As PreSales leaders if there’s one thing that sits firmly in our wheelhouse, it’s giving a great demo. But demos are often live events — and in a live event, anything can happen. You’re at the mercy of the moment, be that surprise construction cranes outside your window, unfettered questions from your prospects, and of course, our mostly cooperative but unpredictable friend, technology. You can’t control everything in a live demo — which makes them fun to do — but you can mitigate some of these potential issues with a little planning and structure.
In this blog, I'm going to share my top tips and tricks for PreSales leaders that I've learned throughout my time as an SE. Hopefully, these eight techniques will help you to crush your demos every time, and when things go wrong, at the very least, keep the plates spinning for your customer and ultimately help you close more deals.
#1 Share demo structure
Having a structure and an agenda is so important, for you and your customer. Their time is important, not just to them, but to you too. You don’t want to burn it demoing features that aren’t going to move the project forward. In the best-case scenario, you bore them to death; the worst case is losing the deal altogether. Your prospect wants (and expects) that their needs will be met in the meeting, so It’s a great idea to also share what you have planned beforehand. By sharing your meeting structure and agenda prior to the demo, you’re communicating what you expect them to gain from the session. It gives you an opportunity to do an extra bit of discovery and to make sure you cover everything they need. It’s important to deploy active listening techniques in these conversations. More on that in a moment.
#2 Consider your “wows” (Tell, show, tell)
Before my sessions, I make a list of five key things I know my audience wants to see. I’ll emphasise these as part of my demo. If you’ve done a presentation skills training or reading you may be familiar with ‘tell, show, tell’ loops:
- Tell the prospect what you intend to show them.
- Show them your demonstration.
- Tell them what you’ve just shown them and why it’s important.
These ‘tell, show, tell’ loops should be linked to your five demo wows: five things in the demo that will knock a prospect’s socks off. It’s important to really give these some thought because what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to the person interested in your technology. The foundation of the Avnio solution, for instance, is storing RFP data centrally. Because of the fundamental nature of this element of the product, I’ve been routinely surprised at how important this is to many of our prospects. This is where active listening comes in. Don’t assume they know the basics of your solution. Actively listen to what they’re telling you, reflecting on their queries and creating your five wows based on them, rather than your product.
# 3 Beware the buzzword!
AI does not mean intelligence, at least not to your customer. Often when we use terminology that to us seems to explain a process clearly, to our prospect it’s just another tech buzzword. That’s why when we talk about any technology, we must talk about the problem it’s solving and how. We can do this by explaining the process, instead of the feature. Here’s what that looks like in two sentences with the same meaning:
- Feature: Avnio uses natural language processing to answer the questions in your RFP and uses AI and machine learning to improve over time.
- Process: Avnio reads the RFP questions and finds the most appropriate answer in your knowledge library. It then uses a confidence score to learn over time how to answer the questions more accurately.
It doesn’t tell you everything, but the aim is to invoke the right kind of questions. Always engage your customers, instead of baffling them with AI, ML, and NLP.
#4 Turn notifications off
‘Can you pick up some milk on the way back?’
Yikes! It may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at the number of demonstrations and presentations I’ve sat on where notifications have popped up and distracted me from the meeting. These can be turned off within both Windows and MacOS settings or in your demo tool itself. If you have important, possibly demo-related notifications, these can usually be transferred to another device or in hidden previews at the bottom of your screen.
#5 Be strategic with presentation tools
How many times have you been shown some new software and the person races through clicking through menus and features at lightspeed? ‘Got it, no? Great, let’s move on!’ There are various free presentation tools available that can help you create things like on-screen drawings and arrows to signal key information and features in your demo, draw attention to where you are on the screen, and simplify the experience for new potential users of the product. The more your buyer understands your solution, the easier it will be for them to imagine themselves using it, which is what you want!
#6 Pause your screen
Many meeting tools used today have the option to pause your screen share. Pausing the screen share does not stop you from sharing your screen; it freezes the frame so you can do other things. I use this all the time for loading up pages in advance — as well as when things inevitably go wrong. You can pause the screen, reboot, or reload and carry on with the show.
It's also incredibly helpful when transitioning between screens. You can present your slides, pause the screen, close the slide down, and open the demonstration smoothly. Rather than fumbling around to change between multiple windows, it just adds another level of professionalism.
If you’ve heard the expression that your brand is perceived value, then professionalism is perceived quality.
#7 Maintain a tidy desktop for a tidy mind
This is a bit of housekeeping. Having a clean desktop may not seem like an important thing. But if for some reason you can't pause your screen during a demonstration, you may need to access or minimise pages and landing on a messy desktop is often a huge distraction. If you really love your organised mess, then there are settings on your desktop to temporarily hide it from view.
#8 Utilise Chrome profiles
If you’re using Google Chrome, you may be aware that you can create multiple profiles within Chrome itself. I always have a number of profiles available, one for work and another for my personal life. I have two more set up solely for doing demos, which helps me isolate different projects I'm working on and prevents me from demoing my personal tabs, bookmarks, and cooking inspiration ideas to customers — unless you know they’re into Japanese fusion; nothing wrong with a tactical screen share to create a talking point!
That brings us to the end of my demo tips. Murphy’s Law states that ‘whatever can happen will happen.’ Things will go wrong; things will surprise you. This is a live event after all! What we can do as PreSales leaders is mitigate these potential risks with careful planning, good listening, and a few simple tricks. Which leaves us to do what we do best — a brilliant product demonstration.
Nathan Wilson is a PreSales leader and the Manager of Solutions Engineering at Avnio. He’s been a solutions engineer for over seven years, and in that time has worked with a number of small to multi-billion-dollar companies, helping them achieve their goals using SaaS technology solutions.
In his spare time, Nathan likes to go on walks with his dogs and regularly goes karting at his local track. He has a keen interest in environmental issues and works hard to make a positive impact on the planet.
Avnio RFx is more than just an automated response solution. It’s an intelligent, dynamic knowledge centre that acts as a single source of truth for your business. RFx leverages the reporting power of Salesforce and enables you and your MVPs to create lightning-fast proposals of the highest standard, every time. Find us at www.avnio.com.