The Great Software Demo in Four Steps

Patrick McGarry
Senior Director

“I can’t wait to tear out my old ETRM system and replace it with a new one.”

Said Nobody.  Ever.

Let’s be honest. 

Few organizations look forward to the day when their current ETRM solution needs replacing.  Many will limp along with subpar software simply because they dread the 18-24-month process required to evaluate options and implement a new system. 

Seeking approval for budget dollars typically involves two difficult questions from the Board:

  1. Why do we need a new ETRM platform?
  2. What incremental value are we getting for all the money we’d spend?

Nobody relishes the internal group dynamics associated with the wonderfully coined term, “change management.”

The grim reality for owners of failing ETRM systems represents a challenge and an opportunity for software providers competing to replace the aging incumbent.  If you’re part of a Sales team that’s in the hunt, the initial demonstration needs to be a home run.

Out of the park. 

Drop the bat. 

Round the bases; like you’ve done it a thousand times.

The Four Habits of Highly Successful Software Providers

Like a job interview or first date, first impressions are critical.  There are four sequential steps that, successfully executed, will almost always separate you from the pack and get you to the next round.

Show Empathy

Empathy means truly understanding what other people feel, seeing things from their point of view and, being able to imagine yourself in their place.   At its essence, empathy is doing your best to place yourself in someone else’s position and feel what they’re feeling.  Empathy permits people to experience and understand the emotions of another.

As a supplier of ETRM (or other) software, you must do the prep work to recognize your prospect’s front, middle, and back-office pain points – before you conduct an initial demo.

But, before you can do that, you must understand their daily business processes and procedures since the perspective of a technology provider and a trading desk can be quite different.  To have authentic empathy, you need to fully understand a day in the life of your audience.

Learning about somebody else’s role is not as difficult as you might think. It starts with asking thoughtful questions and being an engaged listener to obtain revealing, meaningful answers.

Who doesn’t want to tell you their problems?

Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including perception, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Emotion has a particularly strong influence on attention too, which can be fleeting in a multi-hour software demonstration.

Achieving and displaying empathy is step one toward a successful initial software demo.  It will also pay continuing dividends if your team is fortunate enough to close the deal and begin the integration project.

Empathy builds trust and, trust is the cornerstone of any successful, long-term relationship.

Know Your Prospect

Do your homework.

  • Know your future client’s portfolio as well as they do.
  • Know their generation profile.  
  • Know their Integrated Resource Plan.
  • Know in detail the purpose and mission of the project you may undertake together.

Knowing these things usually boils down to posing a simple question:

“Would a different Energy Trading, Gas Trading & Risk Management product composition provide a significant improvement over the current product ecosystem and ensure that they have the best tools in the hands of front, middle, and back-office employees?”

If you successfully completed step one and have established empathy, you should know the pain points of the current product ecosystem.

The initial demo is not the place to ask your prospect questions you should already know answers to.  It wastes their time and raises doubt as to your preparation.  Know how your solution will address and alleviate pain points and deliver financial benefits, time savings, or preferably, both.

Taking the initiative and responsibility to do your homework will vastly improve your chances of completing steps three and four.

Stay on Script

If you completed steps one and two, you’ll realize that staying on script in the first demo is the most “humane” and logical step of all.

In a sense, an initial demo is a courtroom.  So, why distract and confuse the jury with statements that have nothing to do with your case?

Maintaining your prospect’s full attention during the course of a two to three-hour discussion can be an almost insurmountable challenge, particularly if you go off-script to explain system features not outlined in your would-be client’s scope.

Present solutions and functionality that will address the prospect’s unique business requirements, the market(s) they participate in and, those pain points that serve as obstacles to their success.

The great Tom Petty was once asked how The Heartbreakers wrote so many hit songs.  He answered, “In our band, we have one rule to songwriting.  Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.”

Words to live by; in hit songwriting and in successfully first software presentations.

Finish Ahead of Time

Finish ahead of schedule?  Are you serious?


Assume you’ve successfully navigated and completed the first three steps of the initial demo. In that event, there will be no problem achieving the last, and quite a crucial step: Finish ahead of schedule.

Who doesn’t remember the joy of early release from school?

Who doesn’t enjoy the gift of time?

Most importantly, finishing early leaves more time to field questions and gain a deeper sense of your audience’s wants and needs. Ending early makes you memorable for the right reasons and allows you time to circle back to anything important you might have missed.

Less is more.

I wish that I could learn that lesson when I try to slow my golf swing down.  When you keep your head down with your eye on the ball and make contact squarely in a good tempo, the ball always travels as you envisioned it.  Far, and on target.


Very few organizations look forward to the day when they need a new ETRM system. However, every seven to ten years or so, the challenge of migrating to a new ETRM platform will rear its ugly head for many energy trading organizations. 

No company delights in that challenge, including the time-consuming process of evaluating the current solution against the competition. Understanding this as a software vendor and empathizing with your potential client puts even more emphasis on the initial demo – that first date and the four steps required to advance to round two.

Having a comprehensive knowledge of your prospect’s values, mission, and pain points is central to executing a contract and converting them to a client.  Further, engaging authentically and meaningfully with them – even during the courting phase – is key to delivering the superlative service and support you promised during the selling process and in that first demo.

Following the four steps will help ensure that your team is invited to continue the dialogue and establish a potential strategic partnership versus merely a transactional relationship.

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.