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I have noticed that on the large majority of software businesses, their products will not be shown to you unless you request a demo from their site, usually from a form by providing your personal details. Any particular reason to this?

From a user perspective, I'd rather browse to a demo section where I could try out their products and assess whether or not it fits my requirements without having to provide my personal details and wait for a representative to contact me to be able to test their products.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

There are several reasons this practice is common:

  • The company wants to know who you are so their salesmen can follow up with you and help you on to a purchase;
  • The company may want to know if you are one of their competitors before showing you the product (the higher the barrier to entry is of the market, the more important this becomes);
  • The company wants to collect marketing data so they can analyze interest by various demographics;
  • Each time the company gives a demo, the company is able to collect feedback about their products, even if the collection is informal or verbal;
  • The company may want to have your details so they can keep you updated on new product releases.

If potential users can access a demo anonymously, it is a missed opportunity for the company to learn about their market.

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6  
One item to add to an otherwise excellent answer: Some products are complex enough that a user may not be able to determine whether the product is fit for their purpose without being at least somewhat guided in the presentation. In that case it's in everyone's best interest that you speak to an actual person before making your decision. –  Chris Lively May 20 at 18:40
    
To prevent or reduce piracy. –  Robert Harvey May 20 at 18:56
    
Another possible reason for *aaS businesses: the operational cost of a demo (CPU, memory, disk space...) is low, but not 0 - having a barrier to entry makes sure you're filtering out tourists (at the risk of loosing some sales). –  ptyx May 20 at 22:17

As a provider of a Saas solution, we are the opposite - we do not want users to need a demo as it increases the cost of sale hugely.

To that end, we do as much as we can to make our trial as user friendly as we can including offering a sample data file so they can try it out using dummy data rather than taking the time to enter their own data (some companies also don't want to enter their data during a trial hence why we have so many trials from companies called Test with 1 employee and in accounting!).

The exception to this is complexity - if the application is complex or the time to value is long then simply letting a user loose to try it for themselves will be detrimental to their chances of closing the customer.

There is a useful article which talks about the relationship between complexity and price in Saas sales models which is really good - basically the more complex a product then the higher the price needs to be to justify the expense of selling and marketing it. In this area then demo's etc are justified and needed but, anywhere else, and then can be an expensive and unnecessary roadblock.

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http://chaotic-flow.com/saas-startup-strategy-three-saas-sales-models/

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I would like to add for the previous @Mishax answer, which is a great one, that most of these vendors make good use of calls to action across their sites.

Take salesforce.com as an example.

I've seen their site improve a lot since the first time they launched it, however they continue to work with the same strategy of "view our demo but enter your information first"

The pattern I've recognized for the companies that use this tactic is that they have whether:

  1. Good marketing campaigns that generate enough awareness to make possible consumers sign up for the demo.
  2. Their landing pages often rely on testimonials and the "these companies are already using it" pitch.
  3. Last but not least, the landing pages also include screenshots that disclose some of their main features.

Regarding the SalesForce example, if you go to the request demo page they make it even more simple to sign up for the demo asking you to use your social network accounts.

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Are you a potential customer?

For many B2B software products, users are not customers. Their pricing policies as such may be targeted at companies where there would be little overlap between a typical user (who'd want to do as you say) and anyone who'd have the authority to make a purchase of such a size, so they'd want to have their sales team to contact your company in order to make a sale properly.

It takes time and effort to follow up leads

The basic nature of such B2B enterprise sales team model is that each sale attempt costs significant time and money. They'd want to qualify leads that are worth pursuing - if your company would be reasonably willing to pay only, say, $1000/year for that product, then it may make sense to reject you immediately by a standard email reply and not even try to make a sale, since that would cost them more than they'd earn.

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