What makes a great SaaS Product Demo? 10 best practices from the brightest sales leaders
The product demo makes or breaks the deal for a SaaS company. If done right, it makes your prospect understand how your software will solve their problem or attain their goal.
Mastering the demo for sure is not an easy task.
Too often, demos are a mere rundown of features without tailoring the pitch to the prospect’s specific pain points. A great demo takes more than providing a walkthrough. It’s more than showcasing generic value propositions hoping that one sticks with the prospect.
Your demo is a rare opportunity to understand product fit, build a relationship, overcome concerns and move the qualified lead towards a close. It’s a make-or-break step in your sales process that you have to get right.
Demo close rates have a huge impact on the success of a SaaS company.
To give you a headstart towards improving demo close rates, we’ve compiled the 10 very best practices from the brightest minds in inside sales.
1. Don’t cut Discovery
“The Discovery call can make or break your relationship with a new prospect. Get it right, and you could have a customer for life. Get it wrong, and… well… you could be done before you start.” Richard Smith
Discovery is crucial to a successful sales demo. Without proper Discovery, you won’t be able to give a winning product demo. Unfortunately, corners are often cut or the Discovery process is skipped altogether.
Reps that conduct a demo without Discovery win 73% less often in a competitive opportunity.
There are two types of Discovery: the Disco demo and discrete Discovery calls. As long as enough Discovery takes place, Disco demos work. They are more common for early-stage or small organizations. But if somehow possible, the Discovery should be treated as its own, individual, scheduled conversation.
Why? Because when combined with a demo, the Discovery gets rushed, generic and unpersonalized. It’s important to understand your prospects’ challenges before pitching the value your software brings to their business.
Independent from the product or service you’re selling, the goals of Discovery are:
- Qualify for the demo: Decide whether your prospect even needs to see your product, or if your time is best spent elsewhere
- Understand pain points: Ask targeted questions to identify 3-4 key pain points your buyer is currently facing
- Build rapport: Learn about your buyers’ evaluation criteria, personal motivation, company goals, and their industry language
- Identify the right audience: Discover whether the person you’re speaking to is the decision-maker and find out who else needs to be on the demo
- Sell the demo: Convince your customer to get on a demo and get their commitment to attend
2. Schedule the demo right away
“If you do a lot of cold prospecting, no-shows are just a part of the deal; it’s almost impossible to entirely eliminate them. But, as a general rule, these no-show rates should never exceed 20%.” Steli Efti
When you can, schedule the demo while you’re still on the call with the prospect. Tell them to open their calendar and suggest a time to meet right away. If that’s not possible for whatever reason, send a follow-up email with your booking link or suggested time slots immediately after the call.
As a general rule, try to schedule the demo within 5 business days out:
- you don’t want to end up in a situation where your customer cancels the demo because he has already closed a deal with one of your competitors just because they were faster.
- you want to create a sense of urgency and make sure that your customer actually attends the demo and doesn’t deprioritize it against other topics that came up in the meantime.
When you schedule the demo, stick to a few rules to minimize no-show rates and maximize the likelihood of a close:
- Keep it short: Schedule a 30 minute (max 45 minute) slot, optimally between 3 pm and 5 pm.
- Reserve time to prepare: Always ensure that there’s enough time to prepare. Try to avoid scheduling demos with less than 2 hours’ notice. And don’t schedule demos back-to-back but leave at least 15 minutes of preparation time before the meeting.
- Send reminders: We’ve seen no-show rates decreasing by over 50% when sending out an email reminder before the demo.
- Invite key decision makers: Ensure that the person you’re scheduling the demo with is the decision-maker or at least a crucial stakeholder. If they aren’t, ask them to invite the decision-maker to join the demo with them.
- Automate scheduling: Scheduling can be a tedious, time-intensive process. Use software that helps you automate manual scheduling tasks and remove friction. You don’t want to waste valuable time on the call checking multiple calendars for available slots or manually setting up invites and email confirmations.
3. Follow your agenda
“Successful sellers do not “wing” their product demos. They have a thought-out demo strategy and follow a methodical, planned out, cerebral demo structure. The mega-successful reps are, apparently, some of the most methodical and strategically-minded people in the business world. They’re like chess grandmasters.” Chris Orlob
A well thought out and carefully planned software demo follows an agenda that is tailored to your prospect’s challenges and business goals.
By taking the focus away from features and functionality and reframing the conversation around overall business benefits you will avoid commoditizing your product, command higher average selling prices, and most importantly win more deals.
This is how an effective demo agenda should look like:
- Intro – 5 minutes: Take time, in the beginning, to connect with your customer on a personal level, establish trust and a relationship.
- Summarize and set the stage – 5 minutes: Summarize their status quo and consolidate your prospect’s pain points into 3-4 distinct areas. Give them a feeling them how much better their life will be using your solution.
- Solution Mapping – 15 minutes: Show them how you can help solve the identified pain points by focusing on the most relevant parts of your solution. Focus on the three biggest pain points and start with the one that you spent the most time on during Discovery.
- Next steps – 5 minutes: Understand your prospect’s decision-making process and what they need to move the deal forward.
The best sales reps inform their prospect about the agenda at the beginning of the demo. This sets expectations and keeps everyone organized and on task. Knowing what will happen during the meeting also will put the prospect at ease and get her buy-in for the entire duration of the meeting.
Stick to your agenda. You want to answer certain questions at specific points in the conversation. For example, you don’t want to talk about pricing 10 minutes in the call but establish the discussion around the end of the demo – when you already have established value.
As close.com puts it: managing time is extremely important to keep your demos effective. A professional and experienced sales rep will complete the demo within the agreed-upon timeframe. An amateur will apologize for going over time until the prospect cuts them off.
4. Establish a personal connection
“Your customers want to see how the product works, if it solves their unique problems (without generating any new ones in the process), and how simple or complex it is to use. It’s also an opportunity to get to know you, your company, and assess how reliable it is in providing them with solutions. After all, 71% of customers buy because they like, trust and respect the salesperson they work with.” Erika Desmond
The State of Sales Survey done by LinkedIn in 2017 says that the most important factor in making a purchase decision is if a buyer has trust in the salesperson.
The likelihood that someone buys your product or service without liking and trusting you is almost zero. It’s essential to create an emotional connection with your prospect where they feel important and understood.
Use the first 5 minutes of the meeting to establish a personal connection with your customer. The truth is, it doesn’t matter so much how you do it. It’s just important that you don’t jump into the business conversation right away – but show that you truly care. How?
- Research your prospect: Gain an understanding of who the person is and what their company does. Check their social media profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Do a quick search for their name and company on Google. Check your CRM to see if there were previous interactions or conversations in the past.
- Speak their language: To increase the likelihood of landing a deal, it’s important to demonstrate that you understand your customer’s industry and common challenges. Make an effort to speak their language. Check out their website, look at previous email exchanges and see the wording they use in there. If you’ve noticed while qualifying a prospect that they use certain words and phrases, use these same words and phrases later.
5. Frame the conversation and set the stage before going into details
“As quickly as possible, get to ‘here’s what you told me your goal is, here’s the challenge you told me is in the way, here’s what it will look like when our product takes down that challenge.” Robert Falcone
Start by outlining your prospect’s current challenges and the respective business implications. By synthesizing what you have learned from Discovery, you are framing the entire conversation and setting the tone for the demo moving forward.
This step is extremely important. It’s a unique opportunity to demonstrate that you have clearly understood your prospect’s situation. Only then you’ll get their full attention and buy-in for the demo.
Pull up your prospect’s website or a slide with their logo while you’re synthesizing the status quo. That emphasizes the fact that the entire demo is about them. Reframe their goal, their key challenge, 3-4 pain points and the business implication in your own words.
Your summary should look something like this:
This should be a dialogue between you and your prospect. Pause after every statement and let them counter or reconfirm. To survive the awkward silence up to the point where it feels uncomfortable and use it to gather valuable information. If your summary is missing an important aspect or going in the wrong direction, your client will immediately let you know. You’ve hit the nail on the point, they’ll acknowledge and hang on your every word.
6. Use storytelling to draw a vision
“Present a “teaser” vision of the happily-ever-after that your product/service will help the prospect achieve—what I call the Promised Land. Your Promised Land should be both desirable (obviously) and difficult for the prospect to achieve without outside help. Otherwise, why does your company exist?” Andy Raskin
Don’t jump into the details of your product or service yet. If you introduce product details too soon, there is a high risk that your prospects tune out. Remember that most people you demo will probably know nothing about what you’re about to present or how it works. You need to provide them with context for why the details of your product are important to them.
“By far, the most effective type of evidence is a success story about how you’ve already helped someone else (who is similar to the prospect) reach the Promised Land.” Andy Raskin
Successful demos follow the same narrative structure as epic films and fairy tales. Share how someone just like them had the same problem, and how they solved it with your solution. Success stories bridge the gap between you and your prospects and show them that other businesses have used your product effectively.
1. Name a Big, Relevant Shift
Highlight a relevant shift in the world that affects your prospect. Trigger their thought process about how the change affects them, how it scares them, and which opportunities it opens up for them.
2. Combat Loss Aversion
Purchasing and implementing new software means changing the status quo for your prospect and his organization.
Humans have a natural status quo bias. The pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. In turn, people are more willing to change the status quo for avoiding a potential loss than “just” gaining something. In psychology, this is called loss aversion.
To combat loss aversion, demonstrate how the shift you cited above will impact them if they stand still and don’t change the status quo. Show them that there will be winners and losers.
3. Paint the picture of the “Promised Land”
Create a vision of how much better your prospects’ lives could be with your solution. Rather than explaining your product itself, paint a picture of the new future state that they will reach after they have implemented your solution. Make it clear how much better their lives and jobs could be if they used your product.
What you want is for your audience to say, ‘Okay, I want to live in that future state. Show me how to get there.’
7. Demonstrate solutions, not features
“The purpose of the demo is not to be a cold rehash of the features that you may have just touched on in your sales presentation. Rather, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the potential value the product could provide to the prospect, richly, before their eyes.” Peter Kazanjy
The word demo itself already is misleading. Again, a demo should never be a mere demonstration of features. Neither should you kick off the demo with a context-less presentation of your product, your investors or your customers.
Instead, you want to show your prospects how your product helps them reach the desired outcome.
The ideal demo flow maps directly to the topics you covered during Discovery. As a general rule, focus on the three biggest pain points you have identified. Why? Because information presented in groups of three sticks in humans heads better than other clusters of items. And you simply need to prioritize to fit the Product demo into a 30 minutes time window.
Demonstrate how you can help them solve those pain points with your solution. For every pain point, again use the rule of three. Focus on the three most important features to demonstrate a solution to your prospect’s problem. You don’t want to overload your potential buyer with information. If all goes well, there will be additional meetings later in the sales process, and you can pitch these extra features then.
8. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
“A well-prepared demo is obvious. It can be interrupted multiple times. It can be fast-forwarded and rewinded without flustering the speaker. It only shows off what the audience needs to see to come to a decision. It’s fluid and flexible and — while it may have been obsessively rehearsed — it comes off as effortless.” Robert Falcone
Latest by now, it should be clear that preparation is key for success in inside sales. The better you are prepared, the more likely the close is. The best sales reps don’t wing it, they are meticulously prepared. They know exactly what to say and what to show to bring the deal forward.
Here is some advice on how to prepare the actual demo:
- Create a sales playbook: It pays off to set up a sales playbook containing the value propositions, features and success stories that you are using in your demos. Once you have that framework set up, you can write down a script for every part of the demo. Think of it as training wheels, especially in the beginning. Eventually, you should feel comfortable enough to tell the story without using a script.
- Prepare presentation content: Open browser tabs, app windows or pages you’ll show your audience before the demo starts. Have them preloaded in the background, so people don’t have to watch you navigate to these pages and wait for them to load. That’ll save you time during the demo and create a better impression of speed.
- Use relevant sample data: When demoing your product, you’ll be going to use a sample configuration and data. Make your product relevant for your customer by setting up the demo environment to match their specific situation. Use the kind of data, the kind of integrations and workflows that they would be using. This will help them to mentally make the connection between your product and their actual work routines.
- Prepare sales objection handling: Most likely, your prospect will have concerns about whether your product is the right fit for them. Sales objections are great – if you know how to handle them. Prospects are giving you precisely what you need to address in order to keep deals moving forward. The key to success in handling sales objections really is diligent preparation.
- Practice with a colleague: If you’ve just started at the company and don’t know the product and the audience well, practice with your colleagues. Give them a demo like you would with an actual prospect. Record and replay your live demos and do reviews of what you can do better and what works well. There’s so much to be learned by just reviewing your demos without having to be attentive to your prospect, and you’ll get plenty of ideas for improving your demo.
9. Absolutely talk about next steps
“No matter how strong your demo is, your deal won’t go anywhere unless you follow up, especially because there is an average of 6.8 people involved in a B2B buying decision today, up from 5.4 two years earlier.” Alli McKee
Successful reps spend 12.7% more time (four minutes) scheduling the next steps than their unsuccessful peers. Make sure that you have enough time at the end of the demo to define the post-demo process and pave the path towards the sale.
If you don’t talk about the next steps during your first call, your close rate will plummet by 71%. You’ll never want to end a demo without knowing how your prospect’s decision-making process looks like and what they need to move the deal forward.
Decide on a specific time to connect next, whether that’s to walk them through their quote, set up a call with a channel partner or speak further with their team. Then send a well-crafted demo follow-up email.
If you have clarified all questions already in the demo and there are no other decision-makers involved in the process: Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale right away and try ending with a close.
If they are not ready to make a deal right away, ask “What does it take for you to buy our solution?”. Then, they’ll immediately outline the sales objections that are standing in your way. Be prepared to handle them properly and you’ll get to a close.
10. Don’t let tech stand in your way
SaaS is sold to prospects from different geographics, tech expertise levels and across diverse platforms, operating systems and browsers.
Especially for tech-challenged clients, keeping demo technology simple is key. You never want them to assume a difficult demo setup or experience is in any way connected to your product’s quality or ease of use.
There are tools that are critical for giving a good online demo:
- Screen Sharing Tool: When it comes time to choose how you’ll conduct the demo, ensure your technology works for your prospect, no matter their location, platform, technology skill or browser. Choose the wrong screen share or demo platform, and you may be waiting on prospects to download plugins, applications or needing to scramble to find a new platform completely that works with their firewall.
- Recording Tool: If possible, use a Screen Sharing tool with built-in Recording. Screen-recorders that you’ve installed on your system can bring system performance down and cause issues when using them in combination with Screen Sharing software.
- Headset: Invest in a good headset. Don’t use the built-in microphone on your laptop or your $20 earphones. If your prospect has difficulty understanding what you say, it’ll be very hard to hold their attention.
During the demo, be sure to let your prospect sit in the driver’s seat. Instead of taking control over the entire demo, get them involved. You can do that by using Demodesk’s collaborative screen sharing features.
If, for example, your prospect complains how difficult it is to export reports in their existing software, give them control of the screen so they can see just how easy it is to export reports in your platform.
Have you ever wondered why car dealerships offer test drives? The answer is really simple. By helping the prospect envision what your product is like to use every day, you help them feel comfortable with making their purchasing decision.
The more you help the prospect feel connected and engaged with your product, the more likely you are to close the sale, so customizing your demo can give you a new competitive advantage.
Mastering a demo is not an easy task. But we are here to help you excel at it without going through countless painful trial-and-error iterations. In our next post, we will talk about the importance of Discovery in your demo process and help you master the art of asking the right kind of questions.