The 4 challenges holding your demo operations back


Author: Barry Mueller

It’s no secret that the demo operation in its current state has its fair share of challenges. After all, demoing is still live theater, and a lot of preparation and work goes into putting on a show-stopping performance.

We tend to see demoing challenges fall into a few major categories:

1. Scaling the demo environment

Scaling the demo environment can feel like an impossible task, and unpacking this problem reveals a slew of issues that make this so difficult...

  • Your demo environment is overly complex, so SCs are required on every demo call, putting a strain on resources.
  • R&D controls your demo environment, and it always takes a back seat to executing on the product roadmap, leaving your sales org with an outdated demo and slower sales cycle.
  • You don’t want every rep to have access to sensitive data. For example, you’re demoing an expense management platform, so you demo out of your internal production environment in order to show real transactions, but you don’t want every AE knowing your CEO spent $12K on their flight last week.

Let’s break those down with a few examples:

  • You don’t have a demo environment you can securely share with channel partners, but they need something to showcase your product.
  • Your demo environment is full of surprises and uncertainty. Maybe it’s shared between departments, which means your sales rep could be demoing a certain product story at the same time that R&D is running tests on the new “delete” function.
  • You can’t give more than one demo at a time, or you have to reset it before every demo because of the way your demo environment is set up.

Managing a demo environment feels a lot like managing a whole separate product - you’ve got one that’s built to be used and one that’s built for showcasing. But with no real owner and too much complexity, this is often easier said than done.

2. Crafting custom product stories

Beyond the question of scale, there’s the challenge of delivering something tailored to your buyer rather than some off-the-shelf demo. Let’s face it, that generic ACME, Inc. story won’t cut it, but neither will waiting weeks to build something customized.

Buyers expect to see something relevant to them, and fast.

Personalization helps show you understand your buyer and their business. It accelerates their understanding of your product’s value. When you showcase something tailored, you remove the cognitive load for them to connect the dots of how this could work for them. You remove the “imagine if…”

But tailoring the data and content in your demo usually means piping in fake data sets into the backend - which likely means tapping R&D for help. And when this takes weeks to get over the line just for one demo, you’re stalling out the buying process and losing momentum by the day.

Without a good system for easy tailoring, you’re again left with the problem of how to scale the customization aspect - or worse, you default back to the generic demo.

3. Standardizing the flow for all presenters

On the other side of the spectrum from customization, there’s the issue of standardization when you’re trying to enable more people to show the product.

If your SCs are required on every call, then democratizing the demo would help lift that burden. But keeping your story consistent is crucial. Otherwise, off-the-rails demos will leave your buyers dazed and confused by too much information. And confusion always leads to a no.

4. Creating & delivering shareable product assets

There’s the live demo, but what about assets to share before and after the call?

Product screenshots and videos will only get you so far.

Giving buyers a taste of the product before talking with sales will make your conversations more valuable, as they already have a basic understanding of how your product works.

Then after delivering a great demo, you’ll want to build on the momentum and get the product into your buyer’s hands as fast as possible. But doing so probably means a trial - and if the trial is an empty skeleton or limited in capabilities, it often fails in helping your buyer actually experience your product’s value themselves. And, your deal walks out the door.

If you move into a POC, it might turn into a lengthy process. You’ll need to configure the right access for them and connect it to their systems enough to show value - all while the customer is clearly not 100% bought in. So you end up swallowing up resources and slowing down your deal cycle.

Final Thoughts

Interactive, tailored demos can be your ticket to a “closed won,” but the process doesn’t come without its share of difficulties. Indeed, giving a show-stopping performance in practice isn’t easy, but if you can overcome these common challenges, you’ll be well on your way to an encore.

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