Six Key Questions to Ask During Software Demos

August 22, 2017
Brian Quinn

Salesmen will be salesmen, so when you have one in your office demonstrating software, be sure to come prepared. ValuePenguin, a product-review website devoted to giving insight to small business owners, provided a series of questions to help you do the most in your research. Continue below to find out more.

Always maintain control of any demo by coming prepared with questions.

Demoing dental software is an important step in determining if a system is suitable for your practice. One of the major pitfalls you’ll want to avoid when doing a demo is letting the sales representative drive the entire conversation.

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This is a big mistake because it lets the representative walk you through the strongest features of the product while glossing over its weaknesses. For this reason, it’s important to play an active role in the demo and to come prepared with a list of questions beforehand so you can collect the necessary data to make a well-informed decision.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the key questions you should ask when demoing dental software.

1. How can the software help me with ____?

During the demo, it’s important to emphasize the capabilities that matter to you the most — and ask the sales representative to show you how the software helps address those needs. This helps ensure the system you purchase is solving an actual pain point in your practice.

By prioritizing specific pain points you’re trying to solve, you can make sure the conversation stays on track and focuses on the functionality that you’re most interested in, as opposed to the features that the sales rep wants to highlight (which may not be relevant for you).

2. Does it integrate with the other systems I use?

If the system you’re demoing is going to interact with other systems you currently use, you’ll want to make sure that they integrate with each other. If they don’t, you’ll have to enter data into both systems, which can be a headache and increases the chances of manual error. Compile a list of every type of software or service you currently use that may interact with this new product, and make sure they integrate with each other. If they don’t, find out what the implications are.

Taking the time to confirm the exact integrations it supports upfront — before signing any contracts or commitments — can save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

3. What's the price, really?

Many software vendors don’t publish their full pricing schedule, which often means the price is negotiable. For a competitive price, It’s important to demo and speak with multiple vendors before you make your final decision. This also helps provide extra leverage when negotiating the price.

Many software vendors will charge a one-time startup fee, and some will also charge for additional modules or capabilities on top of the quoted price. You may be able to negotiate the cost of this setup fee or get add-ons included at a lower price. It may also be possible to receive a lower monthly cost by negotiating a longer-term contract.

In addition to negotiating the quoted price, it’s also important to understand what the total “all in” price will be once you factor in the extra cost of any additional modules that you’ll need. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re not paying extra for functionality or modules you don’t plan to use.

4. Do you offer a Service Level Agreement?

One of the most common concerns associated with cloud-based practice management systems is that if the provider’s servers are unavailable, your software will be unavailable, too. Ask about the provider's track record of uptime or if they offer an SLA that promises that you will be able to access the software no less than X percent of the time. Some cloud-based software providers even publicize their uptime statistics. For example, Curve Dental maintains a live status page here, which states that, as of August 2017, it delivered 99.997 percent uptime over the past 90 days.

Even if the system you’re demoing isn’t on the cloud, there are other types of SLAs that you may want to consider asking about. For example, they may offer a support SLA, which guarantees that high-priority issues are resolved within a certain timeframe.

5. Do you offer a free trial?

Even the most thorough demo has its limitations. Ideally, the software vendor will be able to provide you with a free trial of the product. This will give you and your staff a chance to actually try out the software in your own environment, with your own data, and determine if it’s suitable for your practice.

If the company doesn't offer a free trial, you can ask if they are able to provide access to a demo account that is pre-populated with fake data, which enables you to get a sense of how its various features work. This frequently works with companies that provide a web-based software system.

6. What will happen if I ever decide to switch to another software provider?

It’s impossible to predict how your practice's needs will evolve over time. In order to prepare for the possibility that you will someday need to switch software systems, you need to make sure that you’ll have access to your data after you switch, and that it will be accessible in a format that’s easy to port over to your next software provider.

Many providers will either charge you for the data or give it to you in an encrypted or proprietary format that is virtually unusable unless you pay them to convert it. Therefore, we encourage you to ask the software provider what will happen to your data in the event that you end your relationship with them.

Ready, set, demo

Asking just a few specific and targeted questions during each software demo can save you a lot of time and research in the long run. Once you get all the answers you need, you will be fully prepared to determine which option is the right choice for your practice.

Brian Quinn is a cofounder of ValuePenguin Software, which provides in-depth product reviews and resources to help business owners make well-informed decisions. From highlighting industry-specific trends to delivering extensive software guides, ValuePenguin Software helps businesses select the best software for their needs.

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