Why your Product demo should become a movie.

Lokesh Kannan
6 min readJan 2, 2023

I am sure there are people who wake up in the morning, go to work and make movies for a living but who makes movies at work?

Pre-sales engineers do!

You’ll usually see these creatures at work tagging with the sales team and giving long and boring product demonstrations to potential prospects who are tiny screens inside a Zoom screen on their device screen, phew! These are the people that miss a dentist’s appointment, go home late to their kid’s birthday parties, forget their anniversary, have their lunch quickly in their cubicle (do they build cubicles anymore?) because their buddies in sales always find a way to circumvent their calendar and magically squeeze product demos and presentations in between.

If you are a pre-sales engineer or know one, here is a quick revelation for them. While most often, these engineers /consultants spend time giving product demo to prospects, they are actually the very few people that get a chance to direct movies for a living almost everyday at work.

I’ve been in tech sales for almost 8 years now and for most of my life, I’ve always had a pre-sales engineer help me with delivering great demos and close sales over million dollars. Time to confess, I was one of those greedy ass sales people that bombarded engineers with way too many demos than they can handle in a day.

They say that life is a boomerang and Karma is a “Potato”. Yes, the universe decided to send me back what I had put into it earlier. I joined a startup almost a year ago and doing end to end sales besides selling nuke codes to the Dalai Lama, negotiating out of a shark attacks, sending emails to dead people and occasionally work 1380 hours/ week on an average.

In the last year, I’ve almost spent more than 500+ hours in personally doing demo’s and listening to others, getting feedback from customers and colleagues. I realised that product demo’s are very similar to movies because you are running the demo, choosing the right screens, and setting the narrative. If a demo can be a short movie, then why not use the format of a movie to do a demo?

Format : The 3 Act story structure:

The 3 act story structure is the most common technique of telling a story, used by directors and scriptwriters across the world. All the great cinema that we love has the 3 act story structure to it.

In a 45 minute demo session that I run, I follow the 3 major steps.

Act 1 : The Setup

The Setup phase is usually the first part of the demo and basically people spend more time doing the small talk and introduce themselves. Its okay to create lighter moments and get to know people personally but the movie audience don’t like to see the credits roll up as the movie starts so save the small talk and start right ahead. Make it clear that you mean business.

Do your discovery well:

Use the first 15 minutes of the call to introduce your villain, which in this case is the pain points that your prospects face. Ask them lots of questions specifically about their challenges and how it affects them / their team. When you identify a pain point that your product solves, don’t interrupt and say that you can help them or smile bright, dont give away — Let your product do the talking and build that suspense. Your calm demeanour as the prospects speak builds a good expectation about the demo.

A good setup session can last anywhere between 12- 15 minutes.

Act 2 : Confrontation

Now that you know what your audience expect, use the next 20–25 minutes to your advantage. Start with the narration. Use the same words as your audience describe their pain points with and start your product tour.

Share your screen, talk a little bit and tease with your product. Talk a little bit about why this product is going to be the hero that beats the villain. Show the most important screens (features in your product)

Know your screens:

Use the Pareto principle and follow the rule of 80:20, which is 80% of your users always use 20% of your product features or 80% of your customers spend most of their time working out of a single screen in your product (E.g : a C level user may work only from the Dashboard )

Get this data from your product team and use them to your advantage. Know which features are important and depending on the user persona, be ready to dynamically alter the product page / features you show.

Aesthetics:

The best feedback I have ever received from a prospect during a demo is to keep my demo instance clean and relevant. This is gold.

Make sure your demo instance is always organised and looks like an actual working portal than just a demo screen. It inspires lots of confidence in the viewers about your product and more importantly, it prevents your audience from wandering inside their minds about why do they see something irrelevant like a “Test task” or a “ demo purpose”, ” sample” etc.

One more point worth mentioning is to organize your browser bookmarks properly in a folder. I have seen so many demo’s where the engineer would have saved Youtube, Netflix or Facebook bookmarks and it sometimes make me think about the recent Netflix series I’ve been binge watching instead of listening to the presenter. Please, please organise your bookmarks.

Source: Google

Keep your demo instance very clean. A good movie has a great cinematography and it avoids distraction at all cost.

Wow moments:

Create the best moments by intelligently showing how your product solves their products. A good movie has so many wow moments and so should your solutioning.

Act 3: Resolution:

One of my VP’s used to tell me all the time to give back people their time. They’ll love you for that. Don’t overrun the demo time and make the audience impatient to leave. They are already thinking of preparing for the next meeting in their mind.What a great perspective of things.

So use the last 5 minutes of your presentation to talk about next steps. Ask quick feedback from the user, set up your next meeting or introduce your Sales point of contact.

In short,

Hope this article was helpful. If you are a pre sales engineer, Sales engineer, CEO or anyone who has to give a product tour effectively — Try this method and let me know how it worked for you.

Happy Directing!

All the best and wish you a very happy new year 2023. Cheers!

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