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Five ways to get the most from a vendor demo of software

1. Send the vendor a summary of your relevant facts. Ask them whether they need to know more facts to do a good presentation and try to supply them.

2. Tell the vendor what you want emphasized in the demonstration, rather than let them trot around their accustomed bases. For example, if reports are most important to you, don’t let the vendor monopolize the time showing data entry screens. Ask the demo person to show you how to do what is important to you.

3. Choose the five or six characteristics that should enable you to choose among the competing packages. Make sure those who attend the demonstration pay attention to those characteristics and grade the package on each of them on a scale.

4. Be active, ask questions and make observations. Doing so will push the vendors to show you what is important to you and will articulate for them and your colleagues what you are thinking.

5. Don’t schedule three demonstrations on the same day. It is too fatiguing and causes the systems to blur. If you do compress your pace of demos, be sure to leave enough time for people to write down their impressions about the package they just saw.

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