7 Elements Of “Insanely” Persuasive Sales Demos
Are you looking for tips & tactics that will help you NAIL your next product demo?
Say no more.
In this post, you’ll learn 7 tactics that will make your product demos devilishly persuasive.
5 Million Product Demos Analyzed
We analyzed 5M web-based sales demos using AI to understand what wins in product demos, according to data.
The demo meetings were all recorded on web conferencing platforms like Zoom, then transcribed and speaker separated.
We also analyzed the video recorded to see how sales reps use their screen (sharing slide decks, doing product demos, webcam).
The data tells a clear story:
1. Flip Your Demo Upside Down
What feels intuitive during product demos can cause you to lose deals.
Here’s an example.
Pretend you’re a sales rep pitching a politician on building a new city on top of an empty plot of land in South Dakota.
Most pitches would look something like this:
Mr. Politician, it all starts with this empty plot of land:
It doesn’t look like much, I know. BUT JUST YOU WAIT!
In a couple of years, we’ll have roads, sidewalks, and trees. HECK! Maybe we’ll even have a stoplight!
But we’re not stopping there!
We’re going to keep developing and building.
A few years from now, we’ll have some residences and local businesses. It’ll look like this:
I can SMELL the progress!
And you know what?
By year 10 or so, we’re going to have a thriving, BEAUTIFUL new city!
Let’s unpack that “product demo.”
The seller thought it was best to build anticipation and lead up to a grand finale.
But Mr. Politician is busy. It took 20 minutes to get to that point. All the while he was impatient and frustrated, waiting for the rep to finish.
Meanwhile, a competitor stole the deal by flipping the demo upside down.
It looked like this:
Mr. Politician, we can build a new city in South Dakota. We’ve worked the plans, and if we play our cards right it will look something like this:
I’m happy to walk you through the plans in as much or as little detail as you’re interested in.
See the difference?
The first product demo was all lead-up.
The second pitch started with the outcome, letting the conversation unfold from there.
We found this pattern in the successful demos we analyzed.
Winning demos mirror the same priorities raised during discovery calls, in priority order.
In other words, start your demo with the problem you spent the most time on during discovery.
Then move to the business problem you spent the second most time on during discovery.
And so on.
This is approach is called “solution mapping.”
Most salespeople do the opposite, saving the “best for last.”
Solution mapping is counterintuitive, but that’s what works in product demos.
Understand that and everything changes.
2. Give Them A Taste, Not A Drowning
Sure, you love your product. You believe in it and could talk about it all day.
Most people tell their buyer everything amazing they know about their product.
This is a result of being too heavy on product training and not heavy enough on sales training.
But it goes further than that.
Even if you’re “talking value” (rather than features), most sales reps still cover too much ground.
They believe that the MORE they show, the VALUE they build.
It’s a misguided approach that can sabotage your deal.
We’ve found it’s much more effective to do “high-concentrate” demos.
That means you’ll keep your demo short and punchy.
The best reps spend far less time talking about features — 39% less, in fact.
Why? Because if you say less about features, your buyer has room to ask questions.
And top sellers know that’s a good thing.
In fact, their buyers ask 28% more questions than buyers in average reps’ demos.
Questions are a good sign you’ve interested your buyer (and that you haven’t bombarded them with too much).
Their heads are spinning (in the right way).
You’ve teased them and they want to know more.
We call this ‘peeling back the onion’.
YOU don’t decide how much detail to give during your demo.
Let your buyer decide if they want a 30,000-foot view or the details on every nook and cranny.
And whatever you do, don’t dilute your message with an endless number of value props (stick to one… MAYBE two at the most).
Too many are like watering down top-shelf whiskey.
If they’re qualified, they’ll want more.
3. Focus Your Demo On The Status Quo’s Pain
It’s so tempting to focus on your product’s benefits during a demo.
They’re positive and easy to talk about.
But remember: what feels intuitive during demos is rarely what works.
Focusing your message on the pain of the status quo is more persuasive than focusing on benefits.
If your buyer believes the status quo is no longer an option, they’re a step closer to investing in a new resource.
Your new resource.
So how do you blow up the status quo?
By using “loss aversion,” which is a principle founded in behavioral economics.
It’s the principle that people go to greater lengths to avoid losses than they do to gain benefits.
If your buyer believes that “status quo = more pain” they’ll run toward your solution faster than they would if you painted a vision of the benefits.
In fact, they’ll run twice as hard.
During your demo, be clear about the dangers of the status quo.
Show your buyer that their current state is unsustainable, and they’ll be willing to move away from it ASAP.
Think of it this way: It’s easier to convince someone to move away from a fire than to get them to move from a chair to a comfy sofa.
People are more motivated to NOT lose $25,000 they already have than they are motivated to earn an extra $25,000.
Use this psychological bias to your advantage. Your close rates will bump up if you do it right.
4. Maintain Control
Preparation is critical to a successful demo.
You want to have great answers to every tough question.
That said, solid answers alone won’t let you control the conversation’s direction.
And why is that control important?
Because timing is everything. You want to answer certain questions at specific points in the conversation.
It turns out the best reps control when certain topics are discussed.
They set the agenda.
Take pricing, for example.
When’s the best time to discuss pricing? Whenever your buyer raises the issue?
It’s toward the end of the demo after you’ve established value.
By then, the buyer is “sold,” which makes them more likely to justify your pricing.
If you let them steer the conversation toward pricing early on, your chances of success drop.
Here’s another part of the discussion you’ll want to steer:
Hearing buyers’ objections can throw some people off their game. They panic over the unexpected conversational redirect.
Here’s our best tip for avoiding that scenario and staying in control.
Respond to objections by asking questions.
Top reps do that 54.3% of the time when they heard an objection, compared with 31% for average sales reps.
Responding with a question does two things:
- It makes the buyer feel heard.
- It gets your buyer to reveal their REAL concern, which helps you better address their objection.
If you can stay in control of the conversation without being domineering, you’ll win.
5. Avoid Generic Social Proof
Social proof (name-dropping customers) seems like an easy win. We’re all trained to use it.
But it’s not so simple.
Using endorsements from big customers might win credibility with a few buyers, but it’ll work against you if your buyer doesn’t “identify” with the customer you’re name-dropping.
It alienates them.
Here’s the data:
- Sellers who use social proof techniques too much during sales calls have a 22% lower close rate.
Here’s another one:
If you use social proof techniques too much in early-stage calls, your close rate drops by a whopping 47%:
It’s confusing, right?
You’d think that name dropping a big customer would persuade buyers.
So why doesn’t it?
Simple: Most buyers won’t identify with big-name players.
If your product is perfect for the likes of Google or Apple, for example, then how could it be right for an SMB buyer?
They face completely different problems.
Buyers want to see themselves in a product, and they can’t do that if you keep citing A-listers.
They’ll think “This product isn’t designed for clients like me.”
Instead of naming a few big customer names, rattle off 5-7 names of customers that are from your buyer’s tribe — other companies in their industry, operating at their level.
Be sure the problems you solved for those clients to match your buyer’s pain points.
Then you’re golden.
6. Don’t Prove ROI (Do This Instead)
Proving ROI during your demo can be just as damaging as using untargeted social proof.
- In general, attempting to prove ROI at any point in the sales process correlates with a 27% drop in your likelihood of closing a deal.
You read that right. Most attempts to show a customer how they can get an ROI from your product strongly correlate with deals going south.
Why is that?
When you show a buyer how you calculated their ROI, they’ll challenge your assumptions.
They’ll see your calculation as a weak argument unworthy of presenting to their CFO.
What’s a better strategy?
Tell customer stories that focus on ‘before and after’ (with the business case interweaved in):
When you build your business case with before-and-after customer stories, you’re bulletproof.
There are no ROI model assumptions for your buyer to argue with.
You’re simply telling a story of what one of your customers achieved.
There’s a hidden opportunity in here for you as well.
It’s tempting to focus on the positive outcome the customer achieved. (“It changed my life! Now every day is my best day.”)
That’s not what you want to do here.
Focus instead on the problem the client faced, and be sure it resonates with the buyer.
If your story describes their problem better than they can describe it themselves, they will automatically assume you have the best solution.
You won’t have to do much more than that.
The buyer will do the rest of the work for you, moving toward a sale on their own.
7. Solidify Next Steps At The Beginning And End
Want to close your deal faster than ever?
Spend 53% more time talking about the next steps at the end of your demo:
If you don’t talk about the next steps during your first call, your close rate will plummet by 71%:
Take that number in for a minute.
When the shock wears off, remember this key point:
Securing the next steps during a first call is the easiest sales process decreaser ever.
Sadly, very few sales professionals do this:
Here’s the secret to solidifying next steps every time:
Get agreement from your customer at the BEGINNING of the call to discuss next steps, rather than penciling them in at the last minute.
A scripted version might sound something like this:
“By the end of this call, I’d like you to be in a position where you’re either interested and we plan the next logical step, or you’re not interested, you tell me that candidly, and we avoid wasting each other’s time. Is that fair?”
That one sales tip will ensure you spend enough time getting the next steps.
Start every meeting that way.