What’s the first thing SaaS buyers do when they want to narrow their shortlist of potential solutions? They book a product demo. While you, fellow SaaS marketer or developer, may want to get your hands dirty with a freemium version or a trial, SaaS buyers don’t have time for this.  

In our survey, 42.5 percent of decision-makers said it’s the most important step to narrow down a list of potential solutions. Almost two-thirds (65.5 percent) always speak to a software sales rep or request a live demo before purchase. 

Skimping on your product demo is not an option. Take the following steps to ensure your live product demo offers everything decision-makers need to narrow down their shortlist in your favor.

1. Pre-Qualify Prospects Before Running your SaaS Product Demo

Not everyone who requests a product demo will be a good fit for your business. Offering product demos isn’t a numbers game; it’s a serious commitment. In other words, you shouldn’t be providing a product demonstration to anyone who asks. 

That’s why the first step of creating a great product demo is to thoroughly qualify each prospect. Typically this will be in the form of a discovery call, which will help you understand if the prospect is a good fit. You’ll build rapport and overcome any initial concerns the potential buyer has.

Hector Forwood, founder and CEO at sales platform Comtura and a former senior business development manager at Cognism, says the discovery call is where “deals are won or lost.” If you don’t properly qualify prospects and understand their pain points, you won’t be able to effectively show how your software offers the best solution. 

It also ensures you aren’t wasting time trying to sell to someone who isn’t a good fit. Forwood advises forgetting about the sales methodology you use to qualify prospects and focus instead on teasing out three or four problems your prospect is having. 

While you may be tempted to save time and merge the discovery call with the product demo itself, Richard Smith, vice president of sales at sales enablement platform Refract, urges against this. You’ll waste time and your product demo will suffer as a result. “When combined with a demo, the discovery gets rushed,” Smith explains. “Instead of being a thoughtful interview, it’s reduced to a handful (at best) of high-level qualification questions. No significant pain is truly discovered.”

smiling woman looking at laptop; successful SaaS product demo concept

2. Create a Concise Agenda

Don’t go into your SaaS product demo without a thorough plan of what you’re going to say and when you will say it. 

“Successful sellers do not ‘wing’ their product demos,” writes Chris Orlob, head of multi-product sales at revenue intelligence platform Gong. “They have a thought-out demo strategy and follow a methodical, planned out, cerebral demo structure.” 

By analyzing sales demo data, the team at Gong found the best salespeople approached topics systematically. “They go from topic to adjacent topic, in a planned, well thought out manner, giving a smooth feel to the overall demo,” Orlob explains. “Average reps, by contrast, ‘jump around’ topics during their demo in a disjointed manner with no clear demo strategy.”

When planning your product demo, shorter demonstrations are almost always better. You may only need as little as 15 minutes to thoroughly communicate your software’s key benefits, writes Ryan Law, vice president of content at marketing agency Animalz. 

“Short, concise demos will prevent the speaker from losing momentum, and the prospect from losing interest – making it easier to focus the discussion around the unique value proposition of your product,” Law notes.

3. Personalize your SaaS Product Demo as Much as Possible

Even if you use the same agenda every time, you can set your product demo apart from your competitors by personalizing it where possible. 

The more you do so, the shorter your deal cycle will be and the higher your close rates, says Peter Kazanjy, cofounder of sales management platform Atrium. An easy way to do it is using the pain points you discovered during the discovery call to guide the discussion. 

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Go further by using the prospect’s own data or content in your software. That could be incorporating their name and logo, Kazanjy explains, or you could even import their own data into your platform. 

Entering the prospect’s own data into your demo won’t always be feasible, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tailor data in a way that makes it easy for them to understand. There are plenty of creative ways to make your data stand out. 

Close CEO Steli Efti says his team at the sales communication platform includes multiple references to Arrested Development, for instance. You could include references to something you found out your prospect cares about in the discovery call — their favorite football team or movie, perhaps. That’s “so much better than Widget C by ACME,” Efti adds. “It’s one of these little details that shows you care.”

man facing webcam and microphone and desktop computer; successful SaaS product demo concept

4. Focus on Benefits to That Specific Buyer

Every salesperson will have had the difference between features and benefits drilled into their heads. You know you need to speak about the benefits of your product. But because every other salesperson is doing that, you need to go further. 

The key is to get specific. Don’t talk about broad benefits that could apply to any buyer; rather, speak specifically about how your product solves the buyer’s pain points you discovered in your discovery call. 

“If you’re not actively proving how your product is an integral part of your customer’s story, you’re leaving your customer the task of discerning how your product is more or less valuable than your competitors,” says the team at intelligent diagramming application Lucidchart. “Use your demo to paint a picture of life with your product, and make sure it points to your product as an invaluable solution that facilitates your customer’s goals.”

How do you do this effectively?

Robert Falcone, the author of “Just F*ing Demo,” and president and creative director at Guru Studio recommends employing a “You-They-You framework.” You should only show the prospect the features they need to achieve their goals so you can get the result you want. Another strategy Falcone uses is to start with the outcome and work back. This is a method business speaker Malcolm Gladwell uses to hook the listener and then hit them with the detail.

“It’s very effective to use this same structure for a product demo,” says Falcone. “You want your audience to envision, and if possible, experience what life with your service or product will be like. Then, once they have that in mind, you can back up and show them why things will be so much better. It’s part of anticipating that ‘after’ state you want to ask about during discovery, and addressing it right away.”

5. Agree Next Steps Before Ending the Call

A call to action is just as important at the end of a product demo as it is at the end of the blog post. So is a conclusion, says Veronika Riederle, cofounder and CEO at sales meeting platform Demodesk.

“Your prospects just heard some great selling points throughout the product demo, but don’t assume they connected all the dots,” she writes. “Spend a few minutes toward the end of your demo recapping the main points and specifically explain how your solution solves their biggest challenge.”

You should also have a call to action that leads to the next step. Whatever you do, don’t hang up until you’ve agreed on an outcome. You should never put the phone down without agreeing on next steps or, better still, booking a follow-up appointment, says Julia Hall, a learning and development manager at go-to-market intelligence solutions platform ZoomInfo. 

And you’re done. You’ve just nailed your product demo. The perfect SaaS product demo won’t happen every time and not every prospect will buy. But by following this advice, you can significantly increase the odds of closing sales in your favor and ensure every demo goes as well as possible. 

Images: visuals, Surface, Malte Helmhold