Product Demos, CRM, and What Users Really Want

The Sales Machine blog has a great set of tips for anyone that gives product demos for a living, and since I’m sure there’s a lot of software sales people that read Outsiders – I felt I had to link it.

There’s some simple, yet often overlooked tips found there. Mainly – “test your demo.” In the age of SaaS and web meeting tools trumping canned slideware demos – I can’t count how many times vendors’ demos blew up in their faces while I was an analyst.

But also, as a marketer, I tend to demo “latest features” and cool bells and whistles to press and analysts – parties who tend to a) have a background in CRM in general and/or SugarCRM and who are also less interested in a purchase decision as they are about judging the Sugar product offerings against competitors’ latest and greatest. In a sense, I represent the antithesis of these tips and tricks at Sales Machine.

Talking more and more with CRM sales people and buyers – I think CRM providers (SugarCRM included in some regards) have complicated the meaning of CRM. In some ways – there’s just too much stuff even in the most basic version of any CRM product – users can all too easily get confused. We have tried hard to make a very “easy to adopt” UI and system in general – but I think the best CRM sales people show users how to turn off functionality, get the most out of the system immediately, and how to drive value from CRM – instead of simply wowing users with cool visuals.

Maybe I’m wrong – maybe users want the flash and dance. I’d like to hear from some CRM sales people, and CRM buyers – regarding what they look for in an initial demo. Is it a simple, straightforward approach that works?  Or is it a mix of core CRM and targeted use of business-ready “2.0” or cool new features that wins prospects over?

5 thoughts on “Product Demos, CRM, and What Users Really Want

  1. As somebody who not only knows about software demos (having done hundreds of them), wrote the article you referenced above, and is the journalist who covers CRM for SellingPower magazine, I can tell you with some authority that emphasizing the trivia of feature/functions is earning diminishing returns. For one thing, no matter what your CRM package does, plus appexchange trumps it, in terms of feature/function. But many people don’t like for reasons completely unrelated to feature-richness. (Sugar is a case in point; some people want to install their own version and custom code.)

    I think you’d be better served if you put together some “here’s how we demonstrate to people in industry X with problem Y” and asking the analyst to pretend to be that kind of customer. Needless to say, each of these putative demos would utilize at least one major differentiating feature, but it would part fo the “story line” of how the customer uses the product to solve the big problem.

  2. Geoffrey,

    Great points, and I agree. All too often my AR demos are generic and broad-based demos of the latest bell and/or whistle…I would like to – and should – be creating more use-case demos for my presentations…as I become more and more comfortable building demos, this is becoming the case.

    My issue is this – in an inside sales organization trying to sell on volume – it is hard to train and maintain a bunch of industry specific demos for this type of volume-based sales org. Or, maybe it isn’t and I’m just going about things all wrong…My point is, I agree with your points that a strong, use-based scenario demo – but also broad enough that inside sales people don’t need to memorize 20 different vertical permutations – is the stronger strategy than simply pumping “cool features” down the collective throats of our sales people…the returns from the “nice to haves” do not equate to the solid foundation of CRM messaging that a core features demo provides…

    Thanks again for the original piece and your comments, much appreciated on both counts…


  3. Martin,

    Boy is this post a breath of fresh air. I have been in both sales and marketing at CRM and non CRM software companies and I have seen way too many demos that blow by the audience based upon the sheer excitement to show all the features possible in the given amount of time. Lots of times this is the fault of an overly excited sales engineer who knows too much for the good of the demo. I think the good sales folks take the time to prep the experience, meaning they only show what is needed to satisfy the information needs of the audience and then leave plenty of time for dialogue that directs the rest of the discussion and demo to things that are pertinent to the specific needs of the prospect. Its an interesting thought to think fo turning off features for demos, particularly in the early stages of a sales cycle to avoid the confusion that can kill a potential deal.

    Great post.


  4. We do public presentation every week and every single week, we ask the participants what they want to see. You have to be quick on your feet sometimes, but we have found that it is a better approach for all concerned.


  5. Mark,
    If you’re going to take that approach, you’d better have done plenty of pre-positioning versus the competition. I was once demonstrating an automated publishing system. The customer, prepped by the competition (whose system was more of a graphical layout program) asked “how can you make the text go around the shape of a hand?” For the application — creating technical manuals — this was a completely and utterly useless feature and yet the inability to demonstrate it scuttled the sale.

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