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The Art of the Modern Sales Demo: Step 1 of 3 | Preparation

Written By @RajenSanghvi

· Deal Progression,Account Executive,Best Practices

Welcome to the first part of a three part series on The Art of the Modern Sales Demo. Today's buyer is different: they've done their research before seeing your demo, they've probably talked to at least one other vendor in your space (if not more), and their attention span is extremely limited (yes, you can assume they'll be checking their WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc). Modern sales professionals embrace this shift in their buyers, and adapt their demoing skills as an essential part of their craft.

The first step in the Art of the Modern Sales Demo is Preparation.

Sales Demo, Modern Sales

Image by Natalie B via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC0.

Whether you're the Founder of an early stage startup or an Account Executive that's just scheduled a demo, recognize that what you've actually gotten is an opportunity to provide value to a new prospect. Your mission is to take advantage of this opportunity and not waste it. This starts right in the beginning, here's how:

1. Understand The Business Context

Do your research on the company and what's important to them in this demo. There's a good chance you should already have a lot of this information during some type of a qualification or discovery call, but startups getting referrals often get thrown into situations where they need to show up and demo. Visit the prospect website, read their blog posts, find out what their competitors are doing, check your CRM to see what the email communication was, do a bit of social stalking, etc. Put yourself in a position where you feel you understand their company as if you were an employee of theirs.

2. Understand The Individual Context

Do your research on each individual you are demoing to and what matters to them personally. There is a vast difference between demoing to a decision maker vs a user vs an influencer (who's a non-decision maker and non user). A decision maker's primary concern will be to confirm her high level objectives are met; a user will likely care about all the specific capabilities that could make his daily life better; an influencer, will want to know that she isn't going to be negatively impacted overnight (more work, out of a job, etc). Put on your empathy hat, and prepare yourself by understanding the perspective each person will bring to the demo.

3. Send An Agenda in Advance

Once you have a firm handle of the business context and individual context, send an agenda in advance of the demo. Include a clear goal for what you're hoping to achieve, how you will structure the demo, and ask that the prospect to confirm or add to it. Take the time to prepare in advance and DO NOT send this last minute. Be respectful of your prospect's time and send this at least 1 day in advance. This not only gives them time to respond, but it also shows that you've actually put some time and thought into this yourself.

4. Anticipate Questions & Objections

First off, you want the prospect to ask questions throughout the demo. I'd also argue that you actually want your prospect to have objections as well. This gives you an opportunity to learn more of what matters to them and also engage them. So, if you don't already have a Demo FAQ or Objection Handling Doc, then take the time to build these assets for starters. This is an absolute must in developing your own domain expertise and inspiring confidence in your solution. From there, think through specific questions and/or objections the prospect will have based on their business challenges, industry, etc. For example: if you're about to demo to a bank or financial institution, be ready to talk about security, hosting, and data governance.

5. Have Sales Stories Ready

As a modern seller, you have to be a storyteller; and good storytellers have more than one. As a result, be prepared with a few relevant stories of how you've helped other clients solve similar problems. In fact, the best sellers have stories for everything: stories of how specific product features were used to benefit other clients, stories of how the company effectively trained other clients; stories of how a customer went on to become a reference client etc. Customers don't like feeling they are guinea pigs. They want to feel like you're company has done this before a thousand times over. Stories help inspire confidence and can be huge differentiators during the demo and the overall sales cycle.

6. Have Questions Ready

Modern sellers realize that the demo is actually about the prospect (not you), and it's imperative to get them talking and engaged. Prepare a few insightful questions in advance of the demo, that you can strategically bring up at key transition points. For example, filler questions like "Does that make sense?" don't actually do anything for you or your prospect. Consider something more insightful like: "You had mentioned X was a challenge when we spoke last, based on what I've just shown you, can you tell me if that would help you in that area?". Prove that you truly understand your prospect's challenges and care about their success, every chance you get.

7. Double Check Everything

Your demo needs to work. Honestly, I can't tell you how many demo's I've been a part of, conducted myself, or seen others deliver, where something broke in front of the prospect. We're in 2016 dammit, and if you're trying to sell the latest disruptive SaaS solution, it just needs to work flawlessly. As a modern seller, this isn't about blaming your dev team to get things working (although the devs do need to have a sense of urgency here). It's about preparing in advance and double checking the things that can go wrong: this includes your computer, your internet connection and your product itself. Recognize that every opportunity you have with your prospect is an opportunity to earn their trust and move the deal forward, or lose their trust and possibly lose the deal.

If you found this useful or have other tips on how to prepare for a demo, please let me know. You can leave me a comment below or email me at As part of the next post on the Art of the Modern Sales Demo, be sure to come back next Thursday for Step 2 on Execution!

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