Software Companies Live And Die By The Demo, So Make It As Easy As Possible
First, let me go on the record. I hate software demos. I think they’re where qualified and potential prospects go to die. Unless you are amazing at giving demos, I wouldn’t lean on them so heavily.
How many great demos have you been on? I know the answer – none. I rest my case.
However, I also know many, many software companies lean heavily on getting and giving demos as part of their sales process. So instead of swimming against the current, let’s work to deliver the best demo experience on the planet.
Here are five demo upgrades that will improve conversion rates and that you can put in play tomorrow:
1. Give People An Immediate Response
We all know speed kills. The person who gets the deal is almost always the fastest and most responsive, so why make prospects wait to get their demo?
Instead of having them exchange dates, coordinate with a sales engineer and then schedule the demo (which could take over a week and extend your sales cycle), give them the option for an instant demo.
Yes, an immediate demo. A prospect clicks a button to request a demo and alert the sales engineer or sales rep, who reaches out via chat or an email. They get on a video call and give the demo right then, just five to 10 minutes after the request.
You can qualify and focus the demo via a form before the demo or have the sales engineer start the meeting with some qualification questions to better focus the demo:
- What specifically are you trying to do better?
- What are some of the use cases for this software?
- What’s been causing you the most pain in your current platform?
The sales engineer then shows the features and parts of the software that highlight exactly how the prospect would do those three things they said were hard for them right now. Done!
Not only is it a remarkable experience, but you’ll also cut at least a week off your sales cycle, jump in front of every one of your competitors and be the software your prospect remembers because you responded so quickly and proactively.
2. Give People Demo Options
OK, the instant demo concerns you, and you’re not willing to work though the few logistical issues to make that happen. Too bad, but I’ve seen it before.
Let’s go to plan B. Instead of the logistical scheduling nightmare most demo schedulers go through, consider giving prospects demo options that allow them to time shift, just like streaming and on-demand services.
Offer them three options for their demo. The first option is the live one-on-one demo that will take time to schedule. The second option is to watch a prerecorded demo that is available now – you can send them the link.
The third option is a live public demo at a regular time, like every Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. Prospects can attend the session that is most convenient for them. At these live sessions they can ask questions and see specific features that are important to them. You can cap the attendance at five to six prospects, if you’d like.
Here is the visual of how those options might be presented to prospects on your demo sign-up page.
I love giving prospects and clients options so they can select the experience that works for them. Again, this is different than almost every software demo I’ve seen, but it makes sense and allows you to actually do more demos per week than just doing one-on-ones.
You can also track the conversions based on demo type and see which formats are producing the best sales opportunities, fastest close rates and so on.
3. Make The Demo Personal By Asking Them For Three Use Cases
We’ve all been in demos, so this is going to sound familiar. You hop on the call and the salesperson starts clicking around showing you stuff. Pretty soon you’re lost. You don’t say anything because the gal is cruising along. You hope she’ll get to the stuff you care about, but it’s pretty formulaic and you sit back.
She does consider you for a minute, stopping to see if you have any questions, but you don’t because while what she’s showing you is nice, it’s not really geared to the challenges your company is facing.
There were so many screens that you feel a little overwhelmed, which translates into an unsettled feeling. The software seemed a little complicated or maybe not as intuitive as you hoped.
The demo ends and you thank the salesperson for her time, but you’re still uncertain and decide to keep looking around. Mission NOT accomplished. The demo did nothing to move you along in your buyer journey.
Here’s another way to structure the demo.
Ask the prospect what their three biggest challenges are around your software. You can ask them this in advance and be prepared with the features to show them, or you can ask at the beginning of the demo and tailor the demo on the fly.
Just show them these features one at a time. When you’re done, talk about each feature and its effectiveness at solving their challenges. Do this before you move on to the second feature or use case. You can’t move on until they say, “Yes, I see how this is going to help us.”
Keep the demo to 30 minutes – with time for questions and answers, maybe 45 minutes total. If they want to talk about more use cases or challenges, consider having another session. If you do too much, they’ll get confused and lost, which will mean more anxiousness and unsettled feelings.
Your goal post-demo is simple. You want one thought from your prospect: “That software is perfect for us. I know how we’ll use it, and it does exactly what we need.” If you don’t hear these words, your demo failed.
4. Record A Library Of Demos Feature By Feature And Enable Self-Service
Once you start structuring your demos around your prospects’ needs and actual use cases, you can start collecting video vignettes (short snippets of demos that highlight specific features).
This library can be used to self-serve prospects. Sales can also send these out as part of the sales process. Marketing can leverage this video library on the website, in social media campaigns and on your YouTube channel.
This is a hyper scalable resource, too.
These videos are the best of the best. Your top people are showing exactly how your software does one specific thing. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s clearly communicated, it’s highly visual and it could even have a customer come on and validate the use case right there. Bang, social proof! That’s a great package of content.
Imagine having 20 of these for your top 20 use cases. Pull them out whenever you want – trade shows, client meetings, marketing campaigns, social media marketing, email marketing, client upsell and cross-sell campaigns, etc. The uses are endless.
No need to ever worry again that you might fumble a demo. You can even put four or five of them together to show someone more than one use case and how your software handles a collection of challenges. This might be the most important asset in your content library.
5. Qualify Demos By Asking This One Question
The last upgrade isn’t about the demo but about using the demo to turn prospects into new customers. Not all demos are created equally. Some are with people who are actually ready to buy. Others are with people who are still shopping. Still more are with people who are just in the Education Stage of their buyer journey.
You and your sales team should know exactly where every demo prospect is in their buyer journey before they start the demo.
One of the best ways to qualify demos is to use this simple question. You can use it when people complete the demo request form, and your salesperson doing the demo should confirm it before the demo starts.
How close are you to making a purchase decision?
- Within the week
- Within the month
- Within the next three months
- Within the next six months
- Not close at all; just doing research
Use a radio button and force your prospect to make a choice.
This information can and should inform your nurture leading up to the demo, your follow-up after the demo, your nurture after the demo and your lead scoring model.
All of this direction comes from one simple question.
I think most software companies are over-reliant on their demos. We sell software all the time, but the demo is almost always at the back end of the sales process, almost an afterthought once we’ve agreed it’s a good fit and we’ll be working together.
In many software-as-a-service (SaaS) and software companies, the demo is the first time your prospect speaks with a rep. I can think of many more productive first conversations than the one that starts the demo with “let’s see the software.”
While all of these ideas would immediately upgrade the experience your prospects are having with your demo, if you did just one or two of these, you’d see better conversion rates post-demo. You’d also see dramatically shorter sales cycles, much richer sales conversations with prospects, more closed sales opportunities and more new customers.
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