Retail, like most industries, has been punched upside the head by 2020, with many companies understanding the need to quickly change their business processes, realign organizational structures, and evaluate supporting technologies.

As we outline and prioritize recommendations as part of our clients’ overall roadmaps to solve business problems and address a post-pandemic world, we often determine that selecting new systems is necessary. Sometimes these are enterprise-wide transformational solutions, other times they are point applications—addressing a small scope of business capabilities.

Quite often The Parker Avery Group is engaged to manage the software selection and “live” product demonstrations are a typical part of the process (often part of a request for proposal or RFP). Having participated in almost two dozen software demos over the past year, as well as countless demonstrations when I was in the retail industry (as a participant), I have witnessed some common behaviors, statements, and actions that make the demonstrations much less productive for the user participants.

This set of “tips” is geared to solution vendors.

To begin, let’s look at a few sample statements that are particularly frustrating for the audience you are trying to impress:

“Yes, we have brought 8 (or 10, or even 12+) people, but this shows our commitment to you as a future partner.”

“We’ll get to the demo in a moment, I just have a few more slides I want to show you.”

“I’m logged into the solution as an administrator—your users won’t see all of this.”

“This is dummy data in our demo environment,” related to, “This solution is easily/highly configurable to your requirements.”

“I know lunch just got delivered but let me finish this one section and then we’ll take a break.”

Think about those statements from a user’s perspective. From your potential new customer’s perspective. Let them sink in a bit.

There are mitigation tactics that can improve your performance and the audience’s perception of your company during the demos. Some may find these to be common sense, but in our experience, they have each happened so frequently that they merit a gentle reminder.

1. Read the Room

If you sense people are paying more attention to their phone or laptop than your demonstration, this could mean a couple things: (1) you’ve gone off the demo script and lost them or (2) something major in their functional area is going wrong, like production systems or shipping issues, and participants are distracted due to business priorities.

When you see that multiple people have left the room, you’ve likely exceeded the participants’ coffee capacity. In these circumstances, take a short break, even if it isn’t officially time. Be cautious about asking the room if they want a break. Participants will look to their leaders for direction, who will often say, “press on.” However, you still need to be respective of the demo schedule you’ve been provided.

During a break, try to get direction from the “leader” of the demo, either from the client directly or their selection partner, so you can get back on track and finish strong. Related to this is, “Don’t Over-Prepare.”

2. Don’t Over-Prepare

Do not have more content than your time allows. Minimize PowerPoint overviews and sales pitches. If you are provided a demo script, stick to it, and demonstrate (don’t just talk about) how your solution addresses the client’s business needs. Do not assume there will be time to add a follow-up session if you don’t cover all the content, especially in today’s frantic environment, there is likely no time in the client’s plan to do this.

In the spirit of “dry-runs” or practices, you still need to be prepared to occasionally go off-script. Truly listen to the customer. If you say, “payback will be in five years,” and the client says, “that’s not going to work for us,” you need to adapt your narrative.

Everyone in the meeting should have a role that adds value to the demonstration. If you have ten people in the room or virtual meeting and only two demonstrate, the client may wonder what the project team is going to look like (read: expensive).

3. Don’t Under-Prepare

This is probably one of the unfortunate behaviors we witness most often. When logging into the demo environment, do not log in as an administrator. If your solution is admin heavy, it makes the system appear more complicated than it may be. Create a separate user ID that is a business role and show only what participants need to see. If you must show admin tasks, try to structure your demo for a smooth transition. Telling the client “access can be limited to each user” is contradictory to logging into your demo environment as an admin and showing unnecessary functionality.

Along with demo scripts, you may receive sample client data. Don’t rely on data existing in your demo environment—this this is an opportunity to show that your system is easy to set up and configure.

Particularly for onsite demos, make sure your devices are fully charged when you begin (or bring a portable charger), to avoid having to search for outlets which may be scarce. Excess time spent locating power outlets means time away from precious demo time.

Also for onsite demos, be prepared to connect to any kind of projection device and have backup network access. Carry all necessary adapters for your laptops and have portable WIFI with you just in case there are problems.

When traveling for the demo, arrange flights, Ubers, etc. so you have more than ample time to get to the demo site and ensure you are properly set up. Any delays due to travel or logistics issues can cause irreparable harm to the perception of your company as a trusted partner to the potential customer.

Stay tuned…our next post will feature the rest of our demonstration success tips, including some focused on virtual demos.


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Published On: November 4, 2020Categories: Consumer Goods, Heidi Csencsits, Retail, System Selection