator for leads. If you’re a marketing platform they likely need to generate better, more qualified traffic/leads. etc. etc.

Even in the paragraph above, I’m not focusing on all the cool features the product has to offer. I’m talking about the solutions that the product can solve. If you show a list segmentation tool — that’s awesome. But the fact your product can segment a database easily isn’t the solution. The fact that now the customer can easily set rules for who their segments are and not worry about it again is the solution. It’s solution selling. Not feature selling.

The worst word in the modern sales & marketing playbook is ‘pitch’. Don’t pitch anything to anyone. You’re not a second-hand car salesman (and even if you are… don’t pitch). Pitching feels like you’re talking at the prospect, not with the prospect. A demo should be a fluid conversation — the more the prospect on the phone/in the room talks to you, the better the chance of that deal closing is. If you’re delivering a demo in an audience, hearing laughs at jokes & seeing nods when people agree with you is the exact feedback you want.

Droning through a product demo isn’t going to elicit any sort of emotional reaction from anyone.

2. Prepare

Again, this probably seems painfully obvious. But I’m surprised by the lack of preparation that can go into a demo.

When prepping a demo there are three big areas that I normally advise sales reps to consider (and I do this myself when I’m called up to the plate — which is regularly):

  1. What persona are we talking to? Who’s the company or individual we’re talking to? What way should I approach this based on the persona they fit into. ‘Marketing Mary’ is a very different conversation to ‘Corporate Cathy’.
  2. What problem are they trying to solve? You’re not there to demonstrate a few features, you’re there to demonstrate the things that your product can solve. Knowing the biggest challenge the people you’re talking to have is the number one asset you’ll have. Referring back to that avoids a feature war against other solutions & keeps the conversation on track.
  3. What tools do they need to see? So I’ve spent a lot of time talking against feature/tool demo’s, but they’re what’s leading the conversation so they have to be considered. Obviously some products have very simple tools/features that come up 100% of the time, but larger deals require more thinking on what the customer/prospect needs to see, etc.

Knowing who you’re talking to, what their problem is and what we have to solve that problem are such huge levers to pull on when delivering an effective demonstration.

3. Don’t have a playbook

Every company has a sales & marketing playbook. And as such, there’s one for demo’s too. My advice wouldn’t be to throw out the playbook, but moreso to have some flexibility in what you do.

Take persona-driven demo’s. If you have a persona you’re talking to, there’s a good chance they might deviate from the playbook (god help you if there’s a script you need to abide by) so be flexible. Mumbling a loose answer or not being able to deflect until you get the right resource (a Sales Engineer, for example) would hurt the deal.

The simple playbook you should have is twofold: have a pre-demo exploratory call (HubSpot does an “Inbound Marketing Assessment,” for example) and once you’ve identified the persona, pain points & solutions you can offer, run a demo with a story.

4. Have a story

The final, and probably most important thing to consider when running a demo is to tell a story. Being Irish, it’s in my nature to be able to weave a tale through whatever I’m doing. Showing some product & solving a customer problem is great, but being able to tell a story while doing so is massive.

It puts the whole thing into perspective for the prospect/customer, while making sense of how the product can solve the customer needs.

And then sell…

I think the term “selling” feels like you’re there to pitch something — again, like a second-hand car sales person. But people don’t react to that kind of process very well. So instead of honing in on that kind of activity, talking someone through some solution-based consultative conversations is far more engaging, powerful & useful to everyone involved.

To wrap it up with a bow, the way to demo is to not demo in the way that might feel most natural. Solve for the customer problem/need, prepare for your conversation, ignore a strict set of tick-boxes you need to hit during your conversation & have a story to tell.


Enjoy what I talked about? Follow me on the Twit machine. And if you nodded your way through this post, maybe you’d like to work with me!

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