Debunking Demo Automation: Not All Tools Are Created Equal

July 10, 2024
Confused by different types of demo automation tools? You’re not alone. Let’s break it down.
Meghan Spork
Table of Contents

When you think of a demo automation tool, your mind probably goes right to product tours and video demo software. While those are the tools that have been around the longest, they are far from the only tools currently available in the demo automation space. In fact, the number and variety of tools is constantly growing, shaking out into several different subcategories divided by use case.

In light of all these exciting developments, we’ve put together a guide to help you understand the types of demo automation tools available today, including their roles and how they can be used to augment the customer journey. 

The Demo Automation Landscape

Let’s be honest – buying B2B software isn’t always a great experience. Based on experiences as consumers, buyers have come to expect a certain level of personalization in the purchase process that just doesn’t exist in the world of B2B software. They expect every touchpoint to be highly personalized and curated to their needs — and when that doesn’t happen, it’s difficult to have confidence in their purchase decisions.

According to Gartner, poor selling experiences and improper expectation-setting throughout the last decade of SaaS has resulted in 43% of B2B buyers preferring a rep-free purchase experience. But it’s important to note, that those same buyers also see a 23% higher rate of purchase regret. So, the problem isn’t the presence of reps themselves. Rather, it’s a lack of useful information being presented to the buyer.

Today’s customers do an immense amount of research on their own. Instead of getting their information about a product directly from a sales rep, they spend most of the buying process looking for social proof, reading reviews, and consulting with peers. By the time they finally come to you, they want the one thing they can’t find through research alone – a chance to see, feel, and test your product for themselves. They want a demo — a good one. One that gives them a true feel for your product and helps them evaluate if your platform can solve their challenges and deliver the value you promise. 

But the reality is most demos aren’t great. How many times have you been on a sales call and a seller or solutions engineer has said something along these lines: 

  • “Just imagine that this page has data …”
  • “Well clearly this is a demo account, but here we have …”
  • “Don’t mind the demo data here. But envision…” 

Great buyer experience? Not so much. 

Solutions engineers and enablement leaders are turning to demo automation tools to arm reps with demos that work, so reps can stop making these excuses, show products that are full of relevant data that resonate with buyers and foster confidence that the platform can do what the seller is promising. 

Types of Demo Automation Tools

There are four types of software currently trying to solve the problems of demo automation. But, you might be surprised to learn that one type of tool isn’t inherently better than another. Rather, we’ve found that each type has its own distinct use case for different stages of the buying cycle.

So, let’s explore the four main types of demo automation tools and the best ways to use them.

Video Demonstration Software

Video demonstration software uses micro-videos to guide customers through various aspects of a product. These tools are well-suited for raising general awareness about what the product can do or cross-selling an additional product. Buyers can quickly see the main functions of the product and consider whether or not it will be a good fit for their needs.

Video demonstrations are generally self-service, making them an extremely convenient solution for the early stages of the purchase process where buyers might not yet be qualified. However, it can be difficult to build and maintain the necessary video library while ensuring that every video is of the best possible quality.

Roles that benefit from using video demonstration software include:

  • Business development representatives
  • Account executives
  • Solutions engineers
  • Customer success roles

Product Tour Software

Product tour software creates an interactive product experience that customers can explore to gain a better understanding of what the product does. Similar to video demonstrations, these tools build awareness among customers and give them the opportunity to envision how the product could help achieve their goals.

Demo-averse customers will enjoy the simple but ungated view in the product provided by product tour tools. However, this approach doesn’t show an actual live environment, so further validation is often needed before a final purchase decision can be made. 

Roles that might benefit from using product tour software include:

  • Marketers
  • Business development representatives

Live Demonstration Software

Live demonstration software showcases your live product product. Specifically, these tools help enrich your demo environments with data — either by layering data on top of the product using a browser extension or ingesting data into the product itself. 

These tools help reduce the massive burden placed on solutions engineering and product development teams to create and maintain demo instances. However, these tools do have a longer implementation time and depending on the approach taken, can require ongoing maintenance.

Roles that might benefit from using live demonstration software include:

  • Account executives
  • Solutions engineers

Sandbox and Proof-of-Concept Software

Proof-of-concept software is the final boss of demo automation tools. It creates functional sandboxes that customers can explore through hands-on evaluation, making it an excellent resource for letting customers get hands on with a product and feel its differentiation.

Not only are sandbox tools flexible, but they can provide analytics into how buyers are interacting with the product that sellers can use to sharpen their follow up and speed deal cycles. 

Roles that might benefit from using sandbox software include:

  • Account executives
  • Solutions engineers
  • Customer success roles

When Demo Automation Tools Co-Exist

While all of these demo automation tools seek to give buyers a way to see your product throughout their journey — the reality of the matter is that they all serve a unique purpose, and some organizations use multiple demo automation tools in their customer journey. 

Let’s look at an example of just that. Apollo, a lead intelligence and sales engagement platform, uses both Navattic, a product tour software, and TestBox’s live demo solutions throughout their customer journey.

With Navattic, the Apollo team:

  • creates interactive demos.
  • provides step-by-step guides to help users understand how to use specific features, like creating sequences.
  • integrates demos into Apollo’s help sidebar, allowing users to access them whenever they get stuck. 
  • increases feature adoption, product activation and decreases support tickets.

With TestBox, the Apollo team:

  • allows sellers to showcase their live product in sales demos.
  • enable their sales team to tell better product stories, giving buyers a more consistent message.
  • save time maintaining and updating the demo environment, freeing up GTM employees for more strategic work. 
  • creates a better buyer experience and help drive greater product adoption, because buyers can see the product in action before purchase.

As you can see, each demo automation tool plays its own unique role in augmenting the customers’ experiences with purchasing and adopting the product.

The Future of Demo Automation

The explosive growth of the demo automation space has resulted in a lot of confusion among companies searching for the right ways to demo their products. However, G2 and Gartner have already made huge strides in simplifying this complex category and helping more people understand it. If you’d like to dive even further into the wide world of demo automation, make sure to check out our State of Demo Automation Report created in partnership with GTMShift.

Otherwise, stay tuned for more installments of our Debunking Demo Automation series as we take on common myths and misconceptions in the space so you can make the most of this technology and sharpen your GTM motions!

Watch our Chief Solutions Officer, James Kaikis, talk about the future of solutions based organizations

Watch the presentation to learn about the change that you can make within your organization.

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