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What Salespeople Should Do before Every Product Demo


In solution selling, whether for software or other complex products and services, a demonstration, or demo, is a key value-selling activity and a critical decision factor for a prospect. It helps them understand the value impact for their business.

However, not every prospect should get a personalized demo and salespeople should reserve this step for properly qualified prospects, especially for those prospects that are willing to collaborate with you toward a deal. Otherwise, you can guide your prospect to prerecorded generic demos or webinars.

What Should Come First

When a prospect asks you for a demo, you should first say: “I would be glad to show you our demo. Let’s schedule a 30-minute call to better understand your needs. Your time is valuable. This session will help make sure our demo focuses only on the capabilities that impact you and your business.” When explaining the demo process to your prospect, you do not need to reference this session as discovery.

Many times, your prospect will insist on seeing a demo of your product without prior discovery. If the prospect is new to you or you only have external-facing research, it’s important that you push for prior discovery. Discovery conducted in the first half of the demo meeting is not a suitable substitute to prior discovery. It is the responsibility of you and your sales team to uncover the business problems and, in turn, focus on how to do a product demo that shows significant business value impact.

You cannot provide a relevant personalized demo without the right understanding of your prospect’s business. A personalized demo is intended to show how your product can solve the prospect's business problem. If your prospect is serious about solving his or her problem and buying, they will be willing to talk.

Spending Your Time Wisely

With solution selling, it is important to spend your time with prospects who are willing to mutually collaborate on a problem and an impactful solution to the prospect’s business. Likewise, it is important to ensure you respect your prospect’s time and work on value-added activities. Up-front discovery ensures that demos of any proposed solutions are properly aligned to the prospect’s business needs. Very often, if you show a generic demo without prior discovery, you will likely still need to present a personalized demo. The generic demo will be an unnecessary step.  

Marketing as an Alternative

In many organizations, the marketing group is charged with building demand and generating qualified leads. Often, the marketing group runs webinars with generic demonstrations to compel prospects to reach out for a more engaging conversation. When prospects decline to conduct a short discovery, first point them to a relevant webinar session. You can also reinforce the importance of a discovery session prior to providing a personalized demo.

Additionally, many software vendors have a “request a demo” button on their website. This entry point for prospects sets a perceived expectation of a demo. The keyword is request. This is meant to capture warm prospects; those prospects who are interested enough to share their information. Some people think you owe the prospect a demo when they have contacted you through this channel. Yes, you should share some form of a demo with the prospect. However, as a sales person, it is your job to qualify what you share, point them to a recorded demo, or offer a personalized demo after discovery.

You have the right to ask the prospect for more information. Say, “Before I show you a demo, I want to make sure we focus on how our product can impact your business. Let’s set aside some time to discuss your business a little more. Then, we can show you a personalized demo that meets your business needs. Otherwise, I can share a recorded demo.” Prospects are looking for products to solve a business problem. If they do not want to discuss their problem, then there is either no problem or there is no trust. A generic demo will not build trust.

Your Prospect’s Imagination

Showing a demo without discovery requires prospects to imagine how your product can solve their problem. If that was how software was routinely sold, then your prospect could just click through a site, watch some videos, and leave his or her credit card information.

There is significant risk in leaving a buying decision up to your prospect’s imagination. Your prospect can easily have an unintended perception of product fit and interpret his or her lack of knowledge about your product as a product gap. Therefore, it is the duty of you and your sales team to create a vision of how your product can solve the business problem in order to reduce the risk of perception and interpretation. It is important for a product demo to ensure clarity of fit and impact on business value.

Discovery and the Trusted Advisor

Many sales professionals believe that you should bring to the table both industry knowledge and prior experience with other customers. While this is true, your expertise is one part of becoming a trusted advisor to your prospect. Proper discovery allows you to merge your point of view with the considerations of the prospect’s needs. Expertise and discovery together will have the most impactful demo possible and in turn you will be viewed as a trusted advisor.

No Discovery, No Demo

Without discovery, you are not set up to win. If prospects refuse discovery, they are not serious about evaluating your product and therefore not likely to buy. A demo without discovery leads to a demo of features and functions, not business-value impact. Remember, you should sell on business value, not feature and functions. Without business-value impact, price becomes the deciding factor, as your prospect only understands your product’s features and functions.

You cannot provide a relevant personalized demo without the right understanding of your prospect’s business.”

Felix Santiago | Principal Solution Engineer, Salesforce

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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