What’s the Value of Better Demos?


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For the clueless, not a thing.  (Yes, there are those who believe their demos are just fine – no reason to change or improve.  Let them continue with that belief…!)
But for those who are awake and aware, better demos are exceptionally valuable…
On a per-customer basis:
       Getting the initial business (vs. a competitor).
       Securing the renewal (vs. churn to someone else).
       Acquiring additional users and license expansion.
With respect to a market, vertical or channel:
       Blocking competition and increasing one’s market share.
       Enabling market presence and expansion into new verticals.
       Establishing market dominance.
       Gaining rapid traction with a newly launched product.
       Leveraging the investment made in new releases.
       Enabling an effective channel strategy.
       Amplifying sales overall.
For the individual presales or sales practitioner:
       The joy of knowing that it was your demo that got it done!
       Acclamation from your colleagues.
       The associated commission or bonus from that order.
       Winning just one or two more opportunities – to make quota.
       Winning just one or two more opportunities – to move to the next commission level.
       Winning just one or two more opportunities – to go to “President’s Club”.
So how could we not pursue getting better with our demos?  But what does that really mean – in what ways can demos get better?  There are three dimensions to consider:
1.     How we show the content – personal style and verbal delivery.
2.     What we show – the script or content of the demo.
3.     And when we should (or should not) deliver a demo.
Most teams focus on Number 1 – but it has the smallest impact, so we’ll start with Number 3 instead…
When – Opportunity Cost
A wise colleague commented, “Just because you could show a demo doesn’t mean that you should…!”
There are only 225 (ish) selling days per year.  Clearly, any day consumed by a demo that does not yield reasonable progress is a waste.  And, that same day could have been invested in a sales opportunity with a better likelihood of success – so the loss of that day is doubly hurtful…!
Ask yourself, “What sales opportunities could I have been working if I had not been consumed by demos that went nowhere…?”
When – Waste Avoidance
What constitutes a “wasted” demo? 
·      Overview” demos that go nowhere.
·      Demos that result in a “No Decision” outcome.
·      Unnecessary “repeat” demos – typically delivered in situations with multiple customer players.
·      Most trade-show demos.
·      Traditional demos delivered to large, unqualified audiences.
·      Any “deep dive” demo presented to any executive.
·      Nearly all “end-to-end”, “show-them-the-full-range-of-offerings” demos.
(It is interesting – and not surprising – to note that this list is largely comprised of demos delivered without sufficient Discovery.)
If we can avoid “wasted” demos, we’ll enjoy some terrific gains.  That means, of course, determining ahead of time which sales opportunities are poor candidates for a demo.  Here are a few ideas:
1.     “Overview Demos”:  Far too many overview demos are delivered too early in a sales process or without sufficient qualification or Discovery.  “Give them an overview and get them all excited – it’s a huge opportunity…!”
Software vendors often attempt to use an “overview” demo to start a dialog with a customer – and may try to use these to do Discovery along the way.  If you ask presales managers how many of these “overview” demos actually lead to a qualified prospect, the answer can be painfully low:  “Wasted” overview demos may run as low as 10-20% and as sadly high as 50% (and it gets worse with inside sales teams). 
Traditional overview demos show way too much, yet still miss the mark for the customer.  Instead, consider a crisp Vision Generation Demo to stimulate customer interest and move the customer gently (yet firmly) into a Discovery conversation.  That’s a huge improvement!
To repeat, “Just because you could show them a demo doesn’t mean that you should…!”
2.     Avoiding “No Decision”:  B-to-B software sales teams suffer from a surprisingly large number of “No Decision” outcomes (where the customer doesn’t purchase your offering, they don’t go with a competitor, they choose to do nothing – they remain with status quo). 
The best B-to-B software companies report ~20-25% of their forecasted opportunities ending as “No Decision”, the worst are around 75-85%, with most running around the 45-50% level. 
This is frightening…!  Why?
First, it means that perhaps half the sales projects that you pursue end up going nowhere…  Second, would you like some of that time back in your life?  (Say, “Yes”, with passion…!)
Third, there are typically three reasons why sales opportunities end as No Decision outcomes.  Is there a Critical Business Issue – or is it just a problem the customer willing to live with…?  Is the value clear?  Is there a date by when the customer needs a solution in place? 
Great Demo! practices help qualify-in or qualify-out deals before investing time with any substantive demo.  Far too many sales projects languish, “Living in the Land of Hope…”
[To be fair, some of these deals may eventually close – but close dates are typically waaaaaay after what was originally forecast…!]
3.     Multiple Demos per Opportunity:  Very (very!) frequently, vendors present multiple demos per opportunity – and even per customer stakeholder.  This is commonly due to the above, where vendors offer “overview” demos followed by one or more “deep dive” demos for various players on the customer team. 
One needs to ask, “Was the overview demo necessary…?”
       Or would the customer have been willing to invest in a Discovery conversation – and avoid that first demo…
       Or would the customer have been satisfied with a brief Vision Generation Demo – and again avoid that first longer demo…
       Or would a few minutes of Discovery rule the customer out as a qualified lead, again avoiding that overview demo and possibly many subsequent “deep dive” demos – and potentially avoiding a No Decision outcome?  Hmmmm…
Next, we need to ask, “In addition to overview demos, why did we need to present ‘deep dive’ demos twice (or more) to the same person or people?”  Could it have been…
       We didn’t do sufficient Discovery and, in spite of delivering two hours of demo, the customer said, “I didn’t see what I was looking for…”
       The customer said the first demo(s) looked too complicated and confusing…
       We ran out of time in our first demos (by spending too much time in Set-up Mode and workflow options before we got to the “best stuff”)…?
When – Do Your Own Math
       How may demos do you present per week or month?
       How much time is consumed in demo preparation, travel, and delivery?
       What percent would you say is pure waste?
       What percent end up as No Decision outcomes?
Multiply accordingly…  Then ask yourself, “Is this acceptable?”  (The correct answer is “No!”)
Great Demo! defines when to say “yes” to delivering a substantive demo – and when to push back, gently – and how to use self-rescue techniques to successfully deal with typical real-life situations.
What – the Content
Traditional demos attempt to present as many features and capabilities as possible in the time allotted – often without ever covering what the customer needed to see.  The resulting demos are perceived as confusing and complicated, the product appears bloated with more than the customer needs; there is little interaction between customer and vendor and with little communication of the business value. 
Great Demo! emphasizes completing sufficient Discovery prior to a Technical Proof demo to enable a critical focus on the Specific Capabilities and key deliverables the customer needs. 
The “Do the Last Thing First” approach assures that the most important elements (from the customers’ perspective) are presented right up front, enabling customers to see exactly what the software will do for them, how it can solve their business problems and how much value can be gained.
Great Demo! applies the fabulously simple concept of “Fewest Number of Clicks” to reduce the perception of complexity – and to build a vision in customers’ minds that they can visualize using the software themselves…!
Further, the Inverted Pyramid strategy enables vendor teams to organize and deliver demos in accord with customers’ depth and level of interest – presenting just enough to satisfy customers and complete the technical sale – without the risk of product bloat.
Multiple-player and multiple-solution scenarios are elegantly “chunked”, transforming painful “day-in-the-life-multiple-hats-do-you-remember-when-I-showed-you-this-now-we’ll-go-back-and…” sagas into well-structured, consumable segments mapped specifically to executives, middle-managers, staffers and administrators.  What a delight!
Best of all, perhaps, is that these ideas have been fully validated in recent studies.  It’s one thing to know in your heart that these methods are advantageous, it is truly wonderful to have them proven!
How – the Delivery
New hires in software firms are told to “learn the demo” – and often need to prove proficiency showing each of the steps in a traditional overview demo.  Their delivery style is generally dry and wooden as they struggle to simply follow the proscribed pathway.
As practitioners grow more seasoned, they become comfortable with the software and develop their own personal delivery style – generally defined by (and generally limited to) word choice, presence, energy, pace, and personal stories.
This is partly relevant in our equation, but not sufficient.
Far too many seasoned veterans (as well as new hires) present screen after screen after screen – without actually presenting the screens.  Customers struggle to take in what they are seeing while the presenter works through his or her “talk track” – a net zero in terms of successful communication. 
Similarly, traditional demos emphasize showing as much as possible in the time allowed – severely reducing or eliminating any chance for interactivity.  Customers perceive these demos as firehose deliveries, furiously flinging features and functions, frantically overfilling customers’ craniums with a copious cornucopia of confusing capabilities.  [Yes, I had fun with this sentence…]
Great Demo! practitioners learn how to clearly, crisply and compellingly communicate what the audience is seeing on the screen, how customers can solve their business problems using the tool, and how much value can be enjoyed by making the change.
The methodology enables a real conversation to take place by “Peeling Back the Layers” – encouraging interactivity by chunking, avoiding “pre-answering” questions, and frequent summaries.  Demos are perceived by customers as engaging and focused on their interests, resulting in a true dialog – requiring fewer demos to move the process forward and secure the order.
Further, Great Demo! Workshop participants learn to apply advanced techniques to make their demos truly remarkable, through the use of props and visual aids, whiteboard techniques, structured movement, real storytelling and other skills.
What You Don’t Know Does Hurt You
Here’s a truly frightening realization:  Most seasoned demonstrators don’t know how much they could improve…!  They have no idea of what is possible…  And most presales and sales managers similarly have a limited idea of what improvements are possible with their teams.  They don’t know what they don’t know…
Most practitioners and managers focus on style in the delivery – seeking small improvements in word choice, energy and related – but ignoring the larger, higher-impact changes to our topics above:
       When demos should be presented and
       What content should be presented. 
And frankly, these two items represent the real opportunity – and gains that have been validated!
So, What’s the Value of Better Demos?
Only you can determine this for yourself, so here’s a personal challenge:
       Each time you realize you delivered a wasted demo, ask yourself, “Could this have been avoided?”
       Each time a sales opportunity in which you invested one or more demos ends up as a No Decision, ask yourself, “Could we have predicted this earlier?”
       Each time you deliver a demo, ask yourself, “Is this really getting the job done?”
Perhaps it is time to get better…!
Copyright © 2019 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.
For information on Great Demo! Workshops, as well as more articles on demonstration effectiveness skills and methods, visit our website at https://greatdemo.com/.  For demo tips, best practices, tools and techniques, join the Great Demo! LinkedIn Group or explore our blog at https://greatdemo.com/blog/.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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