The Minimum Viable Demo

11 minute read

Today, buyers and vendors are struggling to complete all of the tasks on their hectic agendas. When evaluating software, buyers are considering a number of options to solve their unique business needs and challenges but just don't have the time to see everything at once. Software buyers are shopping around between vendors eager to learn about different offerings and determine the best fit. They want to get their eyes on a product but don't have excess time to commit to lengthy product tours.

How do you deliver an excellent, yet concise demo that resonates with a prospect while keeping them focused and engaged?

The Minimum Viable Demo is a framework to help presales and demo teams deliver crisp but impactful product overviews for prospects looking to learn more about a given solution.

What is a minimum viable demo?

Like its namesake the Minimum Viable Product, the Minimum Viable Demo is a concept designed to help sales engineers collect actionable feedback, quickly. The Minimum Viable Demo is intended to satisfy a prospect's request to see working product functionality while staying within a set time bound to maintain focus and encourage a follow-up conversation. It is a first pass at a product in a lightweight, digestible format to showcase the base set of functionality required to get a prospect excited and engaged. The end goal of an effective Minimum Viable Demo is to spark interest and continued dialogue around a product or specific feature area.

In evaluating what a Minimum Viable Demo is, it is also essential to consider what the framework is not. First, it is not a rushed product demo. The goal is to carefully build a select feature set that will be most impactful for a designated prospect. This will be a smaller subset of the many features your product offers. Next, it is not a full product tour. It is a lightweight, high-level overview of a set number of features that will lead to a deeper conversation down the road. Expectations need to be clearly set upfront to outline this key differentiator. Lastly, the Minimum Viable Demo actually showcases working product functionality. Teams stressing the "minimum" part while excluding the "viable" part will not see impactful results to measure prospect engagement and prompt follow up discussions. To deliver a "viable" experience, sellers must provide continuity between working features woven together by a common and compelling story.

Feature Overload

When showcasing the product for the first time, prospects don't want to be inundated with features. Modern software solutions can be incredibly complex often with dozens (or sometimes hundreds!) of features. The bells and whistles are valuable nice-to-haves, but are never the driver for a purchasing decision.

Prospects want to see your product. It is the reason they join the demo call in the first place. They have made the commitment in their schedule to set aside time in their busy day to learn about your solution. However, no one wants to learn about every facet of your product.

In developing the basis for a Minimum Viable Demo, it is important to first break down the product into discrete features that are substantial enough to warrant their own section in the allotted time for a demo.

To craft the best Minimum Viable Demo for your prospect, you must first learn about their business needs and feature interests. Reading your prospect on the demo call to determine interest and needs is a critical skill that the best sellers can master. This typically will come in the form of asking a series of cascading and tailored questions to gauge the prospect's use case and level of interest.

However, not all sellers are able to fully read a prospect in this short period of time. New employees getting ramped up to a product or sellers supporting a quickly evolving solution may not have this domain knowledge luxury. There are other means of gauging and validating prospect feature interest prior to a product demo:

  • Demo Scheduling Forms: A common tactic to collect data on a prospect's business alignment and feature interest is to capture this information at the time of demo booking. Embedded web forms and integrated calendar tools make this process especially easy
  • Pre-Demo Surveys: A simple survey sent out 1-2 business days prior to a product demo can be an effective tool to facilitate this knowledge collection process. However, this request for information requires time that the prospect might not have and can ultimately harm the health of the deal.
  • Self-Guided Product Overviews: Prior to the demo call, share a self-service product tour for your prospect to explore. Unlike survey and forms, a self-service option with integrated engagement tracking provides actual data on features your prospect wants to learn more about. This option enables prospects to "tell" you what they want to see without ever saying anything at all.

The Battle For Prospect Mindshare

Now that you have collected input from the prospect and prioritized the feature set to showcase, it's time for demo delivery. In crafting the right Minimum Viable Demo for your prospective buyer, timing is everything. Showcasing the correct features in an impactful order requires careful timing and preparation.

Let's start with timing. Prospect attention spans are not long. The average adult attention span is half of what is was a decade ago (Selling Power). This shift has only magnified in a virtual-first selling world. Distractions are everywhere and available at the sound of a push notification. This means that the Slack notification your prospect is getting during the middle of your demo call will probably lead to lost focus during the remainder of the conversation. Capturing prospect mindshare is a challenge that sales teams need to overcome and is the genesis of the Minimum Viable Demo.

The modern adult human is expected to have roughly a 7-minute attention span (2Connect).d As a seller, you have roughly a 7-minute window to share your demo highlights before your prospect becomes disengaged with the material. While every product is different depending on vertical and customer-type, the Minimum Viable Demo follows this 7-minute rule. Generally speaking, this is the right time frame to fully utilize captured attention and capitalize on excitement and intrigue.

You might now be thinking, there is no way we can demo our solution in 7-minutes - and you are absolutely right! Remember, the Minimum Viable Demo is not a full product demo. It is designed to get your prospect excited and interested enough to move on to the next stage in the sales process. It is then when you can move ahead with a deeper product dive.

In 7-minutes how can you share a product overview that is comprehensive yet concise?

This is where preparation is key. Having a well-groomed backlog of prioritized features that is adaptable and flexible based on the prospect type and profile is essential when it comes time to pick and choose what is included the demo and what is left out. It's time to leave some features on the cutting room floor.

Feature ROI

Once you have collected the data on the prospect, it's time to triage features. The sales engineer must calculate the opportunity cost and projected payoff of each feature they plan on showcasing to the prospect. The opportunity cost of reviewing the feature is crucial because in a limited time window, reviewing Feature A may mean that Feature D will not get any spotlight. There is also an associated opportunity cost of a impactful product insight (a "wow" moment) that Feature D may have produced.

Turning to the return, the payoff is an estimated calculation of the value the prospect will receive from that feature overview. Simply speaking, how can you fit multiple "wow" moments into a brief, 7-minute product tour while still narrating a compelling and consistent story arch relevant to your prospect’s unique business case. Again, the goal of the Minimum Viable Demo is to excite your prospect to gain future interest and follow up.

minimum viable demo

A way to visualize your feature overview strategy is to create a mental pyramid where each layer is a discrete product feature. At the top of the pyramid is the feature that, based on input from the prospect, will capture attention and provide the largest "wow" return based on relevancy to your prospect's role or business vertical. As you move down the layers of the pyramid, prioritization decreases due to a diminishing return for the time spent.

Once you have built the feature overview pyramid, slice off the top. These are the features that will fit into the ~7-minute window and will drive your prospect to want to learn more. This is the basis for constructing the Minimum Viable Demo.

A Stepping Stone

To reiterate, the goal of the Minimum Viable Demo is to provide prospects with an engaging introduction to your product. It enables your potential buyer to take a quick look into the power of your platform and prompts them to want to learn more about how your solution can be used to solve their unique business challenges. This quick taste gets prospects excited and eager to dive deeper into the solution.

On the vendor side, you are saving time to focus on higher value, qualified initiatives. If we follow the 7-minute rule, you can showcase about 4 demos in the time of a typical 30-minute product tour. Compound this and you are looking at real savings for your sales team.

In closing, the Minimum Viable Demo is a powerful sales tool to showcase immediate value, drive future prospect engagement, and save valuable selling hours.


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