Presentation tips · Strategy

What is the best way to prepare and present a demo to a potential B2B client?

Javier Solorzano Founder at Elektet

May 12th, 2015

assume customer wants to see: a roadmap for the startup, how the website works, and how it will be valuable for the client. It sounds like a sales pitch. The time slot for this demo is one hour. I am interested in ways to prepare for these requests along and how to organize the presentation/demo from start to finish. 

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

May 13th, 2015

This is an old fashioned methodology designed for the days when travelling to the client was expensive and the only pre-work you could do was a brochure. Think again.

They always say that the best work in a meeting is done outside the room. The meeting itself is only where you ratify the deals done elsewhere. Adopt this as your strategy. And use the modern methods.

You have multiple people at your client, all with different needs, concerns and goals. Identify them. Use the forthcoming meeting as a chance to find out what each one wants from the meeting, and from your product. Send them links, useful background reading, ideas etc. and get their feedback to agree what it can do for them. Get them on side as your evangelist in the meeting.

Pre-send the demo - which should include a video, an interactive "you do this, then this" and an FAQ list. Encourage them to add their own questions in advance - promise you will answer at the meeting. Who cares how the website works - if it matters it should have been well enough designed that how it works is obvious.
People buy "people like them". Way beyond the facts, they want to see how this stuff plays out in real life. So show them how it works in practice with real clients - if you haven't got any, then show them your customer research, your target sectors and Use cases for each.
Work out some financials too - how do clients get ROI, how quickly and how safely.
Then minimise risk - show why it is a safe option.
Cover competitors. Don't pretend they don't exist. Create a tickbox chart, a financial costs and returns, a problems solved comparison and a Gartner segment (it doesn't actually have to be from Gartner).

All in advance.

Now when you get to the meeting it can be all about action. What are the next steps, how do we work together. Build momentum up to the commitment.

Now this is the client strategy. 

For investors, there is one addition. What's in it for them. Show how the deal progresses - seed to A to B. Show how they make returns at each stage. Justify your valuation. Make your equity for cash pitch. And show them the team, progression planning, resilience built in (what happens if someone leaves).

Ed Jeffers MD at EDGE +

May 13th, 2015

Go right to the source Watch his video on you tube and you will be alright. Guy is the master. Ed Jeffers Regards, Ed Jeffers 0404 835 176

Lonnie Sciambi

May 13th, 2015


Great advice from Peter, especially about "outside the room.".  It's all about preparation. Let me add some thoughts.

Before you start, know your audience, who will be in room, their backgrounds, etc. Do in-depth searches on each and the company.  Make the meeting about them, not about you or your product.  Spend a lion's share of the meeting understanding their unique requirements, issues and problems. As Peter, suggested, if you can get these ahead of time, you can prepare a pitch that is totally about meeting those unique requirements, issues and problems, head on.with your solution.

Finally, don't try to do too much.  No "drinks from a fire hose." They don't need to know everything about your solution; initially, only what's relevant. If your solution fits, you'll be back.  Remember, selling is about creating relationships. You don't propose on the first date!

Hope this helps.

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

May 13th, 2015

I'm not so sure it is such great advice.   If they are asking what the benefits to the client are - they are unlikely to invest a lot of time in running the demo and often a stock demo will lead to a misunderstanding of the value proposition.

I agree about finding out who the persons in the meeting are going to be and what their needs are,  as well as others whom they work with (nothing sells better than a solution that can help them help a co-worker making them look good).

but I'd be careful about the "roadmap for the company" - if they are a customer, it means they are concerned about your long term viability.  OTOH if they are an investor, then your value prop needs to be generalized to the market

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

May 13th, 2015

There are different stages of demo, Karl. 
The bespoke demo uses the client's own data and is designed to show exactly how good the fit is between client and your company. It should lead to a strong discussion on who is responsible for what, whether a pilot is required etc.and be the final stage before the documents are signed. But to get there you have to go through the arms and legs demo first - the one which uses your data and shows that you have something to offer - enough for them to give you the data to do the bespoke.

We're a long way from that here. We're basically at first sales pitch. The binary isn't between bespoke and stock demo, it is between salespitch and demo. The more you can do through connecting with the employees you've been given access to, the better the fit which can be demonstrated. And you never know, it could even happen that one of the people you talk to says - come and talk to us and we'll give you some of our data so we can do something more useful to us.

Now that's a buying signal.

Ed Jeffers MD at EDGE +

May 13th, 2015

You have 13 seconds to get their attention, 13 minutes to hold their attention and don`t tell them more than you have to. Ask open ended questions to start or better yet submit them before the meeting and ask for the answers and then stick to those issues specifically and do not offer up any more unless asked. Remember with those number the audience retention rate is around 30% if its not Friday afternoon. So make the point and sit down, they will take care of the rest and avoid feature dumps at all cost. Last and by far not least, do your homework know who is in the room and think about how you can affect their personal wins. Good luck! Regards, Ed Jeffers 0404 835 176

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

May 15th, 2015

This thread is an epic gold mine.

I'm right there with ya Javier!  I've got about 10 people that want to see proposals and I keep stalling because -- borrowing from Lonnie -- I don't want to drink the firehose with any one customer.

I'm still working on it, but I can echo and accept that listening is a real skill/art!  It means knowing when to pause, how to ask great open-ended questions that get a lot of information from the customer.  I think again here, there's a balance I've found which is to keep most of my conversations not about business; I'm trying to develop relationships with these people.

I think anyone asking "how does this benefit us" is probably a red flag kind of question which means negotiations need to go backward, not forward (and usually I've found this means there's a conflict or misalignment for the value prop and what they want to pay for).  Minimizing my time on conversations that don't go anywhere is a big money saver, literally!  I've gotten so much better at being respectful for people that aren't my customer while simultaneously acknowledging that we're not a fit, and that feels great and is the sort of textbook stuff we read about striving for.

Another pitfall that's recently come on my radar is that not everyone wants to pay you for what *you* want to build.  Take, for example, a UX testing service that a colleague recently announced.  I totally want to chew his ear off about looking at my product since I know he can give great feedback (that's what he's selling).  Still, it would degrade his value proposition to yield to my convenience in this matter.  I think any worthwhile customer is going to respect how you want to do business if you are producing reasonable value for them.

The rest of it depends on the business/product/service.  For me, doing business is handing people the goods (in my case it's data) and swiping their credit card.  I want the experience of initial sales to be that simple.  I'm hoping (and it's frightening since I basically have to say no to a lot of people and go dark in a lot of ways) that all this work I'm putting in is going to pay off and once the technology is built I can quickly get a few accounts started.  I'm too used to getting harassed by recruiters and people wanting to use my technical skills, but perhaps there's a balance I haven't yet struck.

Pleased to exchange notes, looking to learn!

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

May 16th, 2015

Javier how did you get invited to pitch given that your presence is...well not! Are you in planning phase for this eventuality or is this a live issue?

I was goibg to say that your client would have looked at your website but that doesn't work so we have to assume you are going in cold. Being an old school sales guy I still advocate that people buy you, then your company and finally your product in that order. You have to have a pretty stellar proposition to overcome objections to the first two.

Knowledge of the customer and their recent activity/wins is a crucial piece of evidence for you but don;t play them back in your presentation verbatim. Use public information to understand their strategy and competition and look for synergies with your own business "Like you, we..." is always an empathetic position as long as you check back that your understanding is correct. So your presentation starts with your company as it relates to them and not the life story. They want to know you have the capability and interest to service their business and your going to still be around when they need you. Risk of a new vendor is a major issue for most companies.

As others have said, know your audience, their recent past and current responsibilities so that you can reflect those in the tone of the meeting and know who you are pitching what to. I once saw a company pitch almost entirely to a junior marketeer who was there for the experience because that is where they got the most feedback from. It will also determine how technical your presentation is and the balance with business payback.

I would;t send a demo. Ever. You will make the assumption that everyone has looked at it and probably no one will have. Disaster. If they try to use it and it didn't work you are already on the back foot. If its a video then put it on the website and invite them to view but don;t assume they have. You can conduct a simple poll on the day.

The first part of your demo is to confirm their interests. I once experienced a product manager say to a group CEO "I;m going to show you this because it's really cool" to which the CEO replied "We aren't interested in that" and the PM responded with "Well I brought it with me so I might as well show you". It got ugly. Now there is a place for this once you have dealt with the bulk of the presentation and the questions and objections and assuming everything went well. You say something like "If you have time we have been working on something that I think might interest you" Everyone wants a glimpse into the tent, a peek under the kimono as it were so showing a component of something not in their direct interest and set up the sense of a collaborative relationship. Never show everything that is way off in terms of its use or delivery though. 

So your demo should sell the team and the company, show the alignment between your product(s) and their confirmed needs and throw in a positive surprise at the end. Don't forget to close...

Javier Solorzano Founder at Elektet

May 17th, 2015

Thank you Steve for the details! I really like your suggestion to find what I have in common with the client and incorporate that in the demo. The client does not want to have to connect the dots. I have to do that for them. They want to clearly visualize and understand how I will provide value without them having to think. It is about painting a picture for them that includes us with them working together and successfully helping them achieve their goals. 

To answer your question about this being a live issue, yes this is a live issue. You are correct. We do not have a website. The beta site is due to be released on June 1st; however, we have received some great media attention on EE Times and other online magazines that has helped spread the word about what we are working on. We also have a crowd speaking campaign page( HeadTalker) where we are encouraging anyone that wants this website to be built to support us. All of this combined has caught the attention of potential partners. 

We did not expect to demo our website before the beta version was released, but it is exciting to be asked to do so. Our original plan ( still is) was to release a beta version of our website to the world and focus on user/engineer validation. Essentially a lean startup philosophy with a feedback loop that consists of build, measure, and learn. We want to make sure the features on our website add value to the engineers designing electronics. 

I appreciate the suggestions Steve. Extremely helpful. 

Rob G

May 15th, 2015


you are getting some very solid advice here from what appear to be experienced sales people. without knowing what you are selling and to whom it's tough to offer more than generalizations.  This isn't something you will master overnight and your process will likely change over time.  A few clarifications/additions/tactics:

1. if you truly have just 60 minutes in front of these people then your 'demo' time will likely be around 40 minutes or less depending on how you elect to handle questions and objections: address them as they come up OR acknowledge them, write them down and cover them all at one time at the end.  Demo time is also affected by how much upfront work you have done prior to the demo. 

2. Bring at least 1 other person along with you to the demo and preferably on your 'needs analysis' meetings/skype calls as well.  Try not to have more people in the room than your prospect does.  When you are in the middle of a demo there are simply too many balls in the air at one time for one person to juggle. Even if the person you bring along knows little about your product they can still relieve you of important tasks so you can focus on more important tasks.  This person can:
A) keep track of time
B) capture questions and responses - write them down and who asked and make sure they are answered even if the answer comes after the demo - can be a good opportunity for more face time in a follow up meeting/skype call.
C) monitor audience feedback (you want to know who is jotting notes, who is scowling or shaking their head, who is not paying attention, who is smiling, who appears to be the leader in the groups,, etc. 
D) a second set of ears regarding questions and objections to be sure you understand them. When you are in a demo you are often too focused on YOUR message and often don't/can't hear the real essence of a question or objection.  questions and objections tell you a TON so it is vital that you soak up every detail. 
** i can't over emphasize how important a second or third set of eyes and ears is.   

3.  when you get questions and objections make absolutely sure that you understand the question/objection.  Never hurts to bounce the question back to the person in your own words to be sure you are on the same page before you answer.  Objection handling is an art to it's own, but the basics are: 
A. be sure you understand what the REAL objection is in addition to the expressed objection - they are often 2 different things.
B.  Don't argue or get defensive.
C. if you don't have a good answer right there then acknowledge the objection and offer to address it in detail one-on-one if you can. 
D. Understand that often times an objection is mealy an attempt for the person to show off in the meeting and/or to show that they are smarter than you.  Developers (technical buyers) are famous for this in demos.  Don't try to go toe-to-toe with them.  Lots more on objection handling than we have time for here, but try to anticipate objections and formulate some answers before the demo.  This is where a second and third set of eyes and ears in a meeting can be invaluable.  If you have a champion already in the account then ask them who is likely to offer technical objections and financial objections and suggestions on how to handle them. 

4. Buying influences:  it is unlikely that just 1 person will make the buying decision.  At the very least you will have a technical buyer (this person decides if your technology is compatible with their's, security, training, implementation support, etc.), an 'economic buyer' (who is focused on how your solution makes them money or saves them money), an executive sponsor (will make the recommendation to the ultimate decision maker(s) - they are the one who is spearheading the overall initiative if not running the eval process, and you will have one or more "user buyers" - super users or team leads who will implement and use your solution.  They all have different needs and questions. be sure you understand each of them. 
5. Champion:  you can almost always find/build a champion in the account - someone who wants to see you win and who will help you win. If nothing else they can provide you will guidance and feedback as to process, influencers, pitfalls, status, etc.  Put effort into building this relationship early and often and try to find/build 2 champions if you can. 
6.  don't rely on just one source for the answers to important questions.  
7. demo tactics:
A. "tell em what you are going to show them, show them, tell them what you showed them":  summary overview, mid-level details, a few low-level details, high-level wrap up summary, Q&A, next steps. 
B. don't get lost in the weeds!  
1. High level summary first so each person knows that you plan to show what they came to see.  Before you drop down into lower details, ask the audience if there is any general subject that they want to see that you didn't cover in your "Here's what i'm going to show you" overview.  This keeps the inevitable "what about this" questions to a minimum.
2. be selective in the details that you show.  you don't need to show every function.  Typically it is best to just point to a menu item and say "and here you can do this...".  If something is of particular interest they will ask you for more detail. 
3. People get lost in demos.  use secondary visuals where you can to keep them on track - perhaps a whiteboard or secondary presentation page/screen that you can refer back to that "checks off" the important items as you go along:  "ok, we said we were going to cover these 8 topics, we've finished these 3, now onto #4.  any questions before we move on? ...."

8.  Try to listen and ask questions as much or more than you talk.  constantly elicit feedback - "how are we doing for time?" , " is this too much detail or not enough", "did that address your question?", "what do you think, does that solve the xyz problem that we have listed here on the white board?" (check it off so they have a visual that you addressed their issue), etc.
9. use open issues as an opportunity for more face time. 
10.  close for follow up:  don't just leave the demo with 'ok, let us know'.  
11.  If you get solid buying signals then shut up and and stop demoing. focus on the transaction. If you don't get strong buying signals then probe for why and move for more 1 on 1 time or group time.  If you are getting 'no' signals then probe for why right then - be professional about it.  If you wait until you leave the room you won't get the detailed feedback that will help you overcome the objections or win the next deal. 
In about 5-6 years of doing this every week you will have it nailed.  In the mean time you can reference "Strategic Selling by Miller and Hayman (sp?)". Good luck, let us know how it goes.