I've written about product demos before, but I haven't covered the subject matter as thoroughly as it deserves.  This is an oversight on my part, because product demos are tough to do well.

Demos have all the elements of a sales presentation but with the addition risk that something will go wrong with the product.  The product may have a technical glitch, you might demo the wrong feature, the customer may grow bored, and so forth.

Not to worry, though.  Here are 10 rules for making your product demo more effective:

1. Keep it simple.

Feature-rich demos generally leave the impression that a product is overly complex. Simplify your demo so that it highlights a small handful of features, all of which are of high value to the customer.

2. Tell the customer's story.

You're not demonstrating how the product works, but rather how the product will help the customer. Every feature you demonstrate must be tied directly to a customer problem or opportunity.

3. Write a script.

The "talking" part of your demo must accommodate the rhythm of the product. If it takes ten seconds to execute a feature, you must fill that time with appropriate patter, lest those ten seconds seem like an eternity, and make your product seem pokey.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Before demonstrating ANYTHING to a customer, rehearse the entire demonstration beforehand at least five times. Also, if possible, do a dry run (or two) in the actual location where you'll be giving the demo.

5. Do an onsite test.

Never assume that the equipment that's available at a customer site or conference facility will work. As far as practical, bring EVERYTHING that you need to do your demo and remember that using ANY unfamiliar equipment entails more risk.

6. Remain flexible.

The customer may very well want to take control of the demo. By all means, go along with the customer's suggestions, as far as you're able. The last thing you want is to annoy the customer by sticking to the script.

7. Use the demo as a proof point.

A good demonstration should reinforce the sales message and "prove" that your sales claims are true. Make sure that the demo shows clearly why your offering should be important to the decision-makers.

8. Don't repeat yourself.

Repetition doesn't add credibility; it only makes your product demo boring.  Never show a feature more than once, unless you're showing how that feature can be used to solve a completely different problem.

9. Don't anticipate future needs.

Unless you are 100 percent certain that a specific feature is of interest to the customer, don't demo it.  When you have given your demo, check to see whether the prospect understands and is satisfied.

10. No jargon or techie-talk.

Unless you're demoing for the customer's engineers, focus on what the product will do for the prospect's firm, not on how your product functions internally. And remember, no biz-blab! Phrases like "best in class" and "leading edge" make you sound foolish.

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