3 Things to Cover at the Beginning of Any Sales Demo

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“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” It’s safe to say Plato probably wasn’t talking about a sales demo when he wrote this line, but it’s a good motto for your presentations nonetheless. The first five minutes of your demo sets the tone for your future prospects—this is the time when they’ll decide whether you’re a knowledgeable ally or just another salesperson saying anything to make a buck.

That makes these precious 300 seconds critical to establishing rapport. You’ll have to deftly maneuver between relating to your prospects’ problems—and keeping them on an actionable track. Juggling the two at once can be tricky—it’s definitely a balancing act that needs to be tailored to your future client’s individual needs and attitude. However, hitting these three points right up top will set you up for more wins, and help you cut your losses faster with a sinking prospect.

Your Prospects Are Busy

Chances are, when you booked the demo, you already set expectations for its length. However, modern executives are all managing multiple priorities, and your sales pitch probably falls pretty low on their to-do list. It’s not unheard of for prospects to schedule a call, meeting, or other last-minute commitment that will cut into your time.

Before you start talking numbers or details, confirm that your participants still have the time for the demo. Remind them how long the presentation will take: “We booked 30 minutes for this. You still have that time available now, right? I want to make sure we have time to cover the important things you will need to make a decision on this.”

They’ve only got five minutes now? Ask yourself if you can really get anything out of an abbreviated discussion. If the answer is no, don’t be afraid to reschedule—and push back a little. Reiterate your high level value statement and propose trying again at the same time tomorrow. Tell them, “we’re looking at discussing a marketing platform that could add half a million in revenue for your business each month. We won’t be able to get anywhere in 5 minutes. If you absolutely can’t do this now, let’s try again tomorrow at the same time.”

Don’t Be a Sales Robot

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

Prospects have a nose for rehearsed speeches and can sniff out a canned demo faster than you can say “sales tie-down.” So take a second to personalize your conversation. Ask about their kids or pets, or even who they’re rooting for in the Super Bowl. Make your presentation a conversation, not a script.

Let them know that this is their demo—you’re going to focus on the things they want to talk about. Ask your prospects what they’d like to know about your products—what are they hoping to achieve by sitting here? Commit to covering the issues they find to be most pressing.

Once you’ve reassured your prospects that you’ll address all their concerns, it’s your turn to ask for something. “I’ll be sure to cover each of those in detail for you. I’ve also got some questions for you about your IT infrastructure and your procurement process that will help me get things in motion on my side. You can help me with that, right?” Use your willingness to work with them as a foothold to get in the door to other departments and learn more about their operations and processes.

Start with the End in Mind

You can give the most impressive presentation around, but at the end of the day, if your client doesn’t commit to next steps at the end, it’s all for nothing. The worst way a demo can end is with the dreaded “thanks, I’ll get back to you.” But that’s exactly how it will go if you don’t set the tone beforehand.

Think of yourself as a lighthouse; you have to show your prospects the way before they can take it. Set expectations early for how the demo will unfold. Reiterate what you’ve agreed to cover, and tell them what the next steps will be. Tell them that after the demo, you think they’ll have enough information to make a decision about where to go next. Light the the way forward for them.

It takes some discipline, but covering these three topics is time well spent! You’ll run more effective demos, and you may end up scrapping some that are dead in the water. After all, you’re busy, too, and you don’t have the time to chase after dead-end prospects. After you’ve hit these three bullet points, you’ll have a pretty good feel for what comes next. A more efficient demo—and it only takes five minutes.

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