When Was the Last Time YOU Were a Customer?


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Great Demo! is all about the customer’s perspective – what is it the customer is looking for in the demo, what do they want out of the interaction. 
This suggests two recommendations:
Recommendation Number 1:  Go be a customer.
Many presales folks that were hired fresh out of school (or a few years out of school) have never interacted with a vendor as a customer –and have never seen any other vendors’ demos.  This makes it very hard for them to understand what it is like to be a customer.
So, give them homework.  Tell them, “Go find a software product you are potentially interested in and request a demo from that vendor’s website – and see what happens.  Go through their process:  how long before someone calls you, what do they ask about you, what does the demo seem like, etc.  Go be a customer…!  (No obligation to purchase, of course). 
People often report how surprised they were at what happened and how they were treated – it can be eye-opening!
Recommendation Number 2:  Go be a customer.
Many seasoned presales veterans have forgotten what it is like to be on the customer side of the table.  Regain that lost perspective by executing the exact same homework, as above – sign-up for a demo of a product you have some interest in – and see how you are treated as a customer.  Some things to note:
– How long before you are contacted by the vendor?
– What amount of Discovery do they do (or is it simply a few quick “qualification” questions)?
– Do they inflict a corporate overview presentation – and/or a product overview?
– Do they present a standard “overview” demo or really try to customize it to your specific situation?
– If they are presenting over the web, how much interactivity do they drive?
Now, contemplate your own organization’s demos – how different are they from what you just experienced?

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.


  1. Sales guru Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about a vacuum cleaner salesman who was selling very few units and was on the brink of being terminated. In a last-ditch effort to help, his manager asked the salesman if he’d ever used their vacuum cleaner at his own house. His response was: “I already have a vacuum cleaner. Don’t need a new one.” In other words, he had never become a customer for his own product, so could never cross over into being an ambassador for the brand. His manager’s advice: “Go be a customer.” His personal, emotionally-based and functionally-based experience with the product made all the difference between failure and success.

  2. Peter – great advice. My only suggestion is to be a Customer with 2 or 3 vendors. People should try and get an insight from a number of different companies to start making decisions about what works and what doesn’t work.

  3. Hi Peter – what your are advocating is the importance of empathy – a critical skill companies often beat out of their employees. “It’s too touchy-feely, and besides, our products are great, our services are outstanding, and (this is the worst part) our metrics and KPI’s corroborate what we believe about ourselves.”

    So I agree – BE a customer. And really think about how you felt, and why you felt that way. Not just checking off boxes about what was done, or not done. How many this-or-that’s, precisely how long something took, whether marketing collateral was used, etc. Thinking about the qualitative part of the customer experience and its effect will help employees become more empathetic, more understanding, and provide better support when they are on the other side of the transaction.


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