Saturday, March 22, 2014

How to Prepare and Conduct an ERP Pre-Sales Demo

By: Erwin L. Sison

For the past several weeks I have been tasked to help our sales team conduct pre-sales activities for prospective ERP clients. Initially, I did not know what to do and what to expect but after looking at the task in its entirety it started to look doable. All I need is a plan, a good plan that is.

This is an unfamiliar territory for me since I have never been in the front line before. Typically, when I meet up with the client, the Project is on the Implementation stage already. I meet them as a project lead/manager or as a consultant, not as part of a well-dressed sales team.

During the course of the whole assignment, I found out that I could capitalize on the skills I acquired in implementing ERP Projects. In fact, I am a bit guilty of enjoying the task so much so that I decided to write a “How-to” blog to share my experience.

First thing I did was to divide my task in three major activities.
  • Initial Data Gathering
  • Demo Preparation
  • Actual Demo
Whatever activities the sales team does before or after these are not included in this blog. Just to be clear.

By having a plan, I completed the assignment in no time. Here are some tips on how to go about this (special) task.

  1. Identify the unique. During the initial data gathering stage, give special attention to the unique requirements of the client. Most businesses follow a similar process flow specially in the operations aspect, but what you need to know and identify are the processes that are unique to their business. It could be the way they approve a sales order or the way they deliver their goods or how they add cost to their inventory. These are the things you need to prepare for and tackle during the course of your presentation.
  2. Stick to the standard. When you address operational concerns, make sure you answer them based on the standard ERP package that you are carrying. This will help identify whether the standard solution would be able to suffice their requirements. If you quickly jump to a customisation, then you are merely stressing that your ERP solution does not fit their business and it will not be good for you as a potential ERP partner.
  3. Don’t beat around the bush. Sincerity and honesty are the two most important virtues you need to send across the table. Do not try to intimidate or confuse the client with a very long answer that has no clear direction whether your answer is a yes or a no. Chances are, they will recognise what you are doing and that might have a negative effect. If your answer is no always have a work-around if possible.
  4. Ask questions strategically. This can be achieved by always starting the series of questions that has something to do with Sales process. Nothing gets the clients’ attention more effectively than asking them how they process their sales. In retrospect, companies that are having problems with their sales process are the ones looking for a good ERP solution rather than those having difficulties with their Payable process. Assets are always more fun to discuss than liabilities.
  5. Prepare Demo Scenarios. After the initial data gathering, what you need to do is to go back to the office and start a list of all the scenarios and group them per business unit. These scenarios could also be classified under standard, work-around or customisation. Bottom line is, you need to address these in your demo. It would also help to start with the basic scenario down to the most complicated one.
  6. Model each scenario in your ERP Package. In conjunction with no. 5, make sure you model all scenarios to your ERP package. A complete model is a manifestation of your competitiveness as an ERP solution partner and provider.
  7. Know your audience. This is very important specially during the actual demo. Everything is dictated by who you are going to interact with. Most of the time, it’s going to be the upper management but it’s always good to know who these people are and their functions so you won’t get any surprise questions during the actual product demo.
  8. The Power of PowerPoint. For good measure, prepare a power point slide that will illustrate an overview of what they will see and hear from you. Showing a top-level process flow will never get you wrong specially for upper management level type of presentation. Make them visualise your solution. 
  9. A little animation won’t hurt. Let’s face it, people never really outgrow animation. There are so many things you can do with power point, animation is one of them. Seeing their stocks being allocated with a flying motion or a sales document moving across the screen from different sources and consolidate into a common location will always give them an impression that your solution will make a particular task easy and automatically for them. Not to mention a show which they will remember long after you leave their office. 
  10. Plant a question on their mind.  This is a very tricky technique but with proper practice and a little bit of planning, it can be achieved and pays big dividends. It means that you plant a question on their heads without making them realise it. It will lead them to ask you a question that you already anticipated. Your answer will be direct and swift and it will show your confidence level. 
  11. Presence of mind by focusing on the task. It is very easy to lose focus during the product demo specially for someone who is an ERP consultant. The task is pre-sales, not training and certainly not Business Analysis. Do not say things that are not necessary. Always remember that you are trying to get the project, not train your audience. 
  12. End with a simple yet comprehensive visual flow. As much as possible, make sure your last slide or the last slide before your “Q & A” slide, shows the complete solution that you are proposing. Give them something to remember, an imprint that your proposal can cover everything from start to finish. The key is to make them recall what you have proposed that day because that is important when they start their evaluation process. 

These are some tips which I think is very useful in preparing for a Pre-Sales Demo. It worked for me and it might work for you too.

If any of you are interested, so far out of 4 pre-sales demo that I conducted, the results are: 2 clients confirmed, 1 verbally said yes and 1 still in evalution process between us (Microsoft Dynamics NAV), SAP and Oracle. Talk about big guns. :o)                    


  1. Nice Blog !!!
    It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort.
    ERP Manager is responsible for making timely, effective decision at the project level and communicating those decisions both up and down the program structure. ERP Manager is responsible for the development of an effective planning process.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice post...

  2. All great points! Don't forget to ask about internet connectivity beforehand if you're demonstrating a hosted environment. I've spent over 30 minutes attempting to connect before -- and that's why I always arrive EARLY! Another thing I've found valuable is understanding that silence is OK at times during a demo. Don't feel pressured to fill each quiet moment with more tech/sales-speak. Your audience is most likely processing a large amount of info. Thanks for writing this out! They are great reminders.

    1. Great point Tyler. Thank you so much for reading.