What does win/loss research teach us about the effectiveness of product demos?

Welcome to the first in a series of five articles discussing the important and often vital role product demos play in a software sales cycle. A great demo may help secure your sales team the winning deal. However, a poorly planned and executed demo may not only mean you forfeit the deal, it could also lead to your organization being ruled out of any future consideration by the buyer.

At my company, DoubleCheck Research, an independent win/loss analysis firm, we’ve conducted several thousand in-depth interviews and online surveys of buyers to uncover the specific reasons why they chose or didn’t choose a particular vendor and its software. You might be surprised at how often buyers single out their demo experience for praise or criticism.

Bear in mind that, even though a buyer may ultimately decide not to purchase your software, a great demo experience starts to sow the seeds for a future sale or sales. This is especially the case when you’ve used part of the demo to provide a compelling overview of your entire product portfolio and how various elements can fulfill your buyer’s future needs.

Be Confident and Show Empathy

Approach the product demo with confidence and place yourself firmly in the buyer audience’s shoes, asking yourself: What do they most want and need to see from a functionality standpoint? What is likely to impress them versus what may potentially bore them?

The demo may be the first time buyers have really gotten a chance to see your software in action. For buyers new to a particular area of software, the demo can be exciting, since they see how your product may free up their staff’s time and help to make them more efficient.

Based on our wealth of buyer insight, we’ve identified four key areas that sales teams must address in order to deliver a product demo that will be well-received by the buyer audience:


  • Preparation—Ensure that the sales team approaches the demo with a clear understanding of the likely buyer audience. Identify the goals and objective of the demo from both the buyer’s point of view and in terms of what the sales team wants to present and achieve.

  • Resources—Arrive at the demo with all relevant resources that will help make the experience valuable for the buyer audience. This may mean the sales team also brings along one or some of their more technical peers or a partner to co-sell, or even potentially an existing customer.

  • Timing—Think through all of the logistics needed to ensure that the demo proceeds smoothly. This includes scheduling a time to accommodate the entire buyer audience and building in extra time to field additional questions from that audience.

  • Context—Deliver a demo that contains relevant content and is a good fit for the needs of the buyer audience. For instance, be sure to address the buyer audience’s specific use case, knowledge level, and industry.

We will examine each of these key areas in more depth in the next four articles in the series.

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Killer Product Demos, Four Steps to Success