Winging it on my Biggest Deal to Date: Sales Demo Tips From How to Sell Anything

This post critiques an actual product demo I did by taking suggestions from Harry Browne’s book, “How to Sell Anything” and presenting relevant sales demo tips. I incorporated what I think is the most valuable portion of the book, his 5 steps to a successful sales interview, into what I did.. or did not do in this case.

beep ………….beep …………..beep

The sound of my screen sharing program waiting for attendees was echoing through our small office like a seat belt indicator you’ve chosen to ignore.

In the past I might have been annoyed that I was about to get stood up by another prospect who lost track of time but this was different. There were already 5 people confirmed on the calendar invite and these guys were too high-level to no-show appointments. I’m not talking Fortune 500 exec’s high-level but it was a national franchise and well beyond the typical home office demo’s I had been accustomed to. In fact, if all the locations that these people represented were to sign up our entire user base would jump by more than 5%.

….beep beep… “Broc, you there?”

The distinct sound of your first user joining is almost always startling. It’s like standing on top of the Nevis bungee, not actually as scary but the platform makes a similar beeping noise if you’ve been there.

I start frantically closing the browser tabs of attendee twitter accounts as I’m making small talk.

….. “Broc?? We’re ready, what can you show us?”

Whoops still on mute. Good start Broc.

“Chris! How are ya? Who do we got with us today?” Acting as if I hadn’t already been talking to myself for 20 seconds.

Rather than the 5 that RSVP’d I’m seeing 9, mostly anonymous, people in the attendee list.

If this was an in person meeting the few extra people wouldn’t make a huge difference but a full conference room remote can be a disaster. Every objection get’s magnified and potentially even worse, the room can fall silent making it incredibly difficult to gauge interest.

As Chris starts listing off his colleagues the background sounds like it was pizza day in my grade 6 classroom. This should be fun.

“Wonderfull! I really appreciate you getting the whole gang together for the demo. Before I dive in do you guys have any questions that I can cover?”

Although this was working for me at the time I now realize there is a much more effective, systemized, approach that Browne developed and I should definitely have been implementing.

Step 1. Rather than giving them the option to sit back and take in the presentation I should have got straight into discovering their motivation.

In the book, Browne repeatedly mentions that every individual is already motivated, it’s not your job to motivate them, your job is to uncover what motivates them and appeal to that motivation.

Example: If you’re selling cars a good question to ask “What would you consider the most important feature in a new car?” In my case, selling software, I should have asked something simple like “What do you hope to gain by purchasing a new piece of software for your business?” If the questions feels a bit uncomfortable you’re probably on the right track.

Chris piped up, “We have a few questions but why don’t you just show us what you got then we’ll ask them at the end.”

Without knowing that I was jeopardizing the sale from the very beginning I took the bait. “Sounds good Chris, I’ll walk you through a quick work-flow example then open it up to questions at the end.”

I wasn’t naive enough to think that I should walk them through the entire product including the settings but I was doing way too much assuming. I would typically anticipate the problems that similar companies had and show them portions of the product that applied to those problems.

Step 2. Rather than assuming what their problems are, whether I was right or not, I should have summarized their motivations so the qualification for the sale is clearly made between both of us.

Don’t think of this step as a sales tactic. You’re literally just clarifying what is most important to the person you’re dealing with so you don’t waste either of your time. It’s the same way you repeat someone’s name when you meet them, you’re putting in the effort to remember, you’re not trying to subliminally prime them for buying something.

This step commonly ends in a sentence that sounds like “If I could .. would you..?”

Example: In the book Browne talks about an employee recognizing that the company was looking to hire for a position for which the responsibilities he could easily add to his workload. Rather than just suggest they don’t hire someone at all he met with his manager and said, “If I could show you a way to save $80 a week, would you promise me the opportunity to carry out the savings for you?” The company was going to pay the new employee $150/week, instead he negotiated to add $70/week to his salary and save the company the remaining $80 (This dates the book back to the 70’s) He would then go into his pitch about why he thought he would be able to cover the new work.

Instead of summarizing motivations into “If I could.. would you..?” sentences I was already whizzing through, what I assumed to be, the primary benefits Chris and his company were looking for. About 10–15 minutes into the demo I would have almost no gauge as to where I was at with this prospect. At the time, I was most concerned with my delivery of the content not necessarily their comprehension level.

“Chris, are you guys still seeing my screen? Let me know if I can clarify anything we’ve been through already?”

Step 3. Rather than once again assuming which features were most important I should have showed them the product in direct relation to how they would use it and only those ways.

“The only time you should attempt to outguess your prospect is when you’re required to give a presentation to a group. Even then, try to devise a way of going around the room and ask leading questions.” — Harry Browne

To a manager listening in, this demo might have sounded like a disaster. You might have even considered stepping in to try and salvage what’s left of this prospect. Luckily, I had two things up my sleeve and I leveraged them heavily to try and make up for my lack of planning.

“Yeah, all good on our end Broc.” Chris quickly replies after what I could imagine was a brief scan of his audience.

“Okay, no worries. I can dive in to specific features with people individually if anything comes up down the road. I also wanted to quickly highlight one area that I think will be of specific interest to you guys.”

1. I had gone ahead and uploaded placeholder information to my demo account that was relevant to their business. I would then finish off a workflow that ended with an invoice template branded to their company and even pre loaded with one of their employee’s email addresses so I could show them how easy it would be to send off the finished product.

Pro Tip: Anytime you can show people things happening in real time and you don’t you are missing a HUGE opportunity. It would be like the makeup people in the mall selling ideas rather than showing their clients what the finished product will look like.

2. I would show them two particular reports that to anyone else were just a table of information. Except I knew that using those tables you could find out whether or not your clients have received invoice emails as well as easily re send invoices to any delinquent clients. Those are two huge problems that any business is going to run into and much more effective than just saying “We have analytics and reporting”.

Part of the reason that I loved talking to clients so much was finding out those little quirks. In this example they could care less that you were geocoding the address fields to autofill on entry, but show a read receipt to someone who has never seen one before and it’s like an early Christmas.

Even though these methods worked for me in the past these were much higher stakes, I had no way of knowing whether this would be enough to get their interest and progress to a sale. Luckily, I was too naive to even take this into consideration. I was just delivering what I had as best I could and was willing to go out of my way to make sure they knew I cared about their success with the product.

“Broc, what happens if my guys are in an area that doesn’t have cell service and they aren’t able to get job information?”

I rarely blamed people for having objections or asking tough questions. After all, It was their business, they should be doing their due diligence and finding out if this tool will legitimately work for them.

“Good question. So right now we would expect that most work is being done within cell coverage but if that’s not the case we have print-outs that you could prepare ahead of time. I’d assume if you do have blackout areas you already know where those are in your city.”

Step 4. Although not answering with a hard no was better than nothing If I were to follow Mr. Browne’s advice I would have listened, agreed, then made a suggestion.

The important difference is that I should have acknowledged the validity of the concern beyond just the standard “good question”. Showing a level of empathy towards people when they are coming up with objections will take you a lot further than trying to disagree or be confrontational.

At this point in the demo things are clearly winding down. It had been over thirty minutes and I had very little idea of whether Chris and his team would be a yay or nay.

Time to find out.

“All in all is this product something you could see your team implementing?” I would say bluntly. I knew that asking for a close or next steps was an important part of any sale. I think anyone in sales has heard that at some point in their lives and to be honest no matter how little training you’ve had if you ask enough times you will get yeses.

I could feel Chris looking around the room for approval. There was a period of silence and I had the urge to start rambling about other features we were going to be developing or other customers we already had.

Instead I sat quiet.

“The product definitely looks good Broc. Tell your team they’ve done a great job of keeping things simple. I can see how it would save us some time over our existing processs. With that being said us implementing it and using it as efficiently as you’re able to might be a whole different story.”

I would reassure them that we are going to be there every step of the way to help them adopt the program internally and available with phone support as needed.

I followed up. “Honestly, it just takes diving in and trying the program out for a few weeks to really get a feel of how it will work for you. Even if that’s just mimicking how you’re doing things right now you’ll quickly see how much time it can save. If I turn over the demo account to you will your team be able to test it in the next two weeks?”

I might not have been the Jordan Belfort of closing deals but because I had honest intentions and was willing to push forward at every step I got buy in, time and time again.

“Yeah we can definitely give it a shot. I think I can speak for everyone and say that we’re excited to move into the 21rst century when it comes to running the business!”

Step 5. The last step in this process should be encouraging the prospect to go get what they want (aka closing the sale).

Some managers will encourage that you use high pressure tactics to close deals.

Personally, I think there is a definite line between using tactics and being overly aggressive versus being great at selling. If you are able to describe your product or service in terms that will satisfy the desires of your prospect, in fact you’ve done such a good job that they understand what you’re offering to be profitable for them, then you should have no problem “closing the deal”.

A salesman cannot profit unless he makes it possible for the buyer to profit. — Harry Browne

Using high pressure sales tactics simply means you haven’t done a good enough job of describing the product to the buyer, they aren’t ready to buy because they don’t see what you’re selling as profitable yet.

In my demo example this version of “closing” doesn’t really count because I’m not asking for the sale. By the way, they did end up becoming clients but as many could imagine it took months to roll out the software to multiple franchises. If instead I was on a demo with someone one on one I would simply use a Grant Cardone line of “Have you seen enough to make a decision?”.

If you run into objections in this step face them the same way you would have at any other time; listen, agree, suggest.

For example; if your prospect wants to take some time to purchase, first fully understand why they want to take more time, then acknowledge their reasoning for wanting to take the time and finally suggest why you think it would be beneficial for them to make the decision now.

Some specific examples of how Browne suggests to enter the closing discussion include:

  1. “This seems to be an ideal situation for you. We’ve covered it from every angle. May I put the order in today so we can deliver it to you within two weeks?”
  2. “Can I accept your statement as a firm commitment?”
  3. “If I submit the order today, I should be able to guarantee delivery by Friday. Shall we do it that way?”

Of course his examples are mainly surrounding physical products. In my experience selling software I would either use Grant Cardone’s line or “If this all looks good we just need a credit card on file for you to complete the order. Is it just your name on the card or the company name?” Some variation of giving them an option which both equal them becoming a customer … “Visa or Mastercard?”, “Standard or premium package?”, “Would you like to get started with your 10 executives or your entire team?”.

Again, these are not so much tactics as they are a projection of the mindset the Browne describes in his book. The effective sales persons simply asks questions they want the answers to.

By the standards we’re setting, a good salesman is an outstanding person. He’s an attractive friend ~ in demand because he communicates well, has a useful imagination, and solves problems easily. Selling is everywhere. Don’t overlook its many uses. — Harry Browne

As for the other applications, they are infinite. It boils down to the fact that everyone is searching for their own individual happiness. Don’t believe in the universal fallacy that someone will willingly accept something unprofitable to himself.

To reiterate, the 5 steps were:

  1. Discover the prospects motivation. What he wants, what he doesn’t want, how he intends to get it.
  2. Summarize the motivation so that the qualification for the sale is clearly understood between both of you.
  3. Present your products solely in terms of the motivation that he’s described to you.
  4. Answer any questions he might have and discuss any drawbacks he may see.
  5. Close the sale by encouraging him to go ahead and get what he wants.

There is a lot more valuable information packed inside this short book, including how to hire people that will be able to execute on these steps. I would highly recommend reading it. Of the 100+ books I’ve read in the last couple years it’s in my overall top 3.

Originally published at on November 11, 2015.

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