Inside sales best practices: 5 tips for delivering online demos

This post is about presenting an online demo — when a sales person or a sales engineer presents an online demonstration of their solution for their prospects.  Many inside sales teams deliver demos as part of their sales process. For the last eight months, I have taken a bunch of sales calls for clients and seen a lot of online demos. Some good and some bad. At some point, I was going to write about my experiences. A couple things inspired me to finally write. Last week, I had three conversations with people who complained about bad sales demos they received. Oh, and then I saw this tweet on Friday:


The online demo is clearly here to stay which is great, but I have developed some opinions (shocker!) that may or may not help but I figured I would share them anyway:

1. The demo is part of the sales process but doesn’t replace selling

I repeat: I like the demo as part of the inside sales process. I just feel like something happened a couple years ago where the demo has become the pitch. That is not a solid selling practice. There should be a number of plays a sales person makes before putting someone in a demo. These plays will depend on your product and overall sales process, but some very basic fundamental steps to think about are getting the client to agree there is a problem (or a project), needs analysis, qualification, a value proposition tied back to what the sales person heard or knows. In 60-70% of the demos I attended the sales person jumped into the demo before they have even did any actually selling. I wonder if the problem is that we believe the product will sell itself? Not sure, but old sales fundamentals die hard — We used to work backwards from a problem and then helped our clients understand how to solve them. Most demos today are about features. Where I am from, features come last. Maybe I am old. (Yes, I have grey hair)

2. Understand the buyer and where they are in the buying process before delivering a demo

I believe that sales and marketing success stems from a fundamental understanding of your buyer and where THEY are in the process. A rigid demo-focused sales process is often about what YOU want the next step to be whether the buyer wants or needs it. Punchline: That is backwards. Let me give you an example:

I was working with a client (no names to protect the innocent) who I felt needed to explore a particular type of solution. They didn’t understand the market or the solutions and couldn’t figure out why they needed it. I felt that the vendors would do a better job of explaining than me. They had pain, they could get budget, and they want to solve their pain. They just don’t understand what to do next.

Vendor #1: Pushed the client into the demo, mentioned end of quarter discounts, and answered clear-cut market questions with feature answers in the demo. The client kept asking questions about the overall market which were answered with “and that’s why we were voted the best by so-and-so analyst firm” and followed by “And let me show you this.” The buyer did not care and was turned off. Their quote: “It was like I was buying a tv.”

Vendor #2: Spent time with the buyer understanding their current situation.  The sales person actually said: “I don’t think we should jump into a demo yet. Let’s start with some examples on how companies like yours are approaching this challenge.” After the presentation, he offered two pieces of content on best practices and how technology helps organizations execute these best practices. He then recommended we regroup: “I believe this is a solution that can help you drive XXX, I want you to believe it too. Lets set up the next time to talk to make sure we are on the same page. From there, I can prescribe next steps.” By the way, on the next call he felt the buyer was ready and then explained to them why they were the right solution for them. THEN he went to a demo. In the demo, he said: “Based on what we have talked about, I want to show you three important things.” Truthfully, I am not sure he needed the demo at that point. As the buyer said: “I trust them.”

Vendor #1 jumped to the demo, but the buyer wasn’t ready. They were eliminated. Vendor #2 realized that the buyer wasn’t ready for product and took a step back.

The demo doesn’t mean a thing to the prospect who isn’t ready. When you map the buyer journey from their point of view and train the sales team on this map, they will know what it takes to truly advance people through the sales process. The sales people can then make a better of assessment on when to deliver the demo and what type of information the demo should emphasize.

Which is another big point, it is important to know which buyer persona you are talking to. For example, most decision makers don’t want demos instead they want their big picture questions answered. They have someone whose job it is to evaluate the product. When you map the buyer journey, map the journeys of multiple buyers because the plays a sales person make will change based on who the buyer is. On a recent sales call with a decision maker, the sales person said “Let’s jump into a demo”. I watched the decision maker go right to his phone. Don’t get me wrong, there are decision makers who want demos, but the rules of buyer-centric selling still apply. You want to give a demo that is right for the decision maker. For example, they may want to see reporting or enforcement. I don’t know, it’s your product . Just remember that developing a fundamental understanding of who the buyer is will allow sales people to be as relevant as possible during the demo process. Otherwise, the buyer will be staring at their smart phone again or worse (see below):

online demo, sales presentation

3. Understand the buyer’s environment to make the demo as relevant and personal as possible

Sales people should have a playbook that provides them with questions that help them develop an understanding of their prospect’s current environment, processes, goals, and challenges. The playbook should then outline a set of plays — messaging soundbytes, content to provide, and ultimately, potential demos to deliver the prospect.  The sales people should be trained on what to listen for and how to translate that information into an effective online demo. We had a great demo with one sales person who first said: “Before I jump in, let me play back what I believe to be your current process.” He then said: “Based on what I heard, I believe we can improve X. Let me show you a couple things in this brief online demo that will help you understand how we can help.” Bingo.

4. If the demo is critical to your sales process , then coach ’em up

We coach and train sales on everything else — the demo is no different. The starting point is to have structured training on giving the demo including role plays based on the answers the fake buyer gives in the opening phase of the conversation. Then, managers need to listen and watch their reps do their demos and provide coaching. It is important to help sales people understand why they are giving the demo. The great sales people deliver great demos, presentations, etc because they know what they are trying to achieve. Many demos today don’t feel like that is the case. They are memorized from a script. Scripts are fine, but the real acid test is the sales person who knows where they want the buyer to be after the demo. That takes training and coaching (and smarts).

5. Focus on the big points

Don’t show me every little thing in the app. Boring…As I went through more demos, I learned my lesson and started to tell the sales reps what they should focus on in the call. Many of the good ones were happy because they were going to ask any way and it sped up their process. Unfortunately, a few still walked us through the entire app including the login process. Remember the story I told earlier about the sales rep who focused on the big needs when demo’ing the product. My client loved him for it.

Truthfully, I focused on the areas that need work, but there were some great demos I witnessed.

I hope this helps — what do you think? Tell me below

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter


Photo of dude sleeping by Tom Stovall