How to Present an Effective Demo

Oftentimes, the product demo is the final step to closing the deal. You have already invested time talking with your clients about the features and benefits of and now they want to see it in action. However, before you offer (or get sucked into) a demonstration of you will want to make sure that your goals and their expectations are clearly aligned. Your target audience should be the decision-makers in the company and not necessarily the team that processes the work. Make it clear that your presentation will be a product demonstration and is not intended to be a training session. Provide assurance that training will be provided as part of the engagement.

The presentation should be designed to support your overall sales process. If your plans are to incorporate into your client accounting service as a tool, your demo should be a high-level overview that highlights the main features and ease of use for the end user. If you plan to resell or recommend the product, you may want to dive a bit deeper but should still stay out of the weeds. Remember, the demo is your opportunity to show them the “wow,” not the “how.”


A product demonstration should be a live performance with a well-written script, preparation and practice. Improv demonstrations, like comedy routines, may get a lot of laughs but don’t necessarily deliver the intended message – and may leave a lot of unanswered questions. Taking the time to fully prepare will help you stay on track and ensure you cover all your bases. Of course, leaving time for questions is always encouraged and should be part of the plan.

Create a Demo Account

If you are a member of the Accountant Program you can create unlimited demo accounts from within your console, as shown in Figure 1. If you do not have a console or you are a first-time user, you can sign up for a demo account on the website. Each demo account is pre-populated with a small amount of data, limited to bills and invoices, and have limited functionality. For example, they do not support the ability to process payments. Because of this limitation you will not be able to show payment confirmations or cleared check images. I find this to be a critical part of every demo so I would suggest creating a few PowerPoint slides with screenshots from an actual account. Account Console

Figure 1. Create demo account from console

Customize the Demo Account

The demo accounts can be customized to simulate your clients’ unique needs. If they use account numbers, classes or items when entering bills, make sure to enable those preferences in the demo account. If there are features enabled that they will not be using, such as Receivables, turn them off. For an A/P demo you should consider adding one or two of the client’s most common vendors and upload and process a few actual bills. Presenting them with familiar data gives the demo a personal touch and helps them more easily identify with the information. You can follow the same idea when demoing A/R. Home page

Figure 2. Home page of demo account

Create a Demo Persona

When presenting a demo, one of the worst things you can do is log in as the account Administrator. Having access to see and do everything puts you in danger of opening Pandora’s Box. By creating a demo persona with limited permissions, you will make it easier to stay out of the rough. To create this demo persona, create a new User Role with permission to view documents and transactions and approve only, but not manage. Add yourself as a user with an alternate email address and assign this new role.

Prepare the Script

You should create a basic script template that can be used as the foundation for all client demos. It can be a simple list of features you want to show and the order in which you want to show them. The template can then be customized to address the specific needs of each client and the audience you are presenting to. Don’t forget to point out some of the important benefits of the features. For example, you may highlight how easy it is to see who approved a bill and if they added any notes.

One area to steer clear of is attempting to demo the integration with an accounting system. Preparing a simple PowerPoint slide that explains how works with the client’s version of accounting software will be much more informative. This is easy to avoid if you are using a demo account since the integration feature is disabled.

You may also want to include some leading questions in your script that will help demonstrate how using solves some other pain points. For example, ask if anyone ever tried to find a document in the filing cabinet only to learn it was not where it belonged – or if they needed access to it while away from the office. Because most everyone has experienced this at one time or another, you are likely to get an affirmative response. This is a great way to highlight the benefit of the digital document storage and mobile access.

If mobile access is important for your client, this is a must to demo and should be written into the script. Trying to demo the app to a group from a smartphone or tablet may not be ideal, so you may want to try an alternative approach. There are apps and software such as Reflector 2 or Mirroring360 that allow you to project your mobile device onto your computer monitor or projector screen. These applications offer free trials, so they are worth looking into. Not only does this make for a much easier demo of the mobile app but your clients will think you are a magician.

Demo of iOS app using Reflector 2

Figure 3. Demo of iOS app using Reflector 2


Like any live presentation, rehearsal is a vital part of the preparation. This will help you make sure that your demo account is properly set up to support your script. Do a complete run-through and make any necessary adjustments to either the script or the demo account. This is also when you should time your presentation to make sure it fits into the time you have allotted.

Delivering the Demo

Whether you are presenting on site or via the web you want to make it a pleasant experience for everyone. Advance planning is important to ensure that you have the necessary hardware and internet access. Your presentation should be displayed so that everyone has a clear, unobstructed view. This can easily be accomplished by connecting your computer to a projector or large HDMI monitor. The last thing you want to do is present to a group of people huddled around your laptop.

Web presentations are easier to set up and you don’t need to worry about special hardware or getting everyone into a single room. In addition, this method usually makes it easier to stay on course, because attendees are less likely to interrupt. When setting up the meeting, make sure to use a service that is compatible across all operating systems and devices. Start the meeting at least five minutes in advance and suggest that all attendees log in five minutes early. This will give you time to deal with any technical issues and still stay on schedule. If people will be connecting from different locations don’t forget to provide a conference call option.

Stay the Course

Be prepared to begin on time and start your presentation when the decision-maker arrives. If other invited attendees are running late you can offer to wait, as long as you will not have to rush your presentation or cut it short.

Begin by setting the agenda for the meeting and clearly defining the purpose of the demo. Once again, remind your audience that it is a product demo only and not a training session. You should encourage attendees to ask questions but may want to consider asking them to hold them until the end. Deferring questions until the end of the presentation will mean you are less likely to get sidetracked, and in many instances the questions are answered during the demo.

Avoid Information Overload

If you have created the recommended demo persona and stuck with your script, this should not be an issue. But let’s be honest, presenting to a group of people can be a frightening experience. Even with all your preparation and good intentions, things can go wrong. Maybe you forgot the user name and password for your demo persona or left your script on the printer.

There is no need to panic. Just remember that you want to show them the “wow,” not the “how.” Focus on a completed transaction and point out the highlights. For example, you would not show them how to enter the bill and allocate it to an item and class – rather, you would show them a bill that had already been entered and point out the allocations. This also gives you an opportunity to showcase the other features, such as the attached document and approver list.

Demoing in this manner is especially important if you will be using as a tool to support your clients. When it comes to tasks that your team will be performing, you don’t want to show a client how quick and easy it may be for your team. This may lead them to think they can do it on their own and bypass your services altogether.

Control the Q&A

This is the one area that can’t be scripted, but the important thing to remember is to stay out of the weeds. You should always be prepared to answer questions about the features, ease of use and security. However, if you are presented with a question that you do not know the answer to, make sure to write it down and promise to get back to them as quickly as possible with the answer.

Avoid getting into discussions about client-specific issues, or debates about why it won’t work. If these questions do come up, offer to address them offline and provide assurance that you can offer a solution that will work.

Close the Deal

Don’t forget that every story needs an ending and you are hoping for a happy one. Because your demo is the final act in your sales process, this is your opportunity to close the deal. Be prepared to ask for the commitment with a definitive call to action.

As an example:

  • Do not ask:“Are you ready to get started?” which puts the ball in their court and could prompt a reply like “Let me see what is going on and I will get back you.”
  • Instead, you might want to say:“How does next week work for you? We can complete the setup and training and have everything fully transitioned by the end of the week.”

By presenting an assumptive call to action you are more likely to get a favorable response. Suggesting a specific date and letting them know the transition will be quick makes it easier for them to commit. If the dates you recommended do not work for them, ask them to suggest some alternates.

Leave the Sandbox Open

For those who are still on the fence, you may want to offer to let them play with the demo on their own for a few days. Offer to grant them access to view and navigate the demo account, making sure to clearly explain the limitations of both the demo account and their permissions. Schedule a follow-up call with the decision-maker within 2-3 days to try to answer any additional questions and close the deal. If you are unable to secure a commitment I strongly encourage you to delete their user access from the demo account and send them email notification.

Prepare for an Encore

Every demo performance is an opportunity to help you master your craft. Advance preparation is a vital key to help ensure that you stay in control and achieve your objective. Continuously revise your script template to incorporate new features and highlight newly found benefits that others may bring to your attention.

Before you know it, your demos will become second nature and you will be wowing your clients like a superstar.


Updated and republished with permission from The Sleeter Group’s Blog Accountex Report