Your sales demo is boring. It doesn’t have to be.

Sales demos are almost always boring

You know your product. Even though the product is easy, you take the time to write the documentation to explain it. You spend a lot of time explaining it to people, like when you hire someone or bring on a new customer. You walk through the product and show what each feature does and talk about how customers get value out of it. This is called a training. Trainings are useful and important.

Then you get in front of a prospect and what do you do? You start explaining the product to them. You start training your prospect. How horrible. You can do better.

Think trailer, not training.

The best sales demos are like movie trailers. Movie trailers sell movies. Movies are the product. Your demo is not a movie, it’s a trailer. Trailers give the audience:

  • The basic premise, the conflict or question: man vs. nature, buddy-cop comedy romp, feel-good coming-of-age, “what if” dystopian future, etc.
  • The look and feel – dark, upbeat, fast-paced, contemplative, whimsical, inspiring
  • The main characters – the folks at the heart of the conflict, especially the protagonist
  • The cast – do I like these actresses and actors?

And perhaps most importantly, effective trailers leave the audience wanting more. Leaving stuff out, even some of the best moments, is the key. The best demos don’t end with a salesperson asking “did I cover everything?” They end with the prospect saying “I want to bring a friend to see this.”

Life is pain

Think about your prospect as the main character or protagonist of their own life story. They have some kind of conflict, pain, problem, goal or something. The demo should begin with a question that gets the prospect to clearly state their relevant pain/goal. Their pain is the conflict, and your product should be the resolution to that conflict. The whole thing should revolve around them, or they won’t pay attention.

You’re not too good for a script

This should go without saying, but it needs to be said: don’t just wing it. Create a script. Not just an outline, a real script. Spielberg uses them; you should too. It doesn’t mean you ever deliver it word-for-word but write it anyway. Here’s how to create your script.

1) Make a list of the points you want to make.

The best thing you can do to improve your demos is to decide what you are trying to prove. Put it in writing. Don’t start by thinking about what features you want to show. Instead, think about the attributes of the product you want the client to believe. Is it easy-to-use, flexible, compatible, powerful? Make your list short – just 3 or 4 things. These attributes may be the seemingly obvious essence of your product. They should be the attributes that differentiate you from your competitors,

2) List how you’ll prove your point with features

For each point, list the parts of the product you can show that prove the point

What features best prove the points you are trying to make? You don’t need to show every feature. In fact, don’t. Skip most things. Your audience is bright. They will figure it out.

What to cut

  • Don’t show obvious stuff. No one is excited about your date picker.
  • If you can’t “show” it, cut it. For features without a UI, either use a graphic or don’t talk about it. The audience only remembers what it sees.
  • Leave out the details of the features, unless they have serious sex-appeal. I know, I know, your team has worked incredibly hard on some feature that was extremely difficult and completely unsexy. Resist the urge to show it because it was hard.

3) Use Narratives to String together features

This is where you start to organize and order your demo. The natural tendency is to let the layout of the screen guide your demo. Instead, let the storyline drive. That means there will be some stuff on each screen that you don’t talk about. (Remember that’s a good thing.)

You’ll concentrate the power of your demo if you string together multiple features into a single narrative that allows a prospect to imagine their reality with your product. Take the list of features you created and compose a storyline that covers several features. Product Managers often use a User Story to communicate software goals to developers. Most user stories are composed using a template like this:

As a [type of user], I want [some goal] so that [some reason].

You can use this format as a perfect start to your narrative. You prove the point you defined in step 2, and show you understand the reason the feature exists. The only thing missing is the actual showing of the feature. Now you have a narrative template:

As a [type of user], when I [context], I want [some goal] so that [some reason]. Usually, when a [type of user] wants to _______, they have to _________. This is bad because [negative impact]. But with [product], they just [describe user actions for the feature].”

After creating each narrative, all you have to do is preface it with the point you want to make.

We’ve heard from [type of user] that [attribute] is very important to them because [reason]. So we made it very [attribute]. Let me show you one ways we did that. Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m a [type of user].

Then repeat the narrative template.

As a [type of user], when I [context] I want [some goal] so that [some reason]. Usually, when a [type of user] wants to [use case], they have to [current workflow]. This is bad because [negative impact]. But with [product], they just [describe user actions for the feature].

State the payoff:

So as you can see, the product is really [attribute], which means [impact].


The Point

We know that for teachers, if a product isn’t easy-to-use, it won’t get used. So we carefully removed steps, decision points, and complications from the teacher experience. For example, let me show you our grouping feature on the teacher dashboard. Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m a teacher.

The Narrative

As a teacher, when I’m in class, I want break my students into groups, based on their proficiency so that I can deliver content that is more appropriate for each group. Usually, I have to keep track of students progress in a spreadsheet and before class, I have to look over the list and divide the class into roughly equal groupings and print of the lists of names for each group. Then in class, I have to post these lists on the wall and ask the students to find their name on the list and report to their separate groups. It takes time out of my day and disrupts the class. But with Positive Learning, I log into my dashboard [show on screen] for a preview of the groups that the system has automatically recommended [intentionally not mentioning the other things on the screen]. If I don’t have any changes to make, I simply tell the students to begin their exercise in Positive Learning and the system automatically assigns each group the appropriate lesson for their level.

The Payoff 

So as you can see, by remove steps, decision points, and complications from the process of grouping students, teachers get their personal time back and their classroom runs more smoothly, without the usual disruption.

Make it an emotional experience.

When you focus on your prospect, make it all about them, and stop turning your demo into training, trying to train them, you can really touch their hearts. You can captivate their attention by giving them visions of a new reality with less pain. Give them just a taste of that new reality and they’ll be dying to come back for more.


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