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Hi John,

John – I just started a new job as a Sales Engineer with a
relatively small company. I have about 3 years of
experience as an SE and feel I understand the solution
area my company covers. Here’s the problem – I’m required
to use a number of marketing-driven scripts to demo and
present our product. Even the SE’s who have been here a
while still use the scripts because they are so complex.

I have a two-part question; (a) what do you think about SE’s
who use a script, and (b) any suggestions for how I can
introduce some of my personality into the demo?

obyn - South Africa
Hello Robyn,

Thanks for the question – I regard a demo script as the
equivalent of training wheels for the SE. They may be
necessary for a few weeks while you learn a skill, but
should be discarded as soon as it is safe to do so. It really
doesn’t say too much about your solution if the so-called
technical expert needs five or six pages of detailed script
to demo the product. If you go to see a movie or a play, do
you expect the actors to be reading from a script? No. they
learn their lines through practice and rehearsal. However,
there is no reason why you cannot have a 3x5 index card
close by with an outline of the demo, or even listing some
of the key technology-to-business linkages you want to

A best practice I encourage is that if a demo has to go on
for longer than about 20 minutes, you should hand out an
outline of the flow
(The Demo GPS Road Map) so that the
audience can follow along. Or else have the demo
structure projected up on another screen, or drawn out on
a whiteboard, so that there is a visual cue for people to
follow. This then presents you with a low-key way of
injecting your own personality into the meeting by
personalizing the outline or specifically calling out some
features, advantages and then benefits of your solution as
it relates to the client.

Another technique is by turning the demo on its head.
Instead of finishing with the “ah-ha” slide or screen, place
that at the start to ramp up the audience interest and then
take the rest of the demo to show them how you get to that
Read Peter Cohan's Great Demo to get some
awesome examples of that.
If the lords of marketing won’t
let you deviate from the script, then start with some
energizer or grabber slide that links into your product
before moving into the set-piece demo.

My final thought is “
how’s the set-piece demo working out for
” If your company is incredibly successful and beating
its numbers then you have a tough battle. If there are sales
reps who aren’t doing so well and are willing to try different
tactics, bring up the question of modifying the demo and
gauge their reaction.


(Disclosure - first got this question back in 2009, and this month received two
similar questions about this topic - so decided to update the answer)