Giving a Great Software Demo: Show Them The Dinosaur First

October 15, 2013

What Makes a Great Software Demo?

The start of great demo of any sort reminds me of that awesome reveal scene in Jurassic Park. Grant and Elle drive up to the meadow and there is a brachiosaurs. The look of awe on their face is priceless.

Notice how Hammond doesn’t just take them into the lab right away and show them the genetic cloning process. He orchestrates this moment to shock their senses.

While a software demo rarely blows people away to the extent of this example, any sales person should be aiming to emulate that initial experience.

The time frame that determines how well your software demo will go is up front and very short. If you don’t have an audience hooked in the first 2 minutes then you may have lost a potential sale.

The following 6 tips will help you prepare for those first 2 minutes and make the subsequent half hour victorious and pleasurable.

Software Demo Tip #1: Avoid The Standard Tour

The seeds to a great demo are planted in the initial discussion and scheduling. Typically a potential customer is out vetting products and asking very standard questions about functionality and features.

If you intend to stand out amongst your competitors then practice some slick pattern interruption. When they are running through their standard questions, politely interject and ask them questions about their business and goals.

At this early stage you can start to mold your pitch to their needs. It also shows that you genuinely care about their success and not just making a sale.

Software Demo Tip #2: Ask Important Questions Before the Demo

Now you have a date and time for a full demo. Make sure not to go in cold because you may misfire your topics and key features.

  • Identifying the critical business issues, or “CBI”s, is very important to the success of your software demo.
  • Why are you on the market for this type of software?
  • How many people will attend the demo?
  • Are the key decision makers there?
  • Do they have a budget? What is it?
  • If there are multiple people from different departments, what departments are they and what are their primary concerns?

Get this info documented and have it handy before the demo. It will reduce the surprises during the demo and help you tailor your message.

Software Demo Tip #3: Start At The End

A software application often has a peak operating state. It’s like an animal in its natural habitat. It has a workflow, perhaps reporting, and it’s plugged into the organization in a meaningful way. You need to simulate that experience during the first 2 minutes of the demo.

In my first experience giving a software demo, I found myself building workflow and reports live in front of the potential customers. No matter how simple and easy your product is this is usually death for the audience.

The key decision makers probably won’t be using your software and therefore won’t care about how it’s designed and how easy it is to use (not initially at least). They want to know if it will give them the end results they were looking for.

So start with a finished product that simulates a fully integrated experience. Spend some time considering your audiences CBI’s and tweak your experience to those CBIs.

If your reporting suite is critical then show them amazing reports, with their branding if possible.

If the application will be facing their customers, simulate a full customer experience.

The key is to show them the dinosaurs before you walk through the genetic engineering process. Create a sense of awe so they want to know how you got to the finished product.

Software Demo Tip #4: Pull Back the Curtain

If your first 2 minutes were successful and you were able to wow them right away, they should be interested to know how you got there. Time to walk through the steps.

This does not mean you spend the remainder of a 30-60 minute demo walking through how you designed everything. That would be terribly boring.

Abbreviate the experience and aim to explain it in 4-5 minutes. Hopefully you have well built intuitive software and it’s naturally easy to walk your audience through the process.

Software Demo Tip #5: Engage and Have Fun

At this point you should have 2 major selling points established.

  • The software will do what they need.
  • The software is not hard to implement.

With that in mind, ask them to share ideas and questions. This is where the majority of the demo time should be spent.

At this stage, those additional guests, IT namely, will start in with some tougher technical questions. I make it a point to have some back up just in case I get some head scratching questions. Be sure to have a sales engineer or IT specialist from your side on hand just in case.

Software Demo Tip #6: Schedule A Follow-Up

I will often record my demos so if someone on the prospects side couldn’t make it I can share the recording (always let your customers know that you are doing this).

Sometimes tough questions can’t be answered right away. You really can’t anticipate everything. Having a reason to reengage the prospect can be advantageous even if reveals a gap in your knowledge.

Always plan ahead and leave time in your software demo schedule to send a follow up email to all the attendees.

This email should contain the following:

  • A genuine appreciation for their time and interest in your product.
  • A recap of their own CBI’s to reinforce that you care about their needs and that your can address them.
  • Any pending questions that were not answered in the demo and a clear delivery date for their answers.
  • Any additional dates and deliverables that are paramount to the prospect. Such as when they need to go live and when key decisions need to be made.

Always having the next step ready and scheduled will keep you top of mind, organized and a step ahead of your competitors. You wowed them with the dinosaurs; now wow them with your thoughtfulness!


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