Close.io Co-founder & CEO, Steli Efti
Copyright © 2016
Close.io, Elastic Inc.
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Cover by Close.io
To my mother Anthoula, my wife Diana, and my little super hustlers Georgios and Leonidas.
Why do I care about giving good product demos? What qualifies me to write a book about it?
I started a company originally called ElasticSales and our team helped over 200 venture-backed startups in Silicon Valley develop predictable and scalable sales models.
In the process, we gave thousands of product demos ourselves. All of the companies we did sales for sold B2B SaaS products and so we always had to do product demos and webinars.
Not only did we give demos for hundreds of different products, we watched thousands of demos from other companies. Every time someone wanted to work with us, we had them give us a product demo and we would join a few product demos with real customers and prospects to see how they were doing it.
I can honestly tell you that I have seen too much painful shit, having gone through too many bad demos. And I have made it my personal mission to stop this and to make the world give better product demos.
That’s why the first chapter of this book is dedicated to all of the bad demos out there while the rest of the chapters show you how to demo the right way, from start to finish.
With this book, you’ll spend less time giving boring, irrelevant demos and more time creating value and closing deals.
Steli Efti, CEO of Close.io
This book is for sales reps and founders that want to sell their software.
If you are going to get the most value out of this book, you have to be actively engaged every step of the way.
Having been on both the receiving and giving end of countless product demos, I have seen the same mistakes, again and again.
That’s why I want you to go through this list of the seven deadly sins of demoing and see if you have committed any of them.
I join a product demo to a prospect that a founder, CEO, or junior salesperson gives. It’s a one-hour demo and at the end of 60 minutes of talking:
Sales rep: “All right, what’s your opinion on this? Do you like it?”
Prospect: “That was cool. Thank you so much.”
Sales rep: “No, no, wait—are you interested in buying? What’s the next step?”
Prospect: “Oh no, I’m just a student and I’m doing some research. Thanks again, this was really helpful.”
Holy shit! Did nobody qualify this person before you gave them an hour of your time and effort?
The problem is that too many product demos are being given to people who are not truly qualified!
No offense to all the students out there, but as a sales rep, your time is too valuable for that shit. You can’t waste it by giving a product demo to every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there. Selectivity is your friend when qualifying prospects.
One of the biggest mistakes that teams and companies makeis they don’t sell the demo!
Sales rep: “Oh, I think this is a perfect fit. The next step will be to give you a product demo. I will send you an email and let’s find the time next week to do a 60-minute product demo.”
Prospect: “Oh, okay.”
(Next week, the prospect looks at their schedule and decides, “I’m really busy right now. I don’t have enough time to attend a product demo.”)
Without fail, every week, people ask me “Why do we have such a high rate of no-shows for our product demo?”
It’s not enough to invite prospects to a demo—you actually have to sell the demo!
Demos are sales tools, period. Too many people give product demos as if they are product training sessions.
Here’s the difference: when you give a demo, you help a prospect understand the value your product can generate for them and you help them make a buying decision. It’s sales.
Once somebody is a customer, you might want to give them training on how to become proficient in using your product and getting the maximum value out of it.
However, until the prospect becomes a customer, you’re selling, not training.
Since people confuse product demos for training tools (see sin #3), demos are way too long!
The average product demo is 60 minutes. Nobody can remember 60 minutes of product features and “if you click on this button … ”.
The prospect doesn’t know your product and hasn’t used it. Show them the most valuable things and get going with it.
We’ll discuss the ideal length of a product demo later in the chapter “How to Give Product Demos”, but just know that it is not 60 minutes.
The purpose of your product demo is demonstrate value, not features and functionalities.
Nobody cares about your product’s features. What that means is that when you’re giving your product demo, you need to focus on how your product is going to help your prospect:
Don’t show the prospect a list of features; they don’t care yet.
The prospect simply wants to know if the product is good and how it’s going to make their life better.
Skip the clicks and get to the point.
If you give a demo and you give it remotely—meaning you can’t see eye to eye with the person because they’re not in the same room as you—you have to highlight the precise moment when prospects need to pay full attention to you.
During a virtual demo, the prospect might be on Facebook or checking their emails, which means you can’t assume that you have their full attention the entire time.
Instead, assume that you have very little of people’s attention. While giving shorter demos will help keep prospects engaged, it’s still important to directly command their attention when you need it most.
Don’t let prospects figure out the most important moments on their own; tell them when the most important moments are.
Sales rep (after an hour of demoing): “Thank you for time. I’m glad we were able to discuss the product and that I was able to answer your questions. Have a good day!”
Prospect: “Thanks! You have a good day, too.”
Where’s the fucking close?
Too many demos don’t have a close. They end with no purpose, no direction, no conversion, no “this is the next step I want you to take.”
Obviously, this is a major issue. Product demos are sales tools; if they aren’t ending in closes or call-to-actions, they are being wasted.
Use the tools you have to get the results you want.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it highlights the most common, and deadliest, mistakes I see when sales rep or founders give product demos.
You can spend years learning by trial and error—or you can take a shortcut by learning directly from my experiences.
By presenting the most common mistakes front and center, my aim is to make you more self-aware as you read this book, allowing you to get the most value from it.
Now that you have a better idea of the areas you need to work on, let’s get started with the first step of giving a product demo: qualifying demo attendees.
Why is qualifying demo attendees so important? Because it will help you understand which features to show your prospect and how to craft a product demonstration that connects with your audience and excites them. You’ll be able to map your product’s benefits to your prospect’s needs.
Research by Sales Benchmark Index has shown that demos conducted without discovering need win 73% less often in a competitive opportunity, whereas companies that tie back their demos to specific pain points are 35% more likely to win the deal.
On the subject of product demos, Robert Falcone, the author of Just F*cking Demo!, believes:
A well prepared demo is obvious. It can be interrupted multiple times. It can be fast-forwarded and rewinded without flustering the speaker. It only shows off what the audience needs to see to come to a decision. It’s fluid and flexible and—while it may have been obsessively rehearsed—it comes off as effortless.
How could you possibly conduct a successful demo if you don’t know the prospect’s evaluation criteria?
Without qualifying, you can only deliver a one-size-fits-all demo. (If you’ve ever worn one-size-fits-all clothing, you know there’s really no such thing.)
Customize your product demo to your prospect’s desired results to make the most out of your sales opportunities.
Spending a couple of minutes (or more, if it’s a deal crucial to your company) to gather some information about the prospect can help you gain more valuable insights when talking with them.
•Their customers: Through testimonials, case studies and customer logos.
•Their team: Through “About Us” pages, LinkedIn profiles, and blog posts.
•Their partners: They often display partnerships on the website.
Another way to research a company is by looking them up through business research companies like Dun & Bradstreet or Hoovers, but for most startups, this won’t be necessary.
It’s best to qualify prospects before you even set the appointment for a demo. Assuming a prospect expressed interest in a demo, and you’re on the phone with that person, just say:
“I want to make sure that we don’t waste any of your time on a demo that doesn’t answer your questions and provide you with the insights you need to make an informed decision. That’s why I’m going to ask you a few questions about your interest in our software.”
Then, proceed to ask questions.
You can, of course, also dedicate the first minutes of your demo to this. However, it’s a good idea to do this in a separate conversation because you might discover that you’re not a good fit for that prospect, thus saving yourself and your prospect time spent scheduling a demo that won’t provide any value.
If multiple people are attending your demo, ask each one to introduce themselves. There are three pieces of information that are particularly useful to you:
•What’s their job title?
•What’s their main responsibility?
•What insights do they hope to gain from attending your demo?
Ideally you want to create your own list of questions that work best for your sales needs, but here are some questions to get you started:
•Why is the prospect interested in your solution?
•Which objectives do they hope your product will help them achieve?
•Which problems do they hope your product will help them solve?
•How are they currently trying to achieve this?
•What do they like most about their current approach?
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This is the no B.S. guide to presenting software like a pro for SaaS startup founders and sales reps. Wonder why prospects fail to attend your demos and why your demos fail to close the deal? Want to better differentiate yourself from competitors and customize your demo to your prospects' needs? Worried about how to deal with questions, objections, and bugs during the demo? This book will answer all your questions and increase your demo-win rates because these are the methods I used at my previous startup to help over 200 venture-backed startups deliver 1,000s of demos that created millions of dollars in revenue. Giving successful product demos is not rocket science. Anybody can do itâ€”if you've got the right blueprint.