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the Demo

My first demo. Age 21. Green salesman.

The owner of a small manufacturing business, his accountant, his payroll clerk, and a senior salesman gathered around the gleaming computer in NCR’s offices. I sat at the console and punched a few buttons. Bingo! A completed paycheck popped out of the printer; an updated ledger card spun out of the carriage. Applause. The owner said he’d buy.

 Two lessons learned.

1.       Demos never go as expected. That’s the norm. You have to stay calm and keep on smiling. Maybe they won’t notice. In my case, the computer had broken down beyond repair several hours before the demo. I had feverishly written a program to flash the processor lights and eject a paycheck I’d already prepared. The demo was smoke and mirrors.  

2.     Less is more.Show enough to accomplish your objective. And nothing more.

Half a dozen years ago I was managing a start-up software company in San Francisco. I demonstrated bar-code tracking software one-on-one and to groups of fifty. More lessons learned:

1.       Tell a story. Otherwise the audience gets lost. But unlike most audiences, these folks won’t tell you when they aren’t getting it because they fear it will betray their ignorance of computers. So tell stories of an individual learner, of an enterprise-wide implementation, of flight simulators, whatever…as long as it provides a context for understanding. (Ask me about the earthquake story.)

2.     Never say never. It’s easy to become flustered during a demo. All hell is breaking loose on the screen, and the prospect asks,

“Do you read DVD disks?”

“Do you have an Ebonics version of this?”

“Can I run it on my Newton?”

“Will this work on AOL?”

Never say no! In the digital world, anything is possible. Probe. What’s behind the question? The ultimate waffle response is, “Sure, we can do that. It’s a small matter of programming. Of course, we’d want to make sure it’s cost-effective for you.”



Bill Gates gives awesome demo. He gave compelling public demos of Windows 1.0 when it was so unstable its programming team could hardly make it run. His words carried more weight than what appeared on the screen. (the famous Gate demo joke.)

Here are some demo tips from Selling Microsoft, Sales Secrets from Inside the World’s Most Successful Company:

1.       Practice presenting your demonstration. Practice error recovery. Practice handling common concerns.

2.     Verify that you can demonstrate a solution to your customer’s problem before beginning your demonstration.

3.     Determine the best place to perform your demo—it may, for example, be more compelling to perform a demo at your customer’s offices, or at a customer site, than at your sales office.

4.     Organize your demonstration to answer your customer’s concerns in a logical manner.

5.     If you cannot demonstrate the product or solution you are recommending, try to demonstrate a product or solution that is representative of the one you are proposing.

6.     Keep your demo as short and as simple as possible.

7.     Avoid overly technical explanations and industry jargon.

8.     Don’t use your customer’s request to “show us everything” as an excuse to do a core dump of every product and feature you know.

9.     Verify that you are addressing your customer’s concerns as you proceed through your demo.

10.  Maintain an open dialogue with your customer.

11.   Stay calm and confident.

12.  Sell positive; don’t attack your competitors.


Demo With Bill Gates!

 After Bill Gates dies in a tragic accident sitting at his computer, his soul goes to Saint Peter who says:

 "Bill, since you helped us so much in the world by creating new technology and Windows 95, we're going to give you the option of choosing between heaven and hell. What is your choice?"

 "May I see one or the other first?"

 St. Peter takes him to hell... Upon entering he sees a beach with thousands of playboy bunnies, and everyone is having fun and drinking it up...

"Wow!, now I can't wait to see heaven!" *St.Peter takes him to heaven and he sees a place with puffy clouds and little angels playing harps...

 "I made up my mind and I want to go to hell."

 "OK, to hell you go." answered St. Peter.

 In three months St. Peter visits hell and sees a sweating Bill Gates in chains receiving lashes from many little devils.

 "Hey, what happened to the hell you showed me?”

 "What, the one with the beach?" asks St. Peter.


 "Oh, that was just the demo."






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