Demo Fails – The Door Closers

Just a few of the many, many ways that we hurt our own deals

You could be risking your deal without even knowing it

In The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment (you didn’t remember his character’s name either) famously said: “I see dead people…they only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.”

And, much like any M. Night Shaymalan twist, you don’t know what really happened until the very end.

We’ve seen quite a few demos and presentations during our Demo Audits, and we’ve noticed a number of things that presenters say or do that lose the audience. Most audiences won’t say anything – they won’t tell the presenter that their slides had too many words, or that the presenter clearly doesn’t understand their business. What they will do is politely sit through the meeting, maybe nod a few times, and then send an email a few days later saying they’re not interested in moving forward.

I see bad demos. They’re everywhere. They don’t even know they’re bad.

The Demo Fails

A Demo Fail is, as the name would suggest, when we fail at delivering our demo (take that eighth grade English teacher who said we can’t define a word by using it). But we’re not talking technical failures. As we talked about on our blog, Murphy’s Law of Demos (totally a real thing) states that “everything that can fail during a demo, will fail during a demo.” Instead, this is about the presenter. It’s what happens when presenters break a demo rule. Things that make the audience uncomfortable and, potentially (likely) cost the presenter the deal.

Not all Demo Fails are created equal, and some cause more damage than others. A minor Demo Fail could not have much of an impact, but some Demo Fails are so egregious, so epic, that you might as well pack up your laptop and go home – you’ve officially closed the door on your deal.

This is by no means a complete list, but we’ve put together 6 categories to group the most common Demo Fails that we see during our Demo Audits.

Demo Fail 1: Slow your roll

Imagine you’re going on a first date (pre coronavirus) – there’s a process to follow. You pick a time and place. You do some research on who you’re meeting with (while pretending that it’s cool and you definitely didn’t do that in a creepy way). You put on a nice outfit. You arrive at the bar on time, and the second your date sits down, you say “nice to meet you. Did you know that I went to Harvard? I know you’re meeting with some other people, but none of them are as smart as me.” That’s bad. Let’s say you say that, and then add “so we’re going to my place after drinks, right?” That’s worse. Does it work sometimes? Sure. But I’ll bet it doesn’t work far more often than it does.

Slow your roll is the sales equivalent of bragging at the beginning of the date, or just asking for the “close” right away. Let’s break both of these down, shall we?

Too much in your demo about your company, delivered way too soon

It’s 2020. We all have Google. You and your competitors are probably on G2 Crowd. They’ve looked you up before you got to the meeting. So when you walk in and say how great you are, without having proved anything, it’s just empty words. And your competitors used those same words when they were in the room. So how does the audience know who to believe?

Trying to move things forward too quickly in your sale

When you’re on that date, both people know what’s really happening. But you have to get to know someone first. It’s the same thing with your presentation – before someone takes the next steps with you, they need to be ready. But many salespeople will continue to chase that deal until they get the hard no. And one of the ways to do that is to offer something to “keep them on the hook” – say, for example, a proof-of-concept (POC). However, unless the client has bought in and has identified value, you’re just wasting your time as the salesperson.

If you struggle with timing of the demo, it might also be a problem in your sales process. We can help with that too.

Demo Fail 2: Narrating the Demo

Ever been to a meeting that felt like a complete waste of time, because there was no reason to meet? It may have happened this morning. You may be in one as you’re reading this. But that’s the last thing you want your prospects to think about your demo or presentation.

The biggest reason that someone thinks your demo could have been an email is when you read the slides or narrate the demo.

Your slides should support you as the presenter. You shouldn’t have to support the slides

No one wants to go to a meeting where someone reads the slides – we can all do that ourselves. Yet, so many meetings are exactly that! This most commonly happens when the presenter is showing someone else’s content or slides that they’re not entirely comfortable with. The easiest fix? Have separate slides. The presentation slides, which are as lightweight as possible, and the leave behind slides, which can have all of the content you want. Again, we can help you with slides.

Your demo needs color commentary, not play-by-play

When you narrate the demo – “watch me click here, watch me click there,” you add no value to the meeting, even though you could. The audience isn’t stupid. They can see you clicking a button, or filling out a field – they have used software. Instead, don’t tell them what you’re doing. Show them what you’re doing, and tell them the benefits. Now you’re adding value to the meeting, not just acting as a demo monkey.

Demo Fail 3: Leveraging buzzwords

Buzzwords confuse the audience. And a confused audience doesn’t buy anything.

We’ve seen hundreds of demos here at Demo Solutions, so believe us when we tell you that so many of them use the same language.

“We are going to leverage big data analytics in our private cloud, powered by our proprietary ML and AI, delivered to IoT, so you can get a 360 degree view of your customer, all delivered to a single pane of glass so you can utilize a dashboard that is synergistic to the reports you already have.”

So many technology vendors say things like this, and they are meaningless. Not only do they not differentiate you, but they confuse the audience. But don’t worry, we have a handy translator to give you the simple words you need for your meeting:

Leverage -> Use

Utilize -> Use

ML and/or AI -> Our technology helps you X so you can Y [no one cares that it’s AI or ML – everyone has AI and ML]

360 degree view of the customer: A customer database

Single pane of glass -> Your monitor

Synergies -> Works well with

Start using these simple words instead of complex buzzwords, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is for your audiences to follow you.

Demo Fail 4: I’ve made a huge mistake

The I’ve made a huge mistake Demo Fail happens when we do something completely avoidable that upsets or offends the audience, or when we don’t look organized with our team. These mistakes are foreseeable and with practice and communication in advance of a demo, they can be easily avoided. Here are a few examples:

  • Are you following so far/does this make sense?
  • Can I just interrupt [my colleague] to say…
  • This is just a demo environment, but it normally works in production.

These phrases are bad, but a good presenter can recover from them. Others, not so much:

  • Our technology will make you so efficient that you can reduce headcount by half
  • You have a lot of problems and incredibly inefficient, but if you work with us we can help
  • I’m going to interrupt [sales engineer]! Can you just show the audience [insert feature that the SE wasn’t planing to show]?

Demo Fail 5: Let me Google that for you

When you’re in front of an audience, you’d better know some basic information about them.

We’ve seen lots of demos, and nothing alienates an audience faster than when the presenter doesn’t know basic information about them. This Demo Fail pops up in a number of ways, from using the wrong language to not knowing what the client does. For example, CPG (consumer package goods) companies sell (almost exclusively) to retailers – their customers are Target, Walmart, etc. So if you’re selling to a CPG company, and you refer to the end consumer (the person who buys the product from the store) as a “customer,” you’ve shown them how little you know about them. And that’s a hard mistake to come back from.

We’ve also seen demos where, and this is true, the presenter didn’t actually know what the audience did. Sometimes this happens because of lack of research, or sometimes the presenter simply makes an assumption. Either way, get such a basic piece of information wrong, and you have most likely closed the door on your deal.

Good presenters ask questions, right? So why is this considered a Demo Fail?

That’s a great question. Asking questions during demos is a critical thing to do, and we encourage every presenter to do just that. However, this Demo Fail hurts deals as much as they do because, quite simply, they say to the audience “I don’t care about you.” Because if you cared about the meeting, you would have done some basic homework.

Demo Fail 6: That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

Many sales and presales professionals have their “standard” content. It might be the first 10 slides of the deck (the about us slides that the client doesn’t care about), it might be the whole meeting. (We offer Demo Deck Designs for this) But that content doesn’t change, regardless of context. The problem? Just like “let me Google that for you,” you’re signaling to the client that you don’t care about them.

That’s my store and I’m sticking to it makes discovery feel pointless.

We conduct discovery to learn about our clients and prospects. To understand their needs and respond to them. But if we’re not addressing their specific concerns, they’re going to feel like we didn’t really listen to them. And then discovery becomes a box to check in your to-do list, not something that adds value to the sale.

One of the biggest myths in presenting: a demo is either custom, or completely standard

Here’s a secret to delivering a great demo – just change your talk track. That’s it. Your demo can be designed for a completely different industry than you’re presenting to. The use case could not line up. That’s all fine. As long as you address the client’s needs and use their words in your demo or presentation, you’re in great shape.