5 Common Sales Demo Mistakes to Avoid (and How to Fix Them)

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If you’re an account executive, you probably spend a ton of time running sales demos. However, in my experience, most salespeople don’t spend nearly enough time properly prepping or planning for their demos ahead of time. If you’re reading this and you’ve given 10 of the exact same demos this week, it’s time for a change!

Believe me, I get it. You’ve found a presentation you feel comfortable with and that you can do in your sleep. Well, I’m here to tell you that while may have mastered your demo, it might actually be putting your prospect to sleep. Have no fear, we’re going to fix that today.

Below are the top 5 most common sales demo mistakes and how you can fix them:

1. Stop Playing Tour Guide

First things first, the prospect isn’t here for you to show off every little detail about your product. Remember, this call isn’t about you. It’s about them and their problems. So, instead of talking about how great your product is, let’s talk about them.

There are two key things you need to do at the beginning of every demo:

  1. Discuss their challenge 
  2. Show how you are able to solve it. 

That’s it, stop right there!

I know it can be hard not to show all of the really cool things your product can do. When we built our eLearning platform, The Sales Bar, it was SO hard not to fall into the rhythm of just showing a prospect all the things I was so excited about. But I had to stop and remind myself that this is not about me. This tool is here to help them solve their challenge. I just needed to show them how it could do that.

2. Customize Your Demo

If you’ve given the same demo 4 or 5 times TODAY, then, Houston, we have a problem. Each of your demos should be tailored to who you are meeting. If you walked into the mechanic and they put the same tires on both your car and the 18-wheeler in the bay next door, how do you think that would go? Demos are conceptually similar. They are not “one-size-fits-all” because every potential client is going to have different challenges and needs. So, before the meeting let’s look at how to really speak to the prospect’s problem. 

Before every sales demo, ask yourself:

  • What are they solving?
  • What are they avoiding? 
  • What’s their desired end state?
  • How do they feel about what they are doing now? 
    • Or, if they don’t have a solution now, how do they feel about your competition?
  • Is there anything they have specifically asked to see?

We know that most of you have SDRs or BDRs that are doing the SUPER quick intro call and laying the groundwork for your demo. So, you may not have every one of these questions answered beforehand. But, you should have at least some of this information before you start planning (if you don’t, it might be time for a talk with your sales development team). 

During planning, you can use this info to decide which features your tool has that answer the questions above. Then you need to line up the SWIIFT℠ benefit and you’re on your way. New here? SWIIFT℠ stands for So, What’s In It For THEM! It’s our philosophy to put the thoughts and needs of the prospect before our own. We promise you’ll thank us later! 

Bonus: We’ve got two uber-helpful sales demo planning docs for you to use before your next call! Grab them here.

3. Less is More

So, you’ve used our planning tool and you find yourself starting with 10 different features and 10 different SWIIFT℠ benefits to share with them. Yikes, that’s going to be information overload. My suggestion: prioritize your list. Set yourself up to talk about the 3 most important features (hint: the things that are going to save them the most time/money/energy, etc. Focus on solving their #1 challenge). Also, set yourself up with 2 additional features, just in case they don’t like one of your top 3. Then you can use the other items on your list to bridge to the next call (read more about how to bridge to the next call).

This is how it should flow:

  1. Share Feature #1
    • Stop sharing your screen
    • Relate feature #1 to their challenge
  2. Discuss. Translate. Tell a Story.
  3. Repeat for Feature #2
  4. Repeat for Feature #3 

Gong did a study recently that shows that customers who talk more end up buying more. When we screen share, the salesperson talks more which is not good for the sale. Instead, take the first 10-15 minutes of every demo to simply have a conversation. After that, you can screen share to show feature #1. Then, stop sharing to discuss the SWIIFT℠ benefits and to get the prospect talking and asking questions. You can share your screen again for features #2 and #3.

4. Don’t Stop the Disco

Even if you have answers to all 5 of the questions above before the demo, slow down, and just focus on good meeting manners. Do your intros, talk through the agenda, and get the prospect’s buy-in. This will help you build a deeper rapport through your relationship. Take this time to dig more into what they’re looking for. As I mentioned before, a lot of demos are booked by a BDR or SDR who only had a 3-minute call with the prospect. If you try to demo on that 3-minute call alone, it’s likely going to be inaccurate and messy. Start with what you think you know. Repeat the challenges you understand back to them before you get into showing them the features. You can use this thought process throughout your whole demo. Even when you think they are on board, take the time to stop the screen share and make sure you’re on the same page. 

Presenting to the CEO this time? How complex do you think this version of your demo should be? On a scale of 1 – 6, where 1 is simple and 6 is layered and complex… 

Spoiler alert: the CEOs need to be at a 1 or 2. The higher up the ladder you go, the simpler your demo needs to be. Think about it this way, the higher the prospect’s position the more responsibilities on their plate. They don’t have time to wade through the layers with you. Keep it simple and let them ask you what they want to know. You live in this tool/service/product all day long. For them, this is one of 15 things they are doing this morning alone. 

Remember, we build value by solving problems, not by layering features. All you have to do is show them how your product will solve their problem.

5. K.I.S.S. and Show

Let’s call it like it is, this one is Keep It Simple Stupid. There are a few tried and true rules that I always impress upon our salespeople:

  • Never build a report or dashboard live. I promise the time you spend building it live will be the ONE time the feature doesn’t work correctly. 
  • Tell them what’s coming, put on your best James Earl Jones voice and narrate each step of your presentation.  
    • “Now we’re going to look into solving the problem of _______. The _______ function of our tool can help. Take a look at this here.”
  • Stop screen share often. Give them time to give you feedback and spark conversation. 
  • Have tabs or whole instances open and ready. Clear out your desktop from everything else. They don’t need to see your Slack channel by accident or pictures of your family. Have your features ready to show. That way navigating through your demo is seamless for both you and your prospect. 
  • White space rules. Don’t clutter up every corner of the slide. Let the important information shine. 
  • Five clicks (or less) every time you share your screen. If you go down a rabbit hole to function #1, then you back come up through 6 layers before diving down a different rabbit hole for function #2, you’ve lost them. At the demo stage, the tool needs to appear as easy as 1-2-3…
  • Hold your mouse still! Once you’ve moved your mouse to the location you are looking to highlight, take your hand off the mouse. A bouncing cursor will distract from the valuable information you are trying to relay. 

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the top 5 sales demo mistakes to avoid, let’s highlight the steps you’re going to take for each demo: 

  1. Research to answer the five key questions
  2. Plan additional questions to fill in gaps or clarify
  3. Prioritize your demo show list
  4. Narrow that list to 3 (with 2 backups)
  5. Translate the demo from a system to your prospect’s POV
  6. Prepare screens to answer anticipated questions
  7. Prepare your agenda and send it

That’s it! Just 5 easy sales demo mistakes to avoid (or fix) and 7 easy steps to prepare. Trust me, these simple things will make your demos more engaging for your prospects and more interesting for you! 

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