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Does the future of sales exclude demos?

Does the future of sales exclude demos?

Sales demos have been around since the 1940s, and while the manner of those presentations has changed, the purpose remains the same: demonstrate product value and close the deal. 

Once upon a time, sales demos were described as “a defining moment in the sales process,” but that might not be the case anymore. In recent years, more and more companies have moved away from the traditional sales model with demos to product-led growth with self-service.

Product-led growth relies on the product to acquire, activate, and retain customers, while more traditional sales methods rely on a salesperson to get, initiate, and close the deal. 

In terms of experience, product-led growth resembles a B2C shopping experience. Here’s how the self-service model works in SaaS. 

A prospect signs up for a free trial or a freemium plan to test drive the product. The prospect receives various in-app messages and email campaigns throughout the process that highlight the product’s features and benefits.

If the prospect enjoys the experience, they can easily upgrade to a premium plan or purchase add-on features without interacting with a single person. 

As our podcast co-host Patrick puts it, “we’re pretty much just meeting the customer where they are [in the buyer’s journey] without making them go through the whole song and dance of the demo process.” 

Sounds almost like cutting the salesperson out entirely, right?

In episode 4 of The Customer Engagement Lab, our co-hosts Patrick and Travis catch up with Gemma Cipriani-Espineira, Vice President of Customer Success at Chili-Piper, and get her opinion on “cutting the salesperson out.” 

Gemma believes salespeople can find a more creative outlet without a demo or going through the traditional sales cycle. 

“People buy from people, so I feel like when they say ‘cutting out salespeople,” [it] would just mean we empower them to do more and be more than just like the person who updates Salesforce.” 

When asked what some of the creative ways salespeople can still operate without the demo are, she responded with the following. 

“I think networking customers and, you know, building a network between your customers. Introducing them to each other, getting them to share ideas is so much fun and makes the job so rewarding. [It’s] almost [like] becoming a recruiter for your customer base.”

In the product-led and customer-led growth model described above, we’re just diverting salespeople into new roles away from traditional selling. So, how does the sales demo fit into the mix? 

Patrick believes that there will always be room for a demo. “Like there [is] some people that just want that experience. Like, they just want to bullsh*t with somebody. They want to see it.”

He continues with his take on the future of sales. 

“I think it’s going to split off into those three different areas, and there will just be like a third of the direct salespeople that there are now. And then there will be other people doing [product-led growth] PLG and other people doing customer advocacy. And it will just be like a wonderful rainbow of different things.”

Listen to episode 4 of The Customer Engagement Lab for our full conversation on ‘cutting the salesperson out.’ This episode also discusses customer success, why every department is a revenue department, and mirroring the B2C experience in a B2B space.

Bethany Fagan

Bethany Fagan Senior Manager, Content Marketing at PandaDoc

Bethany is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at PandaDoc. She has over 10 years in the sales and marketing industry and loves crafting new stories and discovering new content distribution channels. Outside of the office, she spends her time reading, working out at Orangetheory or trying a new Brooklyn brewery with her husband and two French Bulldogs, Tater Tot and Pork Chop.