If you’re in B2B SaaS sales, you probably know that a demo can’t be “just a demo.” To convert leads, your demo needs a discovery and a value proposition.
That sounds dead simple.
But, turning a demo into a consultative sales conversation isn’t as easy as you’d think.
Changing a demo to a sales call on the fly, smacks buyers in the face as for sales-y purposes.
If we’re being honest, buyers have a point.
What’s needed is a SaaS sales process that’s 100% buyer friendly, where buyers tell you what the SaaS benefits are for their shop. And, the process does better for the salesperson than forever follow-up.
If we have to adjust discovery to get there, so be it.
Are you in?
The Buyer Friendly SaaS Sales Method (B-SaaSSales)
- A few quick questions to create a relevant demo.
- Demo and discovery.
- Value proposition and discovery.
- Strategic follow up.
As promised, this isn’t SaaS discovery as per old school thinking.
Before we dive into the demo example of demo examples, here are a few B-SaaSSales fundamentals.
Why does SaaS discovery need to change?
First, “discovery” that I'm talking about here is deep-dive discovery, not asking a few short answer questions before the demo.
In the end, the question buyers and sales reps want answered is: “Does the buyer have a problem this SaaS solves, that the buyer will pay to solve?”
The purpose of SaaS discovery, is getting an answer to this question, not finding the biggest pain points buyers chooses to share with you.
It’s not that discovery is an ineffective sales tool, per se.
For SaaS, it doesn’t work for a few reasons. Sales reps haven’t had the opportunity to earn the business trust required for buyers to share big problems. On top of that, buyers want to see the SaaS, not chat with a sales rep. On top of that, many buyers don’t know they have a problem until they see a solution.
Non-deep dive discovery for SaaS
You don’t need a deep-dive discovery to get an answer. It’s still “discovery” if there’s a question the deal depends on, that buyer and sales rep work together to answer.
Besides SaaS sales reps have a superior tool: the demo itself as well as demo follow up activity.
In the example, I will show you how the question “Does the buyer have a problem this SaaS solves, that the buyer will pay to solve?” is answered by splitting a non-deep dive discovery across the demo and detailed value proposition follow ups.
Earned business trust for SaaS sales
The path to earned business trust, is not Know, Like, Trust of social media fame, rather it’s Help, Trust. The more you help a buyer, the more they trust you.
Earned business trust is at the core of B-SaaSSales. A small bit of help builds a small bit of trust. Then you help a bit more and earn a bit more trust. And so on.
Don’t take this literally: “People don’t buy features, they buy benefits”
As you will see in the killer demo example, B-SaaSSales starts by talking only about features and details. The sales rep's initial questions aren't about benefits.
There’s a good reason for that. You won’t sell anything if you don’t talk about features.
People do buy features. SaaS plans are entirely about features. How long and how much of which features, is what SaaS buyers pay for.
At the same time, you can’t go 100% features in a demo, as you would in a tutorial.
The demo example shows you how to strike a balance between features and exciting goals (benefits,) so that buyers see your SaaS features as a part of achieving their goals.
How to give a SaaS demo (the killer demo example you've been waiting for)
1. Create an agenda, and don’t go crazy on the demo deck
Your agenda is a section for time slots and below that the demo participants.
You don’t need a lot of detail.
A 1-slide demo deck is plenty. “I disconnect when the deck comes up,” is a common buyer sentiment. Don’t include company intros or either company’s accomplishments. Buyers want to see SaaS features in action, make the first thing in your agenda about the SaaS.
The demo agenda supports discovery. Agenda item 1 invites buyers to work with you to create a relevant demo, the starting point for discovery.
No bait & switch to a deep-dive discovery. The first slot is only 10 minutes, not enough time for deep dive conversations.
Next steps. Put forward the idea that the demo is not the end of the conversation.
2. How to start a SaaS demo
Get to agenda item #1 ASAP. Something powerful happens in the buyers mind when, out of the gate, you do what you say you’ll do.
Sales rep: I’d like to make sure our demo is relevant to your daily operation. Before we look at that, is there anything you’d like to see?
Buyer: I saw an ad for your audio options. I’d like to see that.
Sales rep: Got it. I’ve got a few questions to ask you.
1. How many clients do you have? How many customer success reps?
2. How many calls do you get a day? Do buyers have to wait to get a rep?
3. What software do you use to record conversations now? How much manual process is there?
4. What are 1 - 3 features you’d like a CRM to give your team?
5. Is your overall goal revenue or savings?
Buyer: 130 clients, 300 Customer Success Reps and 2 Excel Collation Reps. Hiring 50 CS reps and 20 EC reps to keep up. Wait time can be 30 minutes to hours if customers wait that long. There’s no way to predict wait time for a rep.
1,400 calls a day comes in. 1,200 calls are taken, 200 go to voice mail.
One Excel spreadsheet per client. Multiple reps work on each client at the same time. Reps keep individual copies of client spreadsheets, which are collated daily. “This is killing us.”
For the team: how to stop reps from clobbering each other’s work; how to collate conversations when reps work on the same client; audio search features to get a handle on conversations between CS and customers.
Overall goal: Get every customer call answered, so save time.
“Our demo”: refer to the demo as a joint effort between sales rep and buyer. The best discovery is one where buyer and sales rep work together to help the buyer.
Question 1 – 3: buyer’s daily activity and current software functionality. This is Help, Trust in action. Recreating the buyer’s daily environment, as much as possible, sets up a demo with the sole purpose of helping the buyer learn how well the SaaS works for them. It’s familiar territory for the buyer. The questions are easy to answer, the conversation moves forward quickly, and the sales rep builds the first bit of earned business trust.
Question 4: desired functionality. You’re looking for an answer in terms of daily activity. If the buyer responds with a larger goal like, “I want to save time,” ask for more information: What activity is taking too much time now?
Question 5: the bigger goal and desired benefit. The reason behind the buying decision. Ask this last. It’s a discovery style question which you need to know why SaaS features are important and worth paying for. That is, what the SaaS features can accomplish for the buyer, that’s worth paying for.
How many questions should you ask? The number of questions isn’t what gets results. Rather, it’s how well your questions start a conversation that gets your buyer excited about their team using your SaaS. If you can get this started in less than 5 questions, that’s great. The demo is a conversation, so you can ask more questions there.
Forget talk-listen ratios. We are not robots. Your goal is to get the buyer working with you to discover if the SaaS works. Respond to each buyer in view of the discovery goal, not the same statistics your competition use. How will you stand out if you sound like every other sales rep your buyers talk and listen to?
What about the buyer’s first answer: I saw an ad for your audio options? Include this in your demo. Also, make sure you get enough info about basic features the buyer needs to give buyers a rounded education about your SaaS. For a buyer who’s only used Excel spreadsheets to manage clients, basic CRM functionality will be very exciting.
Stick to functionality for the pre-demo work. Benefits come later, during the demo. At this point, you don’t know enough about the buyer’s problems to discuss anything but general benefits. And, general benefits advance the sales cycle by accident. Keep this part of the conversation on functionality, the demo and follow up conversation are the place to explore benefits.
Don’t get carried away with benefits waves, like this:
Sales rep: CRM123 improves customer relationships, saves you money, makes your employees happier, and gets you more referrals, and… and… and…. Does any of that sound good?
Buyer: yeah, it does.Sales rep: proceeds with the demo.
FAQ: What if a buyer won’t talk about their business goals & problems? That is, answer Q4 or Q5?
Buyer: The top thing I’m looking for in a CRM is audio capabilities. Here’s what I need: call recording, individual audio tracks for up to 10 people per call, and 1M minutes of transcription monthly. What plan options do you have that cover this?
Buyers share to the extent that they need help.
Don’t use information about a buyer’s project as a bartering chip to see your demo. If you have enough to create a demo, run with that.
Something as small as giving a demo as expected can earn enough business trust for the buyer to talk to you more. First, start that demo.
After that, a lot depends on the SaaS functionality itself. Some buyers are so overjoyed to find what they’re looking for, that they’ll open up about their project goals and challenges.
3. Create demo paths
If you need to take a 5-minute break to organize your demo paths, do so. The more demos you give, the easier it will be to create demo paths on the fly.
Make it easy for buyers to see how the SaaS makes their life better: faster, cheaper, more accurate, or easier in another important way.
Don’t try to show everything your SaaS can do at once. It’s better to get one thing really & truly stuck in the buyer’s brain.
You are the solution expert. Buyers may need to see how the basics SaaS features impact their bottom line before looking at a single feature that caught their attention.
In the CRM123 example, audio features are the way the buyer sees achieving their goals. But you know something the buyer can’t imagine yet, CRM123 eliminates Excel spreadsheets which open up many more benefits: streamlined workflow, increased accuracy, and possibly a reduced hiring plan.
Not the buyer’s 1st choice of features to see isn’t important, but getting a chance to absorb the SaaS basics, which makes significant changes to the buyer’s operation, should come first, if the buyer is to understand what they’re looking at buying.
4. Showing demo paths
Tell buyers what you plan to demo. If you’re going to demo something other than their requested features first, be upfront about it with a reason.
SaaS products are broken down into features. But, buyers think in terms of functionality, so functionality is the language of your demo.
Sales rep: “I’m going to show you how your reps can work together and not clobber each other’s work. I haven’t forgotten that you asked to see audio, we will get to that, I promise. First up, I’d like you to see how CRM123 makes life easier for your team working together. You can get rid of Excel spreadsheets and all the headaches that come with them. We’ll get to audio after that.”
Explain the setup, pointing out how it represents the buyer’s environment. Also bring buyers into the demo.
Sales rep: “I’m setting up 3 clients and 3 customer success reps in CRM123, so you can see a situation you have in your shop. Now, CRM123 allows reps to be assigned to specific clients or to all clients. Which is better for your workflow?”
What if buyers don’t know which option is better?
Ask anyway. Get them thinking about using your SaaS.
Then watch the light dawn, as buyer start to grasp they don’t need Excel worksheets to manage their clients.
Sales rep: Will you need to hire 50 people now that you no longer need to collate Excel spreadsheets?
Buyer: “No. It cuts down the number of people we have to hire. We might get enough room here to give reps opportunities who’ve been with us for a long time.”
Discovery while showing demo paths
The first part of the discovery answers the question: does the buyer have a problem the SaaS solves.
The buyer may not see that they have a problem that needs fixing until they see what fixing means. This is why discovery doesn’t until the demo.
In our CRM123 example, the buyer might not have considered that replacing Excel spreadsheets, because they can’t imagine another way of managing clients. When the buyer sees that it’s possible, their view on the problem they’re solving will change. It’s not just how to improve customer service conversations, it becomes the entire CS workflow.
Discovery while creating a value proposition
The second part of the discovery question is: will the buyer pay to solve the problem that the SaaS solves?
It comes down to what the buyer finds valuable. You find this out in the demo and follow up conversations. Whatever the buyer says about the SaaS fixing a problem or meeting a goal, take a few notes on it, you might use it in your value proposition.
Don’t write a value proposition in the demo. Do this after the demo, there’s a section later in this example on the nuts & bolts of a strong value proposition.
For now take a few notes on what buyers tell you makes the SaaS a good buy.
Demo Tips that don't fit anywhere else
Caution on storytelling when buyers don’t see the value of your SaaS. Stories alienate a buyer, if they don’t see themselves in the story. Stories that explain a point, can work, as long as you can come back to the main topic, how the SaaS gets work done better for this buyer.
Don’t repeatedly remind buyers about their problems. Buyers know very well what things look like now for them. They are in a demo to see better options, that’s what you’re selling and what you talk about.
5. Buying signals and buying intent
When do you step showing demo paths?
You don’t have to show all your demo paths. You don’t even have to finish a demo path.
Pay attention to buying signals.
The best buying signal is: What’s the next step?
Questions about price can be a buying signal. Price questions are stronger buying signals after all functionality questions and objections are addresses.
Wow-thingies and SaaS gushing is not a buying signal. Don’t fall into the ego trap of thinking you have a sale because you’re getting a ton of feature love.
What if there aren't any buying signals?
Test for buying intent by closing the demo.
Ask: “Is there anything else that you’d like to see?”
After that: “Do you have any questions?”
After that: “Are you ready to buy today?”
Some buyers need a nudge and will move to the next step just because you asked.
Then there are buyers in research mode, who have no intention of buying now. They want education to build their solution without a sales cycle.
Research-mode buyers aren’t popular with salespeople. Your salespeople have a point. Education-only demos are a waste of their time. Consider creating another demo delivery vehicle to a larger audience, a webinar, for example, delivered by your product team members. Research-mode buyers may become buying-intent buyers. Besides, it’s a good way to find market opportunities. Again sales reps who a closing machines aren’t the best choice for this task.
The last group are buyers have follow up items and/or objections.
6. Create a plan
You need a plan for every part of the sales conversation after the demo
Up to this point your demo meeting agenda was your plan.
Now that the demo is complete, you need a new plan to keep the sales conversation (and sales cycle) going.
Do you need a plan if you get a YES?
If the deal closes with payment in the meeting, and on-boarding kicks, probably not.
But, if there’s even one takeaway action, you need a plan to keep the conversation on track.
Forever follow-up isn’t a plan. Get objections.
When the demo action items are resolved and you still don’t have a YES / NO, then what?
You fall into forever follow up. Checking in again and again.
The truth is the sales conversation is over.
If there is buying intent and no buying decision, find out what the objections are. Did the buyer go with the competition? Did they not buy at all?
Not pursuing feedback is leaving opportunity on the table. It’s true that some people won’t give feedback, but my experience is, when you ask enough people, you’ll get an answer one way or another.
7. Handling objections
After you’ve sold a SaaS product for a while, or any product for that matter, you’ll see objections fall into a limited number of groups.
Even if people phrase things in different ways, it comes down to the same concern.
The reasons that buyers say NO, usually fall into the following groups.
Valid objections: a business reasons why the SaaS doesn’t work for the buyer
You cannot turn this NO into a happy customer. Get their feedback. It’ll help you like nobody’s business in future sales conversations.
Objections can be difficult to respond to when they aren’t about the SaaS.
Get the buyer to explain the objection’s connection to the SaaS.
This strategy won’t always get you a deal. The buyer’s reason for a NO might be “because.”
However, there will be times when addressing these objections advances the sales cycle.
Missing features or inadequate features: patience and education is the ticket
Buyers may need to see things several times before they see that your SaaS solves a problem for them or helps them meet their goals.
Also, don’t be shocked when buyers don’t understand what they're asking for.
Ask why a buyer wants functionality, when the buyer’s comments indicate a lack of SaaS product knowledge.
Buyer: “The SaaS doesn’t integrate with App X.”
Sales rep: “That’s true. App X doesn’t integrates with CRMs. What do you need App X to do?”
Objections that remove you from the conversation: get back in the conversation
Buyer: “I need to think about this. Give me a call next week.” “We’re restructuring.”
Essentially: we do not need you for the next item in the conversation.
A demo that was a strong discovery can help prevent this type of objection. Discovery builds respect, so buyers are less likely to dismiss a sales rep without a good reason.
However, people don’t always follow my expectations.
Get back in the conversation. Offer to create a value proposition with the buyer. It will help them think through whether or not the SaaS is a good buy.
Sales rep: “Of course! In the meantime, how about if I help you with a cost benefit breakdown? We’ll compare what you’ve got to what you could have with CRM123 cost-wise. I’ve got plenty of benefits for your shop from the demo.”
Buyer: “That would be great. Do you need anything from me?”
Sales rep: “I need numbers to fill in the story. Let’s set up a meeting to discuss next week.”
We don’t like change (user adoption)
Buyer: “My team won’t use CRM123 because we’ve always used spreadsheets. They won’t change the way they work.”
This is a user adoption problem, not a problem with the SaaS (so far anyway.)
Help buyers see the change is worth it. Buyers will then deal with their team’s fears on their own.
Get the conversation back on the SaaS. Offer to create a value proposition with the buyer.
Sales rep: “Of course! In the meantime, how about if I help you with a cost benefit breakdown? That will make it easier to see how the SaaS saves you time & money. I need some numbers from your end, but I can get started. I’ve got plenty of benefits specific to your shop from the demo.”
8. How to create a value proposition from your demo notes (still discovery)
This is the second part of the discovery question. You know the SaaS solves a problem for the buyer. Will the buyer will pay for the solution? Did you find a big enough problem?
Remember, how you were paying attention to benefits buyers told you about in the demo? You need your notes now.
As I will show you, once you start looking at costs, other opportunities present themselves, which gives the sales rep more opportunity to help the buyer.
Here’s an example of a value proposition based in our CRM123 example.
The buyer’s solution is to hire 70 people: 50 Customer Success Reps and 20 Excel Collation Reps.
Work out the cost of salaries and software licenses without CRM123 and with CRM123.
Without CRM123: keep Excel spreadsheets and hire 70 new reps
Hiring 20 new Excel Collation Reps takes the EC team from 2 to 22. This requires 1 manager for the EC team. 50 new CS reps requires 3 new CS rep managers.
With CRM123: retire Excel collation
Implementing CRM123 results in these changes
- Promotion of 2 EC reps to Customer Success Reps (suggest this)
- Continue with hiring of 50 new CS reps
- CRM123 Y1 is $300 per license, including training and additional support
- CRM123 Y2+ is $200 per license
Y1 cost is $26,780,000 + $1,332,000 = $28,112,000 (+ $42,000)
Y2+ cost is $26,780,000 + $888,000 = $27,668,000 (- $402,000)
Y1 is more expensive. Y2 is slightly cheaper.
A savings of $402K is not enough to motivate change.
CRM123 is more accurate, but this is more work to prove.
Find other savings opportunities with CRM123
Eliminating manual processing, like Excel collation, almost always reveals addition saving opportunities.
Is it possible to hire less than 50 CS reps and still get all the work done?
CS Rep shifts are 8 hours. Client calls are 30 minutes.
Potentially 1 rep can talk to 16 customers a day. But reps are taking 4 calls a day.
Incoming calls daily: 1,400
1,200 calls a day are responded to. 200 calls per day are handled by voice mail.
With an additional 50 reps, every incoming call will be answered by a rep (4 * 350 = 1,400.)
If CRM123 can free up enough CS rep time to answer 5 calls per day, there’s no need for 50 new CS reps.
5 * 300 = 1,500 which covers 1,400 calls with room to spare. It also requires 2 less CS managers.
Y1 cost: 20,070,000 + 1,137,600 = $21,207,600 (Y1 savings $6,862,400)
Y2 cost: 20,070,000 + 758,400 = $20,828,400 (Y2 savings $7,241,600) assuming the same headcount.
If the buyers wants to save $6.9M in Y1 and $7.2M in Y2, CRM123 is worth it.
As long as the buyer works with you and fills in the picture with costs, a value proposition in dollars and cents can be drawn up quickly.
A detailed value proposition is an effective way to deal with any value objections.
Follow up is another reason why it’s important to do the work of a detailed value proposition.
9. Strategic follow-up: create a team with your buyer
The more discovery work you do with a buyer, finding the value in a SaaS brings to a buyer in dollar and cents, the more your follow-ups convert leads.
The work for follow-ups starts with doing as much work as you can with the buyer in the demo and shortly after, when buyer excitement is high.
Demos that have a clear purpose of discovery to learn if the SaaS solves a problem the buyer has, and if that is valuable enough to the buyer (all written down in a value proposition,) is the best way to make the a working connection with your buyers. It sets the stage for buyers working with you to bring the SaaS into their organization.
There’s ROI in following up when you have a productive working relationship with a buyer. It’s like you’re on the same team with the same goal. Buyers give you insights about when and how to follow-up that you can’t get in other ways.
On the other hand, there’s forever follow-up. The less you know about what’s going on in an organization, the more you fall into forever follow-up. You know there was interest, but you don’t know why (goals.) You don’t know why about the buying decision reasoning.
Is there any point in forever following-up? I haven’t found any.