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Does That Make Sense?
By John Barrows | July 27, 2016

“Does that make sense?” I hear reps ask this all the time during their sales calls, demos, and presentations and it drives me nuts. Has anyone ever said “No” to that question? Even if they said “Yes,” does that really tell you whether or not it made sense? No, it doesn’t.

I do not train on formal presentation or demonstration skills, but I’ve experienced enough of each to know what’s good and what’s crap. Unfortunately, most of them are crap. This is how most demos (specifically over the phone) go:

Rep: Hi [prospect], is this still a good time?
Prospect: Yes.
Rep: OK, great. Well, I have a demo I’d like to go through with you today. It should take about 30 minutes. As I go through it, let me know if you have any questions. OK?
Prospect: OK.
Rep: *Presses play and goes through the demo or slide deck exactly how they were taught in bootcamp stopping periodically to ask “Does that make sense?”*
Prospect: *Less than 3 minutes into a demo or presentation, they can tell it isn’t customized. They put the rep on mute and transfer their attention from the screen with the demo on it to another screen. They start responding to e-mails, periodically un-muting and saying “Yup” or “Uh-huh” every time the rep asks “Does that make sense?”*
Rep: So, that concludes our demo. Do you have any questions?
Prospect: No, that all looks great. I’m going to need some time to digest all of that so why don’t you send me some information and follow up with me in a month. OK?
Rep: OK, great. Thanks for your time.
Rep (post-demo): *touches base, checks in, touches base, checks in…*


Sound familiar? It happens every day and reps wonder why the prospect disappears on them.

Using demos too early in the sales process — before the prospect is qualified — is a completely lazy way of selling in my opinion. By offering a demonstration too early a rep is basically saying, “I don’t really know how to sell, but our product is so awesome you just need to see it and then you’ll definitely want it.” It’s rare your product is that awesome and, by the way, if a sales rep is going to press “Play” on their demo then why do I need them? A marketing team can put together a much better interactive video demonstration than you can.

This generic approach to conducting demos is why the conversion rates to the next step are so low. It’s the same reason why template e-mails get less than a 1% response rate while custom/tailored e-mails generate rates between 10 and 20%. I go back to something Gary V said about content (which is King) versus context (which is God). To me, marketing is content and sales is context. If, as sales professionals, we are not putting any context around our content then we are no different than marketing and I have no idea why we are getting paid commission.


Here’s the way I would love to see a demo run:


Step 1: Share The Agenda

The day before the demo, send the prospect an e-mail confirming the meeting and sharing a brief agenda of what will be covered. Ask the client for feedback. The agenda starts with understanding or clarifying the prospect’s priorities and what they want to get out of the demo. A typical one would look something like this:

I’m looking forward to our meeting tomorrow. In order to get the most out of our time together I put together a brief agenda below. Please e-mail me back to let me know what else you’d like to add.

  1. Clarification of your business priorities
  2. Specific initiatives related to what you’re there to speak about with them
  3. Customized demo based on your priorities
  4. .
  5. .
  6. .

Step 2: Confirm The Time

When the client picks up the phone, don’t ask “Is this still a good time?” It’s a stupid question that gives them an out. Instead, say something like “Do you still have 30 minutes?” or “Do you have a hard stop at 3:00?”

Step 3: Set The Stage

Even if they didn’t respond to the agenda the day before, use it to set the stage and ask for feedback right there on the call. Say something like: “I’m sure you didn’t get a chance to see the agenda I sent out yesterday but to make the most of our time together today, here are the things I want to cover: (Discuss agenda items 1, 2, 3, etc.) What else would you like to add?”

Step 4: Talk About Them

Start going through the agenda. Begin with what you know about them and their business. Ask clarifying questions to each person about the business’s priorities, their personal priorities, and what they want to see throughout the demo.

Step 5: Give Them A Heads Up

Before you start going through the demo let them know that you will be skipping through to the most relevant points based on what they told you and that you’ll be pausing periodically to get their feedback.

Step 6: Customize Your Discussion and Force the Engagement

Going through the demo, skip to the parts which most interest them and which best align with their priorities. After you explain a part that you think is important to them, pause and instead of asking “Does that make sense?” ask something like “How do you see that integrating into your existing workflow?” or “Could you explain to me how that compares to what you’re doing now?” The way they explain that to you tells you everything you need to know about whether or not it made sense to them.

Step 7: Close For Next Steps

Close the conversation by making sure you get a defined next step and something scheduled on the calendar before you leave. Make it awkward for them. Ask “Do you have your calendar in front of you? Let’s pick a time now so we don’t have to play chase.”


If you follow those steps and stop acting like a robot I promise your no-shows will drop, engagement will go up, and conversion rates will increase.


P.S. Send me a SnapChat and let me know what you think about this post or share your best tips for demos. (johnmbarrows)


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