Don't Get Fooled by These Demo Tricks

By John Honovich, Published Jun 10, 2012, 08:00pm EDT

The vendor comes to your office to show you the latest and greatest camera, analytics, VMS, etc. They set up the equipment to show you how it really works in action so you can see for yourself. Yet you have been tricked and you probably did not even know it. In this note, we break down the risks and how you can protect yourself.

The Script

Any competent sales organization is going to deliver a scripted presentation that only shows things that work the best in the conditions where they look the best. The vendor knows what works poorly and will actively avoid them (and it doesn't matter how untechnical the rep is, they've done these demos dozens, if not hundreds of times, and know what burns them).

He's not lying to you, he's just conveniently omitting the negatives. Whether or not this is an ethical issue, it is a practical problem for the prospect who is looking to know how well a product really works.

Force Them Off Script

The most powerful thing you can do is to force the vendor off script. Make them show the equipment in different ways than how they have set them up.

Here are some examples for cameras:

  • Happy Path: Camera vendors want to show cameras with even artificial lighting and low scene motion to maximize video quality - Even crappy cameras look great in such situations.
  • Turn off the lights and shut the shades: Force them to show you how the camera looks when it is really dark. Notice how camera vendors rarely show low light demos online? They know the video looks worse, sometimes horribly bad. 
  • Point the camera at sunlight: Vendors, especially of lower cost, low quality cameras will actively point their cameras away from the sun. Make them turn the cameras towards sunlight, even open up a window or door. Some cameras will look terrible in these conditions, even if they looked great when pointed at the wall.
  • Point the camera at an intersection or busy areas: The more motion, the more likely the camera quality diminishes - whether it is lower frame rate or increased artificats, you can separate the good from the bad by doing this.
  • Watch out for 'tweaked' cameras: Clever sales teams will tweak their camera settings to make the camera look artifically good for a specific time and place. For example, they might increase the bitrate/quality level. Ask them specifically about this. Also, they may adjust the contrast or brightness to make a specific scene/condition artifically look good. By turning off the lights or pointing the camera at the sun, such tricks will quickly be exposed.

Bottom line - do not passively take the demo. Push the vendor to show it in different ways and different conditions so you can quickly flush out any problems.

Don't Compare To Your Old Stuff

We see a lot of people instinctively comparing demos to their existing system. Even crappy products today are better than the ones you purchased 8 years ago - it's the nature of technology. You can throw a dart against a trade mag and get a product that improves on your current setup.

That does not mean it is anywhere near the best of today's offerings. You'll need to carefully compare side by side, at the same time, to other current offerings.

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