Product demonstrations are the power tools of selling. They allow a prospective customer to see, feel, and hear how their lives and business will be different if they buy the product.

Because they're so powerful, a great demo can close your sale. However, a lousy demo (or worse, a bungled one) can make you persona non grata.

Here are six ways to ensure that your demo helps to convince the customer to buy. 

1. Don't Explain. Demonstrate.

A demo should be a story about using the product to accomplish something. It's not an excuse for providing technical background, product design issues, or anything else that's internal. Demos must show what the product will mean to the customer after the customer has bought the product.


Here's a clip from a longer demonstration video from Dell. Note how the two demonstrators continue to talk about demoing the product and explaining what they're going to demo. Customers don't care about that stuff. They want to see the product in action.


By contrast, here is a clip of Steve Jobs demonstrating the iPad. Note how he jumps into using the product rather than telling you about the product.

2. Keep it simple.

Demonstrations are about how to use the product, not all the things that product can do. Great demos avoid vague abstractions and lists of features and functions. Instead, they highlight a problem, then show how the product solves that problem.


Here's a clip of a demonstration for a payroll system. This demonstrator is about to launch into a walk-through of all the different menu options. This forces customers to imagine why they'd want such a feature and guarantees they'll be seeing features about which they care nothing.


By contrast, here is a clip from a demonstration of a software animation package. Notice how he sets up a problem (animating a photo or image) and shows only those functions that are relevant to that activity.

3. Make it vivid.

Great demos are exciting. They speak from the customer's viewpoint and simulate the enthusiasm the customer might have from using the product. Whenever possible, they show the product "hands-on," as it would be used by a real customer.


Here's a clip from a much longer demonstration video. The "radio voice" of the announcer and cheeseball music are a pathetic attempt to make this deadly-dull demo sound interesting. Ugh.


Once again, the gold standard in vivid demos is Apple, as shown in the following clip. Notice how a "hands-on" situation is simulated and how the activities are placed within a real-life situation.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

No matter how much you think you know about a product, you must treat the demo even more seriously than you would treat a major presentation. Presentations are far easier than demonstrations because so much more can go wrong.

For example, in this classic clip, it becomes immediately obvious that the guy demonstrating the product hasn't bothered to rehearse. Ouch.

5. Have a backup plan.

Never give a demonstration without knowing exactly what you're going to do if a part of the demonstration goes wrong. Have multiple demo units ready and, if all else fails, a canned demo video.

Here's a clip of what can happen if you foolishly plan that everything will go swimmingly:

6. Close on the next step.

The video below (which I've posted before) illustrates all the points above. It wastes no time explaining the product, it sets up an easily understood user scenario (problem), and then it shows how the product will work in that scenario (solution).

Most important, the video (fictional though it may be) illustrates the time to close the deal is when the demonstration has blown them away. Figuratively, if not literally.