How to host an effective product demo to boost sales

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Contributor, Sell to Win

A product 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 usually employed by salespeople to give prospects an overview of various features, highlight use-cases, and communicate value.

Some common variations of the product demo include:

  • One-to-many demo: A regularly scheduled presentation in which one or more sales reps give a general overview of their product to a group of interested prospects. Prospects often have to register online to attend these demos, and the demos can be live, pre-recorded, or a mix of both.

  • One-to-one demo: A live presentation in which a sales rep shows off specific product features based on the individual needs of a single prospect or team.

  • Technical demo: A one-to-one demo in which your prospect gets hands-on experience with your solution and uses it for themselves within a structured setting.

In this article we’ll explain why product demos are beneficial and how to run one effectively, along with some proven tips from sales pros who host product demos every day. Let’s dive in!

The Benefits of Demoing Products

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…

Proof

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.

Excitement

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.

Related: Why success is the only thing you sell in B2B sales

“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

Personalization

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

4 Steps to the Perfect Product Demo

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.

1. Get Prepared

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:

  • Who will be viewing your product demo
  • What role each of these folks have
  • The daily challenges they face
  • The goals they hope to accomplish
  • How your product of software can assist them

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 also 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.

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2. Describe Value

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:

  1. “Our new truck has 385 horsepower!”
  2. “Our new truck will allow you to easily tow your boat or fifth-wheel trailer!”

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.” 

3. Answer Questions

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:

  • “It’s my understanding that you want to accomplish A, B, and C. Is that right?”
  • “You’re currently looking for ways to overcome Challenge X, correct?”
  • “What specific capabilities are you looking for in this type of product?”

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 that 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.

4. Provide Next Steps

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.

Your Turn: Demo Your Products Effectively

“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 for the things you sell.

So remember to follow the four steps we outlined in this article:

  1. Get Prepared
  2. Describe Value
  3. Answer Questions
  4. Provide Next Steps

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