Death By Demo

If you are a Wizard of ID fan some of this may sound familiar…

(Rant Alert)

You know what really torques my frame? Product demonstrations! And many of you have either sat through (as a prospect/client) or given (as a vendor) the product demo from hell. I’ve been on both sides of this exchange and will be the first to admit that delivering a really good one is not an easy thing to do. It becomes even more difficult when the product demo is shared in a live system as opposed to talking to screen shots. Either version can be brutal on the recipient, especially when the demo is feature – function – benefit (FFB) “spewage”. I’d rather be stabbed repeatedly with something dull.

What is too often missing is the “listening to the client” part of the demo. The vendor must do something to ensure there is something worth listening to, right? Funny thing; listening to the client should happen twice; once before the demo ever takes place; and then when the demo is underway.

Before the demo ever begins, find out what business issues are facing the client and match up your FFB spew to those issues. And when the demo is in progress, check to see if your spew is hitting the mark. The best scripted demo, often delegated to a product SME can quickly become spew and squash any chance of interaction; triggering a slow, lingering death for the client and preventing an informative dialogue. The “informative value” within a dialogue is as much benefit to the vendor as it is the prospect; assuming listening is actively engaged.

Being on the buyer side of the table these days, I approach demo encounters with mixed anticipation. All too often the demo begins after some small talk is completed and the sales rep or the SME moves into FFB spew. The encounter would be like going to a doctor and being continually poked and asked, “Does this hurt? Does this hurt? Turn your head and cough…did that hurt?

How about a little diagnostic to find out exactly what hurts before the poking begins? Oy!

When you are the vendor and you have a really cool product, you want to impress the buyer with the really cool parts. I know that for a fact. I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing. And delivery of some really cool capabilities can default to the dreaded FFB spew in heartbeat.

Vendor: “Here’s a really powerful capability we have…notice how quickly you can be jimmin’ on the jim-jam when you’re frimmin on the frotz! Dude, is that cool or what?”

Prospect: “Well…Dude…we don’t do much frotzing, so frimmin is not a problem. And we are quite happy with jimmin we do on the jim-jam currently!

Vendor: “Oh…okay, bummer. So hey, check this out…does THAT hurt?

…and the lingering death sets in unless the prospect steps up and destroys the script that had been queued up in the vendor’s head by throwing out a scenario that catches them off guard. Then they start dancing and try to go off script. That’s almost entertaining to watch when they attempt to do something they were not planning to demo. And if in the live system, Murphy shows up with his Law and the demo crashes and burns.

If I had a bugle, I’d start playing Taps…


Demonstrate that you area business problem expert before you impress me with your product expertise. Truthfully, you need both skills, but the latter is better served by nailing the former on the front end. The best demos I’ve seen include conversations that include dialogues that state the known challenge…and then what the vendor’s product can do the resolve it.

Vendor: When we spoke the other day, you said frimmin on the frotz was an issue for your team. Do I have that right?

Client: Yes, it is and it impacts our ability to jimmin on time on the jim-jam.

Vendor: Okay, good. Let me show you specifically how we can improve the frotz through our…

You get the idea.

I’d prefer to have a conversation around what my business challenges are specific to the capabilities where your product shines. Let’s have that conversation before the demo…and especially before the SME Jedi is unleashed with the demo. Ask me about how my frotz frimmin is working today. If it is an issue, dig deeper into specifics of our frimmin challenges to see if jimmin on the jim-jam is even part of the challenge.

If you’ve got six things you do better than anybody else, see if that matters to me. Find out if those capabilities are relevant to mu business challenges. Ask qualifying questions around potential challenges for which you have a solution. THEN…if you find something that fits, show me, and tie the benefit back what I told you about my frotz challenges.

In other words; understand my challenges…and then teach me!

</Rant Alert>

Return to your homes, there is nothing more to see here…

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning