I read a blog post on the signal to noise site today that made me reflect on the perils of selling software. Matt was reacting to a video he saw for a new handheld reader, and he noted that the demo in the video cuts directly to the "wow" factor for this device, and then points out that the company's web site completely fails to do this.
This sure sounds easy, doesn't it?
Live demos are really hard to pull off well. I remember trying to sell a software product a few years ago, and it just didn't leap off the screen in demo situations. The technology was good, but the "wow" factor was just a little too subtle for most people to appreciate. I don't recall ever having an exciting demo until our CEO slipped on one conference call and told our prospect that the next release of our software was going to have "virgin control"!
If you've got a product that's got a "wow" factor that's easy to show, and you're not doing so, then by all means, get to it. Much more likely, though, is that you're going to fall into one of these traps:
- Your product has a "wow" factor, but it takes a long demo to get there. You've got to be a pretty good storyteller to survive this problem. This is like the joke that's all setup and little punch line, so you need to be a little bit entertaining along the way. Of course, if you can think of a way to get to the punch line more quickly, that's a big benefit, because nothing beats a good elevator pitch.
- Your product has a "wow" factor that's hard to appreciate in a demo. This is probably more common than you'd imagine. It's the reason we go to test-drive a car, even if we've seen the commercial a dozen times. If you've got one of these products, consider skipping the demo. Put your effort into whitepapers, case studies, and guided evaluations.
- You don't have a "wow" factor. Now you've got a problem, don't you? Maybe. You can still have value even if you're not doing anything revolutionary. Small improvements in functionality or cost relative to a competitor can justify a purchase like this. Be sure to point them out.