It doesn't matter how small your team is if you use the right multipliers. 

I recognize that what I'm about to say here may already be familiar turf for those of us who come from a strong background in sales, but recent interactions show that a number of solopreneurs and startup founders don't speak sales that fluently. Also, many of these folks are going it alone, without sales leaders, and attempting to build sales teams with a mix of experienced and not-so-experienced sales folks. 

So, in the service of my fellow entrepreneurs, here are SmartCue's learnings about what makes for a super effective demo, and excellent follow-throughs thereafter. 

It all starts with good sales intel 

If you aren't using a sales intelligence tool yet, you're really missing out. Sales intelligence software gives you a great starting point: an ever-evolving list of qualified prospects, with their current contact information (and in many cases, their preferred mode of contact) who already have the intent to buy. Folks, this beats screaming into the void, any day. 

How does it work? These tools continuously crawl millions of publicly available websites, gathering relevant data, and matching it to profiles in their database. You get to specify your criteria and viola! You have lists. Lists that will beat any database you buy. Hands down. 

Working personalization into cold email 

No one likes spam. Period. But, if your cold emails don't look like spam and don't act like spam, they won't be treated as spam! Build your sales intelligence into your email templates. Are you targeting the right people in the organization? Are you writing to decision-makers or users? I recommend targeting both - write to the users about their pain points, and then to their boss about the business value of your solution. 

If you're having trouble getting started, explore templates. There are literally thousands available online. Look for ones that appeal to you, and then make them your own. Then, make sure your subject lines don't trigger spam filters. Use first names where possible. Don't send attachments or links in your first-ever email. Use questions instead - invite engagement. 

Please, use an email tracking tool. Let's face it, if your sales reps are sending out hundreds of emails each week, and then following up on them manually, you're going to lose some of these potential customers. Moreover, your sales reps are going to be bored stiff - too much admin, too little sales makes a dull sales rep. 

Email tracking tools work wonderfully to eliminate the busy work that comes with email campaigns, and most of these integrate with most sales intelligence tools! So, once you've done your research and have your templates ready, go set your email cadences. Email tracking tools give you near-instant feedback on what's working: you'll know if the email was received if it was opened, how many times it was opened, and whether links were clicked and attachments downloaded. 

Now, use this data to adjust. 

Do discovery demos 

You have the prospect on a video call. He wants to know more about your solution. You want to know more about their problem. You're asking questions, and promising a demo at a later date. 20 questions in, the prospect has lost interest. Sigh. 

This is the dilemma of discovery - don't do discovery, and you risk putting off the prospect with a generic product demo that doesn't speak to them. Do detailed discovery, and you risk the prospect not giving you time at a later date for a demo because you haven't done enough to pique their interest. 

But, there's a promising third route: The Disco Demo. (It's not what you think. Really.)

Say you've got the prospect on a video call with you. Begin with describing the problem as you see it, and ask for details. Let them answer. Before you get into the weeds with them, however, offer to give them a quick peek of your standard solution (which you will customize for them later), so it gives them context for the questions you're asking. Now, show them the functionality most relevant to them (less is more here). 

As you can imagine, this leads to much better discovery! Now that the prospect can visualize the solution a little bit, your questions aren't as esoteric. They can answer them in more detail, and ask pertinent questions of their own (which you may not have thought of). Moreover, having seen a little of your solution, they're much more likely to give you time for a full demo down the line. 

Make customizing demos easy 

Yes, your team needs to make a LOT of custom demos. But does it really need to involve all that work? Using your sales engineer as a non-stop demo resource is a sure road to burnout. Moreover, you don't get the best value out of their time - your sales engineer can add so much value to discovery, meetings with customers, and interactions with their tech teams. 

After all, your core functionality doesn't change all that much, what changes is the positioning, the data, the labels, and in some cases, the workflow. Find ways to simplify customization; there are a number of demo automation tools out there. Mine is called SmartCue, and it does a great job of taking the grunt work out of demo creation. 

Most of my customers use SmartCue to create demo libraries, which I highly recommend as an investment. Once you have a demo library, not only does it radically ease the burden on sales engineers, but it also doubles up as a to-go library (sorted by industry, function, and buyer persona) for disco demos! Moreover, it adds depth to email campaigns - you get to create interest by sending demo snippets to prospects that aren't yet ready to get on a discovery call! 

Make demos easy 

Having been a sales rep for many years, I can vouch for how hard demos can be. You've got to make a connection with the prospect(s), monitor the room for disengagement, listen for questions not asked and objections not voiced, and respond to voiced questions and objections with confidence, all while holding your demo script in your head and watching the clock. 

Moreover, the product changes all the time. Each time the product team updates the demo environment, there's something new to contend with. Plus, I've yet to meet a sales rep who is doing just one demo a day and meeting their quota. It just doesn't work that way. So, in addition to the stress of what's happening in the room, reps always have that niggling fear that they'll mix up the various demo scripts they're carrying in their heads. 

Phew! No wonder our sales reps have such high burnout rates. And no wonder they want sales engineers in the demo with them! 

When I was working on SmartCue, I was clear that it had to be a solution that did away with demo scripts. Our sales reps are so much more engaging when they're allowed to talk about the product in their own words! So, I created in-context smart cues (get it? 馃檪). SmartCue presents cues to the presenter (and only to the presenter!) based on where they are in the product. The sales reps simply need to follow the step-by-step demo playbook or demo flow. 

That's a solution that works for me and my clients. You need to find the solution that works for you. Anything that helps sales reps feel more confident is a plus. Anything that gives them the breathing room to be present in the room, focusing on the prospect is a double plus. 

The result? 


Your sales process works. You now have a client who, from the get-go, was engaged with the way they prefer. Your sales engineers now add more value by participating in the sale itself, because they aren't spending all their time making demos. And, your sales reps are finally free from the demo script, and supremely confident in their ability to find the right information in the right place without missing a beat. 

So now, they work the room. They engage, they connect, and they delight. They come across as competent, knowledgeable, and confident (and more importantly, they feel that way too!). Without the encumbrances that held them back, they do what they've always done best: they sell your product, meet their quotas, love their jobs, and grow your business.