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The software demo is a crucial part of the B2B sales process – and frankly, it is pretty easy to screw up. Demos can be too long, too feature-heavy, full of confusing and complex jargon or irrelevant to your prospects’ needs. Here, I’ve narrowed down some of the less obvious sales demo “don’ts.” Use these tips to teach your sales reps to tighten up their online sales presentations.

1) Don’t launch into the demo until you know your prospect’s business problems

Uncover their pain points by asking them questions – but be careful about how you ask these questions. Many buyers tend to associate sales reps with pushiness and manipulation and are uncomfortable with any line of questioning. They want you to simply show them your product so they can internalize and analyze it for themselves later. Don’t let this deter you from asking questions to get an idea of where they’re coming from.

You may have heard of the Sandler sales method, which is great for gaining information about your prospect. It goes like this: begin by asking broad, general questions and gradually make your questions more and more specific. You can use your prospect’s answers to identify and qualify their pain points and properly tailor your demo to their needs.

For example, if you were a car salesperson, you wouldn’t just ask a prospective customer right off the bat what monthly payment they’re looking to make. Instead, you would want to engage with them in a question path. Your questions might be, “What are you driving right now?” “What did you like and not like about it?” “How much will you be driving?” “What are you thinking in terms of budget?” “What other cars have you looked at already?” Listen carefully to their answers so you can begin to understand how you can solve their business problems.

2) Don’t assume any of the qualifying criteria

It doesn’t matter which criteria you use to qualify opportunities, whether it’s BANT or something else – never assume a prospect has any of the qualifying criteria unless they say it out loud.

Many reps are afraid of accidentally disqualifying someone too early, not generating enough pipeline to keep up, or not fighting hard enough – but it’s important that they don’t waste time and effort working opportunities that will eventually lose because they didn’t properly qualify the opportunity in Stage 1. If an opportunity doesn’t qualify, it should be moved to closed-lost and time shouldn’t be wasted on the demo. If they do qualify, then you can use your newfound information to cater the rest of the demo to their needs.

3) Don’t give away free advice without a verbal contract

Good sales reps are like free consultants, giving away advice like M&Ms. Great sales reps work verbal contracts into that free advice, creating a mutually beneficial exchange of information.

This is another philosophy of the Sandler sales method: the upfront contract. The key to this step is being logical about the exchange of information. You’re not trying to trick them into buying, you’re simply making things fair: if you show you can solve their business problem, you expect something in return. If you work them through a process, they should arrive at a practical logical statement.

For example, let’s say you find out from asking questions that their CFO would need to sign off on your product before they can buy. When you start the demo portion of the call, ask that if they agree at the end of the demo that you’re solving their business problem within their budget, they will set up a meeting for you with the CFO. It’s just logical – how can they say no to that?

4) Don’t end the demo without clear, mutually agreed upon next steps

The last thing you want to do is end a demo ambiguously. Before you sign off, identify a next-step action item and make sure it is clear to your prospect. Maybe they’ll find a time on their CFO’s calendar next week to set up an hour-long meeting and get back to you later today. Perhaps they’ll check out some recorded videos you’ll send them and take it to their CEO. If s/he’s interested, they’ll call you back. The next step will vary from case to case, but make sure to keep the momentum going.

What tips do you have about conducting sales demos?

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