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If your Sales Demo "Felt So Good" You're Doing it Wrong

Last week, a selling founder that I advise asked a question I get surprisingly often – “I lead a sales demo in a first meeting, it feels pretty good, and then the prospect goes dark. Why?”

This scenario is the result of two harsh realities:

  • Today’s prospect is armed with more information than ever, so a demo on the first date has come to be expected;
  • Without a thoughtful approach and actionable insight, these early demos rarely lead to success.

To overcome these challenges, modern sellers do NOT resort to old school trickery (“I just won’t demo during a first meeting.”) but rely instead on Discovery and Data.


The misstep many sellers make when pressured to show the goods early in the sales process is to roll out THE demo - a generic feature dump that always “feels” good, because most sellers can effortlessly speak to all of their own product’s bells and whistles.

However, these demos uncover nothing about the prospect, and thus fit said prospect’s unique needs about as well as the quintessential wedding tux.

To win in 2017, high performers must break THE demo into … demos (plural) – multiple demos each with a specific goal, customized to fit the person and point in time.

The first demo in this cadence should be a Discovery Demo – a conversation with the product as a backdrop that uncovers the critical intel (the prospect’s challenges and opportunities) needed for the increasingly relevant follow up demos.

Here’s an example demo cadence:

  1. Discovery Demo – (as early as the first meeting) a high level demo with an emphasis on learning the prospect’s challenges and opportunities and a goal of securing subsequent follow up demos;
  2. Executive Demo – with a decision maker, a value focused demo that builds on the info learned during the Discovery Demo, with a goal of aligning on business outcomes the product can help deliver and securing executive sponsorship.
  3. Tactical Demo – with an operational audience, a deeper dive into the key end-user functionality with a goal of covering key use cases;
  4. Implementation Demo – with a technical audience with a goal of de-risking implementation.


With multiple discrete steps in this demo cadence, each with a specific goal, modern sellers turn to “leading indicator KPIs” rather than “feel” to optimize performance.

Using my example demos above, one could track:

  • Discovery Demo to Executive Demo rate;
  • Executive Demo to Tactical Demo rate;
  • Tactical Demo to Implementation Demo rate;

These very simple measures provide powerful insight into which components of your demos need improvement.

Say that a given seller runs 50 Discovery Demos, which lead to 20 Executive Demos (40%), which lead to 16 Tactical Demos (80%), which lead to 14 Implementation Demos (88%).

Clearly this seller should dive deeper into those 30 Discovery Demos that didn’t convert to Executive Demos for deeper analysis:

  • What info was gleaned in the 20 successful Discovery Demos that wasn’t in the other 30?
  • What were the roles and personas of the prospects involved? Which features were demonstrated?
  • What questions did we ask? What questions did they ask?

If this seems overly simplistic … that’s the point!

Selling is a high stress activity, and many get so caught up in the grind-it-out tasks and distractions that they miss the opportunity to let actionable data and process guide them.

Times have changed. The sales landscape has changed. Hell, it’s been 20 years since Mase felt so good! It may be time for your demo strategy to change too.

Want more demo tips? Buy Just F*ing Demo! on Amazon.

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