01 Feb 2012

Your Software Demo is Killing Me!

I’m on the other end of another

01 Feb 2012

your software demo is killing meI’m on the other end of another software presentation about a software product I’m halfway interested in – and I’m dying here!

How many software demos have you been through that really spurred a reaction? Well, what I mean is a reaction other than you wanting to be on the other side of this demo and wishing the sales rep well)?

Let’s see if I can map out the typical formula: First, history of the company in three slides followed by a slide with all their customers’ logos. Next, we dive into some ‘feature-benefit’ statements and some number of network diagrams (complete with little fluffy clouds and lightning bolts). How am I doing so far?

Then comes the coup de grace — the software demo, itself! As if the anti-climactic slide build didn’t put your brain on idle, the software demo is suppose to be some explosive finale!

Do these software companies have a standard playbook for software sales?

Are You In or Out?

At this point, perhaps you think I’m being too harsh. Perhaps, but in my years of buying, supporting and selling software it seems that almost everyone jumps straight to the demo as the de facto means of closing for the sale. What if I don’t need a software demo? What if I didn’t ask to see your software? What if you didn’t really stir enough desire in differentiating your offering or eliciting my unique pain points well enough?

In the grander scheme of things, it’s not enough to simply pursue activity. Let me be the first to tell you that it feels great to be doing ‘stuff’; I love feeling productive, but the one lesson I’m still being schooled on is there is a huge difference between activity and productivity.

A few months back, I was looking for some analytics software for SMBs, and happened across a company website that was very informative and drew me in to find out more. Aside from the delay in response during the holiday season, the sales professional proceeded to identify whether I was a qualified prospect. While she would’ve been happy to open up a trial version of the software platform for me to use for 30 days, she wanted to understand my intentions and needs.

This forced me to be honest with myself (and with her), because I simply wanted to take a peak under the hood, to smell the leather interiors. I had no real intention of actually buying the software. I was simply curious.

On one hand, some might say this was a lost sale, but in my book there wasn’t really a sale to begin with. So this sales professional was kind and professional about the exchange, letting me know that she would be happy to talk with me should I reconsider my position. However, she was efficient with her time.

Take the Demo Challenge

Once you have a qualified candidate, when do you spring the demo? I might argue never, but I know selling things site-unseen can be challenging. So let’s start with a challenge I’ll issue to you if you are in software sales (or any sales for that matter):

  1. I challenge you to say everything you need to in  5 – 8 slides (about 15-20 minutes of talking).
  2. Feel free to keep your “about me” stuff, but tell me everything about your company in 1 slide and why I should care about you. (Hint: Unless you are IBM or some huge brand, chances are you need to help me understand how you are going to be part of my story – not the other way around.)
  3. Don’t give a software demo in the initial presentation: Just like your presentation, too many presenters use this as a crutch to sell.
  4. Make the demo interactive: Given that most software presentations are remote, I concede that it’s useful to leverage software demos to create more conversation. However, most demos are very one-sided, so be sure you have uncovered the points of interest the prospect would like to have answered.
  5. Have fun with it! Don’t push dull and dry demos with step-by-step how-to’s; that’s what training is for! Instead, test ways to make the demo creative and you may even play with 2-5 minute video shorts your customer can watch at their leisure.
I understand your development team spent a ton of time, energy and money developing your software, and that everyone is eager to show off their cool stuff. However, your goal is to shorten the time to sell and remove objections to the transition from prospect to paying customer. That being the case, the more time you spend talking the less time you spend listening and understanding the needs of your customers. In my years, the best software I’ve purchased have had the least amount of time looking at the actual software and more time spent in dialogue about how it will meet my needs.
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