While there isn't a formula, there is a definite list of ingredients.
There are demos, and then there are demos. You know the ones I'm talking about: it feels like a conversation, the product looks fantastic, the presenters seem to really know the prospects' needs inside out, and it is obvious that the prospects see real value in the solution. Before the meeting is over, the prospect and their team are already on-board. Everything feels smooth. Frictionless.
Obviously, not all demos are like this, even for those sales reps and sales engineers who are at the top of their game. However, these folks do get close to it more often than most. Here's the kicker: it's not rocket science, and these folks aren't doing anything radically different. They are making small, but significant tweaks to the way they approach certain aspects of the demo.
In this post, I'm covering some of the tweaks I feel pack the biggest wallop.
Standardized Vs Customized
You can potentially do a pretty good demo even with the standard vanilla one-size-fits-all demo. There's just one problem: the client already gave you time for discovery, and patiently answered all your questions. Now, you're showing them the basic version?
Customization and personalization is the name of the game today, particularly in SaaS. There are lots of ways that you can accelerate custom demo creation. You want to take all that information you gathered in discovery, and use it to showcase what your tool can really do. Don't expect your prospect to use their imagination here. You know what their problems are. Now, show them the solutions. This leads me to…
Features Vs Solutions
Customers want solutions. If your product has one, then that's your story. Despite what its name suggests, the demo isn’t an opportunity to showcase all your features. Its purpose is to communicate how your product can solve your prospect’s pain points and help them reach their business goals.
The ideal demo flow maps directly to the topics you covered during discovery. Lead with the biggest pain point - what happens in the first six minutes is critical. Talk about the solution, demonstrate it, and then validate understanding. Do they think this solution would add value? Allow questions to emerge. Repeat with the next biggest pain point.
Presentation Vs Conversation
Given all the information we carry in our heads, we tend to look for any excuse to 'educate' customers. Pro tip: don't. Info dumps are not your friend.
Instead, let questions emerge. If prospects really do want more information on a part of your solution, let them ask. Listen to the question, in context, and reply in context. Don't monologue when you do, please. This is meant to be a conversation. Let the prospect lead you into the places they want to explore. If that means needing to go off-script, do so! You never know what this new tangent will reveal.
Also, don't jump in to fill in the silences. You know that compulsion you feel to say something? The prospect is feeling it too. Let them say what's on their minds instead.
Scripts Vs Cues
Okay, we all use scripts. The key is not to sound scripted. The best demos often come off as effortless. They feel spontaneous, even though they are anything but. The key to not sounding scripted? Practice. Lots and lots of practice.
Also, cues. I may be biased, but IMHO, cues trump scripts any day, especially when it comes to the fluidity of delivery. This is why I designed SmartCue. I wanted to give my sales reps a second brain, sort of like Jarvis for Iron Man. All the information they need, cued in context. The result? Demo Confidence! With SmartCue, the sales rep has a guideline instead of a script, and therefore, they sound like themselves! It doesn't matter if they get interrupted, or if the prospect wants to go explore another part of the screen that isn't included in their custom demo; they get to do it with smart cues to help keep the conversation going, and return to their agenda, without having to madly flip about their presentation slides.
I always recommend SmartCue to anyone who does demos, training or anything where they walk someone through something on a screen. It works, and I love using it myself (it is my baby, after all). You do you though - find what works for you.
Wrapping Up Vs Planning the next steps
How you end a demo is crucial. There are those who like to keep Q&A towards the end. I don't like that approach. Not only does that mean that the presenter will drone on without any feedback from the attendees, but the last thing the prospect will remember from the meeting is objections. What if there is an object there that you weren't able to resolve to their satisfaction? The brain's negative bias will make sure that that's the piece they will remember from the demo!
Instead, I prefer demos where questions are answered in context. That way, by the time you've reached the end of the demo, you're in the 'next steps discussion' segment of the agenda. This is the time to put up the next steps slide and wait for the prospect to make the first move. Remember, the less you speak here, the more they will. Everything they say at this stage is gold: it is giving you insight into what they're thinking.
Great demos don't just happen. They take a lot of work, and a lot of practice. Deliberate practice is where you put in the work to consistently improve yourself. What I've given you here is a list of things that apply to nearly all demo types across the SaaS ecosystem. It's just a start though. There will always be nuances specific to your industry and your product.
Find them. Experiment with them. Fail forward. And succeed.
You've got this.