May 15, 2017

The Product Demonstration

Most organizations rely heavily on the product demonstration to make their case in sales situations. But many organizations treat a product demonstration like a training session versus a true product demonstration.  They often do not understand the fundamentals of how to demonstrate a product and what a prospective customer is looking for in a product demonstration.  Demonstrating a product is an art form that must be carefully orchestrated and prepared for.

The fundamental purpose of the product demonstration is to prove to the prospective buyer how their lives can be made better and easier through the use of your product.  It is to put them in the driver’s seat.  In order to do this, you need to understand their key pains, anticipate common objections, explain benefits to them and help them understand how other customers like them have utilized your product.

The product demonstration is not training and it is not a feature dump (“you can do this and you can do that”).  It is storytelling.  It has to be interesting and compelling.  It needs to fill in gaps in the prospects knowledge of what is possible and why that is good for them.

The first place to start a product demonstration is not with the product but with an agenda.  The agenda should state which problems you are going to solve during your demonstration and why. It is a guidepost for the buyer to understand what you are trying to accomplish.  The agenda should relate to the prospect’s issues that were identified in the Discovery Call and the demo itself should be peppered with real-life customer examples.  It shows why you are different and better but in ways that mean something to the buyer.

If you find yourself saying “you can do this, and you can do that and you can do this and you can do that”, then you are not giving a good product demonstration.

For some organizations trying to sell to prospects, all customers have the same problems and you can pretty much repeat your demo.  In other cases, customers have different problems in which case you have to put the demo modules together to make a cohesive case.  For these prospects, you may want to consider building demo modules.  In order to effectively do this, you should be thinking about individual and common problems that you solve for customers. Having these modules will better enable you to scale your demonstration across a variety of potential customers who may have selected problems.  You can then piece together these modules for each prospect demo rather than starting from scratch every time.

Always end the demo with a summary and get consensus from the buyer that you have shown how you can solve the specific problems that they expressed to you in the Discovery Call.  Gaining this consensus is essential.

Note on Webinar Demos:  When conducting a demo in a webinar, the same principles hold. Your demo should focus on the issue discussed in the webinar and solve the problems outlined. Many organizations get lazy and do a generic demonstration (feature dump) as part of their webinar.

Here are some things for you to consider:


  • Some products are easier to demonstrate than others
  • Prospective customers are skeptical of change
  • Prospective customers do not like risk
  • Prospective customers like to critique your product and are looking for reasons not to buy
  • A product demo needs to be compelling enough to overcome concerns with risk and change.
  • Everyone believes that they know how to demo their product.  And while everyone can somewhat navigate a product, demonstrations are an art form.

General Notes

  • A demo is not training
  • A demo is not a feature dump
  • More is not necessarily better
  • After demo training, most people will wake up tomorrow and do what they did yesterday.
  • Demo needs to be compelling enough to get over concerns with risk and change.
  • The goal of the demo is to get someone to say “tell me or show me more”

Questions to ask and points to cover prior to demo (Discovery Call)

  • What challenges do you have in this area?
  • What is the impact of these challenges?
  • Are these problems that the organization is willing to solve?
  • What is the decision criteria?
  • What do you want to see in a demo?  What would impress you?
  • Who would ultimately be responsible for this new product or solution and are they going to be part of the demo?
  • Will they or you be threatened by a change in process?
  • When would you ideally like to have a new solution in place?
  • How important are customer references and examples to you in your decision?
  • This is our differentiation.  Is this important to you?
  • These are our benefits.  Are these important to you?
  • This is our ideal customer criteria.  Does this sound like you?
  • If you are impressed with the demo, are you willing to move to the next step in the evaluation process?

Questions to ask after the demo

  • What did you like and what did you not like?
  • How did this compare to alternatives that you have seen?
  • Are you willing to move forward in the evaluation process?
  • Did you see the benefits to your organization?
  • What concerns do you still have?
  • Can your people use this product?
  • No product is perfect, but does this have the right or sufficient functionality?
  • Why would you stay with your current solution?

A Good Demo

  • Covers key problems the prospect has or should have
  • Focuses on differentiation
  • Is filled with customer benefits
  • Uses customer examples
  • Tries to eliminate known objections
  • Is told as a story
  • Will create some intrigue like using the clock (let’s try to solve this problem in under 2 minutes)

Demo pitfalls

  • No agenda
  • No agreed upon criteria (problems)
  • Not asking questions before the demo
  • Not asking questions after the demo
  • Assuming too much knowledge on the prospect’s part
  • Doing a feature dump
  • Confusing the demo with customer training
  • Using poor or unrealistic examples versus rich ones.  (Examples matter)
  • Saying things like “Customers love this” without telling how they use it, problems solved and benefits derived
  • Not describing the use of the product
  • Jumping around and constantly changing examples
  • No flow to the demo
  • Not having a relevant demonstration database for the given audience
  • Talking too much, not making the demo relevant and interactive
  • Too much product and too much detail. Showing too much complexity confuses the buyer and can cause them to say “I will never use all of this.  What am I paying for?”


  • Do a problem-solving demo, not training.  A demo has a purpose, is problem focused and is told as a story
  • Start the demo by listing the main message points that you are trying to hit
  • Then provide a list of problems that you see in the industry and that these problems will be the demo agenda
  • Then gain agreement with the customer that this is what they want to see (can’t do this in a webinar)
  • Use your product to solve problems like a customer would
  • If your product appeals to multiple industries, consider having industry specific demonstration databases
  • Use examples and rich customer stories
  • Provide the benefits, not just the features
  • List your differentiation and show why it is defensible (can’t be easily duplicated)
  • The demo should have a flow and should follow the agenda

Putting it all together

  • Position the company
  • Describe the purpose of the demo
  • Describe where you are in the sales process and what is left to do
  • Get agreement and feedback
  • Summarize agenda, message points and benefits
  • Ask for next step
  • Qualify on need, UX, money, authority, method and time
  • Remember storytelling

Assignments for You

  • List out potential problems you will solve in the demo
  • Define the ideal customer criteria
  • Think through and use customer examples that you can use
  • Understand your defensible differentiation?  Why are you different and better? Why can’t an alternative product do what you do? Is that important to the buyer?
  • What customer benefits do you provide?

For more information on how to improve your product demonstration, contact Arbor Dakota below. Arbor Dakota is committed to helping CEO’s grow their great ideas into great companies.