Enterprise software is an enormous marketplace chock full of good, bad and ugly ways to buy and sell. It isn’t easy to be on either side, but it can be very rewarding for those who get it right. I’m invested in making sure it is done right.
A constant challenge? The product demonstration.
The ‘demo’ is a legacy of the early days of Big Software. It dates to a time when we were moving from paper to digital and the wow factor was important. As we move from digital to digital, the stakes are different but some of the habits haven’t changed…especially the product demo.
Here are the five reasons you should think long and hard before firing up the demo or asking the “demo dolly” to do it for you.
5. The logical leap – There’s a problem with showing anything on a screen, especially infrastructure software, and having that resonate with the audience. Some of the most fascinating technology doesn’t ‘come across’ from simply putting it through generic paces. You’ve asked the audience to make the logical leap from what they’re seeing to what they need to solve. It just isn’t logical. Now, there may be a time, place and audience, but that needs to be established.
4. The handoff – The easiest way to get a pushy (or really nice) salesperson out of your grill is to suggest they set up a demo for your team. You’ve just thrown your team under the bus, but maybe you’re not good at saying, “No.” If you’re sales and you’ve been asked, time to go back to defining the problem before you waste everyone’s time.
3. The bait and switch – Too many products demo really well but hide the hamsters running on the hamster wheel under the covers. It’s simply too easy to make things seem magical when the situation is prescribed. Anyone who isn’t skeptical of how easy it all looks from a demo should probably never shop alone.
2. The wrong focus – If you’ve never sold your product before or you’re buying something brand new, maybe a demo is necessary. Otherwise, you should be looking at where it works in the marketplace. An example can be far more valuable than a demo. The focus should be on a solution that’s tangible…a reference implementation.
1. The single product problem – The best solutions on the market are nearly always a combination of technologies, AKA a platform. If you’re the seller, getting the combination right is hit or miss and having a demo that includes everything is unwieldy and impossible to maintain.
The obvious alternative to a demo is to sell your company’s vision, use a whiteboard for interactive conversation, and demo as necessary only. Have that reference implementation in your hip pocket, or if the buyer, insist on getting the details and arranging a meeting.
Is an up front demo always a bad idea? Maybe not, but it should be a limited, very selective, and not the go-to option. If you go the demo route, it should be only for specific environments as a way to draw attention and get engaged, like at conferences and trade shows. It should be highly visual and interactive. And it should involve mobile devices and the Cloud, as necessary.