Dan and I see a LOT of demos by sales solution vendors. Some demos are strikingly better than others. Why is that? What makes a good demo or presentation? Lucky for us, we know an expert on the topic. Julie Hansen, Founder of Performance Sales and Training, is the author of “Sales Presentations for Dummies” and trains marketing and sales organizations on what it takes to give five-star presentations that prospects will respond to.  We asked her to break it down for us. What are the key elements of a powerful pitch?

1. Start with what’s of most interest to the customer.

Great pitches are customer-focused right from the start. Unfortunately, most of the pitches I see today begin with the salesperson talking about their own company. I call this the Company Selfie. It’s all about us! The best pitches lead with what is of most interest to the audience, which is rarely how many offices you have or how long you’ve been in business. Address the customer’s interests first by sharing an outcome they can expect from using your product, a key insight, or something you found in discovery. This is a great way to grab your audience’s attention and pique their interest.

2. Focus on a few key features.

Did you ever drink from a hose as a kid? That’s what many customers feel like on the receiving end of a traditional demo. If your goal is to show as many features and capabilities as time allows, you’re missing the point. This “feature dump” waters down your main message, confuses and overwhelms your customer.
Instead, focus on a few key features that directly impact your customer’s current situation. You want to avoid getting too deep into how a feature or process works (a demo is not a teaching situation!) or wandering off the path with a casual “you can also do this” or “while we’re here let me show you,” which invites tune out and opens you up to additional risks, such as making your solution appear complicated, going down a rabbit hole, or running into bugs.

3. Tailor it to the customer.

People expect a custom experience – whether they’re buying a three-dollar cup of coffee or a six-figure technology tool! Even though your solution may address a common set of challenges, your pitch should make your customer feel like your solution was designed just for them. Customization doesn’t have to be a long, arduous process or require a ton of discovery. Simply by applying what you do know about your customer to a few key areas, you can turn a generic sounding pitch into a custom experience. For example:

• Use customer-specific context to connect features to the customer’s world. What unique challenge does a feature solve for your prospect? How are they currently addressing this challenge? What is the impact? By connecting the dots between your product’s capabilities and how, when and why your prospect would use it, you allow your prospect to envision using your solution in their own unique environment.

• Use the customer’s own language. Too many salespeople try to teach customer’s their product names or industry acronyms. It’s much more important for the salesperson to understand the customer’s language – and use it whenever possible. Most customers don’t care what you call your product or features. What they do care about is how those products or features are going to help solve the customer’s problems. Using language grounded in your customer’s world shows that you have a deeper understanding of your customer’s issues and exponentially increases your credibility.

4. Make it a conversation.

Studies show that the more the customer talks, the more successful the demo. However, we’ve trained customers to sit back and listen, so you can’t expect a conversation to just naturally take place without some action on your part. Salespeople can break that pattern of passivity by creating natural opportunities for the customer to interact or ask questions. Too often customers don’t ask questions because the salesperson has already answered them by going into too much detail! It’s a smart practice to hold back in a few areas and allow your customer to ask the questions they want to ask.

Another way to create interaction is to break your content into short three-five minute chunks when attention starts to naturally wane. At the end of each chunk, pause, ask a question or invite feedback. I suggest planning those questions ahead of time, so you don’t keep repeating the over-used (and mildly condescending) “Does that make sense?” or similar.
There are many more elements that go into a successful pitch or demo, but starting with the customer’s interests, focusing on a few key features, tailoring it where possible, and keeping it conversational are great starting points for a pitch or demo that is more engaging, memorable, and ultimately, successful.

We highly recommend Julie’s book if you’re looking to create compelling, engaging presentations that hook your prospects from the beginning. You can buy Julie’s book on Amazon.