saas demo best practices

SaaS Demo Best Practices | How to Give a Great SaaS Demo

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SaaS Demo Best Practices – Top question from Google

How to give a great SaaS demo

Unfortunately, most people who are trying to understand and learn how to do a “good saas demo” are starting from the wrong place.  Confused?  Don’t worry just bear with me.

Sales is full of pitfalls and traps, and what seems relatively straight forward, can actually end up being quite complicated. 

As always in our SaaS training our desire is to simplify everything in order that is more easily understood, which normally translates to, easier to execute. So here goes.

Myth Number 1 – The objective of the demo is to demo my software or app.  Wrong – the objective of the demo is to move the prospect forward in the sales process.  In some cases this might mean getting a purchase order, in other cases it might mean moving to the next stage in the sales process. 

Myth Number 2 – The demo is what seals the deal.  Wrong – if you are relying on the demo to convince the prospect to buy you have missed a few steps in the sales process and the prospect is NOT qualified to receive a demo.

Myth Number 3 – I have to run through the full demo. Wrong – many SaaS solutions are quite complex with multiple features and functionality.  If the business pain that the demo cures was not uncovered pre-demo in the discovery phase then you run the risk of boring the prospect to death with content they have no interest in.

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Your pre-demo is more important than your demo

As indicated in Myth Number 1 like almost everything in life, the more preparation and research you can do before the demo, the more successful the outcome.  Unfortunately, preparation and research are not necessarily glamorous and sexy, so every SaaS rep whether they be the SDR, the Business Development Exec, or the Account Executive, are always in a rush to get to the demo.

Psychologically their belief is “if I can only just get them to the demo they will buy”.  If that was true then every demo would result in an order. The industry average for SaaS is reported as 25% and when you add in the public data available it rises to 26% – pretty underwhelming.

What doesn’t help is when the reps setting the demos, typically the SDR’s have the number of demos they set as a KPI.  Demos have to be qualified, and when they are not properly qualified then they are waste of both the customers time, and the Account Manager or person delivering the demos time. 

Pre demo meaning

Pre demo refers to the research and preparation we do before a software demonstration to qualify a prospect and thereby increase the chance of the demo converting to a sale.  Some organisations refer to the pre demo stage as the “Discovery” stage whereby you are discovering if there is a good fit between what the software does and what the prospect needs. 

saas demo best practice
Sales Motivation

Pre demo questions

Pre demo questions are critical to the success of your demo, however, this is where many companies struggle.  In our experience the most common challenges that you will encounter are:


Prospects answer questions the way that you want them to answer them.  They have been through the process many times before and know exactly what to say and do if they want a demo of the product.  They do this because they are inquisitive, they are interested at some level, but that does not mean they are qualified. 

Context is as important as the answers to any questions you may ask and should be included as part of your qualification process. What do we mean by context?

  1. Does the organisation meet your ICP (Ideal Client Profile)?
  2. Does the prospect meet your perfect prospect profile?
  3. Does the business pain that motivated the prospect to agree to a demo match the pains of you existing clients?
  4. Do you have case studies and references from similar companies with the same industry?

Questions to qualify a SaaS demo

Before we talk about the best questions that we should be asking it’s important to first take a step back.  Questions are used to qualify your prospects, however, that is not the only purpose of questioning.

There is no point asking questions, only to discard the answers to those questions.  Too many reps ask questions because it is part of the sales process, but aren’t really interested in the answers.

The purpose of asking questions is to gain a better understanding of the prospects situation and then use the answers to help them make a decision to move to the next stage of the sales process. 

The answers from the questions should also be documented and forwarded to the Account Manager who will be conducting the demo.

Here is a list of the minimum questions that we suggest you ask in order to qualify your software demo.  We recommend you take the list and soften the tone of them and then put your own personality into them.

  1. Can you explain the business problem that you are trying to overcome?
  2. How is this impacting your business in a negative way?
  3. What is the approximate cost of that negative impact to the business?
  4. Why is this important to solve now?
  5. What happens if you don’t fix this?
  6. Has the company got a budget set aside for this?
  7. What is the typical buying process that your company would normally go through before making a purchase like this?

Other considerations and questions you should have before agreeing to the demo might be:

  1. Who are the other decision-makers/stakeholder involved and can we get them on the demo?
  2. Can I speak to those people before the demo and find out their perspective on the problem?
  3. What would you need to see in the demo, in order for you to proceed?
  4. Let’s pretend you love the demo, what would happen next?

Here’s an example of a template our clients use to qualify opportunities.

saas demo best practice

SaaS Demo Script

Many salespeople are resistant to scripts, however, the data shows that reps who use sales scripts outperform reps without scripts every time. 

With that said in nearly every case scripts can only be applied to the start and end of a call.  This is because the Reps are asking questions in the middle section of the sales calls and scripts don’t work because you cannot tell how the prospect is going to respond.

What you can do, however, is to use Conversation Prompts to help guide the conversation to the outcome that you are looking for.

Arguably what is more important than scripts is having the ability to record and listen back to the calls.  In telesales this is simply a must have as part of the sales coaching process

There are of course some negatives to using scripts such as they are initially unpopular, and they can cause reps to over rely on them but overall scripts are definitely worthwhile developing. 

How long should a SaaS demo be

We recommend the actual software demo should take no longer than 18 minutes, preferably much shorter.  The reality is that a typical SaaS software demo takes less than 5 minutes and the rest of the time is filled with questions before the actual demonstration, and then questions after the demonstration. 

As a general rule, the shorter the demo the better because there is a huge danger that you will lose peoples interest the longer your SaaS demo goes on.

In the early days of Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft created what came to be known as MTC’s (Microsoft Technology Centres) across the world and partners would invite clients in for a 3-4 hour demo.  Locally, they had a phenomenal success rate with this format because they turned their demo into an experience and customers loved it. 

What’s more important than the time is that you manage expectations.  This means explaining to your prospects in advance, exactly what will take place during the demo and then confirming this via email to all attendees. 

As a general rule your agenda should look something like:

  1. Objectives, agenda & possible outcomes – 5 minutes
  2. Review of the business pains identified in the pre-demo discover call – 5/10 minutes
  3. Software Demo cross referenced against the business pains confirmed in step 2 – 5 minutes
  4. Agree next steps – 5/10 minutes

If you need more time than this then take more time as you should never rush your demo.  However, be upfront and explain why you need more time.

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SaaS Sales Coaching

Questions to ask during a product demo

Questions are the key to everything in Consultative sales, however, they are often widely abused and misused. 

From my own experience the most common question I am asked during a demo is “Do you have any questions?”  This closed question gives me the opportunity to simply say “no” and the demo progresses.  You must avoid this at all costs.

The reason the “any questions” question is used, is because the facilitator has failed to make the connection between the business pains identified in the pre demo discovery and then confirmed in the agenda and then confirmed again at the start of the demo session.

There is little point in asking questions unless you first listen to the answers and then use those answers later in the sales process.

A better question would be “Charlie, we talked earlier about the issue ABC Inc has with measuring widget data in the early stages of production.  Can I ask based on what you’ve seen so far how much of a fit is there with our software application?”. 

Note this is an open question and the prospect has to give something other than a Yes/No response.  The prospects response may in turn generate further questions which is a good thing. 

The demo should be a conversation, not a one-way diatribe.

Software demo checklist

We are great fans of playbooks, templates, checklists and anything that makes life easier.  There can be a lot of moving parts in your demo and a checklist is an essential part of the process in terms of getting the most from every demonstration. 

Rather than trying to remember everything create your own checklist and break it down into these different areas.

  1. Pre Demo – have we done everything possible to prepare and ensure the prospect shows up?
  2. Technical checks – have we double checked the software and do we have a back up computer and broadband should anything go wrong
  3. Demo – do I have the list of pains the customer needs to resolve and my questions relating to those pains?

The most important part of any software demo is to practice.  Repetition is a great teacher and practice does make perfect.  Given how much money companies invest in sales and marketing it would be negligent not to practice your demos.

How to start a demo

Your demo is your chance to shine and differentiate your offering.  We recommend avoiding the customary “About Us slide” followed by the one with all the logos of your clients. 

Everyone does this and it is a waste of your selling time. If that information is important, create a short video and send it to the prospects before the demo.

Remember people buy from people so your tone, body language (even on Teams/Zoom calls) and the words you use are hugely important. 

The best facilitators will captivate their audience with their “presence” and gently lead the conversation throughout the session.

SaaS demo videos

For many SaaS companies labour is the biggest overhead and labour has limitations in that it’s typically only available 40 hours per week and labour doesn’t get shared or go viral.

Whilst we are great believers in that people buy from people it would be wrong to acknowledge the benefit of video in the digital world we live in.

Video is scalable and demos are for the most part not.  As a business you must decide whether to record your demo and make it available to everyone as part of your marketing resources or keep that information internally and only share on a one-to-one basis during the demo. 

There is often a middle ground where you may perhaps offer a custom demo where the saas demo video is generic you could deliver a more bespoke experience.

Every company, the people within the company and every product and service is different, so you should consider all options and where possible A/B test the different options until you find the most productive way.

Demo videos are particularly effective if the product or service requires some form of explaining.  For example, if you have a new Artificial Intelligence solution to cut gents hair it would make sense to have an “explainer video or demo video” that prospects could see in advance so they could understand how it works. 

This is always more efficient than leaving the explanation or how to, in the hands of the sales reps. 

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Author Bio

Iain Swanston has spent over 30 years in B2B sales selling, training and leading teams both domestically and internationally.  In addition he serves as an Associate at Strathclyde University Business School where he has delivered the sales content for the Masters in Entrepreneurship since 2015.

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