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Your 5 Step Guide to Giving the Perfect Demo.

By: Jeff Hoffman

Many reps assume inquisitive prospects who are eager to be educated are also eager to buy. That’s usually a false assumption.

Enter, the demo.

The demo is one of the very few opportunities we have in sales to get a true sense of our prospect’s interest. By creating an environment that encourages the buyer to communicate and talk with — rather than at — we can truly discover their needs, identify their reservations, and gauge their intent.

Here are the 5 things you need to know in order to run the perfect demo.

1. Keep your audience small.

It’s really tempting to want a large audience on your demos. And I get it. However, there is no real correlation between exposure and excitement. And we run the risk of opening the floodgates by allowing anyone and everyone to join our demo.


Every attendee has different expectations and wishlists and it’s impossible to please everyone. There is too much risk involved and you’ll almost always fail to make everyone happy.

Additionally, the more people you have on your demo, the less your attendees will talk. And that is the opposite of what we want. By gathering as much information as possible on the first half of the call, we can tailor our demo to their specific pain points and needs.

And remember, this is not limited to non-tech demos. Even if it is a technical demo with 3-4 engineers, they will probably have 3-4 different engineering priorities. Focus on the common agenda, and be SURE that it’s an agenda that everyone finds interesting.

2. Create an interactive demo.

We have to give our prospects the opportunity to drive; whether it’s creating a report or building a dashboard or even just logging in. If we neglect to plan an interactive aspect in our demos, the experience will be similar to that of a car sale, where the car salesperson is the person that test drives the car.  It doesn’t make sense and it’s not interesting, fun, or remotely helpful to the buyer.

Incorporate a shared use of the demo to increase the buyer’s engagement with the product, and to surface objections and concerns quickly.

If this isn’t part of your standard demo practice today, make it a priority. (So, if you have to talk to Product Marketing or your IT team to make this happen – Do it now.)

3. Start the call with a needs-based assessment.

The first 25% of the meeting MUST be a needs-based assessment conversation and this must happen BEFORE the demo even begins. That means if the demos are typically 60 minutes long, the first 15 minutes must be dedicated to this conversation with the goal of understanding the prospect’s current environment.

This allows us to tailor our demo to the elements that will resonate with them the most. This also means we can conspicuously skip over the elements of your product we might not want to share with them. Additionally, we can tease certain functions that they will find interesting. For example, if their focus is on reporting, maybe we only show them three out of the five reports we have just to keep them intrigued.

Our goal is to keep them excited, prevent boredom, and strategically align our offering to their current priorities.  

4. Kick-off and end your own demo.

If you rely on technical assistance to do most of your demo, you must be the one to execute the needs-based assessment conversation and the one to close your prospect for the next step.

This means without your technical support on the call.

Inform your colleague ahead of time that you will dial them into the demo, after the needs-based assessment. Quickly update them about the specific functions your prospect wants to see, and then allow them to walk your prospect through the technical side of things. Once the demo is over, your technical support will hang up, and you will move forward with your close and next steps.

5. End the demo by getting immediate feedback.

I always close for this ahead of time. And it sounds something like this –

“Hi Alex, I’m looking forward to giving you the demo next week, I’m going to send you an agenda for the call – It’ll take about an hour total, the first 15 minutes will be about your current environment, we’ll then go through the demo portion, and the last 10-15 minutes I am going to ask you questions about what you thought. Is that okay with you?”

Naturally, they will say yes and then I proceed with sending them the agenda.

This extra step allows us to easily segway into the close at the end of the demo. And when the prospect offers feedback, listen closely to what they are saying. Their first reactions will often signal any potential objections or red flags.

After we’ve asked our questions and gotten their reactions, we can move forward with our final close. This will change, depending on what happens in the demo, but it might be for a referral, introduction to procurement, or their org chart.

Overall, a successful demo hinges on the structure of the call/meeting. The most effective sales reps are the ones who know this and structure their demos accordingly– leading to better messaging and more next steps.

Happy Selling!

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- Bret Wilbur, Director of Sales, TriNet

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