Self-serve vs. The Demo: Making the Right Choice for Your Product

  |   Demos, Microsoft Azure, Our Blog, Software Development   |   No comment

Imagine your prospects are sitting in a conference room in front of a large TV sipping their coffee and waiting to be impressed.  Like most businesses, they have challenges and they hope this demo is going to improve their business.  At this point they have two choices: they can either do a self-serve demo to review the product at their own pace, or they can do a traditional demo with a sales rep.

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Today’s buyer is moving to a self-serve and on-demand model for everything from information to movies to software. In comparison to a traditional demo, a self-serve version of the software will allow users to explore on their own. Yes, it may require some setup and training, but if the product cannot be used without a long training, it may not be a good fit.

With the self-service demo, once the demo is set up, users get to investigate the software at their own pace. For many sales prospects, this can be an opportunity for them to explore a new piece of software using the cloud and really learn how it works. One drawback is that the user may have to install the software first, which can take time and resources from the prospective company.

The Traditional Demo

Using a traditional demo, the sales rep has an opportunity to create a demo that fits the criteria the customer needs, including functionality, templates, and sample reports. Unfortunately, this typically doesn’t happen and the demo proceeds without the sales rep having a clear understanding of the customer’s real problem. In a traditional demo, vendors will sometimes only show the features that work well, but may not go into the details of other features that don’t.

Although not frequently used, another option for the traditional demo is a sandbox demo where the user’s data can be entered and they can see what it really looks like with their own data. The sandbox demo gives the sales rep the opportunity to show the prospects what their typical day might look like with your software. This will help keep the prospect engaged and shows how your software solves their unique problems.

Regardless of which demo you choose, don’t forget to leave some mystery. “Even if your app has a lot of features, leave many of them out of your demo. Leave something for the users to discover on their own while browsing.  As Nate Westheimer describes in his article on, “Keep it simple… sharing on Twitter [in demos] is useful to some people, but it’s magic to no people — so just leave that kind of stuff out.”


One of the challenges of a self-serve demo is users may have to download and install the product, which can require specialized skill sets and resources to run the software. But with cloud automation, you can provide automated provisioning of your software in the cloud.

Whether you pick the traditional or self-service demo, with Azure Test Drive you can get the best of both worlds. With it you can have a traditional demo with a knowledgeable sales rep present during the process. (This is available without having to download anything.) And when appropriate, you can allow a self-service demo where the users can explore after the software sales demo is complete.

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