I’ve listened in on a lot of sales demos. It started as a simple sales research project -- what conversation paths were our prospects taking?  How could we optimize those paths, and from a marketing perspective, close the loop to deliver more qualified prospects to our sales team? More educated prospects, shorter sales cycle ... everyone wins!

What I uncovered was an entire methodology that hasn’t necessarily been written about -- that of a proactive, interactive demo. Here are some pro tips I came away with for delivering demos that will wow your prospects.

How to Give a Perfect Sales Demo

1) Confirm the Demo

Things happen. Make sure your prospect doesn't forget the demo time, and give them a window to postpone if they've accidentally double-booked. Send a calendar invite as soon as you have confirmed the date and time of the demo (don't forget to include any dial-in information), and then follow up with a confirmation email a few hours or the day before your demo. Ask if anyone other than who you listed will be attending. If so, make sure these additional people are added to the calendar invite.

2) Build and Plan Your Demo Before the Call

These days, there's a lot of technology out there to make your demo more engaging. Use it. Share your screen during the call with tools like GoToMeeting, create a personalized slide deck, and have any relevant links already loaded and ready to go in tabs on your browser. Some examples of these may include a customer case study, an informative infographic, or other web pages you think might come in handy during the demo.

You should also prepare business statements around each tool or service you plan to show your prospects, as well as tie-down questions to ensure your prospect is following along at your pace. Tie-down questions are those that spark agreement and invite the prospect to better define the value of a given tool or solution for their business. Plan tie-down questions for each tool or section in your demo to ensure your prospect is following along, understanding your descriptions, and grasping how these tools can help them solve their business problems. You want to lay out a clear path from A to B to C.

3) Take a Human Minute (or Five)

If you start the demo with, "Hi. How are you -- fine? Great! Now, here's the agenda … let's begin the demo," you have officially established yourself as a sales zombie. Prevent your prospect from secretly wondering if the next thing you'll do is eat her brains for dinner by taking the time to talk about things unrelated to the demo at hand. At this stage of the sales cycle, you've probably gotten a chance to know each other. Ask them how they've been, how their latest project went, if their cat is still being a diva, whatever. Time is precious, but so is rapport.

And rapport does not stop here. Build it at the beginning of the call, but continue to find ways to inject it into other parts throughout the demo as well.

4) Set an Agenda

This is so simple yet it's easy to forget. Create an agenda slide and set the expectations for the demo. Emphasize that there will be some time at the end of the demo for the prospect to ask more questions, but also stress that you can answer a question at any time. Knowing what will happen in a call puts the prospect at ease. You want to confirm that it meets everyone’s expectations -- since you’re nearing the end of your sales process, if other things need to be on the table, this is the time to address them. 

4) Summarize Past Conversations

One way to neatly sum up what you've talked about as well as remind everyone why they are on the call is to show a slide outlining the prospect's goals, plans, challenges, and timeline (GPCT). Confirm that you have this information right, and use it as a springboard to jump into the meat of the demo. 

5) Provide Some Background 

You've taken a few calls and done your research to understand the prospect's company -- now tell him/her a little about yours. You have the prospect's trust, and you want to extend that trust to your company as well. Establishing your company as a reputable, innovative potential partner of the prospect's instead of a seller-buyer relationship adds another layer of rapport. The ticket here is not using some generic babble. If there are specific things about your company that you know align well, bring them up, and customize the conversation.

6) Give the Grand Tour

Pretend you own a fantastic mansion (and if you do in real life, good for you) and that you're showing guests around for the first time. You're going to start at the entrance and work strategically around. You’re going to avoid that messy room down the hall, and save those extra-amazing features such as your state-of-the-art in-home theater and the special room that offers a panoramic view of the city. Apply this logic to the product you are demoing: Be specific and tactful in what you show, why you show it, and what you say.

Start with an overview. Explain overall why this product exists, and link it to the prospect’s needs confirmed by the GPCT. Each feature you demo should tie back into this idea of "why this product is perfect to solve your problem." Start with the basics -- these may overlap between your products and competitors' -- the parts that solve for a chunk of the problem. 

Then bring in the wow factors. Answer the question, "What unique value does your product provide me?" This is where personalization is key. For example, I would show a prospect looking to improve keyword strategy our Keywords tool -- which I would've filled out in advance with relevant industry long-tail keywords -- and then show how it ties into the Blogging tool to help increase keyword rankings. Link back to the plan you helped the prospect create during earlier conversations, and ask a tie-down question to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Furthermore, if your company provides excellent customer service to help with the onboarding process and beyond, milk it for all it's worth. Knowing help will be there when they need it does wonders to reassure a doubtful prospect since it provides a layer of cushioning in the prospect’s mind.

7) Address Questions

Always, always answer questions. If it is something that will be answered later in the demo, give a brief answer and state that you will go into more detail later in the demo.

Anticipate objections, and listen for the prospect's tone. Does he/she sound excited? Apprehensive? Curious? Confused? You need to be able to pick up on these nuances so you can frame your answers correctly. Pull out that extra infographic or show an example of a customer successfully solving the same problem using the same tools. Build social proof: Show that others have succeeded by partnering with you.

8) Set Expectations With Next Steps

Is the prospect interested in moving this conversation forward? It’s time to let him or her know upfront what is required on his or her end for this solution to be successful. For example, I might show a final slide that summarizes what we discussed in terms of the prospect’s commitment, skills, time, willingness to learn, and budget and begin a closing sequence.

The demo is to sales what the climax is to a movie -- this is the part where all the action has built up and resulted in one big moment where everything comes together … or falls apart. That's why it's so important to get the demo right. Take the time to prep, understand your prospect, and tie your product back to their needs. This way, you'll have much smoother sailing and a realistic likelihood of closing the deal and letting the credits roll -- while your audience walks away feeling like that was a great use of their hour.

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Originally published Aug 7, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated August 03 2017


Sales Demo