Start at the Beginning!

Here's a great example of starting in the wrong place. The video below is queued up to start at 1:44. Just click the play button and enjoy. But then rewind back to the beginning, and see how much time they wasted. Imagine how many people quit watching before the demo started!

What's the solution? Split your message up into smaller chunks, and lead off with your biggest splash. In this case, imagine a 90-second demo that started with the machine laying the bricks, then other videos linked at the end for Safety, ROI, etc,

Some Demos Require No Words

If you have ever built or repaired a septic system that depends on an automatic pump, you will understand and respond viscerally to this video. 

This is a live stream of a septic tank pump switch running continuously for the camera. When we first posted this link, the count was just over 3,000,000 cycles. What's it at now? Is that switch going to outlast your pump, you and probably your kids as well? Great demo!

Telling a Complex Story

When a disruptive company tells their story, there are usually a lot of interconnected parts. Where do you start?

Simple: start with the customer’s problem, then show how completely your solution solves it. Here’s a good example:

Here’s what makes this video so effective. When our friends over at interviewed engineering managers in the target audience, they learned that the top issues were: 

  • Maintaining control over the design process
  • Having clear visibility into how well a design was performing to each performance specification

The video clearly describes how the new solution provides MORE control and MORE visibility than they have with in-house teams. This is revolutionary, and it's the core of the clients value proposition. This picture that drives the message home:

This demo video effectively addresses the primary objection before the audience raises it, or even thinks of it. Try that in your next demo!


Introducing the Better Demo

A Better Demo engages customers with specific answers to their Hot Buttons. Let’s break this down into its component parts: 

  • Hot Buttons: Good sales people know how to ask questions to identify the problems a customer is trying to solve. During a Better Demo, you confirm the customer's Hot Buttons, and help him rank them. Then you show him how your product solves each one. 

  • Specific Answers: No two Better Demos are the same. Each customer has specific problems, and deserves specific answers about how your product will solve those problems. Yes, this requires more preparation than a generic feature dump, but you will sell a lot more product this way!
  • Engagement: An engaged customer shares information during the demo, identifying his most important needs and confirming whether you have shown him the solution. 

If your company is still doing feature dumps, this may sound hard. But if your competition is demonstrating to specific customer requirements, then developing a Better Demo is no longer optional for you!

The Four Types of Demo

For B2B software sales, there are four different types of demos. They are: 

  1. The Opening Demo: Early in the sales process, to show a single customer or team what you do and, hopefully, why your product is better. 
  2. The Trade Show Demo: Short demos to crowds, from different companies and with differing needs. The challenge is to be relevant when you don't know anything about them! 
  3. The VIP Demo: VIPs don't need to hear the whole story. But they do want to know why you are important in the big picture. No feature dumps here!
  4. The Closing Demo: You've finished the evaluation or the pilot program. Now it's time to unequivocally prove that they should buy your product, and soon!

These four demos each require a fundamentally different approach. For example, you wouldn't show the same demo to a CFO and a design engineer. Nor would you take same approach at a trade show, with 20 people from different companies watching, that you would when you do a closing demo for five evaluators you've been working with for 90 days. To explore each of these demos in more detail, click the links in the list above. 

The Opening Demo

(One of the Four Types of Demo)


The Opening Demo is typically shown to a customer early in the sales cycle, perhaps at a first meeting. With the exception of products that can be sold in one meeting, the beginning of the sales cycle is a when the customer and vendor are just getting to know and trust each other. Many customers do an early vendor sort at this stage, eliminating all but two or three vendors. Therefore, the goals of the Opening Demo are: 

  • Identify Hot Buttons: These may change over time, but it’s never too early to start demonstrating specific solutions to the customer’s unique problems.
  • Establish relevance: show that your product is a relevant and appropriate solution for their problem.
  • Build trust: This is especially important if the customer is going trim the field to a short list of vendors.

Many vendors are present a “Big picture” demo at this early stage, in hopes that the customer will recognize more benefits than they anticipated. We don't believe this works. Put yourself in the customer's shoes: they are talking to every vendor in the industry in an effort to pick the ones most likely to meet their needs. By the time they get to the second or third demo, they are overwhelmed with features and start confusing one product with the next. If you want to stand out and be remembered, here's what to do: 

  1. Start by name dropping for credibility: “Fortune 500 customers like A and B depend on our product to do X and Y.” Spend no more than one minute (sixty seconds!) flipping through screens that demonstrate your most common application in the Fortune 500 (or other list of credible customers).
  2. Focus straight in on Hot Buttons. “You told us that your key objectives are to find a product to do D, E and F. Is that correct?” (Always confirm-you never know when priorities change). Once confirmed, demonstrate how you handle each hot button.
  3. At the conclusion, say, “We’ve shown you how we handle your Hot Buttons D, E and F. From this short introduction, does it look like we have the type of solution you are looking for?” Explore any answers that are not a clear “Yes.” You may discover they were unclear in their requirements, or that their boss’s requirements are not realistic. This is the time to uncover these issues! 

What do you do when your audience comes from different companies, with different requirements? That situation is more like a Trade Show Demo-Click here to learn the techniques to use.

The Trade Show Demo

(One of the Four Types of Demo)


The Better Demo is all about addressing individual requirements. How do you do that during a trade show demo to 20 people from different companies...all at once?

The first way is easy: find common ground. Ask the crowd, "I need a quick show of hands: are you more concerned with the lifetime cost of these products, or getting the run time as short as possible?" Then tell your story based on that choice. Base the question on real issues your customers are concerned about-you probably know a list of five problems that cover most prospect's concerns. Prepare good questions to drive the group's answers to one those five Hot Buttons that you are prepared to answer with short demos.

If the crowd raises their hands for "time," get to the point quickly by saying, "A lot of companies are looking for ways to minimize run time, in order to reduce  staffing costs and compute costs. Let's take a look at how Acme can cut your run time by a factor of ten. " After that eight-second introduction, launch straight into a demo of the Acme solution. Within a minute or two, you'll be ready to poll for another problem and repeat the process.

What if you could find the one or two attendees out of each group who have a real problem that your product can solve? It can be done, but it takes much more preparation. You need to establish credibility in the first couple of minutes, then motivate the best prospects to identify themselves. This is a great way to leave the show with a short list of the best prospects. We can show your team how to do this − contact us to talk about it

The VIP Demo

(One of the Four Types of Demo)


A VIP Demo is a demo to someone important who is not actually going to be directly involved with using or supporting your product. The VIP may be a senior customer  executive, a potential investor or banker, the Minister of Commerce... you get the idea. You need to give these people a positive impression of your company, but your detailed product features are unlikely to interest them. They may not even know the specifics about why their team is evaluating your product.

So what do you show? A better question is, how do you create context for showing something meaningful, that the VIP will understand and remember? Here's a technique that usually works: 

First, create context. "In our conversations with your team at Acme, they told us that their biggest problem in building your Acme Zyx product is... Here's the solution that we've come up with together." Next show three things:

  1. Start with a photo or diagram the VIP will recognize, such as their product or their process.
  2. Show a brief demo of the benefits your product in the context of their problem. Skip the details, no matter how much the evaluation team loved them.
  3. Finish with the outcome, typically faster, better and/or cheaper. If you can show the result on dashboard or summary screen customized for the VIP's company, even better.

For step 3, state something like, "Your team is projecting a nine-month ROI, based on an initial 4% lift on gross margins, growing to 5% by year two." If you need any help getting your customer to make these estimates (and give you the data!), please contact us.

What if the VIP is actually a technologist with a deep interest in how your technology will work at her company? This situation is more like a Closing Demo.

The Closing Demo

(One of the Four Types of Demo)


You’ve been working with a prospect for three months, or maybe longer. The evaluation or pilot validated that your product works in their unique environment. It’s time for the closing demo, with senior managers in attendance. Expectations are high, and everyone on both sides wants to close the deal or stop wasting time. What do you show? 

The Closing Demo is arguably the one which should have the most impact at any given account. It requires more than a blog post to explore fully, but you’ll be successful if you follow these steps with your prospect Acme:  

  1. 100% of the content of a closing demo must be about Acme’s business and technical issues, and how you solved them. Not 50%, not 90%, but 100% from the first words out of your mouth. This late in the game, generic platitudes about your company and philosophy are a complete waste of time. Here are two topic starters you can use:

    • “Acme’s technical issue was X... Together we solved it like this...”

    • “Acme wanted to reduce the cost of Y...Together we did better than Y by using our product like this...”

  2. Show your product within the context of their environment. For example, if you are selling Microsoft Excel, show Acme’s spreadsheets and formulas, importing Acme’s data from Acme’s front end and exporting to Acme’s back end. If your product integrates into a customer dashboard, menu system, or software environment, demonstrate it in that context.

    Your goal now is to show how well you fit with their existing processes and tools. Remember, their management is thinking about the cost to integrate your product and train their staff, and remembering other purchases they’ve made that ultimately did not work out.

  3. THIS IS CRUCIAL: Acme’s team leader should either perform the demo herself or narrate it. Have other Acme team members present individual topics in their specialty areas. This proves that the customer team believes in your product. Imagine how good you will look if you do this and your competitors do not. Or imagine if your competitors do this, and you do not!

One final suggestion: Usually you want to send the attendees away with some sort of report or ROI document. If you want to stand out, write the whole story of the evaluation as a narrative from Acme’s perspective. Here are some of the sections of that report:

  • How Well We Met Each of the Original Objectives for the Evaluation

  • Solving Our #1 Problem…

  • Bonus Data: Things We Learned Along the Way

  • ROI: Fast, According to Our Internal Business Case Guidelines

Use copious screen shots, and print it as a booklet. Trust us, you will be the only vendor who does this, and senior managers cannot resist reading a booklet about their company. They will show it to their boss, who will show it to their boss…more than one of these has ended up on the CEO’s desk.

Click here to contact us to see samples or learn more about effective Closing Demos.

A Truly Bad Demo

You've probably never heard of a great product for writers called Scrivener, which organizes research, notes and drafts. One reason you may never have heard of it is the exceptionally poor demos that are posted online.

Below is one truly bad demo for the product. Among the biggest violations of Better Demo practice: 

  • 3:00- The first three minutes show download and installation, which require two clicks. This content-free opening segment probably will lose most viewers.
  • 5:30- “You’ll understand more as we go through.” This is the same as saying, "I am incompetent to explain this feature." If you are going to show it, explain it.
  • 16:35- A long segment on changing the text color. The last time this was a hot button for any buyer was in 1983 during Ronald Reagan's first term.
  • 20:20- “One thing I haven’t shown you is the Trash Can.” This sentence is the very definition of a Feature Dump. Never in the history of software sales has the Trash Can ever been somebody's Hot Button!
  • 22:58- You finally see what makes the product unique and exciting. By comparison, the Space Shuttle only required eight minutes to achieve earth orbit. Enough said.

Can this demo be fixed? No. The demo giver shows no recognition that a user has problems they need to solve, or that viewers’ time is valuable. For example, demonstrating every aspect of trash can operation takes a full minute! It’s time to start over with a ranked list of customer Hot Buttons and create a series of new demos, each 2-3 minutes long, to address that list. For example: 

  • Using Scrivener to write a novel bottom-up (starting with your favorite scene!)
  • Using Scrivener to write a novel top-down (outline first!)
  • It’s easy to reorganize scenes with Scrivener
  • Organizing research and interviews with Scrivener
  • How Scrivener saves you hours during editing

Any one of these Hot Buttons could get a writer excited enough to buy the product. That's why they’re called “Hot Buttons!”

An Abundance of Hot Buttons

Picture this: the customer sends a five-person evaluation team, representing many departments. When you probe to understand their Hot Buttons, each person gives you so many that you run out of room on the white board to write them all down. How do you structure the demo?

Typically in situations like these, the lists of “requirements” will include both important issues, like “Must import historical payroll data,” as well as generalities and less important issues like “Low Cost” and “Easy to Set Up.” While the latter are of course important, nobody woke up this morning with a burning desire to get some low cost software. But they may have stayed up all night trying to get their current solution to import that historical payroll data.

So take the lead on the whiteboard, and start sorting their requirements into “Hot Buttons” and “Other Issues.” Then focus your demo on the Hot Buttons. If there are still too many, and they want to see them all, great! Break the Hot Buttons into several categories, and focus on Category 1. When you’re done, confirm that you have addressed everything in Category 1, then schedule another meeting to address the other categories. In reality, this will give your sales team time to ask the customer, “If we demonstrate answers to all of your categories of Hot Buttons, can we process your PO?” If the answer is not “yes,” then there are still some hidden issues you have yet to uncover.

Rethinking the B2B Webinar


We've all attended the typical B2B webinar. They seem to follow a predictable outline: 

  • A host introduces the expert and his credentials
  • The expert flips through a slide presentation about the problem and solution
  • Someone performs a stock demo
  • The audience asks some questions and gets off-the-cuff answers

Maybe your company has delivered this webinar a few times. Maybe you even have a few of these recorded webinars available on your web site for customers to watch at their leisure. So where are all the sales?

There are a few flaws with most B2B webinars:

  • The dialog is all one-way, so you don't know anything about the audience's hot buttons
  • The agenda is static-even if you discovered a hot button, you wouldn't be able to do anything about it
  • The Q&A session is an afterthought-you do your best to answer questions, and maybe even have some slides ready for common questions, but it's a "poor sister" to the rest of the session

What can you do? Let's apply some Better Demo principles: First, bring Q&A to from the end to the beginning, as agenda item #1. Something like this: 

Before we get started, please use the poll feature to answer this question: What is your biggest issue in (topic)... Everybody please comment so we can make sure to address your issues... OK, it looks like most of you are concerned with (performance), followed closely by (quality)...

Will this open the door for a wide range of customer requests? Yes. Will this be harder to handle than just delivering the same old demo? Of course. But think of it this way-before you show your first brilliant PowerPoint slide, you already have a list of specific hot buttons from each attendee. If you address these in your presentation, your webinar audience will be a whole lot less likely to start reading email after 5 minutes.

If you want some help creating a webinar presentation and demo that can handle those different requests, give us a call. We can show you how. Click here to to see one good example.

(P.S. Remove the old recorded webinars from your web site-they are not making the phone ring. In fact, they are probably causing otherwise interested sales prospects to not call you. Call and we'll tell you why.)