The Art of the Demo

The Art of the Demo

With NAB 2015 almost upon us, we can begin to brace ourselves for the barrage of technical gobbledegook through the firehose. Many demos will bore us, but if done right, these demos can capture our imaginations and create a customer.

Demoing solutions and workflows – especially in the tech realm – can be the difference between closing and losing the deal. Not only does it allow your customer the ability to get up close and personal with the gear and engage with a product expert who can answer previously unasked or unanswered questions, but it also helps solidify the relationship between the solutions provider and the end client.

Demoing is often the glue that holds sales and tech together. We’ve all known sales folk who can schmooze but not solder, and tech folks who can terminate but not conversate. Thus, being able to make with the tech and make with the talk is imperative to a successful demo. That’s where my “Demo Manifesto” comes into play.

While this guide is designed for my niche of my market (media creation and distribution technology), and generally used in more intimate demos (under 10 people) many of the points below can still apply to basic demoing. I’d also recommend checking out just about anything Guy Kawasaki has to say, especially this.

1. Know the product

With the ability to search for anything on the web, many clients come in armed with information and specific questions. Will you know everything? No. Will there be a challenging client who wants to flex their brain muscles? Sure. But being able to show the product highlights, answer most questions, and actively volunteer to investigate further with the manufacturer is great.

2. Research

Look up the company who employs the people you are demoing to. Google. Hit up the account’s sales rep. Do they do long form? Short form? VFX? What gear do they already have? Knowing any of this makes it easier to relate to their pain – and therefore ease it. It also gives you talking points during the demo, and also what talking points (read: internal politics) to avoid. You also look really good if you use media in the demo that appropriate to their workflows. Lastly, it demonstrates your team mentality – and how committed your team is to the client – that you already know what technology they are working with.

3. Appearance

Your environment. Haphazard cables, messy work areas, garbage strewn about, stale coffee breath – all of this reflects on your sense of professionalism and the level at which you hold yourself to.  Treat the client as valued and as a guest – and have them in a pleasant environment…and on home turf if possible.

4. Prep

If possible, prep the day before – or, at least give yourself plenty of buffer time. Equipment fails. Emergencies happen. Pre plan for this by ensuring everything is operating correctly with time to spare.

5. Time

*Most* product demos don’t need to be more than 30-45 minutes. Discussions around the product demo can lengthen the meeting, but anything more runs the risk of becoming a blur to the client, or becoming free education that you can charge for. Keep the client wanting more. Long demos also are a drain on the company, as your time is money, and it also prevents the account rep from being out selling to other clients.

6. Know your audience

A demo to a CFO and CEO is different than a demo to the CTO. Know when to use technical terms and when to show every mouse click. Know when to discuss ROI and efficiencies in the workflow. Relate to the clients on a level they can identify with – and certainly not down to them. Mix in humor or levity to break up the potential monotony of the tech – but leave the clown shoes at home. Try this early to see if the audience is receptive.

7. Listen

People love to tell stories. Letting them share also gives valuable insight into their pain points and ultimately what is important to them. It shows your interest, investment in their success and a desire to assist. As a fringe benefit, it may even reduce the amount of effort into driving the mouse with the product. Most of my demos are more discussion than mouse clicks. Start with a discussion rather than an in-depth product demo. Whiteboarding is a great way to learn about the clients existing workflow.

8. Stay positive about their existing infrastructure

Just as the client is deciding on gear now – they’ve decided upon gear in the past. Talking negatively about that past decision is a poor reflection on your professionalism and respect for the client. Glass is half full. Be honest – yet positive.

9. Strength in numbers

Your team is what gets the tech stuff you talk about into the hands of the client. Tell the client how strong your team is. Maintain the value that your team adds in a complete solution over a transactional box house. To aid in this, the account rep should always be in the demo. It’s their client, they need to be selling as much as you need to be demoing.

10. No piece of gear is an island

Whether it’s cameras for the TriCaster, larger monitors for the Avid, or a tablet for Smoke – always try and up-sell. The client will need these anyway, why don’t you sell it to them? It also helps on the backend for margin you may lose due to the dropping cost of goods. (Thanks Apple!) This includes your professional services – building and testing the technology and then deploying it onsite.

11. What else is out there?

Clients do research. They’ll want to know about competing products. Be able to speak to them and discuss competitive (and comparative) analysis. In addition – if the product you are demoing is NOT the best fit, feel free to suggest alternatives…with proper prep work, this has already been done BEFORE the demo so you are demoing the right solution. That being said, you don’t want to give the clients your secret sauce for making a solution work – so you can speak high level about the complete suite of solutions; otherwise the client can take the knowledge bomb you’ve dropped and buy elsewhere.

12. Intervention

Demos with manufacturers, or over zealous account reps can cause a logistical nightmare with loan outs, try and buys, etc.– which takes time and costs money. It’s important to manage customer expectations. Discuss with the rep ahead of time how far you may be willing to go as a company – or at least be able to tell the client that you can “work with the rep” to devise a solution.

13. Analogies.

Not everyone learns the same way, and none of us retain the same information. Making analogies – and finding other ways to repeat the information in new ways – helps in client understanding, which in turn leads them to make a more informed decision. You’re not only showing them a product – but educating them, too.

14. Thanks for the memories

Tech people love to reminisce. The good old tapes of tape, film, and wax cylinders. Often, snap judgments are made about people and companies who DON’T know the tech past. I find that having some sense of history can put things in context – not only does it give you the appearance of having more experience, but also helps relate to those who would make snap judgments. Ageism is rampant in the tech industry – be aware.

15. Order of Operations

Many demos are linear – that is, the discussion begins with the logical starting point of the clients workflow or problem, up until the end of their involvement. While this path is the easiest to follow, often times it means the shock and awe of the solution you are demoing doesn’t get to shine until near the end of the demo. Sometimes, beginning with the eye candy of what the solution does can pull the client in and keep them invested in the demo. This trick goes well with #6 – Know Your Audience.

16. Help

Having a manufacturer available to answer questions is a great way to offset gaps in product knowledge – or, to handle low level tech questions. In addition, another presentation alternative is to ask the manufacturer to remote into your system, and demo remotely if possible. Leverage the manufacturer whenever possible.

What tips and tricks do you have?

1 Comment
  • Peter Kolstad
    Posted at 11:42h, 16 August Reply

    This is great Michael. Wish I had stumbled across this earlier. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

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