Who this is for
Welcome! This overview was developed for sales engineers, solutions consultants and account executives that routinely demo a SaaS product.
These tips have been personaly helpful to improve our demo-to-close ratio. Alongside our research efforts, we’ve put together this guide to help teams everywhere increase their demo conversion.
To build this analysis, we interviewed 385 sales engineers, BDRs, AEs, and sales leaders in the B2B SaaS space. We also shadowed 95 discovery calls, product demos, and follow-up conversations. We aimed to learn about processes, successes, shortcomings, and tips to improve demo-to-close rates across a wide variety of application types and industries.
This is meant to be a reference guide based on our findings and research. However, there is no magic bullet for instant conversion in today’s complex software sales environment.
To evaluate how teams craft and deliver this demo, we evaluated the three most common demo stages held by nearly ever B2B SaaS company we assessed:
- Product Demo
- Demo Follow-Up
In our observations, we noticed some common shortcomings that can be avoided. This assessment is designed to help your growth team deliver demos that convert by learning from best practices across the B2B SaaS industry.
Deals are won and lost in the discovery stage. The foundation of home-run demos is truly listening to prospects in the discovery stage and sharing the appropriate demo.
Getting to discovery
How do prospects first get in the door for a discovery call? In our evaluation of 95 SaaS sales processes, we found that the typical inbound sales motion was similar in almost every case.
1. After “Requesting a Demo” from a marketing site, prospects were presented with a webform to submit basic information about themselves. This gate is in place to route leads appropriately.
2. After entering this basic information, prospects were most commonly directed to a calendar scheduling tool to set up time with a sales representative. Once the call is scheduled, prospects are then forced to sit and wait for a response from a BDR or sales rep to confirm the meeting and provide an agenda.
3. Time to Product. The odds of making a successful contact with a lead are 100 times greater when a contact attempt occurs within 5 minutes, compared to 30 minutes after the lead was submitted (Study).
In our analysis, we found the average time to product was 4.33 days between demo request and product demo.
Prospects are requesting a demo not because they want to chat with a sales rep, but because they have a challenge and they’d like to understand if this product can help them.
Conducting the discovery call
A set of questions to use as a starting point in the conversation may be useful. Here’s some examples:
What prompted you to explore our solution?Why was that the case?What are you looking to improveAre there gaps in that process? What are you looking to improve?What if you didn’t do anything and kept the process the same?How would a solution here help you specifically?
Uncover prospect intent
In our evaluation of B2B SaaS companies with a standard discovery call process, we saw five flags or signals that companies would look for to evaluate true purchasing intent:
Omni-Channel Engagement: Has the prospect interacted with your brand and product via multiple channels (e.g., email and marketing website)?
Volunteered Information: Has the prospect provided information about themselves for future contact?
Company Profile & Fit: Does the prospect organization match a typical company in your existing user base?
Active Content Engagement: Is the prospect interacting with involved, active content (e.g., case studies or interactive product tours)?
Follow-Up Interest: Is the prospect a one-time viewer or are they interested in follow-up information?
Click here for a deeper dive into this evaluation.
Preparation is key
In our analysis of B2B SaaS demos and interviews whith sales leaders, we saw a few well-done preparation tactics that led to strong, well executed demos that excited prospects.
Have a script, but get ready to toss it
A sales-led demo is as much of a conversation as it is a presentation. Scripts provide a consistent message for sellers to follow and ensure that the major feature areas and business values are properly covered.
An effective product demo has a shared dialogue where the prospect is able to ask questions in the midst of the overview. This dialogue prompts new insights and thoughts for prospects to raise that otherwise may be forgotten or lost. The most effective sellers we saw were able to pivot when needed but had a general agenda in mind to move the demo forward.
Know the product landmines
Know what to avoid when giving a demo. If your product has certain areas that tend to break during demos or sequences that fall apart, identify them and have a backup plan. Having this intimate level of knowledge requires constantly testing and living in your product to develop a deeper level of familiarity and comfort.
Know what makes your prospect tick
Prior to the demo, it is critical that you know who exactly you will be talking to. Using the prospect’s email and tools like LinkedIn and other social platforms, you should be able to figure out who will be on the other end of the line. Additionally, take a look at the prospect’s teammates and leadership based on connections and networks as you never know who may show up at the last minute.
Research the company to the point where you are able to clearly explain in your own words what they do and the industry they’re in.
Have your demo structure established
Prior to getting on the demo call, know exactly how you plan on structuring the product to showcase the right features and components for the prospective organization. This will depend on the prior research and discovery conducted to uncover business challenges and pain points. This structuring will also depend on the deal size and price point for prospect’s organization. Having this structure in mind prior to the demo will help facilitate time spend on certain features and storylines conveyed.
Rehearse again and again
Rehearsal is essential when first getting ramped up with a new product, but is still important prior to each product demo even for season veterans. Having answers to commonly asked questions and practicing these pivots is helpful to get comfortable with the uncertainty associated with a typical product demo. Set aside 10-15 minutes to practice talk tracks and prepare for questions prior to each and every demo.
Prep your notes
Demos are an opportunity to uncover new prospect pain points, challenges, and business opportunities that are valuable to record for future sales reference. Call recording and transcription tools make this process especially easy. If you are using typed or handwritten notes, consider using a note taking template to help you quickly structure your thoughts so that you don’t need to scramble across multiple pages or tabs. Prior to getting on the demo call, make sure that you have this template out and ready to jot down ideas and takeaways as soon as the prospect starts talking.
Close your tabs and clean up
If you are sharing a browser-based product demo, ensure that you are aware of what you will be screen sharing. Prospects will be seeing everything on your screen including dozens of open tabs, browser home pages, and browser bookmarks to your social media platforms and other sites. Having a separate browser for demos makes this especially easy (but make sure that you have access to all of your log in credentials)!
Driving the demo
After all of the discovery, scheduling, and preparation build up, the demo is where you can finally showcase product value. It is the first opportunity your prospect has to visualize working product functionality and see if the solution will meet their needs and requirements.
While valuable to progress the deal forward, the product demo is also a vulnerable stage for a sales team. Logins fail, networks crash, and applications fall apart at the worst moments. As a seller, it is your job to handle the chaos by having backup plans in place when the worst cases arise.
From our evaluation with B2B sales and marketing teams, a poorly run demo is the key driver for lack of conversion.
Delivering the demo
So who within a sales organization is tasked with delivering a product demo? Showcasing a demo is a cross between a science and an art. An effective demo highlights product functionality but focuses on the business value a product can offer. Additionally, product demos often go off script as questions arise and new needs are uncovered. This poses unique challenges for sellers delivering a product demo because they must be comfortable with uncertainty and lack of clear direction.
In our evaluation of a wide range of B2B SaaS product demos, we found that there are multiple personas typically in charge of product demo delivery. This role breakdown was most commonly differentiated by company size.
For startups and small companies with fewer than ~15 employees, it is not uncommon to see a CEO or product owner delivering the demo. This can be a time consuming task that does not scale as the business grows.
As companies grow (~20 - 40 employees) and have the resources available to hire, we saw that dedicated account executives often were tasked with delivering the product demo. While members in this group may not know the technical workings of the product, they are able to walk a prospect through a standard tour and answer basic questions.
Slightly larger scale companies (~50 employees) often had dedicated sales engineering (SE) resources. The SE is the demo champion within these organizations. They are able to own the end to end demo and answer technical issues or questions that may arise.
The larger organizations we spoke with (over 100 employees) always had dedicated account or territory based based SE or technical sellers to deliver the product demo. The demo would often include the account representative from the previous discovery or introductory call for sales cycle consistency and to answer of the deal specific questions. This divide and conquer approach allowed the SE to be fully discussed on the technical aspect of the deal without needing to worry about closing the sale.
Traits of a strong demo leader
Orchestrating the product demo is no easy task. An effective demo leader has a balanced skill set of deep product knowledge, active listening, and sales rapport. These tasks are great to get you in the door - but how can you take an 8/10 demo and turn it into a 10/10?
Be a story teller
A strong technical seller is able to craft a compelling and interesting narrative that ties the demo together. This narrative helps link features and product components together to weave a consistent message throughout the demo. The best demo leaders were able to tweak this story based on the company vertical to deliver messaging that resonated with the audience.
Get comfortable with fumbles
In numerous cases (and from personal experience), we saw demos fall apart. The live sales-led demo poses a real risk as systems don’t always respond and demo environments break. When this happened, demo masters stay calm under pressure and were able to quickly find an alternative solution. This break in action was used to prompt the prospect to ask questions and fill the awkward silence with engaging dialogue.
Become a platform master
The last distinct trait we saw in effective demo leaders was a true mastery of the platform or solution. Having a strong technical foundation certainly helped when highly technical or nuanced questions came up. The best demo leaders were able to answer these questions without delay or consultation with additional resources. Having a in-depth understanding of the various components and features of a product is an essential skill that rewards practice.
Need help tuning your demo process?
We can help you scale your demo team with prospect-led product demos.
Follow up with purpose
What you do after the demo is as important as the demo itself. The typical customer is evaluating multiple vendors and solutions over the course of months not weeks or days. Staying top of mind throughout this journey is critical to maintaining prospect relationships and closing deals.
Crafting the follow-up
When building the product demo follow-up email, there are three main sections to consider.
- Recap the major takeaways from the product demo and discussion.
The discussion recap both shows a strong understanding of the items discussed and helps the prospect have a concise description of the conversation they can use to secure internal buy-in.
- Relate a discussion point to an identified pain point of business need
Speak your prospect’s language. Use vocabulary and talking points that matter most to them and thier business. Your prospect is coming to you to solve a unique business challenge. In the follow-up, it is essential to center the dialogue around that identified pain point or challenge to remind them that you were listening and a purpose-built solution exists.
- Clearly define next steps
Most importantly, your follow-up needs a clear call to action and next steps. Without a guiding set of next steps, a prospect’s default action is to do nothing. It is important to keep this ask conversational and not demanding. Finally, have some sort of timeframe in place. Try to nail down specific dates and times when applicable to motivate the prospect to take action.
Staying top of mind
When prospects are shopping around multiple vendors with similar offerings, features and business value cases start to melt together. The demo follow-up provides a unique opportunity to differentiate from competition and provide a compelling case for clear and actionable next steps.
Looking for powerful and engaging follow up material?
We can help your team build stronger post-demo follow-ups to keep prospects engaged and ultimately convert.
Thanks for reading. We hope that this review was helpful as you review your demo process to build and deliver demos that convert.
If you enjoyed it, we’d appreciate it if you could share this guide with friends/colleagues/your Twitter & LinkedIn following.
If you’d like to see how you can use your product to drive demos that convert, please email me at email@example.com.
Randy & the Navattic Team