If you’ve spent any amount of time researching sales strategies online, then you no doubt have heard this:
| “Sell your benefits, not your features.”
Or maybe this:
| “A great product demo sells your story, not your features.”
Those are both good pieces of advice. The problem is that the advice often stops here. Nobody’s done a good job telling you how to tell a good story, or even why it’s so important!
When you finish reading this, you will know:
- Why storytelling is so effective in product demos.
- How to turn your value propositions and features into customer benefits.
- How to use the 7-sentence story structure to turn any product demo into a story.
- 9 Tips to make product demos productive, engaging and (dare I say it) enjoyable for your prospects.
Why Storytelling is So Effective in Product Demos
1) It makes your product and your pitch easier to remember
A list of features and functionality is easy to forget, because it lacks context. If I tell you that my product “uses AI to make salespeople more effective”, you’ll probably forget in just a few minutes.
A story about somebody who has used the product to become more successful in their role would be much more memorable. In fact, some psychologists say that stories make something 22 times easier to remember.
2) Good storytelling makes you more human and approachable to your prospect
Telling a story in your product demo gives you the opportunity to show your prospect how much you care about your mission, and the journey you took to get to where you are. They can relate to that!
It establishes you as a real person, rather than some faceless charlatan who’s out to take their money, never to be heard from again.
3) A good story in your product demo builds trust
Your leads want to buy products from people that they trust. To build trust, you need to have the ability to go from a sales drone to someone that your prospects actually want to spend time talking to.
And our brain chemistry actually commands us to be more trusting and more willing to cooperate after we’ve heard a good story. Some research from Claremont Graduate University showed that people are more willing to donate money after watching a video with a narrative.
So, you get why storytelling is critical to a great demo. Good! Here’s how you can start improving your demo skills today.
How to Turn Your Value Propositions and Features Into Customer Benefits
Step 1: Identify your top three value propositions.
The first step in this process is to identify what value your product brings to your potential client. Write down your top three value propositions.
For example, at Outreach.io our three value propositions are:
- To drive predictable and measurable revenue growth
- To Increase effectiveness across sales and customer teams
- To improve visibility into sales activities and sales team performance
Put your value propositions into an excel sheet, so you can build out the rest of the exercise alongside them. Don’t be too wordy in this step. Use simple sentences and get to the root of what your product’s true value is. It really is as simple as “our product can do X for you.”
Without spoiling the surprise, this is what mine looks like:
I personally love those value props, and I know they address our customers biggest pain points. But to you they probably sound a little dry, because there’s no story (yet).
We know a good demo has to be interesting to the listener. So how do we know exactly what we want to say to them, if we can’t just list our value props?
Step 2 – Write three features associated with each value proposition
Now you should identify some features of the product and how they relate to the value propositions we’ve chosen above. Choose three features for each of the items you wrote down in step 1.
Don’t get frustrated if you can’t fit everything in here. You don’t want to overload your potential buyer with information on the first product demo. If all goes well, there will be additional meetings later in the sales process, and you can pitch these extra features then.
For now, just focus on which features would be the most important. You should know about them and their business, so cherry pick some features you know would be perfect for their use-case.
Not only will this make for a great presentation, but it shows your potential client right off the bat that you cared enough about their business to tailor your pitch to them. That goes a long way in establishing good relationships with your leads.
Here’s what my product demo planning exercise looks like at this point:
You cannot stop here! This is just as boring to a prospect as listing value props. Time to turn this into language your prospect actually cares about.
Step 3: Write down the benefits of each feature
Now that you’ve identified the key features of your product, establish why the prospect actually needs them. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think about how these features could make their business better.
Ask yourself, “how would their day be different once they have these features at their fingertips?”
It’s your job to make them care about these features. Again, if you know anything at all about their business, then you should be able to quickly identify potential problems they might be having. Offering a solution to a problem your contact has is a great way to pique their interest and get them to listen to the rest of your story.
Here’s what my product demo plan looks like now:
How to Use the 7-sentence story structure to build your story
Now that we’ve mapped out everything that we could say in our story, it’s time to use the 7-sentence story structure to actually build a narrative. It helps to focus in on one or two benefits.
For the purposes of this example, I’ll focus on the “Sequences” feature, and the benefit it provides: preventing leads from falling through the cracks.
The 7-sentence story structure poses a sequence of scenarios and asks you to fill in the blanks related to the benefit you choose to highlight. It’s simple, but it will help you take advantage of the psychology of selling, so it’s actually entertaining for your prospect!
Here’s the 7-Sentence story structure for product demos:
- Once upon a time _______
- Every day, _______
- But one day, _______
- Because of this, _______
- Because of that, _______
- Until finally, _______
- And ever since then, _______
You can use this it to establish all of the important bits of your story in a way that makes it flow nicely. You’ll establish who the story is about, what they’re doing, what their problem is and how they find a solution to that problem.
All of this will, of course, be in relation to your product, because it’s a story about what you can do for your customer. Use this framework to tell them how you and whatever you’re selling can solve their problem.
7-Sentence Story Structure Example:
- Once upon a time there was an ADR named Mark.
- Every day, he would reach out to prospects and get a response after 2 or 3 emails.
- But, one day, he realized that 2 or 3 touches no longer worked!
- Because of this, he started doing 8-12 touches.
- Because of that, he couldn’t keep up with 8-12 touches per prospect. Leads were falling through the cracks because he didn’t have a consistent process.
- Until, finally, he discovered the Outreach sequence!
- And, ever since then, Mark has a consistent process to follow up with every single lead – with no leads falling through the cracks.
Step 7 should refer to the benefit you chose to create your story around. Your plot should be leading your prospect to why they need this particular feature by using a compelling story.
This is the most important part of your story, because it’s the climax.
9 Tips For Hyper-Productive Product Demos
1. Repeat the story framework for each feature
You can simply repeat this process for the other features which you listed in step 2! When you’re finished, you’ll have nine different stories to use in your demos.
2. Start with a script
When I first started using this framework in product demos, I used the exact sentences as a script for the story part of the demo. I’d recommend you do the same to start, just like you probably used a script when you first started cold calling. But think of it as training wheels. Eventually, you should feel comfortable enough to tell the story without using these sentences exactly.
3. Match your product stories to the prospect’s pain points
I know you ran a super effective discovery call, so you should be able to consolidate your prospect’s pain points into a few distinct areas. And you’ve created your story frameworks for each feature beforehand, so you have stories ready that address each pain point.
Make sure they match up! Don’t tell stories that aren’t related to conversations you’ve already had – at least not unless the prospect mentions the corresponding pain point first.
4. Start your demo the outcome your prospect should expect
Great product demos don’t hold the good stuff until the end. Unlike a movie, building anticipation is not your friend. Instead, begin your demo by reminding them of the pain points they mentioned during discovery, and immediately sharing how you can help solve that problem.
For example, I might say something like:
“Hey Sarah, last time we spoke you mentioned X. So what I want to cover today is how we are going to use [feature] to help you increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your reps…”
After that brief opener, I’m into the story I chose to address her specific need.
I don’t show her all the features, then tell her how they will solve her problem. That’s backwards.
5. Practice your Pitch
Practicing your pitch with a live audience can help you figure out where you’re missing your marks. Gather some friends or co-workers who can help you hone your craft, and ask for feedback on where your stories are lacking.
6. Measure, Improve
It’s important to remember that storytelling is an art form. Don’t be discouraged if your stories are not masterpieces on your first go. Every great artist throws away more work than they release to the public.
If things aren’t panning out how you want then take a step back and think about why that is. What would make this story better? How could it be more interesting to your audience?
7. Demo Length
I aim for a demo length of 30 minutes to an hour depending on the questions prospects ask. I’ve seen research that successful demos are about 30% longer than unsuccessful ones, but that doesn’t mean you should try to push your demo to be longer.
The conversation is over when it’s over! Just make sure you’ve shared what you need to share, agreed on next steps, and that you understand how your prospect views your solution in their life.
8. Talk about pricing when your prospect wants to (not when you do)
If you’ve done your job interesting your prospect, they will bring up pricing when they feel comfortable. Trust me.
You can share some information about pricing at this point in the demo, saying something like “pricing ranges from X to Y.” But don’t negotiate or settle on anything until you’re ready to deliver a formal proposal.
9. End your demo with T.E.D.
Even towards the end of your demo, prospects are still trying to paint a picture in their heads of how your solution can help their team. You can help them draw some of those lines and fill in the color by giving them one (or more) of the T.E.D. prompts:
- Tell me how you think this solution would fit in with your team
- Explain to me how you think this could help you and your team
- Describe to me where you think your team could be with this solution in place
Bonus: Use tools to make your demo more attention-grabbing
I try to keep my demos simple. I don’t use a deck, and prefer to just show the parts of the platform that I know will make the biggest, most immediate impact for the prospect.
So I don’t usually use a ton of software or tools in the demo itself. Still, using some tools like LimeLite draw focus to features I built my story around. It makes it easier to subtly highlight the parts of the screen I want my prospect to pay attention to, and I don’t lose their focus.
Full disclosure: I created LimeLite, but I hope you find it helpful!