Not all sales demos are created equal

barista editorial board

May 3, 2022 / 7 Min Read

Congrats, you booked a demo! Now here comes the technical part of the sale right? Think again. Sure, we all sell tech. But guess what? Your customers don’t care about the tech behind your product. They care about the problems your product can solve for them. So, the technical part is how your solution works. Selling it is the art of building relationships. And it differs due to different buying processes. 


First thing first, what is a sales demo

Let’s start with what is not a demo. A demo is not a training session. In a training session, you want to show everything. Your goal is for your client to walk out of the session knowing how to use the product and confidence enough to start using it. There’s no reason to go over each and every feature in a demo. Your buyer doesn’t care about how to use your product, she wants to be convinced first that she indeed needs it. A demo is not an IT evaluation either. Before your client needs to validate your tech, she needs to understand the value of your product. So, what is a demo?

The main objective of the demo is to show what the product does rather than how it does it. A demo is a phase in the sales process when you demonstrate the value of your product to your prospect. The value could be pains that the product solves for your prospect, as well as benefits that she gets using your product. Either way, it means that a proper demo focuses on the what rather than the how.


Demonstrate value, not features

John Barrows, talks about selling the 20%. You should only be selling 20% of your product that solves their most important problems. demo just what matters. Intuitively, you think that you need to talk about the features your software can do, but that is not actually your job as an account executive. Top reps focus on the why and not the what. The company put you there to close the gap where your product couldn’t, which is to build customer relationships. If features could do so themselves, there would be no need for reps whatsoever. But you are essential. Exceptional reps can be fully empathized with prospects and talk about the product from their perspective and focus on why they need it.  So, if you do talk about features, make sure to translate those features into an impact to your prospect. 


There are 4 types of demos

There are essentially four different types of product demonstrations, and each one should be run differently and be prepared for in a different way based on your meeting goal:


1. What the demo solves in 5 minutes

The goal for this demo is to focus on the biggest value proposition to your prospect and get there as soon as possible. This kind of demo either goes along with the discovery call or as a separated demoscovery session. You’re quickly showing that you can solve problems that you’ve talked about in the discovery call, and you’re not showing how. If it’s a separated session, make sure you leave room for the client to ask questions. Don’t overwhelm her with features, just showcase value for 5 minutes, and from there let her appetite guide you for the rest of the session. 

It’s tricky to come prepared with a laser-focused demo to a first discovery call, which you’re not always demonstrating on. If you manage to find in your preparation for the discovery the main two pains you could solve your prospect, chances are high that you’ll want to do the 5 minutes demonstration. So arm yourself before the call with 2 types of demo flows that demonstrate each, and show what was the main focus on the discovery discussion. If none of these were discussed, it means that you probably should not demonstrate in the discovery call anyway, so plan for a demo in the next call.

2. Technical deep dive demo 

Technical deep dive demo is usually being done alongside your solution engineer. That’s where you go into workflows and hows and you’re trying to make your prospects feel how their life is going after onboarding to your product.

3. Executive demo 

If you get the attention of an executive, you want to make it count. Only focus on features that solve for business outcomes. The attention of an executive is as lucrative as it is fragile. Executives have been sold a lot during their careers. They have discovery fatigue, they see through generic ROI calculation and they don’t care about specific features. Demonstrating your product to an executive requires good preparation that will enable you to showcase a short and sharp business story. Top reps focus their executive demo on 3 main things:

  1. Business questions – There’s nothing more engaging than a good story, and the most engaging story is a story that tells yours. The best way to storytell a demo to an executive is to break it down into a business question that can be solved with your product. Keep it sharp and high level. Explain the problem and how it’s been solved.
  2. Business outcome – The next part is showing the impact. But once again, to make it engaging, connect to your story narrative. Don’t use generic case studies or ROI calculations. After you’ve shown a problem that’s been solved, close the narrative by telling what’s been the impact of solving that business question. A good way to do that is by showing before and after metrics that are related to that business question. A before and after story better resonates with their perspective. It shows how their business can be changed and how their employees’ lives could be changed as well. Never underestimate the emotional part of a sale.
  3. New perspective – Executives are tired of being asked what they care about, they want to be educated on what they should. A good demo story could reveal a new perspective for the executive to look into her business. It could be new data that they’ve been presented and changed their perspective, or a new methodology to solve a business problem they care about. Try to showcase your demo in a different way that can unlock value for your executive buyer right away, even before they turn into customers.


4. Large team demo 

 Demo to multi participants is a tricky one. You need to keep it at a high level to make it relevant to each one of the attendees. There are two main things you need to prepare for when your demo is scheduling with more than one person:

  1. Understand your audience –  You’ve got to figure out who’s going to show up for that demo? Because you’re going to show very different things to a CFO compared to what you’re going to show an analyst. 
  2. Understand expectations – You need to ask your champion if there is anything in particular she wants you to focus on, so you could tailor the demo to your audience as much as you can. You also need to ask her the inverse, is there anything in particular we need to avoid? Your champion is your secret weapon to understand the organization. She might know what the other stakeholders won’t want and a good rep knows how to take advantage of that.

If the room is going to include people from totally different parts of the organizations, or people with radically different levels of power, it is on you as the seller, to tear that room apart into different conversations that will be aligned with the different kinds of audiences. A best practice for that is to call each participant in advance to ask for a specific request for the demo session. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, if they care enough to show up for a demo, they may care enough to impact its focus. Then, send an email with the agenda agreed upon with all individuals to capture the attention of those who didn’t answer to get their feedback in advance. 

To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, you must empower and engage your champion, as many times on a multithread demo, no one of the participants picks the next step. So try to make what has been called “the champion sandwich”. Hop on a call with your champion right before the demo. Present her your agenda to the call and ask for feedback from her perspective. Then, on the demo itself you could give other attendees specific attention without worrying about losing your relationship with your champion. It is crucial to give each individual the attention they need on a demo, but you can’t risk your ambassador of the deal. Then, after the call, make another 1 on 1 with your champion to better understand where each one stands and make sure she knows she’s responsible for the deal and the customer’s next steps. 


Demo is an art

Contrary to common belief, demonstrating a product solution is much more artistic than technical. Like a good performer, you need to understand your audience and make sure they get what they came for, while controlling the narrative you want them to walk away with.