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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

Give a Great Product Demo: 5 Rules

How to give a demonstration that helps convince a customer to actually buy the product.
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There is almost nothing more powerful than a great product demonstration.

When done correctly, a demo allows the customer to see and feel how things will be better if they buy (and worse if they don't).

Use these rules to make certain your product demos move the sale forward.

1. Customize your demo.

Every customer is unique, so every demo should be uniquely matched to that customer. Before you demonstrate a product, do your research.  Check the customer's SEC filings, press releases, conference proceedings, annual reports, published interviews, and so forth to understand the context of the demonstration.

Also gather some specific information about the people or group who'll be viewing the demo. Then change the data and the contents to match.

2. Tell the customer's story.

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.  For example, suppose you're demonstrating a software product that helps companies better control their inventory of parts.

Here are two typical approaches:

  • Ineffective: "On our top menu, we can open inventory files, save inventory files, set inventory preferences, and convert inventory files from the manufacturing database. Next is the edit menu, where we can copy, cut, paste, and insert records into the inventory files, which works with any inventory record in any standard format. On the next menu ..."
  • Effective: "Imagine that a call comes in from the factory floor. They've almost run out of parts and will shut down if they don't get more soon. You query the system (like so ...), which locates any excess inventory at other plants and key suppliers. You select a new source with a point and click (like so ...), and the system sends shipping orders so that the parts arrive tomorrow."

3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Demos are much more difficult than presentations–because in a demo, you must simultaneously focus on the customer, the effect the demonstration is having on the customer, and the mechanics of the demonstration. So it's utter madness to try to give a demonstration without rehearsing it at least three times.

You'd be amazed how many sales reps think they can wing it when it comes to demonstrations. The result is always a disaster.

4. Test everything beforehand.

A bungled demo tells the customer, at a visceral level, that either:

  • You didn't adequately prepare, in which case buying from you is probably a mistake;
  • The product is a piece of crap that fails even under the most forgiving of circumstances;
  • Both of the above.

Never give a demonstration without a dry run, preferably at the very location where you'll be giving the demonstration. Never assume that the equipment available at a customer site or conference facility will work.

And always have a backup plan, with some other sales-oriented activity that can fill the gap if something goes wrong.

5. After the demo, close the deal.

Because "seeing is believing," there is no better time than after a successful demo to close a sale or ask for the next step, such as a meeting with a decision-maker. So when you demo, you must ask something that will move the sale forward.

If you don't do this, it implies that either the demo was a dud or product isn't worth buying in the first place.

The above is adapted from my recently published book, Business to Business Selling.

Last updated: May 24, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.




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