Building Demos that Drive Sales

By J.C. Stites June 18, 2007

As product manager, you are your product’s champion—the cheerleader that leads the united front to put your product in the spotlight. You spend your days working with Marketing, IT, Finance, and various other departments to piece together every detail of your product and keep production, promotion and profits moving in a forward direction. And while every product-oriented interaction you have is important, your relationship with your sales team may be the most significant.

If you want to drive sales revenue, you have to drive your sales team to present your product in its very best light. Chances are each sales person is selling a different product when it comes to their individual sales approach. Building a product-centric demo that clearly and concisely communicates the value of your product, helps keep everyone on the same page while effectively showcasing your product to prospects.

But how do you build a demo that you can trust your sales team will use? Not only do you need to find time to build the demo, but you also have to decide what content should be included and how the demo should be implemented. Building an effective demo is a daunting task, but worth its weight in gold when done correctly. The right demo should achieve your goals as product manager and help your sales team meet their quotas. Follow these steps when building your next demo and you may just drive your sales team to drive sales revenue through the roof.

Define your objective early and clearly

The single most important factor in creating an effective demo is to know what you want to accomplish with your demo. Do you want it to initiate the sales process? Do want to generate more warm leads? Move prospects through the pipeline faster? If you try to build a demo that simply showcases your product without seriously considering the objective of the demo, you will have an unfocused, hollow demo that lacks real value. Starting without a specific objective is a sure path to creating something that gets left by the wayside.

Once you define your demo’s objective, you can better decide on approach, content and implementation. A product-focused approach includes content that is based on specific product features or benefits, and works well for initiating the sales process and familiarizing prospects with your product at the onset of the sales cycle.

A scenario-focused approach takes more planning and uses a storyline to mirror typical situations involving your product by providing a real-life example of the product at work. This approach may be used further along in the sales cycle when you want to show prospects a specific instance where the product would add value.

Other important decisions that can only be answered once the objective is determined include identifying the stakeholders and which metrics will be used to measure the demo’s success.

Get buy-in from the beginning

As the demo project leader, you will make the best decisions by getting the right input from the right team members. Sales can help decide which demo content best represents the product, Marketing can help determine how best to implement the demo and IT can advise the best technology to use when building your demo. Get your colleague’s buy-in at the start so they will use the demo when it is finished.

To keep the process moving, establish a timeline for building the demo. Your timeline may be driven by your product’s readiness or by an upcoming event like a tradeshow or product launch. As the project manager, lead the process with a focused approach. If you schedule meetings to determine content or review a beta, share the meeting objectives with attendees before everyone sits down at the conference table.

If you want to build a demo that Sales will use, get their input from the start. Are you building a demo that Marketing will want to loop at the tradeshow booth? Then get Marketing’s input. It’s no secret that too many chefs spoil the broth and slow down cooking time. On the other hand, if you do not have everyone at the table from the beginning, you may end up creating something that has limited ROI.

Find your WOW factor

The WOW factor is what keeps you in business. It is the distinguishing feature of your product that differentiates it from the competition. Most likely, your WOW factor is what comprises a majority of the sales pitches and headlines in your marketing materials.

As product manager, you may be too close to your product to identify the WOW factor. How do you know if you are too close? Do you consider your product too complex to define within a demo? As with many high-tech products, the complexity of the product can exacerbate the demo’s production and its effectiveness. What should the demo show, and not show? How do you keep from confusing your prospects when using a demo to showcase a complex product?

Find the WOW factor and use it to drive your demo content. Often, your best sales representative has important WOW factor insights. What does the sales rep talk about when with prospects? Use that sales pitch to identify what it is about your product that resonates with customers—that’s your WOW factor.

Most likely, as complex as your product is, it can still be explained in a clear and concise manner. People do not buy what they don’t understand. An effective demo communicates your product’s WOW factor and helps prospects understand why your product will make their world a better place.

Choose the right team to build it

You have two choices when it comes to building your demo. You can do it yourself in-house or have an outside agency build it for you. If you choose the wrong team, your demo will suffer the consequences. An ineffective production team can cause irreversible demo results—unprofessional visuals, poor audio, PowerPoint ® overload, too much marketing fluff and not enough product content. There is also the chance that the demo could get sucked into the black hole of projects that start strong but linger in unfinished status because your production team does not have the time or resources to complete it—a consequence that often happens when produced in-house.

There are many software applications on the market now that allow you to create your demo, not only in-house but on your desktop. This option may be best for smaller budgets or for quick-moving demo production. If budget is limited and your demo does not need to be professional grade, some of these off-the-shelf products can get the job done.

If you choose an outside agency, do your research and select an agency that has expertise and good examples of past projects. Just because you have an award-winning advertising agency that designed brilliant creative for your sales literature, doesn’t mean they know how to produce a demo. Remember, your demo is a unique opportunity to get the product closer to your prospect. Filling the demo with marketing fluff and advertising language can detract from the user experience and reflect poorly on your product. Building a product-centric demo that shows prospects what they are buying adds real value to the sales cycle.

Keep it busy and keep it updated

Once your demo is complete, use it! An effective demo is one built with technology accessible to most everyone so that prospects can view the demo from their office, on the road or at home. An effective demo uses streaming technology and is automated so that prospects can view it 24/7. When your product is upgraded, upgrade your demo. Outdated information or bad product content will confuse and frustrate prospects and will work against you.

Implement your demo across the board—on your website, in email campaigns, on marketing CDs and on every salesperson’s laptop. Make the link to your demo contextual so that prospects immediately understand the value of the demo. Do not simply label your link “product tour” or “demo.” Define what the demo showcases using succinct and creative text.

Your demo will get maximum exposure if you strategically name and place the demo link on your website, in e-newsletters and email. Also, ask viewers to complete a short registration form when viewing the demo so you can capture important lead information. Start with the registration page at the end of the demo then move it to the beginning of the demo if you want more leads. Do not waste your viewer’s time with a lot of questions within the registration form.

Don’t sweat it

Building a demo does not have to be a bear. By setting your objectives, getting the right buy-in from the beginning and selecting the appropriate production team, your demo production can be seamless. Building a great demo is more of an art than a science. You need to be objective about the content of your demo to identify product-centric values. Listen to vendors, customers, distributors and internal staff—when people have strong opinions, they are usually saying what everybody else is thinking.

A great demo is the result of getting everyone on your team on the same page and centered on the product. If your product does not demo well, you may have a bigger problem than you realize. Fix your product’s inherent problems—not your demo.

Prospects want honesty. A professionally-developed demo appeals to the true value of your solution. Make it credible, sincere and honest by making it conversational and friendly and resisting the temptation to include a lot of marketing jargon. The more tangible your demo, the more it reflects the actual product and engages viewers. When your product has real value, open it up to as many prospects as possible and watch your product sell itself.

Categories: Go-to-Market Working with Sales
J.C. Stites

J.C. Stites

J.C. Stites is the founder and CEO of Autodemo LLC (, the leading developer of software and website demos. With more than fifteen years experience building product-centric demos, J.C. is a thought leader in the design and production of product marketing tools. You can contact J.C. at

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