Breaking Free from Boring Sales Demos: Why Customer-Led is the Future

March 9, 2023
If you want to increase demo requests and get people excited to show up to your demo call, you need to adopt the customer-led buying model.
Ben Wright
Table of Contents

A quick Google search for "how to increase demo requests" illustrates the major problem with trying to get buyers on a call these days for a sales demo: All of the top results are focused on conversion rate optimization tactics. 

Now, if people can't find your demo request form — or if they're waiting a week to hear back after requesting a demo — maybe you can increase your pipeline with simple site and operational changes. 

But for most businesses, making minor changes to the color of your submit button is probably not going to move the needle and help you hit your revenue goals. 

Why? The problem isn't that your demo request page isn't perfectly optimized for conversions. The problem is that buyers hate attending sales demos.

The good news: It's possible to get people to stop dreading filling out the demo request form — to get them to actually look forward to speaking with you — but it requires much more than just running some quick A/B tests. 

If you want people to be excited to show up to your demo call, you need to move toward a more customer-led buying process.

Why buyers hate attending sales demos

You read that right: Buyers hate attending sales demos.

“Not mine!” I hear you say. “We have the greatest sales deck ever. I bet our buyers love our demos.”

Sadly, the traditional way of buying software does not appeal to the modern buyer.

There are several things that your buyers dislike about attending demos. Luckily, we have researched them so you know where you are going wrong and how to improve next time in order to increase your demo requests.

Lack of preparation

Sales reps are busy. They have back-to-back meetings, followed by training sessions and CRM administration. The byproduct of this is that demos aren't done with the requisite amount of preparation.

When a customer submits a demo request, they usually include enough information for you to prepare fairly well for the upcoming meeting. You should know things such as the company name, size, and vertical.

From this information, you should be able to work out where your product is best suited to help them and what unique problems they might have that your product could solve.

Of course, you can and should do some discovery during the demo, but buyers hate the fact that they have to restate a lot of basic information that the sales rep should have prepared ahead of time. It makes them feel like their time is not valued by the very people they are looking to give money to.

Boring demo experiences

A sales demo can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half in some cases. So it really aggravates buyers when they are faced with a demo experience that is just slide after slide, with the sales rep talking 98% of the time.

According to Gong, the highest-yielding B2B sales conversations hover around a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio. This ratio, however, is ignored by the majority of sales reps, and it results in monologues that put potential buyers to sleep.

You have to remember that buyers have probably sat in on more than one demo in the past, and these poor experiences make them reluctant to join them anymore due to the sheer lack of excitement that many demos drive.

Buyers hate boring demos. You need to ask compelling questions and not simply read off of a slide deck for an hour.

Don't cover your specific pain points

You are on a demo call primarily because your lead has a pain point they are looking to solve. Leads have already identified your product because they believe it solves that problem for them.

Why then do demos need to cover every feature and pain point the product solves instead of honing in on and focusing on the pain points that brought the buyer onto the call in the first place?

Buyers hate demos because the lack of personalization contained in them leave them with more questions than were answered by the demo itself.

They already know what pain points the product solves through their own research, so they are most likely on a demo to confirm this and move through the sales process.

The need to do in-person demos results in an unnecessary step for buyers who hate the fact that sales reps cover everything instead of focusing on their needs.

Difficult to coordinate

In a typical SaaS buying process, there are several people involved that are required to sign off prior to purchasing a tool.

When you require someone to book a demo, you are also requiring them to act as a coordinator of all of these people — and making them responsible for finding a time that works for all.

If some of the people involved are at the C-suite level, their calendars are often stuffed full of meetings, so trying to find a 30-60 minute slot can be frustrating.

Buyers hate attending demos because you don't make it easy for them to book the actual meeting. They have other jobs to do alongside scoping out your software, and so this is a step that they find extremely frustrating.

Buyers don't like sellers’ behaviors

Okay, this one may come off as harsh, but it's rooted in research.

HubSpot’s research found there is still a “strong association with salespeople being overly pushy and aggressive.” Sellers are typically paid by total amount of revenue closed, and oftentimes they have tough targets to hit.

These two factors taken together can lead to sellers becoming pushy and putting the needs of the customers below their own needs to close deals.

Buyers hate demos because they don't like the salesperson giving the demo. They have booked a call to find out if you can help them and instead feel pressured by sales reps to make a decision immediately.

A better approach: Customer-led buying

Buyers hate attending sales demos. So how do you ensure that you still get business and increase demo requests? The answer is customer-led buying.

Customer-led buying revolves around the concept of giving the customer what they want and need rather than what's best for marketing and sales.

It enables the customer to take full control of their buying journey — instead of having it defined by the sales team — leading to an increase in demo requests and overall happier customers.

However, it's not self-service in the way that product-led growth enables buyers to simply complete a purchase without talking to a human, which sacrifices direction and a personal touch. It’s something in between.

With customer-led growth, the buyer can go through the motions of vetting, testing, and ensuring the product is a good fit for their organization prior to reaching out to a sales rep for a demo.

This new motion results in more qualified buyers and a higher likelihood of purchase due to the fact that the lead is already “pre-qualified,” having done that themselves.

3 customer-centric ways to increase demo requests 

So how do you make your sales process more customer-led? Here are three things that can be done today in order to drive this new, improved way of purchasing software.

1. Give customers the chance to provide more information before a call

As we mentioned at the top of this article, one of the things that frustrates buyers is the length of time and the lack of personalization included in demos.

In order to get around this, you should ask buyers what they want to see in a demo and what specific pain points they are trying to solve for. Another way to position this is to ask “What are your current fiscal year initiatives?”

Capturing this information ahead of a demo call allows the demo to be put in the hands of the buyer. They are able to set the agenda for themselves and thus ensure that if they need to be on a demo, it will at least be concise and cover the things that really matter to them.

In a customer-led sales motion, the customer decides the rules, and this should also include the demo experience you provide to them.

2. Give people an inside look at your tool before setting up a demo

One of the things that takes up the majority of the time in a traditional sales demo is showing off the product.

The customer needs to see the software and understand what it does prior to making a purchase, but they also should have the ability to do it at their own pace.

One option for solving this problem is to give leads access to a tool like TestBox. With TestBox, you are able to get fully functional, data-populated demo instances of your tool in the hands of your potential buyers. They can then test the software and see if it's a good fit for them.

From your sales team's side, they are able to see exactly how the prospect is interacting with the demo environment, enabling them to further personalize conversations with the prospect based on which features the prospect spent the most time with.

This results in a more effective demo — and one that results in higher conversion rates and shorter sales cycles.

3. Create a culture of listening on your sales team

Sales teams want to sell. It makes sense, it's what they are paid to do.

The thrill of selling, however, can easily result in pushy sales tactics and a lack of care and attention given to the customer.

In order to make your sales process more customer-led, create a sales process that involves more listening to the customer and less talking to the customer.

A good tactic might be to change up your current sales deck. Instead of having sales reps go through 20 slides, set them up with a list of good questions to ask.

The result of this will be more of the customer telling you what they want, what they are hoping to solve for, and why they came to talk to you in the first place, which can then be leveraged into a customized demo of the product.

Customer-led growth is the future 

The way that buyers want to purchase software is changing drastically.

The battle scars of demos they have sat through in the past — coupled with the fact that 60% of buyers are now millennials who want information now — means that traditional sales processes no longer work.

Instead, software companies need to think about customer-led buying — how they can enable buyers to take control of the sales process while still providing them with the support from your sales team that they will need… when they are ready.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, software companies must embrace this change in the buying process and adopt new approaches to sales that align with the expectations and preferences of modern buyers. 

This includes leveraging new software solutions like TestBox product demos and having a flexible, customer-centric sales strategy that can adapt to the evolving needs of the market. 

By doing so, software companies can ensure a smoother, more efficient, and more successful sales experience for both themselves and their customers.

More revenue, less effort

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