Ideally, a software demo moves the sales cycle forward. Your aim, as a demonstrator, is to convey to your audience just how user-friendly your product is, while at the same time showing how it adds value to their business. Delivering your demo poorly, however, often leads to the opposite: it kills sales.
To help you avoid giving such bad demos, I have compiled a short list I call the Seven Deadly Sins of Software Demos:
1. Disregarding Time
Demos that start or finish late are guaranteed to leave a bad impression with your prospect. They signal your audience that you don’t respect their time and most people will associate this with you not caring about their business. Make sure you plan accordingly: arrive early at your demo venue to leave enough time to setup your equipment and keep an eye on the clock to ensure a timely finish of your demo. Finishing your demo before the allotted time has an added bonus: you will be able to engage your audience in a discussion that will allow you to better understand what parts of your product really will help your customer.
2. Saving the Best for Last
Too often, otherwise successful product demonstrators want to build up the excitement for their product. They show less useful functionality first, believing they should end the demo on a high note. However, what happens in practice is they begin to bore their audience and by the time they get to the high point of their demo, they may have lost the audience either mentally, because they drifted off into dreamland, or, even worse, physically, because they left the meeting early. Get to the heart of the matter immediately; no later than 1 minute into the demo. Show your best feature first and you are guaranteed to get the attention of your audience.
3. Being ill-prepared
This one goes without saying: if you don’t know your product in and out, your credibility will take a hit. If your audience asks how your product handles a specific task, and you have to search for it, your product will not look as user friendly as it actually may be. Along similar lines, if you don’t know your prospect’s business issues, they will sense this and not trust you to be in a position to solve their problems. Make sure you know your product like the inside of your pocket and have done adequate research about your prospect’s specific needs to demonstrate your product with competence.
4. Death by PowerPoint
Slideshows can be cool and do have their place in business. But not in a demo. When a prospect agrees to meet with you for a product demonstration, that’s typically what they want to see. They want to see your product in action and how it solves their most pressing issues. Avoid a lengthy introductory presentation about your company’s history, its revenues, and your management team. This only distracts from the real message: how your product will solve your customer’s specific needs. Focus on showing how your software will alleviate your prospect’s pain points.
5. Difficult to Understand
A presentation that shows feature after feature, has too many key messages for the audience to remember, and uses buzzwords is confusing and difficult to understand. Highlight benefits instead of features. Limit the number of key messages and repeat them throughout your presentation. Use simple language without buzzwords. Tell stories and use metaphors to get your point across.
6. Using a screen that’s too small for your audience
Nothing loses interest more quickly than when your audience can’t see the screen clearly. Use a projector that shows your screen in an adequate size, so your audience sees everything on the screen clearly, without having to squint their eyes. Use magnification to enlarge those areas you’re currently demonstrating. If you are using a MacBook for your software demo, there is a very nice zoom feature: Hold down the Control key, then drag two ﬁngers up your Mac’s trackpad.
7. Not getting any outside help during planning and preparation
As with anything in life, two or more brains are better than just one. Before you give your first demo in a real life environment, run through it with a peer, a family member, or contact me to get a third person’s honest feedback about the flow, messaging, and delivery style of your demo. Consider it a practice session with the aim to get valuable feedback that will make your demo even more effective. It can only increase the likelihood of your demo achieving what it is intended to do: move the sales cycle forward by demonstrating how your product solves your prospect’s issues in a user-friendly and natural way.