If you’re a product manager at an enterprise SaaS company, the chances that you’ll be asked to do a sales demo are roughly 100%.

Between prep time and the actual meetings, demos can be a big time sink. We do it because it helps the business, and some of us really enjoy doing it. After all, who else thinks about the product from as many angles as the product team? A product demo should be easy.

Unfortunately, we often blow it.

Actually, it’s worse that that; we often blow it without even realizing it. Product managers, especially inexperienced ones, forget that the goal of the demo is to show how you’ll make the prospect’s life better. Instead, PMs tend to drone on about how the product works. When a new feature is in the spotlight, they might just be praying that it works at all.

The value you bring isn’t knowing how the product works – it’s understanding the problem it solves better than anyone else.

Your best asset is your understanding of why the product works the way it does, not merely how it works. The “why” is what creates value for the customer. They’re going to make more money, save time, reduce risk, or have fewer headaches. The “why” is what makes them buy.

Rules of the Road

Here’s what you should remember whenever you’re doing a product demo for sales.

1. Focus on the buyer, not the product. You should be able to start any product demo by saying, “There’s a lot in here that I won’t touch on today because I want to focus on thing x that is really relevant here.” If you don’t know what thing x is going in, you’ve already lost. What you show should be tailored to the prospect’s needs.

2. Only talk about the technology when it matters. Talking about products and technology is fun for most of us. It’s what we spend much of our time doing. Just remember that most of the things you like geeking out on have no impact on making the client’s life better. The only times you should be going deep on the technology are (a) to establish credibility when you need to, and (b) when they ask. Beyond that, you should be focusing on their needs, not the tech.

3. Now is not the time for market research. Obviously, we are advocates of user interviews at UserMuse. However, the sales pitch is not the time to get open-ended market feedback. Sales meetings are for winning business. Keep your ears perked for feedback, but this isn’t the time to ask what they don’t like about your product.

4. Stick to the “two-comment” rule. An old colleague of mine had a rule for client presentations that I still use today: If the client asks a question, one person on your side responds. One other person can add something, but that’s it. When people start commenting on comments, the meeting gets bogged down in the weeds.

5. Don’t get freaked out by forward selling. All of the managing of expectations with internal stakeholders tends to make product managers gun-shy when talking about the roadmap to prospects. Forward selling is okay! There’s a world of difference between saying, “We can’t do that,” versus “that’s on our roadmap and could be pulled forward…”

6. When the customer says “Yes” stop talking. Product managers can be the worst when it comes to selling past the close, so read the room. If everyone’s on board and feeling like you can solve their problem, don’t open a new front for people to ask questions about and leave on an ambiguous note.

The you have built-in credibility as the product person during a sales demo. As a non-salesperson, you can “sell without selling” by showing you understand the prospect’s needs inside and out. When it seems like your entire company is obsessed with solving the prospect’s problems, potential customers notice.

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