Software Buying Tips

How To Prepare For Your Software Demo

By | 8 min read | Published
Topics you may want to discuss with vendors before seeing their demos:

Don’t save your questions: Get the most out of your software demo by asking your pressing questions beforehand.

Scheduling software demos means you’ve already done the legwork of pinpointing your business challenge, defining your software goal and requirements, researching the options, and narrowing down your search to a shortlist of no more than five products. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to selecting and investing in a new software product for your business.

The software demo is a crucial step in your software buying journey that will allow you to see the platform in action, which will help you make more meaningful comparisons between the products. It will also give you a better understanding of the software vendor, the support they’re able to provide, and whether they are a good fit for your team.

While the software demo is a great opportunity to get to know the software vendor better, it doesn’t have to be the very first interaction you share. By talking with the software vendor before demo day, you can break the ice, share information about your business, and ask the pressing questions you likely already have.

5 things you should discuss with software vendors before the demo

When it comes to buying software, don’t be shy about asking questions as they come up. Prepare for your software demo by considering these five topics you may want to discuss with vendors before seeing their demos.

1

Your business’s goals

Before the demo, the software vendor should have an idea of who you are (e.g., project manager, business owner, department lead, etc.), what your business is, and what you’re hoping to achieve by investing in new software.

If the software vendor knows beforehand how many people will be using the platform, for what purposes, the challenges you anticipate, and what other platforms you’re already using, they will be able to cater the software demo even more to your specific business needs.

💡 Are you looking for a software partner or a software vendor?

Talking with the software vendor beforehand will also help you see how willing the software vendor is to listen to your goals, needs, and concerns, which may indicate the quality of their customer support.

If a company isn’t willing to listen to you and work with you before you invest in their product, what do you think support will be like after you’ve committed to their product? This is especially important if you are looking for a software partner, rather than a vendor.

2

Product functionality

At this stage, you’ve already researched the demo platform’s functionality and capabilities, but you might have specific questions related to ease of use, integrations, key features, and customization opportunities.

Some questions may include:

  • What will the learning curve look like for my team?
  • How intuitive is the product for new users?
  • What does the user interface look like?
  • How does this product handle being integrated with other platforms? Will I need a third-party integration tool?
  • Can this product be customized?

Things such as customization and integration will probably also be covered in the demo, but if these, or anything else, are essential to your business, consider asking about them before the demo to make sure the product will do everything you need it to.

💡 List your feature requirements

During the demo, the software vendor will likely run through the basics of the platform, and the “best” features the software offers. While these will be helpful, they may not cover everything you would need to see.

Consider giving the software vendor a list of features you want covered in the demo to ensure a more catered demo experience and to see those important features in action.

3

Total cost

When buying software, businesses sometimes commit to a product thinking they know the costs, only to quickly realize the hidden costs and fees add up. One way to avoid going over budget is to discuss costs early on with the software vendor.

When it comes to cost, think about the total cost of ownership: How much does it cost to purchase, implement, and maintain software?

Cost components include:

  • Software license: Do you pay once to use the software, or is it a subscription? Is it on-premise or cloud-based?
  • Hardware: What additional technology or devices do you need to use or run the software?
  • Implementation: Are you implementing the software yourself or will the vendor? Is the price of implementation included? If not, how much does it cost, and what services will it include? How much time will it take to set up the software?
  • Training: How will your business receive training (online, in-person, at your business, at a distant location)? What will training include and involve? How many people can be trained? Does the cost of training include a one-time occurrence, or does it also include future new hires?
  • Support: After the software is implemented, how will the vendor provide long term support? Is customer support included or an additional cost? What avenues of support are available to clients (online chat, phone support, or forums)?

Be sure to also ask the vendor about pricing tiers, what each one includes, and which functionalities are sold separately. Check your list of must-have features and see if those features are automatically included or if they require additional charges.

💡 Know how much you’ll spend

No one likes surprise costs. Use Capterra’s total cost of ownership calculator here to keep track of costs and know what you’ll pay before you commit to a product.

4

Training and support

The last thing you want is to select a platform that seems perfect for your business during the demo, only to find out that the software vendor doesn’t offer adequate training and support. Without training and support, your business may struggle to implement and use the software.

It never hurts to start the conversation about training and support as early as before the demo. Ask the software vendor what training and support services they offer and whether these services are already included in the price or if they cost extra.

Consider also asking how many people can participate in the training, how accessible support is (24/7 or only during working hours), how training will be received (online, in-person, on-premise, or at a different location), and which avenues of support are offered (live chat, forums, phone support).

Also, keep in mind that it is not in the software vendor’s best interest to say the company’s training and support are awful, if that is the case. Always verify what salespeople say through reviews written by clients.

💡 Include the people who will be using the software

At every stage, you should involve the people who will be using the software for their work. Before talking to the software vendor about training and support services, first talk with the employees who will use the platform.

Ask them what their concerns are, how comfortable they are with using new technology, and how they would prefer to receive training and support. Once you know the needs of the team, take them to the software vendor to make sure they can be accommodated.

5

Data security

Cyberattacks and data breaches can be costly in ways that are both tangible and intangible.

According to Gartner, the financial impact of cyber-physical system (CPS) attacks on businesses is expected to cross $50 billion by 2023. While larger businesses may be able to recover from this, many smaller businesses won’t be able to afford these repercussions, and even if they do, they would have to work to gain back consumer trust.

Your business may already have a cybersecurity incident response plan, but when using software, you have to make sure the vendor in question takes data security seriously too.

Data security should be an ongoing conversation between you and the software vendor. Before committing to their product, know what kind of security and protections the vendor has in place for its databases, how it will protect your information and that of your customers, what their cybersecurity incident response plan is (i.e., how you would be notified of a breach), and if they are in compliance with applicable local data privacy laws.

💡 Be in the know

It never hurts to research the software vendor company before investing your business’s money (and data). Have they ever experienced a data breach before? If they have, while it is not necessarily a deal breaker, it may be a red flag. Pay extra close attention to how they dealt with the cybersecurity incident and what they put into place for protection as a result.

Also, it’s important to ask the questions: How did they respond? Were they transparent and honest with their clients? Did they give their clients the information they needed to notify their own clients and take steps to protect themselves? What additional security measures have they put into place since?

Get the most out of your software demos

By connecting with the software vendor and asking your pressing questions ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up to get the most out of your software demo.

Demos are just the beginning of interacting with software vendors, and it can be overwhelming. Keep a list of the features and services handy so you don’t lose sight of what’s most important to your business and what you’re willing to compromise on.

Additional resources


About the Author

Toby Cox - Guest Contributor

Toby Cox - Guest Contributor

Toby is a writer currently based in Boston, where she is a grad student. Writing is how she makes sense of the world—its beauty and chaos. She loves nature, learning new languages, and drinking London Fogs at nearby (or not nearby) coffee shops. When she’s not typing away at her computer, she’s probably wandering around outside trying to capture cool portraits of bugs.

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