The Ultra-Effective Sales Demo Framework to Close More Deals

In the sales and marketing world, there’s unfortunately a lot of lip service done out there.

Overselling product features, exaggerating capabilities, embellishing underlying technologies—it all happens. And it happens a lot.

But if there’s a single thing to cut through the fog of uncertainty, it’s personally seeing the product in action. When you watch a product at work or even use it for yourself, you can decide for yourself if it’s a fit for your needs.

And that’s where the sales demo comes in.

A sales demo is one of the most powerful tools in your sales toolbox for getting buyers to say “I want that!” and for bringing in those hefty commissions.

That is, as long as you run your sales demo right…

This guide explores a proven framework for running a successful sales demo. Inside, you’ll find out how to maintain control, set expectations, zero in on buyer needs, leverage social techniques, close the deal effectively, and much more.

What Is a Sales Demo?

As you’re probably already aware, a winning sales demo is a demonstration of your product in front of a potential buyer. For a lot of sales reps, it’s a key part of the sales process.

These demos are preferably done in person. But these days, most sales demonstrations take place virtually over conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype.

For some, a sales demo might lead to closing a deal on the very same call. For others, it might be a critical step that leads to further meetings with end-users and decision-makers.

In either case, the more effectively you present your product (and the more you cater your presentation to the audience), the better your chances of closing will be.

What Is a Sales Demo NOT?

There are a few misconceptions floating around out there about what a successful sales demo should look like. So let’s dispel those myths by identifying what a sales demo should not be.

  • A scripted presentation (sales demonstrations should be flexible, fluid, and guided by an outline rather than a word-by-word template)
  • A full feature run-thru (demos should cater to the specific needs of the buyer and only highlight features that matter to the prospect)
  • Boring (sales demos should keep buyers engaged using questions, multiple mediums, and an audience-focused approach)
  • Long (a demo shouldn’t be more than an hour and a good rule of thumb is to aim for 30-45 minutes)

The Ultra-Effective Sales Demo Framework

Now that we’ve nailed down what a sales demo is and isn’t, let’s talk about how to structure successful demos and what you need to do to make it end in a win.

Over the countless sales demos I’ve made, I’ve found there are a few steps you can take to up your chances of success. And I’ve put those steps together to form The Ultra-Effective Sales Demo Framework.

This six-step framework is simple (but highly effective):

  1. Agree On an Agenda
  2. Find Real Needs
  3. Agree “If I X, You Will Y”
  4. Feature, Benefit, Confirm “X”
  5. Peak-End Rule
  6. “Does It Make Sense To…” Close

1. Agree On an Agenda

The first step to a successful sales demonstration is setting an agenda. An agenda establishes you’re in control. And it gives the buyer an idea of what you’re going to cover and when you’re going to cover it.

You should always send out a rough agenda ahead of time. But you’ll also want to take a minute or so to run through the full agenda before the demo begins.

The “I Must Have This Now” Scenario

Ideally, you’ll know exactly what the prospect wants to learn about before the sales demo begins. That way, you can come prepared to cover that material at length while also having a strategy that triggers an emotional “I want this now” response.

Laying out the agenda might sound something like this:

“Hi, I’m looking forward to running through our product demo with you. I know you want to look at [feature 1], and so we’ll go through that first. Your competitors are heavily leveraging [feature 2] too, and so we’ll run through that as well.

I treat these demonstrations as a conversation and so please do stop me if something piques your interest as we move through these two main features. How does that sound?”

When we share the agenda like this, we’re waiting for two things:

  1. The buyer’s interest is piqued, and they say something like, “oh yes, I’d really like to discuss that.” This clues you in on which features are most important to them and will help you form your strategy.
  2. The buyer verbally agrees to run through what you’ve outlined for them. You can proactively force this too by asking, “Is there anything else you’d like to cover, or is what I’ve outlined enough for you to be able to make a decision on moving forward with the product?” This first “yes” reinforces that you’re in control and paves the way for more “yes” responses later.
The You-They-You Rule

Now, you may run into buyers who don’t like not being in control. And that can cause problems later.

That’s why you always want to think of the sales demo in terms of the You-They-You Rule:

YOU are leading them down the path of what THEY need to learn so that YOU can get what you want.

Once you’ve laid out the agenda, ask a simple, “How does that sound?” This is almost a rhetorical question. We’re asking the question here so that the buyer falls into our frame and agrees to let us take control.

If they push back and say something like “well, I’m only interested in hearing about [X]” or “I just want to know your pricing and ask some questions,” and you don’t think these are buying signals, then don’t allow the demo to move forward.

In cases like that, I’ll semi acknowledge their request and then go back into the dominant frame by saying, “OK, we can perhaps take a look at that. This is how these demonstrations usually go…” and then run through the agenda again. This is most common with executives who aren’t used to not being in control.

Even still, if you’re not in control of the demonstration at this point, it’ll be a waste of everyone’s time, I promise you.

Sales Demo Pro Tip: Your role during the sales demo should be that of a guide. And as such, you should be in control, from before the demo starts (by setting an agenda) to the very end of the presentation. But at the same time, you need to be able to adjust to the buyer’s wants and needs, too. 

“Imagine being in a car and someone’s in the driver’s seat, and that should be the salesperson, but I think that the buyer should be metaphorically the navigator they should absolutely be involved, and you should be very closely listening to them. But before you can even get those roles worked out, you’ve got to make sure that you’re both going to the same place.” – Interview with Deb Calvert, President of People First Productivity Solutions

2. Find Real Needs

You should already be entering the demo process with some kind of idea about what the buyer wants from your product. Understanding the prospect’s challenges is key. This is your hypothesis, and we’re going to be gathering evidence to back it up throughout the framework.

That being said, it’s still worth investing just a minute or two of discovery to refine that hypothesis right off the bat. Here, we’re asking the buyer just a few questions before getting into the actual demo.

This accomplishes a couple of things.

  • It shows the buyer that this demo isn’t some cookie-cutter, generic presentation you give to every single prospect. Instead, you’re demonstrating that you’re catering it to their unique needs and wants (great for building rapport).
  • It lets you refine your messaging so you can take the buyer to what they want quicker and more effectively. And that will save both you and the prospect time.

The problem is people don’t always say what they mean.

And that’s why you have to ask the right questions to uncover their real needs.

Three Enlightening Discovery Questions

So, what questions are we asking here?

I’ve found that hitting three questions in particular gives you plenty of insight into the real needs of the buyer.

  • What are the challenges you’re currently facing?
  • What are the outcomes you are looking to achieve by using the product?
  • Do you have any specific requirements for how you achieve your end result?

With the info you glean from their answers, you can turn your demonstration from open-ended and wishy-washy to a super-focused presentation that engages the buyer’s logical brain and holds their attention.

Sales Demo Pro Tip: You don’t need to take too long on this step—just a few minutes should cover it. But in that short time, you can learn an enormous amount of info that’ll help you cater the demo to the buyer’s specific needs. And that means you can avoid features they don’t care about and offer the right information that helps them make an informed decision. 

“Too many sellers today still see their role as a walking, talking brochure, that, “Well, I’ll understand and be the expert on our capabilities, on our products and services, and how they operate, features and functionality. My role is to work with the customers to make sure they have the right information so they can make a good decision.” – Interview with Tim Sullivan, Corporate Vice President of Business Development at SPI

3. Agree “If I X, You Will Y”

With knowledge of what the buyer truly wants, it’s time to make a deal with them: If you can provide a specific benefit with your product, will they be willing to move forward with the sale?

Home in on the major points you discovered in the previous step. If they’re concerned about, say, implementing a new accounting system without dramatically altering their processes, focus on that in the agreement. And get them to verbally state that if you prove that won’t be a problem, they’ll then move forward.

See how we’re staying in control of the demo here?

Now, as long as we can legitimately show the buyer how we can solve that issue for them, they’re locked into either moving forward with the deal or going back on their word. And thanks to the power of social pressure, that’s not likely to happen.

The Power of Social Pressure

When it comes to making deals, everyone involved has an image of themselves that they try to stick to. Maybe they’re honest businessmen. Or maybe they’re logical decision-makers.

Whatever that self-image, people don’t like to shatter it. And in fact, they’ll be willing to go to great lengths to avoid doing so. This agreement plays off that tendency.

The point of the “if I X, you will Y” agreement is to set you up for success.

Too many sales demos are given to half-interested buyers who may or may not have a reason to buy. But when you get the buyer to agree to move forward, on the back of the needs that they’ve told you they have, you build a lot of social pressure for them to comply. If you can demonstrate that you can solve their issues, of course.

Sales Demo Pro Tip: This step can feel a bit scary at first. But rather than fixating on the fear of making this essential ask, focus instead on setting a goal. “I will make the ask every demo.” Don’t bother with trying to feel more comfortable beforehand. The more you make the ask, the more you’ll naturally start feeling more comfortable. And eventually, you’ll be surprised at how natural it feels. 

“If you improve in any area in your life and you know it’s a result of picking a goal, working on the activities, and executing it, it gives you muscle, momentum, and understanding that goal setting actually works, and you’ll start moving that same psychology into other areas of life.” – Interview with Duane Marino, Sales Training Expert

4. Feature, Benefit, Confirm

Alright, with the groundwork of success finally laid thanks to the agenda, needs discovery, and agreement, it’s time to get into the demo.

Rather than starting at the top of the page and running through a list of generic features, you need to take everything you’ve learned so far and push the prospect through the feature, benefit, confirmation process.

This process is actually very simple and straightforward. But it’s also surprisingly effective.

Just run through the following three steps:

  1. Feature – Share the feature you’ve hypothesized is going to help.
  2. Benefit – Explain how this will take the prospect from current status quo to goals.
  3. Confirm – Ask if they agree this is going to work for them.

If the prospect says “yes,” then make a note. This is the information you’re going to wrap up and close the demo with later on.

If they say “no,” then ask them why they don’t think this is the case and shift your hypothesis accordingly.

It’s as easy as that.

Be Strategic

You’re going to want to start with the main feature you think the buyer is most interested in. This is the idea you’ve been zeroing in on during the previous three stages of the framework.

From there, hit the other features the buyer mentioned, either when they confirmed the demo after you sent the agenda or during the first two stages.

Next, move to features used by their competition and then note some of your product’s most popular ones.

But be strategic here too. Highlighting too much is going to be a waste of both your time.

Sales Demo Pro Tip: Don’t let a “no” dishearten you. A negative answer (especially during this stage of the demo) will only help you refine your strategy so you can hit the points that really matter to the buyer. 

“The average person who’s thinking of investing money in anything, product or service, they almost can’t say yes and write the check until they do give us some type of no. So, no is not bad. No is something we almost need to hear.” – Interview with Tom Hopkins, Sales Training Legend

5. Peak-End Rule

Studies show that people tend to remember two parts of an event: the peak moment (the emotional high) and the end of the event.

The majority of everything else is likely to be forgotten entirely—partly why you should keep your presentations on the shorter side.

It falls to you, then, to make sure the peak moment is memorable.

More than likely, the moment that you run through the “if I X, you will Y” with the buyer will be the most emotionally intense part of the demo for them. Therefore, it’s likely to be the peak that gets remembered.

But if you have any other moments of revelation during the “Feature, Benefit, Confirm” section of the demo, be sure to make a mental note of them as well.

Delivering Your Peak Moment

When trying to deliver your peak moment, we’re trying to acknowledge and encourage anything that makes the buyer say one of the following:

  • If I signed up, it means I could also do…
  • I didn’t think you could do that.
  • If [X] could do [Y], then I would have [Z].

Essentially, you’re looking for a shift in their belief system or world view where they now believe that something new is possible.

Sales Demo Pro Tip: Make your sales demos short and sweet. Attention spans are shorter today than ever. And since the peak and end are likely going to be the only thing the buyer remembers, a 60-minute presentation is just going to be a waste of time. Aim for 45 minutes, including questions and icebreakers.

“The average adult male in the United States has about seven seconds of working attention span, and the average goldfish has eight. So we have, as an example, very short attention spans, and shortening all the time, independent of your generation.” – Interview with Dr. Brynn Winegard, Award-Winning Professor, Speaker, & Expert in Business & Brain Sciences

6. “Does It Make Sense To…” Close

The final step of the demo revolves around confirming we’ve shown the buyer what they need to make the purchase simple.

If you’re wondering how to close a sales demo, you can start by creating a natural transition by asking an open-ended question like:

  • What were the highlights of this conversation for you?
  • Is there anything you learned that you did not know before?
  • If somebody asked you the value that our product delivers, how would you describe that to them?

Then, all you need to ask is the magic question, “Does it make sense to move forward with this?

The prospect can only really give you one of two answers. They could say:

  • “Yes,” in which case you’re asking for credit card details, and you’re getting your commission check.
  • “No,” in which case you inquire why they don’t want to move forward.

That’s it. Dead simple. No pressure for you or the buyer.

It’s important here to never end the sales demo with a generic goodbye. Always attempt to move the sale forward.

If you end a demonstration with the words, “Do you have any other questions?” then you are dooming yourself to a failed sale. You’re giving the prospect an out, a polite way of not committing, of not moving past their own status quo to a better place. They’re going to say “nope, goodbye” and you’ll never hear from them again.

Remember YOU set the path, covered what needed to be covered, and got the buyer to confirm that your product can help them. It’s still your turn. So close the demo.

Wrap Up With Logic

This final part of closing works great for larger organizations and with especially complex products.

At the end of the sales demonstration, try asking the buyer to rate how well your product features hit each of the requirements that you agreed upon at the beginning of the presentation.

Run through each requirement and rate them on a scale of one to five.

With the information you’ve collected here, you can then use this as a reference point for future meetings, either with the individual buyer or with a larger buying team. You’re locking down the responses into something tangible rather than “he said, she said” that can be manipulated after the fact.

And that makes it harder for them to backtrack in the future.

Sales Demo Pro Tip: Create a natural transition to the close by asking open-ended questions like:

  • What were the highlights of this conversation for you?
  • Is there anything you learned that you did not know before? 
  • If somebody asked you the value that our product delivers, how would you describe that to them?

“If you fail to make a sale, what you’ve got to do is go back to your office, sit down by your desk, analyze the sales call, and don’t say, ‘Why didn’t the prospect buy from me?’ What you’ve got to say is, ‘How could I have gotten the prospect to say yes?’ Too many salespeople put the blame on the prospect and not on themselves. And they fail to learn from their rejection.” – Interview with Harvey J. Eisenstadt, Award-Winning Sales Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Mentor, & Author

Sales Demo Best Practices

The Ultra-Effective Sales Demo Framework is the best way I’ve found to make product demonstrations one of the most successful selling tools in my arsenal.

But even still, there are a few more things you could do to put the odds even more in your favor.

Always Do It Live

This may seem like a given but never resort to a pre-recorded demo video.

Believe it or not, this does actually happen. And while it might be convenient for you, it’s putting all the control into the hands of the buyer.

So simply put, don’t do it.

Go for In-Person If Possible

These days, business is done virtually more than ever. And that’s okay. We’re all adjusting to this new normal. But if you can, still push for an in-person sales demonstration if you can.

In-person demos boost the emotional connection buyers feel with you. They also make it harder to cancel or ghost on (a growing issue for virtual sales demos).

Stay Flexible

Flexibility is key during your presentation.

If, for instance, your software sales demo is supposed to cover a specific set of features, but the buyer is pushing to see others, run with it.

They’re giving you a window into what’s going to help them make this decision. And if you can’t tap into those needs, they’re going to give a hard pass.

Keep Prospects Engaged

Don’t think of your demo as a presentation. Instead, think of it as a conversation.

When you follow the framework, there’s going to be plenty of back and forth along the way. But you can also ask if they have any questions, inquire about how they might use such a feature, or question how their current solution compares.

The more engaged your buyers are, the more likely they’ll be to retain the information you’re giving them.

Wrapping Up

Contrary to popular belief, sales demos shouldn’t be straightforward presentations. They shouldn’t just be walking through a long list of features. And they shouldn’t have a rigid, unchanging script attached to them.

Instead, a sales demo should be a continuous refining of your hypothesis on what aspects are most important to your buyer. They should also include a variety of logic-based elements that gradually lead your prospects to the realization, “I want this!”

The Ultra-Effective Sales Demo Framework is the best way I’ve found to check all those boxes. Just:

  1. Agree On an Agenda
  2. Find Real Needs
  3. Agree “If I X, You Will Y”
  4. Feature, Benefit, Confirm “X”
  5. Peak-End Rule
  6. “Does It Make Sense To…” Close

When you follow these simple steps, buyers will leave enthusiastic, deals will close more quickly, and you will start busting through your quotas faster than ever.

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