How to Maintain Audience Engagement During Your Demo

Written by Ben Beadle
on October 18, 2018


Think back to the last demo you gave. How did it go? Was your audience engaged? Did they ask questions?

Now think about the last demo you sat through as a customer. How was it for you? Did you buy?

The truth is, demos can be hard work whether you’re giving or receiving. We talked to Chris White, the Demo Doctor, for some insight as to how to hone your demo technique so that you keep your audience engaged.


Customize your demo and your message

Most people understand that a demo needs to be tailored to the customer, but the success of the demo really depends on how you customize it.

“There are really two aspects of creating a customized demo,” says Chris. “First, you customize what they are seeing – the information or the screens. Then you customize the message. A lot of sales engineers make the mistake of prioritizing the first one and forgetting about the second and that’s why they lose their audience.”

Customizing a demo with your prospect’s logo and imaging helps your audience visualize how the product would look on their systems, but customizing the story helps them imagine how they would actually use the product – and that’s what makes them buy.


A demo is not a how-to

“A lot of times the people giving the demonstration come from a technical background rather than a sales background. The root cause of most of the mistakes I’ve seen in demonstrations is that the technician or sales engineer doesn’t understand that it’s a sales demonstration, not a how-to demonstration,” says Chris.

The purpose of the demo is to show the customer how the product could help them, and to convince them to buy it. You’re trying to build enthusiasm and convince the customer that whatever it is you’re selling will help them achieve what they’re trying to achieve or solve their problems. This is not a training seminar, where the goal is to teach the prospect how to use the product.

Just like every other sales conversation, then, the lesson is to focus on the customer and their needs, not on your product.


Slow down and talk to your audience

People giving demos will typically have a script. They will ‘show up and throw up’, as the expression goes. That does nothing to win over an audience.

“A lot of the time sales engineers want to move as fast as possible through the tool to show how smart they are and how second nature it is to them, but the reality is the faster they move the more likely they are to lose their audience along the way,” says Chris. “The goal is not to show how smart you are. The goal is not to show how wonderful the tool is. The goal is to show the few key things that align with what your customer is trying to accomplish. You need to slow down, confirm that they understand what they’ve seen and get some kind of acknowledgement that it will help them do what they’re trying to do.”

Many demos will be given online, so getting that acknowledgement is even more crucial because you’re competing with whatever else is on your customer’s desk. The communication techniques are also different, given that you can’t rely on body language.

“You have to pause frequently and ask questions,” says Chris. “You need to use your voice differently than you might in a face to face meeting. Pause, lower your voice, raise it - there are so many little things that need to be done if you’re doing a remote demonstration.”

It’s also really important to know who is in the room, what their buying influence is and what their names are so that you can call on them directly (and check they are paying attention).

“Too many technical people just want to jump into saying exactly what they have to say and they don’t take the time to get context. They don’t take the time to ask for feedback along the way. And that’s why, frankly, most demos are kind of boring,” says Chris.


Build your demo around ‘Aha!’ moments

In every demo you are looking for those moments where your audience goes ‘Aha!’ as they suddenly realize how this product could help solve their problems.

“Every demo should be built around those ‘Aha!’ moments. You should aim for 3 – 5 compelling capabilities that tie directly to your prospect’s objectives. That might take ten minutes or it might take 45 but ideally you want your demo to last as little time as it takes to achieve those ‘Aha!’ moments. One of the mistakes that people make is that they tend to drone on and on because they sense that the audience is not engaged. They show something and they don’t hear or feel that ‘Aha!’ moment and rather than pause and ask a question they decide they need to tell them more. They start going louder and faster and deeper, which is the worst thing they could possibly do.”


6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers

We couldn’t let Chris go without asking about his model for Sales Engineers.

“I’ve created a model that I simply call 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers. First, to remind Sales Engineers that they are in sales, first and foremost, and that they should partner with their sales leader or account rep. Next, probe into the customer’s requirements and their objectives, and prepare for the demo by creating custom content and a custom script. And then there’s the basic principle of simple practice. A lot of people scramble to put together a customized demo literally up until the last minute and don’t give themselves time to practice to make sure it’s all working properly and they know what they’re doing. The fifth principle is that sales demonstration is a performance. You’re on stage. It’s more than just showing how your tool works. And finally, after every sales presentation, evaluate what worked, what didn’t, where you fell flat, what you could do differently, and so on, so that you can perfect your process.”


Thanks so much to Chris for his insights! You can find out more about the 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers on the Demo Doctor website.



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