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For such an important step in the sales process, there are a ton of bad sales demos out there.
They’re generic, rather than personalized. They focus on the vendor and ignore the buyer. They’re one-way presentations, not lively conversations.
“We closed a $50 million funding round last year so you’re in good hands.”
“Yeah, I signed Acme Corp and Wayne Enterprises. They’ve been really happy with our service.”
You know, that sort of thing. And that’s not to put reps on blast. The reality is, running a great demo is tough. It’s much easier to list off features and functionality than drill down into a buyer’s underlying wants, needs, and challenges.
Other times, sales reps are working from half-baked demo scripts. Unless they have a sure-fire replacement, they’re not going to rip up what they have and start again.
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.
Rattle: Qualification and demo in one
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:
Step #1: Qualification
Step #2: Sales deck
Step #3: Product demo
Step #4: Next steps
Let’s take a look at each of Rattle’s steps in more detail.
Step #1: Qualification
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.
Situation: Facts, circumstances, and background details about your prospect.
Pain: The challenges that brought the prospect your way.
Impact: How you impact your prospect’s business.
Critical Event: Deadline to achieve that impact.
Decision: The process, committee, and criteria involved in purchasing a solution.
But this demo structure doesn’t rely on SPICED. You can have just as productive a conversation using BANT, MEDDPICC, FAINT, or another jumble of letters.
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.
Step #2: Sales deck
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.)
Step #3: Product demo
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.
Missing MEDDIC fields
Overdue or upcoming start/close date
Logging calls after meeting
Real-time visibility for the executive team
These became his demo use cases and he crafted a compelling way to showcase each one. All his stories follow the same rough outline.
Use Case Script
[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.
Step #4: Next steps
Before hanging up, Ranjay always sets next steps with his buyer. For most of his deals, there are two options available:
Set up a product trial
Arrange a second demo with stakeholders
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.
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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:
Set the problem with the status quo
Spell out the stakes, including your buyer’s current pain and potential benefits
Start a conversation that resonates with your buyer
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?
Act #2: The “upside-down” demo
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.
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.
Act #4: Solve exactly
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:
I’ll pause here if you have any questions.
What are you thinking so far?
Do you have any other concerns or needs that we haven’t talked about so far?
Or use a feature-specific question to prompt a response to particular functionality:
How do you see your team using this product?
Before we dig into this feature in more detail, I wanted to ask you: how does your company currently handle [common problem]?”
Is this something you’d use for [use case]?
Bring things back to your prospect’s objectives with goal-focused questions:
Why do you need this solution now?
Why is this such an important problem for you to fix?
Why is it important to solve [challenge] by [deadline]?
Asking probing questions during your demo allows you to home 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 prospect sees how the solution would solve their problems
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.
GetAccept: Unique qualification and a back-to-front demo
Madison Simon was GetAccept’s first sales hire. Working closely with Vice President of Growth, Dailius Wilson, she helped build GetAccept’s sales motion. It was an intense experience.
“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:
Part #1: Deeper qualification
Part #2: Product demo
Part #3: Action items
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.
Part #1: Deeper qualification
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.
Organizational structure: What roles, processes, and workflows are relevant to this project? Document the roles, responsibilities, and workflows of each person.
Politics and players: Who is involved in this process? Identify your champions, users, decision-makers, technical stakeholders, and blockers. Work out whose buy-in you need for the deal.
Challenges and pain: What are your prospect’s challenges and pain points? Analyze whether or not you have unidentified challenges and how much each challenge is inhibiting the prospect’s success.
Goals and objectives: What is your buyer’s ideal state? Can you add value or impact to their ideal state? If you’ve identified multiple objectives, work together to decide which actions will make the most impact.
Needs vs. wants: What features does your buyer consider necessities and which are nice-to-haves? You need to understand where you satisfy their requirements and where you add additional value.
Timeline: What sparked their solution search? How did they find you? Do they have an ideal go-live date? Is there urgency? If there isn’t a timeline, how can you create one?
Technology stack: What relevant technologies are in play? Is your buyer considering adding more? Can you condense or simplify their tech stack? How would you integrate your product with their systems?
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.
Part #2: Product demo
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.
Pre-meeting agenda template
“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.
Part #3: Action items
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.
(BONUS) Outreach: How to tell great stories
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.
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.
Once upon a time, there was an SDR named Mark.
Every day, he would reach out to prospects and get a response after two or three emails.
But, one day, he realized that two or three touches no longer worked.
Because of this, he started doing eight to 12 touches.
Because of that, he couldn’t keep up with eight to 12 touches per prospect. Leads were falling through the cracks because he didn’t have a consistent process.
Until, finally, he discovered the Outreach sequence.
And, ever since then, Mark has had a consistent process to follow up with every single lead—with no leads falling through the cracks.
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.