Build a Better Software Product Demo Experience [How to Move Beyond Traditional Product Demos]

If you work in the world of SaaS, you’ve gone through the demo request rigamarole.

You start by filling out a lengthy product demo request form. And then, you wait. On average, it’ll take you 4.3 days to get a response from a rep. That’s almost a whole working week. And at that point, you still haven’t actually scheduled the demo.

Although we’ve been using this GTM motion for years: is it really working? Managing and triaging demo requests seems to prolong the sales cycle at best and risk a sale at worst.

The rise of product-led companies has brought with it a new wave of more efficient, effective ways to sell.

In this piece, we’ll rehash some pitfalls of the average product demo, explain how product-led selling is changing the game, and outline several options for boosting the efficacy of your demos while saving you time and effort.

Downfalls of traditional software product demos

We’ve already discussed what it feels like to be a buyer of SaaS software, so now let’s talk about what problems traditional software product demos cause for the AE.

1. Time inefficiency

If an AE is doing the demo, they have to take time to rehearse it. Since each demo is roughly an hour, the time it takes to prepare and deliver multiple demos per week adds up.

2. Dependency on other teams

Even if the AE isn’t doing the demo themselves, they have to spend time finding a sales engineer who is free when the prospect is. Once the AE pinpoints that person, they have to give the SE a download of previous conversations with the prospect and wait until a customized demo is ready. If the demo isn’t configured in time, the AE may have to ask the prospect to reschedule.

3. Slow lead response time

On top of getting ready for a product demo, AEs have to respond to new inbound leads. If the AE’s response time isn’t fast enough, leads may lose interest, spend time evaluating other vendors, or just decide that this isn’t the right time to explore a new tool.

55% of companies take over five days to respond to demo inquiries, losing valuable leads in the process.

4. Low buyer confidence

Even after a product demo takes place, you’re usually left wondering whether the product is truly up to snuff. Most people know by now that demos are far more of a performative presentation than an actual representation of the product.

So they ask for recommendations, schedule competitor demos, or simply put off making your decision until the next quarter一all of which endanger a sale.

The shift to Product-Led Selling

Traditional sales demos may work for some companies, but for most, they occupy too much time, are tough to coordinate, and can jeopardize a sale. So many sales teams have transitioned to product-led selling (PLS).

Product-led selling essentially means that the product sells itself. Instead of relying on an AE or SE to describe the product in detail and answer every question a prospect could possibly have, product-led selling gives prospects the “keys to the product,” a major control shift.

With PLS, prospects have the power to try before they buy. They can give themselves their own demo by exploring the product and answering their burning questions on their own time. And with the confidence that the product meets (hopefully exceeds) their expectations, prospects are much more likely to convert.

Besides increased conversion, a product-led sales approach confers several benefits including:

Shorter sales cycles

Once a prospect understands that your product will solve their problems, sales teams don’t have to go through their standard routine to convince people to buy一it becomes a no-brainer.

Lower customer acquisition costs (CAC)

Free trials, freemium plans, or free product tours create a referral flywheel, helping you reduce marketing and sales expenses.

Higher intent to buy

By the time a prospect speaks with a sales rep, they already have an increased interest in and knowledge of how the product works.

Options to transition to Product-Led Selling

POCs or free trials can sometimes resolve the common issues with traditional software product demos. But both options extend the deal cycle significantly. For a POC to work well, it has to be configured perfectly, which can take several days or weeks, and free trials inherently take several days to run out.

POCs and free trials can open the door to bugs as well. If customers experience problems with their POC or free trial, salespeople end up acting as a support agent, or at least a liaison to support. This takes them away from what they do best一selling.

Enter some better options: screenshot presentations, product videos, and product tours. These can replace traditional product demos (especially for lower ACV deals) or serve as an additional point within the buying cycle. Let’s review the pros and cons of each.

1. Presentations with screenshots

Pros:

  • Cheap - You just need Google Slides or Powerpoint.
  • Low lift - Anyone with a product license can take screenshots and put some slides together; no SE is needed.
  • Easy to send ahead - Sellers can preview their live demos with these screenshots so prospects can have a sense of what they will hear and prepare questions.

  • Cons:

  • Static - People are wary of screenshots and gifs. Even if you can capture something at a point in time, that doesn’t mean the feature works.
  • No interaction - It’s much easier for prospects to make a confident decision once they’ve used your product. Looking at pictures doesn’t always do the product justice.
  • Easy to delete - Let’s face it, emails get deleted. The chances of people walking themselves through your slides without you standing behind their back watching are pretty low.

  • 2. Product videos

    Pros:

  • Digestible - Videos are straightforward and allow you to add color with voiceover where slides can’t.
  • Engaging - Even with gifs, slides aren’t exciting. Videos make products come alive on-screen.
  • Recyclable - Videos are multi-purpose; you can use them in emails, your website, and more.

  • Cons:

  • Lack of personalization - Product videos are created for the masses, meaning they may not highlight the specific use cases a prospect wants to solve.
  • Pricey - Production companies don’t come cheap, and you don’t want to skimp on quality.
  • Limiting - You can’t cram everything about your product in one video without it being too long. And like slides, videos don’t enable prospects to use your product.

  • 3. Product tours

    Pros:

  • Tailored - Product tours are completely customizable, giving reps the ability to highlight the best use cases for each buyer persona, illustrating how the product can solve very specific pain points.
  • Low cost and effort - Product tour software is often codeless, meaning you don’t need any fancy recording equipment to put a tour together. And once you’ve made one template, you can simply reuse or edit it for each new prospect without depending on other teams for help.
  • Interactive - Perhaps one of the best parts about product tours is that your prospects can get a real taste of what using your product is like in a controlled environment一whenever and wherever they want to.

  • Cons:

  • Learning a new tool - Like any software, product demo software has a learning curve. The good news is that most are drag and drop and are easy to pick up on quickly.
  • Longer set up time - Creating a product tour takes more thought and planning than whipping up a few slides or filming a Loom video.
  • Limited range - Generally, product tours only show certain subsets of features, so prospects may not see every feature they care about.

  • Upgrade your software product demo experience

    Traditional software product demos are being phased out. As we’ve seen, they’re time-sucking, unpersuasive, and ultimately, not sustainable. As a result, product-led selling is slowly but surely becoming the predominant method of selling technology.

    But just offering a free trial, freemium, or POC is not enough. You need a compelling, persuasive product tour to get your sales over the line.

    If you’re interested in using interactive demo software, see a live product tour on our website.

    Build interactive product tours.Request a demo with our team.