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How to Conduct a Product Demonstration

Planning out a product demo, from knowing your product to zeroing in on the sale

Standing in front of a crowd and talking intelligently about your product, demonstrating it and then trying to convince your audience to do whatever it is you want them to do is not an easy thing. Product demonstrations require knowledge of the intrinsic details of your product, strong salesmanship skills and good presentation etiquette.

Having done hundreds of product demonstrations, from one-on-ones to groups as large as 20 people, in a variety of settings and with a variety of goals for each meeting, I believe you can benefit from my experiences. I'm going to outline some ground-level building blocks to keep in mind when conducting a product demonstration.

1. Know your product. Unfortunately, many aspiring salespeople focus too much on stylistic presentation aspects of a product demo, and not enough on learning the product. Conducting a presentation that sizzles is easy enough; learning the product you're going to be presenting is not. You should feel comfortable with every element in the product--what each link does, what every button accomplishes, etc. Coming across as a competent presenter will increase your chances for a sale tenfold.

2. Practice. Hmm...this one sounds just a wee bit familiar, wouldn't you say? But, as with sports, musical instruments and the like, this old adage applies to product demos. Practice your presentation constantly. Run through the demonstration a half a dozen times per night before it's mastered; go through each screen; press every button. Perhaps write a "demo script" that outlines the process in which you're going to do the demo.

3. Prepare. The day of the presentation, arrive at the place you'll be doing the demo early. Set up your computer and projector if necessary; make sure all the wiring is set up. You wouldn't want all your practice to go to waste if you couldn't find an extension cord the day of the meeting!

4. Start off by re-iterating the goals of the meeting. For example, your goals could be to a) get feedback, b) get a contract and c) get referrals to other possible buyers. When you're ready to dive into the product itself, go slowly, leaving each page on the screen for a few extra seconds to allow enough time for your audience to read all the text. If you're using a computer, move the mouse slowly. Talk about the features as you show them. Pause and ask for questions at each juncture in the presentation; this also allows you the chance to take a sip of water!

5. Afterwards, ask for questions again. If you know the audience is evaluating other products, you could ask a question like "Were you looking for something that you didn't see?" or "Did you see anything that looked especially beneficial?" You always want to harvest some good feedback. When it seems like the meeting/demo is winding down, you'll want to close the meeting by saying something like "Thanks again for your time--we are very interested in working with your company in implementing this product."

Again, these are just the highlights to a successful product demo. Drop me an e-mail if you'd like to delve into any of these topics further.


Fourteen-year-old Ben Casnocha is founder, CEO and chairman of Comcate Inc., a San Francisco firm focused on providing technology solutions for local governments. His work has been profiled in over 50 magazines, newspapers, radio stations, TV outlets and Web sites nationwide. Got something to squawk about? Write to Casnocha at ben@comcate.com.

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