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The importance of product demos

Mazda Motor Corporation Matsuda Kabushiki-gais...Image via Wikipedia

A must read for any aspiring product demonstrators, Jason Calacanis’ latest missive on How to Demo Your Startup is right on the money.  Howard and I put the same advice to good use when we won DEMOgod in 2006.  Afterward, we built a presentation that we gave at a local BarCamp which outlined the architecture of that demo, and the essential elements to get your product message across in 6 minutes or less.  The formula is pretty simple:

  • Engage your customer with a problem they can relate to.
  • Position your product
  • Show three big features that are the proof points for your position.
  • Close
  • Recently I’ve had the misfortune to be shopping for a car.  A loathsome experience at the best of times, automobile shopping drives home the value of the demo.

    At 4:30 one Saturday afternoon we dropped into the Ottawa Honda to test drive a couple of vehicles on our list.  When we arrived, a chatty sales person took us out to the lot to see the vehicles he had. First black mark: automatic transmissions only, rather than the standard I was looking for.  Second black mark: although it was 4:30, it was too late in the day to test drive a vehicle.  Third black mark: no demonstration of the features of the vehicle at all.  Just chat chat chat.  Fourth black mark: being regaled with a 30 minute history of Honda, the uniqueness of the Honda engine, and how happy Honda customers are.  I just wanted to drive the car.  We left, and didn’t return.

    Bank Street Mazda next door was only too happy to show us his vehicles, but completely screwed up on the “engage your customer” piece.  Why?  I  wore pretty casual clothes, and showed up driving a beater.  From the start, he had me pegged for a super low cost buyer, and kept pushing me toward bare bones vehicles.  And with no brochures (they had run out for the 2008 model year), my only recourse was to extract information from a sales person who didn’t understand his customer.  Painful, to say the least.

    Best demos?  Mercedes gave a dazzling demonstration of the features of the car and left us for three hours to drive various models. He didn’t close, however. Toyota also gave a great demo, and did close. Unfortunately, I wanted to shop more.

    In the end I settled on a Mazda.  It took the sales person three times as long as it needed for him to close the business because there were so many unanswered questions.  Nevertheless, it was the right combination of features at the right price.  If the Toyota had been a few thousand dollars cheaper, I wouldn’t have endured that sales person, however.

    When delivered effectively, demos are your most valuable sales tool.

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    { 2 comments… add one }

    • Elliot Ross August 12, 2008, 9:03 am

      As well as the demo – you demonstrated why automobile manufacturers have been frantically trying to find ways to improve the "soft skills" and product skills of their vehicles.

      A "dazzling demonstration" would be just as effective on a small Nissan Versa as it would have been on the Mercedes.

    • Alec August 12, 2008, 9:14 am

      You are completely right Elliot. I should have mentioned that the Mercedes I looked at was the B-200 hatch-back, their lowest price model. The vehicles I compared it to were all comparable in terms of size, style and features, but the Mercedes show-room experience was completely different. There is no reason those same soft skills couldn't be taught to sales representatives at other dealerships.

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