A Guide to Sales Demos That Sell in 2024

Sales demos are key.

We know this. You know this. Your grandmother’s teacup poodle probably knows this.

That’s because it’s not a secret.

The secret isn’t whether demos matter, because they do. Any interaction with a prospect is vitally important. After all, it takes an average of eight cold calls just to get them to the table, then countless interactions – emails, calls, downloads, spec sheets, you name it – to actually close the deal.

You can reduce the amount of back-and-forth dramatically, however, by cutting the telling and moving on to the showing. That’s where a demo comes in.

We’ve already covered how to convince people to view demos, how to prepare for them, and how to conduct useful discovery to gain critical insights on your prospect beforehand, so you can use them in your demo.

Now it’s time to talk about the demo itself. Keep reading to see how you can build a sales demo that even your grandma’s poodle will approve of.

What is a Sales Demo?

A sales demo is a demonstration session during which a potential customer is shown how your solution can help them solve their pain points or reach their goals. Sales demos happen face-to-face or via video chat, and are normally scheduled meetings that happen once a new lead is qualified.

Product demos show the prospect exactly what your product will provide them. Any good demo will highlight the specific tools and benefits for which your prospect is searching, as mentioned by them on your discovery call.

What do demos offer that other sales tactics don’t? The truth is, all the talking, e-mails, and white papers you send can’t engage a potential customer like a real demo of your product. Though you’ve likely engaged them with other sales materials to get them to this point, the demo is where you ram the deal home.

Example: Randy, Head of Marketing at Prospect Company, is interested in purchasing marketing software for his team. He’s already been qualified by your sales development team, and it looks like a good fit.

Now, Randy sets up a Zoom meeting with an account executive on your sales team. He invites the CTO to this meeting, since she’ll need to sign off on any new purchase. Your AE uses screen sharing in real-time to show exactly how your product can solve the problems that Randy’s team is currently facing.

Product Demo Timing

So, where does the product demo land in the overall sales process? It should come after the lead has shown some sign of interest in your product, and therefore has become a prospect.

This could occur at a number of points in the process, depending on their needs and purchasing habits. For instance, you might propose a sales demo when a lead:

  • Replies to an email or LinkedIn message expressing interest
  • Responds positively to a cold call
  • Downloads a piece of content from your site
  • Contacts your company to learn about your offerings

In any of these cases, you might move from canned content (though note that “canned” doesn’t have to mean “stale” or “sales-y”) to a highly tailored demo proving what you can do for them.

Benefits of Demos

For prospective customers, a sales demo shows them your product features before they purchase, and can even set them up with a trial account to make later onboarding much easier.

Demos are a major step in the continuance of your sales cycle. They go beyond a simple sales pitch and immerse your prospect in what it means to have access to your service. Plus, they provide a solid foundation on which to base your next follow-up email or phone call.

“If you’ll recall, in the recent demo, we explained how … ” is a much warmer starting point than a regular hook or sales pitch.

How to Structure Your Sales Demos for Better Results

Now that you understand the basics of a demo, let’s take a look at the actual step-by-step process of what it should look like. Note that these steps work together seamlessly, so you should read through and prepare your collateral for all of them before contacting your leads, prospects, and clients.

Think of it like a PBJ. Do you go to make a sandwich before you’ve bought bread, peanut butter, and jelly? No. No, you do not. (Nor do you buy anything but smooth peanut butter and strawberry jelly, you heathen. But that’s a conversation for a different blog post.)

Point being, this is your crash course. Read through these sales tips for your demo process before you begin your prep, and you will see much more success. Let’s gooooooooo!

1. Reach Out to Decision Makers With a Clear Message

Repeat after me: no muddy messages!

Instead, do what you need to do to ensure that you are clear-cut in your outreach from the beginning. That includes:

  • Find out who the decision-maker is
  • Research them and their company to find their pain points
  • Clearly tell them in your outreach a) what you can do for them and b) what you want from them now in terms of setting up a demo

2. Give Your Product Demo a Value Prop

Before you can sell your product, you have to sell the demo. To put it on the calendar, your prospects must believe in its value. Let them know:

  • What’s in it for them
  • Why now is the right time
  • Why your competition won’t do the trick

Then push for it. Not pushily, per se, but don’t give up, either. Be clear about your belief that they need this and your guarantee of its true worth.

3. Prepare a Personalized Sales Demo

We’re looking for a little more than just putting their company name and logo on the front of a PowerPoint—and, truth be told, your prospect is, too. (Remember, a demo isn’t your basic sales presentation.)

Personalization can range from creating a completely customized demo for a prospect based on their needs to using a certain demo flow for a specific type of customer.

At Close, for instance, we use the free trial accounts that new prospects have created to build totally personalized demos using the information they’ve already supplied. The result: They get to see what their dashboard would look like in real life if they go with us. It’s a very effective, very personalized demo that provides the ultimate in contextualization.

4. Build a Sales Demo Flow Based on Pain Points, Not Features

When you’re demoing a product, you always want to demonstrate value, not features or functionalities. While the features of your software are nice, the main thing your prospects want to know is if your solution actually solves their problems.

You want to build an agenda that flows naturally from one step to the next, rather than a full-on monologue. Using talk tracks can help with this.

Then, if you’ve properly qualified them and truly understand their needs, you’re in a position to deliver a compelling demonstration rather than throwing darts in the dark.

5. Begin With a Bang

It’s important to start with something sensational. Don’t keep the good stuff for the end, my friend.

Begin Your Sales Demo With a Bang

Start with a killer feature of your product that serves an important need for your prospect. The worst thing you can do is just string together feature after feature, and make your prospect sit through a long parade of things they don’t care about.

Think about it: Would you want a doctor to share centuries worth of medicinal trials, research, and history with you, then mention after that long discussion that he has a prescription to make your infection go away? Or would you rather he lead with the good news?

Your demo is the same. Scratch the itch right away.

6. Give Context Before Diving Deeper

When you’re demoing a feature, always give your prospects the big picture first. Contextualize why they should care about all the words coming out of your mouth.

For instance, if you know their sales pipeline is a mess, ask them immediately if they’d like an example of what a streamlined pipeline looks like. By doing this, you achieve three things:

  • You offer context
  • You engage them with a question
  • You confirm the relevance of the feature you’re about to demonstrate

The product demo is not the time to bombard decision-makers with minutiae. Sketch the big picture first, and go into details later.

7. Weave Discovery Questions Into Your Product Demo

While completing a discovery call before may be the norm, modern prospects like their info fast and personalized, meaning they may cringe at the thought of another call.

That said, discovery is an essential part of sales. Which is why you should always weave discovery questions into your product demos, whether you’ve had a discovery call with them or not.

Says Noam Horenczyk of Walnut.io:

“B2C buyers get free trials for gym memberships and apps or free returns from Amazon—you get to feel what you’re buying before committing. B2B is trailing behind. The problem is that we’re still selling to Baby Boomers when our buyers are Millennials and soon-to-be Gen Z’ers. You tell them they have to schedule 60 to 90 minutes with a sales rep, do 20 minutes of introductions, etc… And you’ve lost them.”

Continue to ask your prospect discovery questions like what they have trouble with, where they’ve been disappointed before, and how you can best serve them. This not only keeps the conversation moving along, but also provides additional insight you may not have received yet, and can influence how you spend the remainder of your demo.

Calling all sales pros! Don't miss our article on "Sales Discovery Meeting Blueprint: 7 Steps to Enhance Client Relationships" for tips, tricks, and real-world stories that'll inspire you.

8. Leave Space for the Prospect’s Questions

Experienced sellers know that questions are a good sign in any kind of sales call. It means your listeners are engaged and actually considering what you have to say. Their questions are important, and you must treat them that way.

In fact, studies show that the best demos have a talk-to-listen ratio of 46 to 54 percent. In other words, good reps spend less than half their time talking.

Even so, many reps are afraid of being faced with “tough” questions. The way in which you handle your response is critical—so let’s take a time out to review a few strategies to use when faced with tough questions.

Do Not Interrupt a Prospect During the Demo

A prospect asks you a long-winded question, and when they’re halfway through, you already know what their question is. So you jump in and answer it.

Whoops. In the worst-case scenario, you've just made a wrong assumption and answered a question they didn't ask, which will alienate them twice: once because you've cut them off, and again because you've just demonstrated that you absolutely misunderstood them.

Even if it was right, no one likes a know-it-all. So never interrupt; just listen.

Answer Questions With Questions

Sometimes, the best way to answer a prospect’s question is by flipping it around on them.

If a prospect asks you how your software handles lead assignments, ask them, “How do you want your software to handle lead assignments?”

When they tell you what they’re looking for, assure them that, yes, you can do that. Flipping questions is a great way to learn more about the underlying motives and reasons why a prospect wants things a certain way.

Deal Boldly With Questions You Can’t (or Don’t Want to) Answer

Even if you've got serious product expertise, sometimes a prospect will ask you a question for which you don't have an answer. Or a question that would derail your demo if you took the time to answer it.

In these cases, just respond: "That's an interesting question. I have an idea what the answer will be, but I'm not 100% certain. Let me write this question down so I can follow up with you in a day or two about this."

Then, write down their question in your CRM next to the company name file, in front of their eyes where they can see it. This will put their minds at ease and provide some closure.

9. End With Clear Next Steps

Always set expectations for the next steps. Winning demos spend 12.7% more time on next steps than their less-successful counterparts, so this is key. Next steps can take various forms:

  • Asking them to pull out their credit card and sign up right away
  • Setting a follow-up meeting time with more decision-makers
  • Making a plan to touch base by phone

Ideally, though, you take concrete action in the meeting, and don’t be afraid to push for the close.

End Your Product Demo With Clear Next Steps

10. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!

Lost prospects are no joke, and every sales rep will face them in their time. However, you don’t have to just embrace this fact of life. Instead, learn to use smart follow-up strategies to keep prospects engaged and prevent losses when you can. Ideas like:

  • Following up using multiple types of communication, such as phone, email, and SMS
  • Using automation tools for email follow-ups
  • Using templates to save you time
  • Personalizing follow-up through handwritten notes and videos
  • Including case studies and other info unique to their use case

All of these follow-up strategies get your name, and your solution, back in front of your prospect. You don’t know exactly what is holding them back from reaching out with a yes, no, or maybe, and you won’t until you ask. So when in doubt, follow up and ask what’s going on and how you can help get this deal done. What’s the worst that can happen?

10 Sales Demo Best Practices to Blow Your Prospect’s Mind

An effective demo is as much an art as a science. Here are some tips to help you next-level your process this year.

1. Do Your Discovery

Discovery is critical if you want your sales demos to succeed. That means not only gathering information from your existing customers and from market research, but also from specific potential prospects before you prepare their demo.

By the time you get to a demo, you should have already established a good rapport with your prospect, so take that knowledge into your demo session. Find out from your contact if any other stakeholders will be attending the demo so you can research them, too.

2. Speak Their Language

If you've noticed while qualifying a prospect that they use certain words and phrases, use these same words and phrases. Try to be familiar with their industry, and know the terminology they use to describe certain aspects of their workflow. Other tips include:

  • Checking out the website early on to get the right lingo
  • Studying your email exchanges
  • Noting observations in your CRM so you can mirror them
  • … but don’t go jargon-crazy, which is a total turnoff

3. Highlight the Highlights

Don’t assume you’ve got your prospect's undivided attention just because they’re attending your demo. Instead, assume a certain level of distraction and take steps to get their attention when you really need it.

We like to think of this as highlighting the highlights and marking what’s memorable. When you reach that critical moment, use the prospect’s name, pause for a second, then make your point.

4. Handle Your Mouse Like a Pro

Keep in mind that people are following your mouse movements. During product demonstrations, you want people to see how you’re doing something, so move your mouse cursor more deliberately than you usually would. No herky-jerky movements, please!

5. Ask Questions that Dimensionalize the Value You Provide

They have a problem; you have the solution. That’s great and all, but don’t just say the words.

Instead, play it out with them. How much money will they save with your product? How does that magnify over the months and years? How does it break down to each of their employees or salespeople?

Now that you’ve made it real, they’ll definitely want to see your goods.

6. Manage Your Time Wisely

One of the main differences between an amateur and a professional is how they control their time. Did you know that, despite the common advice that demos should run 30 to 60 minutes, 15 minutes or less is actually ideal?

“This makes it easier for our prospects to commit to booking a demo and helps us stay laser-focused on their needs,” says Nebojsa Savicic, Co-Founder of Plainly. “A demo is not a generalized one, but it's tailored for the person and their pain point, which is the info we collect in the contact form.”

The bottom line is, modern buyers don’t want a big production. They’ve done their research, and likely, you aren’t the only option on the table. Remember, product demos ≠ product training. Be succinct and relevant, and always complete the demo within the promised timeline.

Manage Your Time Wisely in Sales Demos

7. Avoid Selling on Features You Don’t Have Yet

Never say “yes” to a request just to get the sale. Even if you know a certain feature is in the pipeline, it’s better not to sell on a promise of things that may come in the future, especially if those features are real dealbreakers.

Instead, say something like, "I see this is an issue that we'll have to deal with at some point. Let me write it down so I can follow up with you after discussing this with one of our sales engineers."

8. Be Prepared to Handle Fails, Bugs, and Crashes

If you give demos on a regular basis, things will go wrong. It’s inevitable. Expect it and be prepared for it with techniques such as:

  • Preloading apps or pages that take some time to load
  • Avoiding phrases like “this never happens” or “I don’t know what’s wrong,” which are disingenuous
  • Telling the truth about what’s going on
  • Walking them through the process of getting support
  • Using it as an example of how even when things aren’t perfect, you can still get to a great solution

9. Record Your Demo

Demo replays are worth their weight in gold, both for your later learning purposes and as a tool for the prospect’s decision-making, so always record them. Just make sure to use reliable recording software and test the process completely beforehand. You can learn more here.

10. Avoid Monologues, Diatribes, Rants, Lectures, and Sermons

Also homilies, exhortations, orations, and moralizing.

Really, avoid anything that has a note of professorial finger-wagging. Your prospect already knows they need help, or they’d never give you the time of day. Your job is not to flog them with solutions to their pain points, but to walk them through a vision of how their life could look after implementing your product.

That means monologues aren’t useful. Instead, as we’ve said above, you want to spend just enough time on your demo to give them the important info, then move on. Do some call-and-answer, actively listen when they have input to share, and always leave time for a few questions along the way – even if you have to use your question-answering strategies to deflect.

Delightful Demos: Make 2024 Your Best Year Ever

Now that you’ve got a step-by-step process for creating demos that convert, as well as some industry-leading best practices to complement it, you’re ready to begin creating your own. Close, we believe strongly in the power of demos to sell – indeed, the necessity of them. That’s why we’ve put a ton of time into making sure our on-demand demo gives you all the important features in just 10 minutes, so you can get the information you need and then go about your busy day.

After all, you’ve got a sandwich to make. (You got the strawberry jelly, right?)

Besides that, we literally wrote the book on building better product demos and selling to your prospects. Grab your copy now, and make 2024 the year of incredible sales demos.

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