How Sales Leaders Can Empower Their Teams to Deliver Kickass Product Demos

Modern technologies are more powerful and user-friendly than ever before, yet many sales professionals still struggle to lead effective product demos. Why is that? Rob Falcone, Guru’s Director of Sales Engineering, wrote the book on executing better demos – literally. His book Just F*ing Demo! outlines tactics to help sellers lead clear, relevant demos, and exceed revenue generation goals quarter after quarter.

Rob recently shared three tips for evaluating demos on the Guru blog, and he and I decided to dive deeper into the art of the demo during a dedicated webinar. We discussed how to help sales leaders define what effective demos look like in their organizations, and empower their teams to deliver them.

Watch a recording of the webinar below for full insights, and keep reading for Rob's answers to live viewer questions we received during the session. Bonus: answers to all the viewer questions we didn't have time to answer live!

 

Live Q&A

How long should the first demo be? 5, 10, 15 minutes? Is it about time or about milestones? – Daniel P.

I'd say the answer to "How long?" should always be "It depends."

What's happening before and after this demo? Is there any interaction between the rep and the prospect prior to the first demo? If not, maybe the first demo is a 30 minute meeting: 5 minutes of discovery, 10 minutes of demo, 15 minutes talking about the longer-term buying process. 

If it's first contact for a relatively transactional product, maybe the first demo is an hour and you go through all of the features and the goal is to get the prospect to click yes, put a credit card in, and figure out the rest of the answers on their own. 

My guidance would be: Stay away from absolutes. Think about how the first demo for Person A should be different than the demo for Person B; how the first demo should be different for Company A vs. Company B.

How many demos, or hours per week of demos, do you expect sales managers and sales reps to spend listening to others' demos that have been recorded? – Ryan P.

I would say focus less on the number of hours and focus more on what you're listening to. When I first built out an SE team, we didn't have a tool like Chorus or Gong at the time, so I did have my team sit in on X hours each week of other peoples' demos. Now with these tools, SE doesn't actually need to be on the call. Now, even though I will have my team listen to three Chorus calls a week, more importantly, I'll have them use our scorecard and score the demos themselves so they go from being passive listeners to active listeners.

So, the number of hours they're listening is less important, and more important is giving them the framework to be active listeners. What is it specifically that you want them taking away from demos because you know it's going to help them do their jobs better?

One more point: You might have Person A listen to demos and evaluate a certain skillset because that's the one they need the most help on, but for Person B, it's a totally different skillset. Again, it's less about the number or the amount and more about how you make people active listeners.

How do you make sure that the questions on a scorecard are the right questions? – CM N.

When you think about the rubric for your scorecard, try to avoid absolutes like: "Ask X amount of questions." 20 bad questions is nothing compared to two good ones. On the scorecard I showed during the webinar, the way to score a 3 on "Questions asked" is based on whether 75% of the questions asked were open-ended and thoughtful questions. So, I'd think about it in terms of the percentage of questions you asked, were they effective? Less about the number, more about the quality.

What do you do when you're losing someone and not getting great engagement? What are the tactics you use when you sense that things aren't going so well? – Jeremy B.

Every prospect is different, every audience is different.Am I losing them because they're a talkative person and just checked out? Or are they just a timid person and I need to engage them in another way?

I was just talking to a rep about this the other day: A certain slide in a rep's deck was meant to be a conversation piece, but he'd already seen that his audience on the other side had only been giving one word answers to every question so far. So instead of using that slide as a backdrop for a conversation, he just moved those questions to the demo itself and showed them in the product.

So, if the person on the other end seems like they could be talkative but are just zoned out, I recommend asking more questions. Or, if they seem like the type of person who is quiet, I'll hold my questions until I have another reason to ask them, like in the context of a certain feature.

When there are many people from various use cases in one demo, how do you keep them all engaged? Prioritization based on the most important people? And how do you manage time and make sure you're speaking to every stakeholder? – Jennifer R.

I'd go back to the You – They – You framework. What do you need to do so they get what they want and you get what you want out of this meeting. If this is a large group of people and what you want is to get that executive sponsor to say, "Yes, I'll sponsor this project," then that's probably going to influence what you do. If what you want is to get people to agree to a deeper demo, then that's going to influence what you do.

So I would say go back to the goal of the meeting, and then from there, if you know enough about the people in the room, make a point to let someone know why you think this is going to be interesting to them. Even if all you know about them is what you found on LinkedIn, take a second to personalize a moment for them. You can always set up a deeper conversation with them separately.

I saw that your success in closing deals improved when you started implementing these tactics. What differences, if any, did you see in the average length of your deal cycle? – Hannah W.

Off the top of my head I don't know the answer in terms of cycle time – that's so dependent on product anyway. It's almost counterintuitive to have the goal of a demo to get another meeting, but trying to cram too many features into one demo was not speeding things up.

I believe in optimizing for good process and the downstream metrics will follow, rather than optimizing for shortening sales cycle because then you might end up executing on some wrong behaviors.

If you have a non-engaged client, should you try to demo them to get them more engaged? – Kyle T.

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: Why? No one likes getting the call, "Hey, I'm here to sell you new stuff!" but if you have a new feature that you know works for customers like them, go for it.

Thoughts on the use of explainer videos? Both for prospecting and in an actual demo? – Rich C.

Love it. Both for prospecting and demoing. If it's relevant. Today I used a video in place of a demo, but I didn't push play and sit back and let some great baritone voice – usually British – explain it. I explained it live and that's what makes a difference. Most folks today are visual, so if you think you have a very visual product and people would like seeing it, short GIFs and videos are your best friends. The only caveat is don't show everything – shorter is better.

Do you find that the deal cycle moves faster by conducting discovery on the same call as the demo? Can you support a full demo instantly when you've just done discovery, or is it something that requires more thought and can't happen instantly? – Cassandra E.

Would the deal move faster if you gave one demo with all features that are generic? Or if you gave a demo with one feature that is generic and followed it up with a second demo where all of the features are customized? That's the question you need to answer. 

I'd love to have the first meeting be 15 minutes of conversation, 15 minutes of demo, and 15 minutes of next steps. The art is figuring out the right experience for the right person.

In a 5 minute discovery call, do you recommend writing down the buyer's questions? Is writing things down in front of a buyer a good move or not? – Kelly H.

We record all of our calls, so we can go back and reference every question, but I'm still an OG note taker anyway. If someone asks about a certain feature, I still write it down and then think about where to slot it into my buckets. Purely mechanically, writing something down helps me.

But for full-on notes, tools like Chorus and Gong all the way.

I struggle with pausing after being asked a question. I like to get my thoughts together, but don't want them to think I'm not prepared. – Mary Ann A.

I think that when you do pause, it shows that you are digesting what they said and delivering a considered response. On the phone I'll mute while someone is talking, and that forces me to take a beat, unmute, and respond. Leaving that little pause helps you evaluate the question and run the right play. The bonus point is that people usually take that as "This person isn't spouting off their generic crap, they're actually listening to what I asked and answering with relevance."

Additional Q&A

Is there a time limit you try to adhere to in giving a demo? – Robin B.

Hey Robin! It all depends on the goal of the meeting: You - They - You. In an intro demo where your goal is to book a deeper dive (second you), you might know that there is one key feature that similar prospects get excited about (they), and so might decide to show only that one feature in this first demo (first you). This then could be a 30 minute meeting, with 5 minute discovery, 15 minute demo, and 10 minutes mutually lining up next steps.

On the flip side, I’ve run demos that have gone two hours, because the goal was that a variety of stakeholders walk away feeling confident they could execute each of their key use cases.

Do you talk about telling stories within the context of the feature? For example, “If you want to accomplish X, we give you Y, Z”? We are working on our demo scripts and I am trying to make it an experience – or in your opinion do you feel like we are over working it? – Lindsay C.

Yes, stories are key! You’ll probably find your top performers are doing this organically; they personally know the stories of similar prospects they helped achieve a goal, and can demo to that. To help scale these top performers’ success, think about ways you can automate these stories finding your newer and/or less successful reps, so they can score some wins and then catalog those for their own stories.

What is a good balance between demoing the product but also spending time discussing the value of the company you represent? – Kreeya K.

A fellow viewer, Ben O., actually shared a great answer to this question in the webinar chat:

Value-selling should be intertwined throughout the entire product demo. The demo should not be feature focused, but rather value focused. The question to ask yourself is how does this feature align with their company’s needs? – Ben O.

Love this, Ben! Fully agree. My only additional thought is that you can use the demo to help the prospect understand and quantify exactly how a feature drives value. For example, in the webinar demo, I showed how a feature might help new reps get the information they need to feel confident in their early sales calls. I could help this prospect think through: How many new hires are coming? How long before they can be confident enough to carry quota? How much do they think this feature could help reduce that? What is that incremental capacity worth?

How do you recommend changing the behavior of salespeople that just throw out "Let’s do a demo" without doing enough discovery? – Ana S.

Really good question, Ana; you’re getting into some psychology here! My suggestion would be to first understand and scorecard those demos. Perhaps the “demo” these reps are using is actually a good discovery conversation with the features as a backdrop, and thus super relevant and achieving the seller and buyer’s mutual goals. Alternatively, perhaps you find that the demos are ineffective. Then you can dig into why the sellers are defaulting to generic, ineffective demos. I often find that in the latter case, these reps aren’t armed with the “in the moment” safety net to have a strong, two-way conversation, and thus default to one-way lecture demos.

Is it strictly necessary to ask questions to the prospect? Wouldn’t it be enough (or maybe better) to make statements that contain the answers to those non-asked questions? – Enrique I.

Good point, Enrique. No one likes questions for questions' sake. I find it helps to consider “Who knows more about this topic, me or the prospect?” If the topic is, say, how a feature works or how current users employ it, I can share that as a statement. If it’s how my prospect would or wouldn’t use the feature, who on their team would set it up, or how they’d measure its success, then it could be a question.

What do you do when you’re doing a demo (with video on) and you notice that there’s one or more people who might not be paying attention (on their laptop, playing with their phone, etc)? – Ben O.

I yell, “HEY, PAY ATTENTION!” Kidding :) Here’s the thing – most prospects check out from time to time during a demo. I certainly have when vendors have demo’d to me. So empathy is key, and embarrassing them by calling on them unexpectedly is a no-no I’ve learned the hard way.

Nowadays what I’ll do is if I’m talking about a feature, I’ll mention their name, keep going for a bit, then more deeply engage them. Mentioning their name essentially wakes them up gives them time to get back in the flow (since I keep going for a few more sentences) and then re-engage in the conversation without feeling like I set them up to be embarrassed and admit they weren’t paying attention.

Thanks for this presentation – I realize plenty of things I’ve been doing wrong, but a path to improvement! Can’t wait to read your book, Rob! – John B.

Thanks for the note, John. Truth is, demo’ing effectively is REALLY hard for the reasons we discussed in the webinar, and I still find things I need to improve on.

Does having more than one person presenting on a straightforward demo increase the strength of the presentation, or take away from the execution of the demo? – Robin B.

I personally LOVE team selling for two reasons. First, if the audience checks out for a few moments (which is common), the voice switch from Person A to Person B often gets people’s attention back. Second, Person B can take note of the audience’s expressions, side conversations, or questions, and ensure that Person A goes back and addresses them during the demo.

I’d argue that [...] you should ask a question back – when you find out why they asked that question, you often are able to find out how they want to be sold- i.e.: what is really important to them – Sarahjane G.

Great point. Response questions, particularly to understand “why” are so critical to making the current (and future) demo increasingly relevant. I actually wrote a blog post on the topic a while back: Super Mario Taught me The Most Important Word in Sales. Through my struggles, I’ve often found that asking “why” directly can be off-putting; today I try to add context of the reason I’m asking them to go deeper.

Thanks to all of our engaged viewers! Feel free to reach out to Rob on LinkedIn with any additional questions.

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