The DNA of Live Software Sales Demos - A Comprehensive Guide

by Matan Mostov
July 19, 2023
Demo Best Practices
Demo Skills
Sales Execution
Guided Selling
Sales Performance

This is the Ultimate Guide for Live Demos, breaking it down to the DNA of what it means to create the best live sales interactions. This guide will show you exactly what makes up a successful demonstration.

The DNA of Live Software Sales Demos - A Comprehensive Guide

The DNA of Live Software Sales Demos

This is the Ultimate Guide for Live Demos, breaking it down to the DNA of what it means to create the best live sales interactions. This guide will show you exactly what makes up a successful demonstration. 

Here’s everything this guide covers:

What is a software sales demo?

The goal of a sales demo

Why is a demo important?

What are the three types of live demos?

The science of a winning software sales demo

Harness the power of storytelling

The basics: how to prepare for a demo

Write science-based demo scripts

Live demo training

Know What’s important to cover in a software sales demo

Analyze with real demo data

Turn your demo into a sale

What is a software sales demo?

At its core, a live software sales demo is a tool salespeople use to demonstrate the product's value to prospects.

“There is almost nothing more powerful than a great product demonstration,” wrote Geoffrey James, Inc. contributing editor. “When done correctly, a demo allows the customer to see and feel how things will be better if they buy (and worse if they don't).”

Usually, a software sales demo will demonstrate a product's or service's core capabilities and features. The demo allows prospective customers to see and understand the product, try its features and benefits, and experience the product before they buy.

The goal of a sales demo

The ultimate goal is to sell and improve close rates. This is achieved by showing prospects exactly how the product meets their unique needs and how it solves their pain points while allowing them to experience your solution.

Why is a demo important?

In most cases, the demo can be the difference between closing the deal and losing the sale. It is only during the sales demo that prospects get the opportunity to witness the product or service in action and get the ultimate proof of its quality and ability to provide a good solution to their needs. 

What are the three types of live demos?

There are three main types of live demos: 

  1. Fully Custom / Orchestrated demos
    The demonstration is built specifically for the prospect to reflect their unique business processes. It includes actual prospect data and often their branding.
    It is an intricate process, and this time commitment is often reserved for enterprise prospects. This complex demo is usually supported and can depend on a collaborative effort of engineers/experts, managers, and technical team support members. Sales experts aim to show solutions based on the specific needs of the customer to close the sale.  
  2. Semi-Custom demos
    Some demos have light customization. For example, the logo, heading, dashboard mockup, etc. The seller aims to show features as solutions, but it’s not a customized presentation.
    Semi-custom demos are common in transactional SaaS products (ideally starting at around $5k of annual customer value), which works well in combination with an efficient automated lead generation strategy and a small inside sales team to convert them into paying customers.”  In these demos, the prospect will expect a personal touch, sales experts who know their product, and a support team that is there to answer any questions.
  3. Rinse and Repeat demos
    For volume and velocity sales processes, customization might not be an option.
    Sellers need to be trained in identifying several issues and addressing them. Sales can also have different workflows based on the prospect processes. Even if a sales rep or sales engineer is doing multiple demonstrations per day and doesn’t have the time or resources to customize, they can still deliver a relevant experience to the prospect.  

The science of a winning software sales demo

Essentially, the question every salesperson should ask themselves is: how can I, a perfect stranger, convince someone to trust me enough to buy something from me?

A brain study by Dr. Carmen Simon, cognitive neuroscientist, and chief science officer at Corporate Visions and B2B DecisionLabs, gives some valuable insights that help answer that question.

  • Memory is a critical part of decision-making. People rely on their memories to help them anticipate the benefits of their choice. This means that if you want to influence a buyer’s decision, you have to give a memorable demo (more about that later).
  • Forming memories requires attention. If you don’t grab your audience’s attention, they won’t remember your message. If nothing else, make sure you get their attention when you’re talking about the key takeaways you want them to remember.
  • Effortlessly processing messages and information. You also need to help your audience process your message and information without too much effort. This can only be achieved by presenting information in a clear and cohesive way
  • Decision-making is also emotional. Access the emotional part of the brain by honing your storytelling skills and adding personal anecdotes.

Here are 7 steps that will help you create a winning demo:

1. Harness the power of storytelling 

In sales, storytelling helps to create a cognitive and emotional connection between the buyer and the information and messages you are presenting to them. It also helps salespeople present information in a way that is not solely focused on the sale and adds a much-needed human element to the SaaS sales approach.

Good demo storytelling comes from the heart, paints a very clear and relatable picture, and triggers emotions. 

In her Forbes article, Kate Harrison references cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, who suggests we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story.

“The combination of data + story - satisfying both left and right brain thinking - is what will ignite your audience to act,” writes Harrison.

Here are some pointers on crafting a good story:

  1. Invoke a personal connection with the audience by framing them as the hero of your story.
  2. Ask why? How? And what? Why does the company exist? How does the company do what it does? What is the company’s purpose? Etc. 

When you focus on your buyer rather than your product, you are able to create a much more relatable story. 

  1. Create a cohesive narrative that has a beginning, middle, and end. Do that by using real-life scenarios your audience can relate to. 
  2. Inject numbers and data. SaaS teams respond well to facts and metrics, so make sure there is enough, yet not too much, data in your story. 

2. The basics: how to prepare for a demo

Every prospect is unique and every company has its own needs and challenges, so every demo should be customized to your specific audience. 

During the preparation stage, you must do everything you can to get to know your prospective client: read their website, social profiles, and posts carefully (mainly LinkedIn); and use search engines to research them and learn everything you can about the prospect’s product or service, company, sales size and so on. 

Then, get to know the specific person or group of people you will be presenting to:

  • Who is the decision maker?
  • What are your prospect’s needs and business vision?
  • What will be the consequences in case their issues are not addressed?
  • Who are the competitors?
  • What solutions are they using now?
  • Which success stories can influence the prospect?
  • What are the benefits of the solution you offer that can meet your buyer's needs?

3. Write science-based demo scripts

  • Use the rule of three. This communication technique is both simple and powerful. There’s something about a set of three that feels familiar and helps us retain and remember information. Three takeaways, three main points, a three-part demo, and so on. Base your script on the rule of three, and your audience will be able to remember it better. 
  • Avoid information overload. Thanks to Dr. Simon’s study, we already know that decision-making relies heavily on the ability to process the information and remember it. So, make sure you don’t give your audience too much information. Keep it clear and cohesive. 

This is especially important for SaaS demos, as information overload is a common issue in these specific live demonstrations.

  • Start and end strong. In science, the Primacy/Recency Effect means that information presented at the beginning and end of a session is better retained than the information presented in the middle. 

This means your demo needs a strong introduction and a strong conclusion. As soon as you present all the information, reiterate your opening messages. 

Now that you understand the science let’s talk about writing the script itself.

The best way to write winning demo scripts is to replicate what your top sellers do. 

Every company has its highest performing sales reps and by leveraging their skills, you can help the entire sales team to improve their performance.

Here’s how:

  • Identify what your top sellers do.
  • Turn these practices into clear and structured playbooks.
  • Make these playbooks accessible to all your salespeople.
  • Train your sales team to implement the playbooks.

4. Live demo training

This is one of the most effective software sales demo best practices. It makes it possible for sellers of every skill level to use winning scripts and improve constantly, ensuring consistency throughout your sales operations. 

The right demo enablement software will allow new sales team members to directly experience the platform and establish contextually relevant training processes. It will also make it much easier to constantly adjust the training according to insights you gain from real demo data.

5. Know what’s important to cover in a software sales demo

Essentially, your demo should show how your software provides an effective solution to the prospect’s need or problem.

Seeing as you’ve already researched your prospect, you now have a clear list of needs and issues, and you can use that to prepare a clear and well-constructed story your prospects will find engaging and relatable.

Start with a solid structure

A good demo needs a clearly written plan, which will be shared with your prospects. 

It’s important that your prospects know exactly what to expect, understand how long the meeting will last and that they are assured they won’t waste their time.

Typically, the agenda is emailed to the prospect before the demo. Just make sure that the email is concise.

When done right, the demo agenda can help move the prospect through the sales process by reducing no-shows, letting the prospects know the demo meeting is worth their while, allowing buyers to prepare questions ahead of time, and finally, allowing salespeople to start telling their story and give the buyers reasons to choose your product or service. 

Your product demo agenda should be structured as follows:

  • Introduction (email each participant, call them by name, and mention their company name).
  • Setting the stage  (mention their main pain points and challenges).
  • Addressing problems and needs (briefly discuss how your product or service can help).
  • Call to action (what is the next step in the process?)

It’s also a good idea to leave enough time for your prospects to respond, as this will help you personalize your messaging. 

For example, you can write, “I plan to talk about X, Y, and Z. Are there any other items you would like to add or remove from the agenda?” Or, “I am going to discuss how our solution can address issues X, Y, and Z. Do you feel that covers everything?”

The best way to start your demo presentation

The first part of every demo should be a brief introduction. 

Use this part to create a relaxed atmosphere, introduce all the attendants, start building rapport, go over the agenda briefly and start telling your story. 

During the introduction, do your best to answer the following questions quickly:

  • Who are the participants in the live demo?
  • What benefits can your solution offer your prospects?
  • What are the key messages of your demo?
  • How long will it take to complete the demo call?

How long should a software sales demo last?

In an ideal world, your demo should run for no longer than 30 minutes, so it’s a very good idea to understand how long each demo part will take. 

To help you make sure you stick to your timings, it’s best first to practice your script a few times beforehand. 

What to say during a demo

Once you get the introduction out of the way, you need to set the stage for your software sales demo. Use this part to show your prospects you fully understand their needs, issues, and challenges.

Then, start explaining how your product or service can be the perfect fit and how it can address their challenges. Make sure you address each of the prospect’s main pain points.

Next, map your solution. 

Here are a few demo best practices that will help you nail this part:

  • Personalize. Your software sales demo should be engaging and this can only be achieved if it doesn’t feel like you’re using a standard script. To do that, you need to get into the prospect’s mindset and business and adjust your demo accordingly. 
  • Demonstrate. Be very specific, but not too technical, when discussing how your solution meets the prospect’s needs.
  • Listen. Leave enough time for your prospects to ask questions and encourage them to engage. 

Further reading:
How to use the art of persuasion in live software demo

How to close a sales demo 

At the end of the demo, first go over the key takeaways (end strong, remember?) and then make sure your buyers know what to do next and how they can move forward with the sale. 

In addition, schedule your next meeting or step, as this can help lock in the sale. 

6. Analyze with real demo data

In order to improve demo close rates, it is important to measure every aspect of your sales process.
Sales managers must pay attention to demo metrics, such as time spent, who is using the latest features, who (and when) is using specific playbooks, and what demos lead in ARR.
Analyzing the usage of milestone types such as slides, demo scenes, talking points, and discovery will help you craft your winning playbooks.

Further reading: 5 Mistakes That are Hurting Your Sales Demo

7. Turn your demo into a sale

After the demo, send the participants a message thanking them for attending the meeting. Include materials that can help move the process along and give them time to respond. 

How much time? That depends. The pricier the solution, the longer you should give them.

In some cases, a few days can be enough. In others, you may need to wait a week or two or even longer. 

If you haven’t heard from the buyers after a couple of weeks, send them a follow-up email and offer to talk further about how your solution can help them.

If they tell you, they chose another solution, never ever push for a deal. On the other hand, if they tell you the timing is not right, but they express interest, reach out again a few months down the line.

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