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7 Golden Rules For A Successful Product Demo

Bruno Vilches

December 9th, 2014

Avoid product demo failures

Have you ever given a demo and noticed that your audience was struggling to stay awake, and when it finished they sighed in relief?

 If you work in software development, you no doubt run and attend a considerable number of product presentations. The amount of time and effort invested in creating compelling demos are by no means negligible. Yet they often fail. Why?

 Just like a first date when the other person talks all night about themselves, too often the people running the demo are in love with their own product, its features and capabilities, the history behind it, and forget why they are there.

 So here are 7 golden rules to ensure your next demo is a runaway success.


RULE #1: It’s all about the problems, not the product

Demos need to stop answering the question “what can the product do?” and rather start focusing on answering “what can the product do for you, dear customer?”. In other words, focus on the buyer of the product, not the product itself.

 It´s a good strategy to ask the question that every prospect has in mind: “what’s in it for me?” Don’t keep your punchline for the end. Think about structuring your presentation as a newspaper: first tell them what you will show them, then show it to them, and finally tell them again what they’ve just seen.


RULE #2: Give the demo at the right time

The demo should show how the product meets the specific needs of the potential customer. This can only happen once the sales team have had a proper conversation with the prospect, understand their needs, and confirmed budget is available. Only then it is possible to start building a tailored demo.

A common mistake salespeople make is giving the demo too early in the sales cycle in order to generate interest. And sometimes it´s even the potential customers who are asking for a demo. Try to avoid this – without a clear understanding of the client’s problem and situation, the presentation will wander and fail to capture their attention, and your product will be archived and never considered again.


RULE #3: Focus on just a few, clear use cases

It’s all about use cases. In theory, every functionality that your product has should have been designed and added to fulfill a specific use case. Find out which are the most important use cases for your audience, prioritize them, and select just a few to focus on.


RULE #4: Don’t run!

You may not have noticed, but your normal everyday voice is too fast for a product demo. When you’re running a demo, the audience has to listen carefully, look at a screen, and join those two things together with their own needs and expectations of your product.

Help your audience understand better by speaking slowly and, if necessary, use repetition to emphasize an important point.


RULE #5: It’s a conversation, not a monologue

You start your demo, you make a quick introduction and then say “please interrupt me at any time if you have a question”. And what follows is a machine gun of product features and capabilities with no pauses.

If you can relate to that, you’re doing it wrong.

You continue your demo staring at the screen and talk non-stop for about 15-20 minutes and then you quickly glance at your audience and ask “does anyone have a question? No? Ok let’s move on then.”

If you can relate to that, you’re also doing it wrong!

If you do this your audience will quickly lose interest and their goal will switch to running away from that room as fast as they can.

A demo should be a structured conversation with your audience, knowing just the right time to pause and when to give some room for questions, and even asking your own questions. This way, they become active participants rather than sleepy attendees.


RULE #6: Create a memorable moment

Your demo should be something that your audience remembers. In order to make a sale, the first thing you have to do is earn a little piece of real estate in the prospect´s mind. One way to do that is by having a memorable moment in your demo.

Steve Jobs was a master in the art of producing and managing these moments. We always remember his “One more thing…” slides.

You may be thinking that it’s difficult to create one of these moments for your product, but it’s unlikely that you don’t have at least one outstanding and distinctive feature for your customers. Show them that! And if you really can’t think of anything fabulous, you might want to concentrate on creating a few for your next release.


RULE #7: Always leave them wanting more

If you did a good job with your demo, focused on a few clear use cases, spoke clearly and slowly, had a conversation with your audience, and finished with a memorable moment, then you will have definitely generated interest in your product. But in order to do all that, you almost certainly won’t have covered everything they want or need to know.


In the theater business they have curtains to separate acts. If the audience is enjoying the play, they can’t wait for the curtains to go back up and continue watching. In sales, it’s about moving the prospects to the next stage. Whether it’s for a proof of concept, a deeper technical evaluation, or ideally a purchase decision, you should never lose sight of the goal. The demo is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Do you follow these rules? Do you know of any others and think they should be added to the list?



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