Rescue – From the Tyranny of Traditional Demos

Ask yourself:

  • Have you ever felt like you have far too much to show in a demo – and insufficient time to show it?
  • Have you ever said, “I’d like this to be interactive…” but you don’t get many questions?
  • And when you ask, “Any questions so far?” you hear, “Nope, we’re good…”
  • Have you even run out of time before you got to the best stuff?
  • Have you ever felt like your audience just didn’t “get it”?

You are likely suffering from the tyranny, the terror, and the trap of traditional demos.

Join us as we explore these challenges and present intriguing, effective, and validated approaches as solutions!

About the Presenter

presales collective, customer engagement marketing, demos, demo, demos near me, customer engagement examples, presale, automation demo site, Demo Fest, user engagement | goconsensus

Peter Cohan

Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of The Second Derivative and the Great Demo! and Doing Discovery methodologies, focused on helping software organizations improve their presales, sales and marketing results – primarily through improving organizations’ demonstrations and discovery skills. He has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, business development, and as a member of the C-suite. He has also been and continues to be a prospect and a customer.

Webinar Transcript


In this webinar, Peter Cohan discusses the pitfalls of the traditional demo approach and offers alternatives for better sales results. He emphasizes the importance of standing out from the crowd and differentiating oneself by offering a unique approach. Cohan explains the three main reasons why prospects want to see a demo and provides data from over 60,000 recorded demos to demonstrate the key success factors. Furthermore, he conducts an experiment to highlight the limitations of human attention span and retention. He provides solutions to increase memory retention, such as starting with the most critical information first and dividing the demo into smaller parts with summaries at each end. Additionally, Cohan notes the value of structured discovery to understand the needs and pains of prospects while ensuring an aligned business solution. Lastly, he encourages continuous learning and development to remain a valuable asset in the market.

  • 00:00:00 The webinar begins with introductions and housekeeping items before delving into the topic of the day: rescuing from the tyranny of traditional demos. The presenter, Peter Cohan, is the founder of the Second Derivative and the Great Demo methodology, which helps software organizations improve their sales teams and marketing results through demonstration and discovery skills improvement. Participants are encouraged to participate and engage in the chat and the webinar, which will focus on alternatives to traditional demos that may yield better results in the sales cycle.
  • 00:05:00 Peter Cohan discusses the flaws of traditional demos and how they fail to improve practices. He cites Einstein’s quote about insanity being doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results and argues that it applies to the traditional demo approach. He notes that humans are prone to momentum, doing the same things over and over again, and that inertia can make it difficult to differentiate from others who continue to use traditional demos.
  • 00:10:00 Peter Cohan highlights that in order to stand out, one must differentiate from the traditional demos that the majority of the population typically fall into. He explains the innovation adoption curve and how only around 16% of the population actively seek out change and are early adopters. Cohan suggests that the webinar attendees are most likely early adopters themselves. He then goes on to explain the three main reasons prospects want to see a demo, which includes vision generation, proof of capabilities, and ease of use. Finally, the speaker discusses the downsides of traditional demos by drawing data from 67,149 recorded demos to show the key success factors.
  • 00:15:00 Peter Cohan, a demo expert, talks about the problems with traditional demos and runs an experiment to highlight the limitations of human attention span and retention. He shares that he has watched over 125 demos in the past eight months and asks the audience to pick three items from his list of what’s wrong with traditional demos. He reads out a list of words related to a demo and asks the audience to write down as many words as they can remember, later revealing that the attention retention curve indicates that people tend to remember the first two items in any unstructured list of information and that human attention span and retention are limited.
  • 00:20:00 Peter Cohan discusses the problems with traditional demos and how people’s retention of information declines as the demo progresses. He conducts an experiment to show how participants only remember a few key points and even synthesized words that were never spoken. Cohan proposes doing the last thing first and showing the most important thing upfront to solve this problem. He also suggests dividing the demo into smaller chunks and doing a summary at the end of each chunk to increase retention. Additionally, he recommends leaving space for questions, comments, and observations before moving onto the next topic.
  • 00:25:00 Peter Cohan explains how to organize information within each demo chunk and utilize the inverted pyramid technique to share the most important information first and gradually move towards less important items. By using this technique, a demo structure can be built that is away from traditional demos and resonates with potential clients, mapping to prospect and customer interest. He also discusses how qualification is done for the vendor only and can cause potential leads to churn if they are not given a vision generation demo. To avoid lead churn, the cloud above the funnel can be used. One way to provide this is through Consensus’ technology.
  • 00:30:00 Peter Cohan says unnecessary information is being shared in a traditional demo, which can result in frustration and a lack of trust in the vendor. To avoid this, a structured approach to discovery is needed to truly understand the pain and needs of the prospect. This approach should have specific destination points to ensure that both parties are aligned and that the vendor can propose a precise solution. Cohan also teases the release of his upcoming book Doing Discovery.
  • 00:35:00 Peter Cohan tells a horror story of a vendor who continued to share capabilities during a demo even though the prospect was ready to buy. As a result, the salesperson lost the sale. Cohan also talks about the need to pack as much into the time as possible during demos but cautions against doing so without forethought, as it could lead to a loss of interest from the prospect. Finally, Cohan shares an image from, which shows a classic traditional demo where the salesperson talks and talks while the prospect remains unengaged.
  • 00:40:00 Peter Cohan discusses the problems with traditional demos, which allow very little time for prospects to speak, resulting in overwhelmed prospects who may not even remember what they saw. He advises choosing the three most important things for prospects to remember and to communicate business value with tangible numbers rather than explaining how something works. Cohan also emphasizes the importance of getting the prospect’s numbers during the discovery stage and capturing deltas by asking two questions: “What is it today?” and “What would you like it to be?”
  • 00:45:00 IPeter Cohan explains the concept of “Zippy Mouse Syndrome” – a common issue during demos when the mouse movements are not smooth and deliberate. He advises using your eyes to find where you want the mouse to go and then move it smoothly. Cohan also discusses the importance of showing the daily use mode first instead of setup mode during a demo, and shares another horror story of a 90-minute demo where the first 40 minutes were spent on setup mode that the viewers wouldn’t even need to do. He suggests showing setup mode later on for those who need it, like system administrators. Finally, he talks about the use of wizards in demos and advises to show only what is necessary to execute the task instead of demonstrating all the features.
  • 00:50:00 Peter Cohan asserts that many SEs are good at what they do, but in reality, they’re not as good as they think. This is the point of maximum danger because you may be overconfident in your abilities and stop seeking improvement. However, as you continue to learn and grow, your confidence level may actually decrease before ultimately reaching a true level of expertise. The key takeaway is that there is always room for improvement, and without ongoing training and coaching, you may become stagnant or even regress in your abilities.
  • 00:55:00 Peter Cohan discusses the drawbacks of traditional demos and the need for improvement. He quotes Einstein’s definition of insanity and urges the audience to continue learning and improving. He directs the audience to resources for guidance on Great Demo! and provides his contact information for further questions. When asked about the solution for asking prospects to ask questions throughout the demo, Cohan emphasizes the importance of training the audience and creating a conversation with customers. He also suggests prioritizing and quantifying business issues to help customers self-qualify which one is most important. Priorities should always be tied to actual business goals.