15 Ways to Improve Software Demos

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Nothing is worse than a bad demo…

Even with a great product, a poorly executed sales demo can leave a permanent sour taste in your mouth about that company… and lots of aimless social media activity in the process.

My buddy Poya Osgouei who is a National Sales Manager at HackerRank put together a stacked list of best practices when it comes to preforming top notch Software demos.

Whether you’re a rookie or someone who wants a simple checklist, these 15 tips for improving demos serve as a great guide to make sure you’re dialed in. Enter Poya…


From leading and managing enterprise software sales teams at companies like Oracle and now HackerRank, I’ve learned a lot of lessons about what makes a strong demo.

Below are 15 suggestions that will help you be your best when it comes demo time:

1. Test everything beforehand

During one of the first demos I conducted at Oracle, we accidentally put the logo of a customer’s competitor rather than the customer we were talking to (mixed up Ghilotti Bros. vs. Ghilotti construction).

As a best practice, customize the demo by utilizing the customer’s logo.

On other occasions, we didn’t have the right cables to help connect the computer to the projector. In short, do all you can to over prepare!

2. Summarize past conversations and objectives of the call

To make sure every single person is on the same page, outline what has been discussed previously to segway into the objective of the call. A lot of times this will help you further understand what every person is trying to get out of the meeting.

Many times I literally ask, “What are you trying to get out of this call or meeting?”  to reinforce the customer’s goals for the meeting. And before moving on, confirm that I have this information right, and use it as a springboard to jump into the meat of the demo.

3. Build the relationship

Do your homework on the audience before the meeting. This way, you can build rapport at the beginning of the call, but continue to find ways to inject it into other parts throughout the demo as well.

For example, at HackerRank we demo to a ton of University Recruiters as our solution provides a good way of assessing high volume applications much more efficiently. So I always do my best to inject the alma mater of the audience to the demo. It continuously makes it a more fun way to build rapport with the customer usually around upcoming sporting games.

For those that don’t sell to Universities, citing a commonality or a referral source is always a great start. For example, I say, “I’m so glad Becky connected us…isn’t she the best?”

4. Let them hear your smile

Because a ton of interactions nowadays are done over the phone, you lose on the benefits of having visual contact with the customer. There are a lot of cues in body language and facial indicators that are lost over the phone, and it is necessary to compensate for this lack of connection with a ton of voice that engenders the same positive vibes that an in person smile would. I always sound happier to help customers on the phone when I am smiling and it will also just put you in a better mood!

A good way of making sure you’re consistently doing this is to put a mirror in front of your desk so you can see yourself. Another great suggestion would be to have a picture of someone you love during the sales call…maybe a bit cheesy, but hey if it works, do it!

5. Ask value-adding questions

The most common question most reps typically ask is a request for information. True value-adding questions are those to which you don’t already know the answers. They require thought, encourage reflection, advance the conversation into new territory, and the answers add value to the dialogue.

For example, I can ask the customer:

“most companies we work with are able to hire candidates 3 weeks sooner by leveraging our product in their hiring process. Assuming we can do the same for your organization, how would that benefit you and your team?”

This question leads into the impact of hiring velocity on this company’s business.

6. Incorporate stories into your product demo

A product demonstration should never be a tour of a product’s features and functions. Instead, it should tell the customer’s story, with the product playing a key role.

7. Make sure they are engaged throughout the demo

It’s crazy how often I am in a demo and the individual conducting the session continues to talk and talk without pausing to see if the audience has any questions or sees value in what you have demonstrated. For example, I ask questions such as:

“Do you see this helping you solve X?”
“This helped company X hire software engineers 20 times faster, can you see it doing the same for you?”
“Where do you see our offering integrate into your work-flow?”
“Where do you see our solution providing you the most value?”

8. Get rid of filler words

Filler words include um, maybe, possibly, you know, like.

These words distract the customer and make you seem less confident.

Identify your filler words and work hard to replace them with words that convey confidence and are much more direct. The best way to do this is to either self-identify them by recording your own demos or having a partner sit in on your demos and getting their assistance in pointing them out to you.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a thoughtful pause is a much better alternative than a rushed “crutch word”. Pauses tend to feel like an eternity for the speaker but are rarely noticed by the listeners.

9. Diversify your words

One trend I’ve noted recently is sellers using the expression, “Does that make sense?”

This undermines whether or not you, yourself, believe it makes sense. Instead you’re betting off asking questions that will assure your solution can create value to the customer.

For example, if your customer states they are in need of hiring top software engineers instead of asking “Does that make sense?” Replace it with “Does this explain how we can help you find software engineers faster?” or “Would this add value for you and the organization?”

Small nuance, but sometimes that is everything.

10. Don’t BS the customer

Don’t answer a customer’s question unless you fully understand what they are asking and know the 100% accurate answer.

If you are unsure about the answer, “I don’t know but I will get back to you with a response!” is an acceptable response and much better than any alternatives. This can create an open dialogue for a follow up which can be extremely helpful.

11. Demonstrate only the things that provide value to the customers

Time after time, I see how consultants or sales reps get excited about their product features and start demonstrating every little item when it doesn’t create any sort of value for the customer.

If you don’t know your customer’s priorities, take the first 5-10 minutes of the demo and ask the customer about their priorities, needs and what they are hoping to get out of the call. Another thing that can be compelling is including customers you have worked with similar in size, industry or region to the company you’re speaking with.greo

12. Focus on benefits rather than features

In the words of Gregory Ciotti, “How do you think Apple decided to frame the magic of the iPod? Around its technical prowess, or what customers could do with it?”

software demos

13. Don’t make the audience watch you type

Typing takes time and it’s extremely boring to watch.

Find ways to avoid typing by having the information pre-populated or skip the step. If you have to type things out, just copy and paste it from another document.

14. Don’t ever end the conversation without establishing next steps

If the customer sees value in your product, do all you can to establish next steps and learn about their timelines and what it will take to earn their business.

Find out who else will need to get involved as part of this decision process. And establish a mutual agreed upon next step on the calendar before ending the call.

The best method for me to do this is saying something along the lines of “Having worked with many companies with similar initiatives, the most efficient way to move forward is to involve the other stakeholders, who else do we need to involve as part of this decision making process?” Or, “Besides yourself, who are the other individuals that will need to participate as part of this buying process?”

15. Always follow up

As soon as the conversation is over, send an e-mail that includes a recap of the conversation, next steps, and action items for both parties.

What other important best practices do you follow in your software demos?

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1 reply to “

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