Is it possible to shorten the sales cycle?

Yes, there is a chance -- if you employ the right tactics at the right stage to show prospects the value of your product so they want to buy from you. And at the beginning of the sales cycle, when prospects might be initially unfamiliar with your brand or your solution, the way you conduct a demo request can make or break the sale.

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Our team at AcademyOcean analyzed 1,000 demo requests of SaaS companies to determine what makes a successful demo, and how to optimize your demo strategy to close more customers.

What Is a Demo Request?

A demo request is a preview or trial version of a software solution, distributed free of charge by companies once prospects hand over their contact information. Demos only work for a restricted period of time and are often conducted by sales reps over the phone or via video conferencing to show product features to the prospects.

Demo requests help accelerate lead nurturing and, hopefully, new customer acquisition. They can be used to verify if the prospect is a good fit for the product, and the demo can help counter objections or answer questions they might have about your product.

Let's review the demo request journey to dig into strategies to make them more likely to convert and close.

How to Close & Convert Sales Demo Requests

1. Create an effective demo request form.

Your prospects' first touchpoint with your brand is usually your website, and if they make it to your demo request form, it's reasonable to assume that they're interested in learning more about your product or service. So make sure that the form they have to fill out to get access to the demo is clear and easy to use.

Here's what ours looks like:

academy-ocean-demo-requestMake sure the call-to-action to request a demo is brightly colored and centered so it's easy for customers to click and start filling out a form. You can use Lucky Orange to track your visitors' clicking and browsing behavior, which will help you choose where your "Request a Demo" button fits best on your site via A/B testing.

The moment your potential customer hits the "Request a Demo" button, they're usually asked to fill out a form. At this stage, it's important to design it so well that it could be completed without over-stressing them. Typeform is a helpful tool to use when it comes to form design to ensure that the form is neither so short it doesn't share enough information, but not so long that it fatigues the prospect. The ideal form is neither too short nor too long. It can contain anywhere from eight to 13 fields, such as your name, phone number, email, company, job title, industry, number of employees, etc.

To avoid overloading your prospects with too many fields, choose the number that best fits your goals. Otherwise, you risk increasing your form drop-offs. Once the form has been filled in, it's time for the sales teams on the phones to take the next step.

2. Respond quickly to demo requests.

how_fast_is_the_reply_miniIt's important that sales reps promptly follow up to new leads, but this is especially the case when it comes to demo requests. If they fall behind, each hour or even minute's delay moves them closer to failure.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the speed of response of sales reps is directly proportional to their effectiveness:

"Companies that try to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly seven times as likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers as firms that try to contact prospects even an hour later. Yet only 37% of companies respond to queries within an hour."

In our research, we analyzed how fast different companies replied to our demo requests. Those who have an automated auto-response, (that is 38%), responded at once. But only 50% answered within the first 24 hours.

Choose an automated auto-responding email service to contact your new demo request leads at once -- at least at the initial stage. If you opt for automation, Calendly and HubSpot's meetings tool are great to include in messages so new leads can set up times that work for them.

3. Optimize your follow-up pipeline.

how_to_schedule_a_demo_mini

When your customers send you a demo request, they expect to be contacted soon -- ideally immediately. In our survey, we found that most of the first automated email messages we received were signed by Team or Sales Managers, and we also found that about 1% were signed by a VP of Sales or VP of Marketing.

Then, starting from the second email send, follow-up messages must be sent regularly with proper time lapses in between, using either email automation or by the sales reps themselves. During our research, we found that 15% of all the companies are goal-oriented enough to send out a calendar invitation right away to schedule a live demo in the first message.

The follow-up emails may be sent by Sales, Account or Business Development Managers. In fact, about 2-3% of emails we received were signed by a CEO.

who_sends_the_emails_miniRemember that however automated your emails are, they mustn't be dull or appear formulaic. There are plenty of welcome email templates you can use to craft your automated messages so they don't sound robotic.

4. Prepare for demo request calls.

If you've gotten this far, then all your previous efforts weren't in vain. Now, it's time to make the call. Here are some winning tactics to make your live demo a success:

Master the product.

You must know the product and its nuances inside and out prior to the demo call so you can answer any questions that come up while establishing yourself as a subject matter expert.

Customize your pitch to the individual.

Next, make sure you're able to customize your pitch to the prospect on the fly by studying up on what you know about them before you pick up the phone. You need to choose the right focus of your call, which is usually to see what their biggest challenge is, and if your product could solve it and bring them value.

Review the information you collect from the demo request form before getting on the phone, and then, start your call with a few minutes of discovery questions. Ask your customer about their type of business, concerns and challenges, and what problems need a technological solution. The answers will help you craft your live demo and distill your product's features into a compelling value proposition.

Answer all questions your prospect may have about the product, and then help them visualize success with your product by referring to the "now" and the "after" stages of interacting with the product. This will help them understand how drastically their business will benefit from purchasing.

Make sure you're prepared with a few sales closing phrases to bring the deal home if your conversation is positive and you think your product or service would be a good fit for the customer.

If you implement demo request calls successfully, though, you may not even need to use a pitch -- the prospect may want to become a customer without needing convincing. To learn more, read about how to deliver the perfect sales demo next.

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Originally published Dec 7, 2018 7:30:00 AM, updated May 31 2019

Topics:

Sales Demo