Common Online Product Demo Mistakes

I’ve sat through a lot of software demonstrations over the past 11 years – both in-person and online. As part of my first job with Legg Mason Funds Marketing I was often asked to help evaluate a wide variety of products ranging from entry level VOIP customer support tools to enterprise level content management systems. In my current role I frequently evaluate products for use by clients or my internal team. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of online demonstrations for social media monitoring and analysis software. Some account executives and sales reps do a great job with these presentations; most don’t.

Here are some common mistakes that people make

  1. Don’t pause for questions. Many reps make the comment to “interrupt them at any time” – and then proceed to run through the presentation without stopping for 5 minutes at a time. It’s hard for a customer to interrupt over the phone. I’ve tried to stop people multiple times and wasn’t heard. When giving remote demos make sure to pause frequently to allow for questions.
  2. Don’t clear their screen. Close other files especially email programs so that notifications aren’t popping up during the demo. Clear other Web browser tabs and clear your Google search history box. You might not want others to see what you were searching for before the call!
  3. Don’t think about screen resolution. Some reps seem unconcerned with how the resolution they’re running will appear on a customer’s screen. For example, demos from wide screen laptops don’t look good if the customer is using a desktop with typical screen resolution.
  4. Don’t present from somewhere quite. It’s obvious when a demo is being presented from a cube farm, Starbucks, or the airport. Background noise is distracting – especially if you’re on speaker phone.
  5. Don’t take time up front to understand the customer’s specific project needs and what they’re expecting from the presentation. This gets into the overall strategy of planning and executing demos. Make sure you understand the customer’s needs and expectations. Customize your demo accordingly.
  6. Don’t know the company they’re selling to. This seems like a given, but I’m always surprised how infrequently reps do their pre sales background work.  The lack of effort is even more apparent when the next vendor’s rep clearly knows a lot about my company and our work.  I understand sales reps and account executives are generally short on time, but even 10 minutes of upfront research can make a great impression.  If you have time, do a bit of research on the individual you’re going to be talking with. Most people aren’t hard to find online – blog, website, LinkedIn, etc.
  7. Don’t know their product’s technical details. Or don’t have a sales engineer with them. I’ve been surprised that most companies I’ve been speaking with lately haven’t had sales engineer on the call. This is often typical of relatively small companies in an emerging market.
  8. Don’t know their competitors. Or don’t know their competitors beyond the top 5. One vendor I spoke with hadn’t heard of a number of the competitors I was looking at. The customer shouldn’t know their market better than them.
  9. Don’t follow up on customer questions. Don’t go more than a week without responding to questions that could not be answered on the call.
  10. Don’t seem prepared. Some reps seem to think they need to squeeze in a demo that day. Yes in general the sooner the better, but definitely take adequate time to prepare.
  11. Don’t contact customers to arrange a demo quickly enough. There may be dozens of potential products I’m potentially interested in, but given time constraints I’ll probably only arrange calls with ten or fewer. A product may not make the short list simply because their vendor took too long to respond.
  12. Don’t double check to make sure their software is running well before the call. Check with your admins or product development team to make sure no upgrades or outages are planned. If you anticipate any issues reschedule.
  13. Don’t recap the call and make sure they have all the follow up steps and questions correct.

If you’re interested in reading more about similar topics check out Dave Sohigian’s Tech Demo Guy – which is a blog I enjoy about sales engineering.

Follow Discussion

2 Responses to “Common Online Product Demo Mistakes”

  1. ChrisM15

    Some great points. Having another laptop logged in as a participant is such an easy and important component of delivering a good remote demo. It’s surprising how few people do it.

  2. Glen

    Agreed. Early in my career I was 5 minutes into a great demo (so I thought) before someone on the other end told me they weren’t seeing the screens I was discussing. I was surprised it took them that long. But that mistake could have been easily avoided.

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