Today’s guest blogger is Jacob Cynamon-Murphy, a Technical Specialist at Sonoma Partners.
Over the past 10 years, I have presented or been in the audience for hundreds of different software product demonstrations. As both the presenter and the attendee, unfortunately I frequently see common issues that prevent a demo from going as intended.
Here are three things you need to take into consideration when requesting a software demo.
Nothing's Standard Anymore
Have you ever asked a software salesperson to give you "the standard demo?"
Does standard mean the same thing to you as it does to them?
Will the standard demo show the product in the best light?
Would you go live with the standard demo?
Your answers to these questions are probably "No," "No," "No," and "No" and there's a reason for that.
Your industry, your business, and your employees are unique. Custom is the new standard when it comes to line-of-business solutions. You should determine internally what you will need - what will align with existing or proposed business processes, what will be easy and intuitive for your employees to use, what will be practical to maintain and support - before you engage vendors to deliver demos.
Planning ahead will increase the likelihood that you see a demonstration of how the software can speak to your unique situation and solve your actual problems.
There's no shame in starting a relationship with a vendor with a standard demo, but you can often get the same result in less time by asking for a product demonstration video: you can watch it at your leisure and your vendor's time is freed up to prepare for a custom demonstration in the future.
Demo What You Need (Not What Vendors Want to Show)
There are two primary components to a software demo: the list of things you ask to see and the list of things you are shown. If the two lists seem like a close match, that's good - it means the product being demoed does, in fact, meet your needs.
It’s critical that you know what you want or need before sitting down for a software demo with a vendor. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."
Unfortunately we have seen CRM prospects get dazzled by software demos that highlight snazzy features, even if they do not really need those snazzy features to meet their business needs. If you go to the car dealership or the home theater department with a prioritized list of features, you're less likely to be swayed by the metaphorical flashing lights and add-ons… purchasing CRM software works much the same.
What You See Is What You Get (Or Is It?)
There is a reason that the term “smoke and mirrors” exists. In the world of software, this is also sometimes referred to as vaporware. Even when the product genuinely exists, how often have you thought or heard someone else say, "That's not what they showed us in the demo" or "It doesn't seem like what they demoed to us."
Like anybody else, software presenters want their product to show well. Unlike everybody who works with physical products, software can be manipulated to look or feel a particular way, even when it's not how the product truly functions. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor to provide a list of which demo components required 3rd party solutions.
However, rest assured that there isn't a secret society of software presenters and, as a matter of fact, sometimes the product doesn't cooperate, even when it really is capable of doing a task as stated (exhibit A and exhibit B of demos not going according to plan).
Come to the meeting with a well-defined list of must-haves and nice-to-haves for the vendor to use, and approach the demo with a healthy dose of skepticism. Follow that advice and you'll find it easier to make better decisions about complex software purchases going forward.