In this article, we’ll explain what product demos are, why they’re beneficial, and how to run one effectively, along with some proven tips and demo scripts from sales pros who host product demos every day. Let’s dive in!
A product demo, or sales demo, is an in-person or virtual demonstration that illustrates the ways in which a physical product or piece of software operates. Product demos can be pre-recorded or delivered in real time and are used by salespeople to give prospects an overview of various features, highlight use cases, and communicate value.
Some common variations of the product demo include:
There are three specific advantages that make product demos an essential tool for B2B sellers: proof, excitement, and personalization. Let’s take a quick look at each of these…
The most obvious benefit of hosting an effective product demo is the ability to provide proof of your own claims. Your company’s website can say anything it wants. It can list product features, share software screenshots, and showcase customer testimonials—all of which are useful.
But until a potential customer actually sees what your product or software solution can do with their own eyes, they won’t be convinced that your offerings will deliver the kind of value and user experience that you claim they can.
Most folks won’t make a purchase until they’re absolutely positive that the product they plan to buy can do what the company producing it says it can, especially at higher price points. That’s why proof of product is so important.
While it’s important to show off what your product does, you also need to get people excited about what you’re selling. A proper product demo will give you this opportunity.
We’ll talk more about how to build excitement later in this article. For now, just understand that focusing on the tangible benefits of a product rather than simply listing its features is the best way to create enthusiasm and anticipation for anything your company sells.
“I try to keep my demos light and be authentic. Since I love helping companies grow and I love solving problems, I simply try to let that enthusiasm leak into the conversation as my prospective customer and I explore all the amazing things my product can do for them.”
Mike Carroll, Head of Growth at Nutshell
Lastly, a product demo—especially one that’s conducted in real time—will enable companies to personalize their presentations for their viewers. You can’t create unique web pages for every person who shows an interest in your products. But you can customize each one-to-one product demo you host to cover features and benefits that your specific prospects will find useful.
As you know, personalization in sales is imperative. Product demos make it easy to incorporate this philosophy into your selling practices.
“When people can tell you exactly what they need, it’s easy to just show them. What’s challenging is personalizing the demo of a product for a person or team that doesn’t know exactly what they need, but know they need a CRM. I personalize a demo by telling the Nutshell story, how we use it, how it helps our team. Even though I do research on the company that’s trying Nutshell, I don’t presume to know what they’re going to need. Instead I try to put more of my own experience into the demo.”
Mike Carroll, Head of Growth at Nutshell
A product demo can provide proof of product, build excitement for a company’s offerings, and increase sales via personalization…but only if said product demo is hosted effectively. In this section, we’ll outline a four-step process to help you host stellar sales demos, no matter what kind of product or software you sell.
Before you consider jumping on a video conference call with a new prospect or driving out to a potential customer’s office to demo your company’s offerings in person, you need to research your prospect enough to be able to tailor the demo specifically to them.
“If you’re in B2B sales and you can copy their logo from their website and paste it in your demo where it would appear as a customer, do it,” suggests Frank Chiodo of Trivr Eats. “If you know their industry and can configure your demo’s verbiage to match their terminology, do it. However you can invest time into helping tell the story of how they would specifically use and benefit from your product, it’s going to help them imagine life after saying yes.“
If you want to tailor your demo to each individual prospect in this way, you need to know:
Once you’re able to answer these five questions, you’ll be in a much better position to host an effective product demo. But there’s one more thing you should do as well: Make sure to set an agenda for your product demo and share it with your viewers.
This is an important part of the preparation process. It will help ensure you stay on track during your presentation. It will also make your prospects more comfortable, as they’ll know exactly what to expect from you. Comfortable prospects are much more likely to make purchases.
As we said earlier, that giant list of features on your website, while necessary, won’t actually sell your products or software. To entice someone to purchase something, you have to make them understand how your offering will benefit them. In other words, you need to describe the value that your product or software will bring to your potential customer.
Take a look at the following two examples and decide which sounds better:
The second one, right? That’s because the first sentence simply lists a feature. The second describes the value of having that feature. Unless you’re a total gearhead, the “385 horsepower” stat is basically useless. But by describing what 385 horsepower can accomplish, the stat becomes much more meaningful and enticing.
When crafting your product demo content, always look for ways to explain the value behind the products you sell, rather than focusing on features.
“If you try to demo every feature, it’s like drinking from a firehose and easy to lose the prospect,” says Jared Knotts, Account Executive at Nutshell. “Stick to showing how your solution can help them accomplish their goals.”
Effective product demos focus on the prospects’ personal needs. But to really understand what a prospect needs from your products, you have to ask them first. That’s why we suggest starting every product demo with a quick Q&A session.
As business coach Maria Marquis says in regard to product demos:
“When we feel like we need to hit all of the talking points, we end up talking at our participants for 25 minutes before we involve them. And asking ‘do you have any questions?’ doesn’t count as true engagement. The more you talk about yourself, the less you’ll talk about the real problems your prospect is trying to solve.”
So start your product demos with questions like:
Once you know this information, you can customize your product demo to suit each individual prospect and provide a better experience for them. But don’t stop there! Allow time both during and after your presentation to answer questions as well.
“Each demo is different, but everyone asks about price, contracts, onboarding, and support,” says Nutshell Head of Growth Mike Carroll. “You have to be ready to answer those questions in a variety of ways because while the questions are the same, the intent or context behind them is always different.”
The best product demonstrators are those who focus first and foremost on their audience and seek to understand the questions they have, then answer them as clearly as possible. If you can do that, you’ll find success with product demos, guaranteed.
Finally, end each of your product demos with a “next steps” section. What should folks do after watching your presentation?
“Your product demo has to finish with a call to action—how can people buy, order, sign up?” recommends John Moss, the CEO at English Blinds. Give specific direction, incentives, and prompts to do so.”
The exact call-to-action you work into your product demo will depend on you, the product you’re trying to sell, and your unique audience. But every product demo should include some kind of next-step section.
Don’t let your prospects get stuck in your sales pipeline! Gently push them in the direction you want them to go. If you hosted your product demo effectively, they’ll probably follow your lead.
Our Sell to Win Playbook provides tons of expert advice on what it takes to turn prospects into sales. Get an insider look by downloading the playbook for free!
To find out what it takes to deliver world-class demos, we interviewed revenue experts at three leading sales orgs: Rattle, Gong, and GetAccept. They shared not just their demo frameworks, but also insights into why they work.
Ranjay Matharu sells sales software to salespeople. When you’re selling a sales tool (Rattle is a CRM-to-Slack automation tool) to sales and revenue operations leaders, nothing short of an exceptional demonstration will do.
Here’s the high-level structure:
Most sales organizations split qualification and product demos into separate meetings. SDRs usually run the former and AEs handle the latter. But Ranjay does things a little differently.
“As long as you can get the right information during discovery, I think you should do qualification and show the product,” he explains. “Asking and answering questions for 45 minutes is exhausting. Show them something. Get them excited.”
That’s why his demo calls include a dedicated qualification section at the top. To make sure he gets all the information he needs, Ranjay uses the SPICED framework from go-to-market consultancy, Winning by Design.
The single most important thing is that you use your qualification questions to understand why someone is on the call. What are their pain points? What challenges are they facing? What goals and objectives do they have?
Understanding that is the secret sauce to a good demo because it reveals what buyers care about and therefore what you should show them.
Immediately after qualification, Ranjay pulls up a sales deck. It’s his way of framing the upcoming product demo. It establishes the problem, quantifies the risks of doing nothing, and shines a spotlight on the solution.
While a useful tool, sales decks can also go really wrong. The difference between an amazing presentation and a tedious PowerPoint is razor-thin. To keep his prospects engaged, Ranjay cut all extraneous content, leaving just the essentials of a great story.
He starts with the problem.
Then he agitates the pain.
Finally, he presents the solution.
By the end of the deck, Ranjay wants his prospects chomping at the bit to see his product. That’s when he fires up a screen share and opens Rattle.
(When I said sales decks are tough to get right, I meant it. For some inspiration, check out Zuora’s deck—often called the “best sales deck ever—and this teardown by strategic narrative consultant Andy Raskin.)
Although it’s a relatively simple product, Rattle has hundreds—possibly even thousands—of use cases. Reps can’t prepare engaging stories for all of them. Ranjay’s solution was to analyze Rattle’s product usage and rank use cases by popularity. He discovered his customers were using a handful of applications far more than others.
These became his demo use cases and he crafted a compelling way to showcase each one. All his stories follow the same rough outline.
[Problem acknowledgment] “You mentioned that forecasting is a huge issue.”
[Product solution] “Let me show you how Rattle can solve that.”
[Buyer feedback] “Could you see yourself using this to impact accurate forecasting?”
Rattle’s sales reps know all five stories like the back of their hand. While they can reel off each one without even thinking, the trick is knowing what stories to tell.
“The most important thing is to show the most relevant use case based on your qualification,” says Ranjay. “If you don’t, they’re gonna tune out.”
That’s where everything you learned during qualification comes in. Often, reps default to features they think are cool. But what you need to do is open your demo with the use case most relevant to your buyer—even if you personally find it boring.
Before hanging up, Ranjay always sets next steps with his buyer. For most of his deals, there are two options available:
Setting up an extended trial is Ranjay’s default. Seeing the product is one thing, he says. Experiencing it first-hand is something else entirely.
However, he’s aware that not every prospect will be bought in enough to progress to a trial. Perhaps the buyer wasn’t convinced by what they saw. Maybe they need to bring in other stakeholders. In these situations, Ranjay pushes for another demo with a wider group of stakeholders.
Whether you’re building your first sales process or overhauling an existing one, these Nutshell-approved templates will give you a great head-start.
Gong doesn’t really do boring. That extends to their demo scripts, too. It’s upside-down and packed with smart psychology to educate prospects without lecturing them.
Here’s the framework:
Even the best demo falls apart without context. You’ve got to establish what you’re talking about and (perhaps more importantly) why you’re talking about it.
Through the first 10 minutes, you’ve got three key objectives:
Although sellers are taught to focus on benefits, Jonathan encourages people to switch their focus to losses. You see, negativity bias means people respond far more strongly to possible losses than potential gains.
One of Gong’s features is automating low-impact tasks. The benefits-focused pitch would be: “You’ll have more time to dedicate to other projects.” Good, but not that emotive. Now consider the loss-focused pitch: “You’ll stop wasting time doing repetitive tasks that are easy to automate.”
Can you feel the difference?
Context-setting isn’t all that revolutionary. But Jonathan’s second act is. Most demos build to a crescendo. They start small and escalate to the buyer’s most agonizing pain point. That makes sense…in theory.
But that’s not how it works in real life.
If you start with something small and minor, your buyers will switch off. They’ll pull up Slack or check emails on their phone. By the time you get to your big reveal, you’ll have lost them.
That’s why Jonathan advocates for the “upside-down” demo.
He puts his buyer’s biggest pain point right at the start.
“We came to this framework after analyzing 67,149 sales demos,” he says. “While a lot of it might feel counterintuitive—like not ramping up your sales demo—it’s the best way to keep the conversation engaging and boost win rates.”
Rep: During our first call you told me you were struggling with [Problem #1]. Is that right?
Prospect: Yes, that’s right.
Rep: Got it! Let me show you how our solution can help.
If you align your demo with your buyer’s pain points from the first minute, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.
Okay, you like your logo slide. Each company name represents a big win. But your buyers probably don’t care that you sold Microsoft or GE. Indeed, getting social proof wrong can be costly. According to Gong, misusing social proof tactics drops your close rate by 22%.
The point here isn’t that social proof is bad. You just have to be careful about it. The trick is to tell before-and-after stories from comparable companies—same size, vertical, goals, and so on.
Here’s a sample story:
Acme Corp [Customer] needed to automate low-value tasks for their sales reps and build a scalable sales process [Objective]. They rolled out our platform and built automations to handle data entry, information sharing, and research [Solution], allowing them to increase active selling time by 40% [Benefit]. Currently, their sales team is generating 25% more leads [Benefit] and 30% more revenue than before [Benefit].
The difference between this and a logo slide is immense. Before-and-after stories show the journey and improvement. They build credibility through others’ success and convince prospects that they can achieve the same.
So drop your logos and start telling stories.
Most successful demos are around 45 minutes long. That’s not a lot of time to exhaustively demonstrate a product. Instead of delivering a surface-level look at everything, Jonathan suggests reps slow down and go deeper on a handful of use cases.
When demoing anything, your goal is to identify your prospect’s pain points and explore how your product or service could help. Here, Jonathan uses open-ended questions and statements to kickstart deeper discussion.
Drop general questions at any point in the demo:
Or use a feature-specific question to prompt a response to particular functionality:
Bring things back to your prospect’s objectives with goal-focused questions:
Asking probing questions during your demo allows you to hone in on your buyer’s most important pain points. When you do that, you can turn a generic demo into a highly personalized experience.
The purpose of a demo isn’t to get a signature. That comes later. According to analysts at Gartner, great demos achieve two key objectives:
Once you’ve achieved those aims, it’s time to wrap things up. But that’s not the end of the demo just yet. High-performing reps always set next steps. They never let a conversation peter out with a vague, “See you later.”
Do you have your calendar in front of you? Perfect, I’ll send the invitation now…did you get it?
How does [date and time] look for you? Is there anyone else we should include at this point in the discussion?
As a next step, I’d suggest [next step]. Does that sound good? When works best for you early next week?
Your optimal next step depends entirely on your sales process. It could be a technical discovery, executive stakeholder sync, or contract negotiations. The most important part is that you book your next step before you hang up.
“He put me into the fire a lot,” Madison laughs. “But I learned a lot through doing. He taught me a lot of his own methodologies so they’re not processes that you’ll find on Google.”
GetAccept’s demo structure is one of those unique systems.
Check out the overview:
Composed of just three parts, it might look simple, but there’s a lot of flexibility for reactive personalization and adaptation.
Here’s how it works.
Before prospects make it to GetAccept’s AEs, they’ve already gone through a basic qualification run by an SDR.
“It’s a checklist of five things to make sure they’re qualified for a meeting,” explains Madison. It covers things like company size, decision-maker status, and tech stack integration.
The basic qualification leaves a lot of questions unanswered so Madison spends the first half of her demo calls exploring the deal’s context. She uses a custom qualification framework created by Dailius combined with a couple of tweaks of her own.
The discovery part of the call isn’t just simple fact-finding. Madison uses each question as an opportunity to introduce and position GetAccept. If she asks about a pain point, she’ll hint at how her product can help solve it. If a prospect mentions timeline, she’ll assure them GetAccept has an efficient implementation strategy.
She’s also borrowed a particularly effective oratory technique from political speech writing.
“I dig into my prospect’s pains and their ideal state, and constantly go back and forth,” she explains. “These are your challenges, but where would you like to be? These are your pain points, but what are your goals for this year? I constantly toggle between the pains and future states.”
Flicking between the negative status quo and the positive future amplifies both experiences. It makes the status quo feel worse and the solution seem better. It’s incredibly effective in motivating buyers.
There are two parts to GetAccept’s product demo: end state and explanation. In the first, Madison immediately showcases the result of implementation. Like Ranjay at Rattle, she has a handful of pre-scripted use cases and uses her earlier qualification to select the most relevant.
“When I send someone the pre-meeting agenda, I use our product to send it,” Madison says. “When I meet with them, I use what I sent them as an example. I say, ‘You got this pre-meeting agenda, some information, and a video. What did you think of that? This is what your customers would experience.’”
It’s like jumping straight to the, “So what?” It shines a spotlight on the benefits like internal efficiency gains and improved customer experience. When a buyer’s eyes light up, Madison doubles down with a back-end explanation, pulling up GetAccept and walking through how she made the magic happen.
It’s a simple but impactful structure.
GetAccept’s deals typically feature two demos. While reps try to tailor the first demo to their qualification, it’s still relatively generic. What comes next is a fully personalized product demo.
“I take their documentation, logos, and colors, and I brand the platform,” Madison explains. “I put their content in it. I will embed some videos they’ve posted. I pretend I’m an AE at their company and run my sales process as if I were their teammate.”
To keep prospects on the hook, Madison sets them action items ahead of the second demo: collect sales collateral, send some example pieces of content, or share their brand toolkit. It makes the next stage a shared responsibility.
It also weeds out the time-wasters. If someone’s not willing to dig out a couple of pieces of sales collateral, are they really going to convert? Probably not.
All three demo frameworks we’ve talked about rely heavily on storytelling. But there aren’t many reps who can spin a yarn like Stephen King. Telling good stories is hard.
But before we talk about stories, let’s rewind a bit. Because great product storytelling needs great product marketing.
Take your product or service’s top three value propositions and identify three features associated with each value proposition. And then describe the benefits connected to each feature.
Here’s his example for one of Outreach’s value propositions.
Your next step is to write the stories for each feature. Your goal is to illustrate the value proposition and highlight the benefits without sounding salesy.
To do that, Andrew uses a seven-sentence framework:
If you’ve ever taken a creative writing course, you’ll recognize steps one through six as Pixar’s fourth rule of storytelling. (Andrew added the seventh sentence himself.) If it’s good enough for WALL-E and Toy Story, it’s good enough for your sales demo.
Here’s what the storytelling framework looks like when you fill it out for Outreach’s sequences feature.
Repeat this process for every feature and you’ll end up with nine awesome product narratives. Depending on what your prospect cares about, you can chop and change which ones you use during your demo.
“Personalized demos have a huge impact on our sales,” says Nutshell’s Mike Carroll. “Our overall activation rate (trial users turning into customers) is 12-14% on average. When teams in trial get a demo, that number jumps to nearly 40%. People want to see how your product works and how it’s going to work for them.”
A well-hosted product demo will allow you to provide prospects with proof that your company’s offerings do what you say they will. It will also give you the opportunity to personalize your selling process to each potential customer and get them excited about the things you sell.
So remember to follow the four steps we outlined in this article:
Looking for another way to increase sales numbers? Purchase a Nutshell subscription for your team. Our popular CRM and sales automation software is easy to use and packed with convenient features you can use to build better relationships, delight customers, and sell more of your company’s products. Try Nutshell for free today!
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