Salespeople: Stop Giving So Many Demos

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Michael Pici
Michael Pici


Halfway through the month, I noticed my salesperson’s call-to-demo rate had dropped 10%.

During our next one-on-one, I asked her why.

“The decrease is intentional,” she responded. “I’ve become more selective about whom I’ll move to the demo stage. Not only can I focus my energy on the best-fit prospects, but I have more time in my day for other selling activities.”

This salesperson ended up selling more than she had in previous months. Since then, I’ve encouraged my team to give fewer demos.

Salespeople Have Become Demo-Happy

Imagine you’re three minutes into a connect call with a buyer when they request an overview of your product’s features.

Do you:

A) Launch into a product tour right then and there -- with the goal of closing by the end of the call

B) Think, “Awesome, they’re clearly primed to buy,” and schedule a demo immediately

C) Tell them you’d like to schedule a conversation about their needs and objectives first

If you answered A or B, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There are two likely outcomes when you shortcut the sales process and skip straight to a demo. First, you might win the deal -- but because you haven’t appropriately assessed whether your product is a good fit, your prospect may end up churning, returning it, and/or giving you negative reviews. Alternatively, you could lose the deal because you don’t know enough about their situation to position the product’s benefits in a relevant, engaging way.

Think of it this way: Every minute you spend giving a demo to a prospect who’s not an ideal customer is a minute you could be spending on activities that’ll actually help you meet your quota, such as prospecting, requesting referrals, cross- and upselling current customers, collecting testimonials, and more. There’s a huge opportunity cost to unnecessary demos.

In addition, to give a good demo you need to be mentally present -- you can’t go on autopilot. The more demos you give, the less energy you’ll have for other tasks. Giving fewer demos helps you be fully “on” the entire day.

Finally, being more selective about your demos helps you earn the buyer’s trust and respect. It will be clear that you don’t sell to anyone who will buy -- you only sell to customers who can benefit from your solution.

The bottom line? Just because the buyer asks for a demo or sales presentation doesn’t mean you should give one. Rushing to offer demos in an attempt to shrink your sales cycle is also ineffective, since you can’t give a convincing presentation without a thorough discovery. You’ll need to spend longer than normal answering objections and pushing past internal barriers -- assuming you even make it that far.

How to Respond to Premature Demo Requests

If your prospect asks for a demo too early in the sales conversation, here are some responses you can use to turn down their request without ticking them off:

  • “I’d be happy to show you how [product] can help you achieve [prospect’s goal]. To make sure I only include the most relevant details, let’s set up a call to discuss your priorities. Are you free on [date and time]?”
  • “Before we dive under the hood, I want to make sure [product] is the right fit for you. Are you available on [date and time] for a conversation about your needs?”
  • “[Product] has several different use cases. I don’t want to waste your time on the ones that don’t apply to you, so let’s go over your needs first. How does that sound?”
  • “I don’t feel comfortable taking [X minutes, hours] of your time on a [demo, presentation] until I know you’ll derive significant value from [product]. Let’s put a needs assessment call on the calendar first. Does [date and time] work for you?”

Sometimes the buyer agrees to a discovery call -- but keeps pushing for product information. In these scenarios, denying them might lead them to work with a different salesperson who’ll give them what they want immediately.

With that in mind, send them resources on your product’s main features or direct them toward a product webinar. You should also probe into the cause of their urgency: Are they operating on a deadline? Do they need to complete the purchase before a certain date?

Once you know why they’re in a rush, you’re better equipped to help them. For instance, if they need to make a decision by the end of the month, you might offer to rearrange some meetings so you can fit both a discovery call and demo in that time period.

Tracking Your Success

How do you know if your commitment to give fewer (and better) demos is working? There are four metrics you should track.

  • Leading indicators: Your weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly demo rate will go down, while your discovery call rate for the same period should go up.
  • Lagging indicators: Both your close rate and customer retention rate should increase.

It may seem counterintuitive, but giving fewer demos will make you more successful. Implement this change today, and watch your win rate climb.

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