(Sales) Book Review: Demonstrating to Win! by Robert Riefstahl

Last week I purchased Demonstrating to Win!: An Indispensable Guide to Demonstrating Software. Now this book has more to do with tactics on putting on a brilliant dog-n-pony show then it does with influence or persuasion. Nonetheless I thought it worth reviewing for my readers who sell software or sell high-tech products for that matter.

Riefstahl’s book is a great overview of the dos and don’ts of doing a software demonstration. As a past software engineer who’s had to do them, I found his ideas, strategies and stories to be right on the money. I felt transported back to those good ole days of lugging around a computer and a projector that weighed over 50lbs at the time. I know, I’m dating myself! 🙂

In the opening chapter the author asks a key question, “What’s an effective demonstration?” He answers the question by first defining what it isn’t; a data dump of features. Riefstahl understands that too often engineers, technicians or geeks for that matter are product narcissist; they’re in love with their own product. The problem? They assume everyone they show the product (software) to will feel the same way. That erroneous assumption has killed many software sales presentations.

Reifstahl provides a few simple to use worksheets throughout the book to help prepare and guide the presenter before the day of the presentation. A ‘Demonstration Attendee Checklist’ form that you can use forces you to really ask:

1) Who are the people who will be attending the software presentation?
2) What are their primary responsibilities?
3) And what 3 things of interest would they like to see in the presentation?

One of the most important concepts introduced in the book is that of ‘Bridge-Building’ (i.e., bridging the mental gap between how your prospect performs their job today and how they’ll perform it using your software in the future). This is my opinion is the number one reason many people don’t buy software. Fear of not knowing how a new software package is going to work out is often the cause of why many companies who know they need to change won’t change.

The key to selling software, aside from doing what the prospect needs today and tomorrow, is to give them the comfort level that the implementation and change-over won’t be as tough as they’re imagining it to be. In Chapter 3 the author discusses different strategies for building trust, diffusing anxiety and breaking down resistance.

In Chapter 4 titled “The Demo Crime Files”, Riefstahl outlines and describes 28 mistakes most software presenters make that can cause a sale to go south and ideas on how to overcome them in future presentations. Don’t be surprised in you find yourself saying what I caught myself saying, “Yep, that happened to me also!”

Lastly, Riefstahl has some great stories about his personal experiences which give color and shape to many of the ideas he professes in his book. If you’re an engineer, technician or self-proclaimed geek who works with salespeople and are required to do software presentations, I highly recommend this book.

Victor Antonio, Sales Influence


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