Early Sales Demo Scripting for Founders
How’s your dog and pony game?
This is a draft of a section on “demo scripting” from the “Sales Materials Basics” chapter of Founding Sales (the book I’m writing on sales for founders and other first-time sales staff.)
It’s covers a bit on how I like to think about demo scripting, and how they relate to Sales Narratives (as published in First Round Review a while back.)
Enjoy! Hit me with feedback on Twitter at @kazanjy
We’ll talk more about the actual process of giving a combined sales presentation and demo in a later chapter. But before we get into the blocking and tackling of presentation and demo, it’s good to have a concept of the content you want to demonstrate when your prospects agree to a formal sales presentation and demo.
As with the other materials discussed, this should be done with a mind towards your narrative, and, typically because a live demo will follow after some initial slides from your sale deck, have a mind to the framing you presented in your deck. Your demo will reiterate much of it, but with much better context, customization, and visuality.
What is that framing? Well, as with your sales deck, it’s the bucketing of key use cases, and the features that enable them. Ideally, you should already have those key use cases identified as they are likely referred to your in your sales deck. But think about the combination of most common, most important, and most impressive use cases your solution enables. And rank them, such that you start with the most important and most compelling ones - because you never know when a demo will have to end early! Beyond that, I like to approach it from the standpoint of telling a story of use of your solution, again, starting with major pain points.
Customization: As noted above about customizing sales presentation content for a given prospect, your demo is where this sort of thing can really be done in earnest. In fact, as you’re developing your product, if there are ways that you can make it easier to demonstrate with prospect context embedded - even something as simple as easily standing up a new demo instance with a prospect name and logo embedded, or as complicated as making it easy to import customer-data to use in a live demo. But the purpose of the demo is not to be a cold rehash of the features that you may have just touched on in your sales presentation. Rather, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the potential value the product could provide to the prospect, richly, before their eyes.
The simplest version of this is knowing the business context of the prospect, and using that to guide the demo, either from prior research, or from discovery questions from the beginning of your call. At TalentBin, what this meant was making sure that our sales reps knew the technical and design hiring requirements for prospects they were talking to, which was easily divined by looking at those prospects’ career web pages ahead of time. That way, the TalentBin rep could easily say “I know by looking at your careers page that you’re hiring for some iOS developers in Philadelphia. I would love to show you how TalentBin could help with that.” This, in contrast to something that is non-contextual, like “How about we show you what this looks like for recruiting for Java developers in San Francisco?” when the prospect doesn’t recruit for Java, and definitely isn’t based in San Francisco. What are the key pieces of information that would modify your demo and make it more impactful to the prospect? Which can be sniffed out ahead of time, and which need to be elicited from the prospect?
A demo that is non-contextual and not tied directly to the business realities of the prospect will always have the smell that you’re running the demo in a way to make the product perform at its peak attractiveness, rather than how it will work when used by the client. You can avoid that by focusing on the prospect’s business context first and foremost. It will make you more believable compared to other vendor demos they see and raise the trust factor. It also helps to do this research yourself, because if you simply ask the client what they want to do, they may not know, or may ask to go in the wrong direction. Again, with TalentBin, the worst approach here would have been to ask “What’s a role you’re having a hard time filling?” Because the client will likely simply bring up their current most difficult role. Better instead to focus in on the roles that the client has the most hires for, for instance, because that’s the larger pain point.
A more evolved version of demo customization is a demo that actually includes user data. A great example of that would be how Hirabl (the company that makes revenue acceleration products for recruiting agencies) runs their demos - a week ahead of the demo call, they get candidate submission data from the Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) system that the prospect uses to track hires. Hirabl then runs their “missed hire” analysis in a demo instance of their SAAS software spun up for the prospect. When it comes time for the demo, they execute a lightweight presentation so the prospect understands the general mental model of the problem, solution, value, and such, and then turn to all the missed fees that Hirabl has identified for them. That’s a pretty killer demo! “So, we found what looks like ~25 missed fees from your last two years of submission data. You make about $20k per hire. So would you like to purchase the product so you can get cracking on collecting that ~$400k of missed fees? We would just give you access to this instance right here. It’s ready to go.” The answer is usually “yes!”
Obvious the latter case is far more advanced, and by no means should you say “Well, we don’t have the ability to hyper-customize a demo environment, so we can’t start selling.” Not at all. However, when you work with product management, remember that there are a set of features that make selling easier, even if they don’t necessarily provide post-purchase value to customers, and those features can be prioritized just like other features - and hopefully fairly high, in that they raise close rates and bring in more money!
Example Demo Script: What did a demo script look like at TalentBin? Well, of course, it correlated to our core sales narrative, and was built around the “Search, Qualify, Reach Out, Automate” framing, and went a little something like the below. It starts with one of the most important use cases for our audience of recruiters, and then progressed from there in a logical flow as a recruiter would move from discovery of new a candidates, to qualification of that candidate, to outreach - a full lifecycle of what recruiters do so often in their day to day workflow. Also note that it’s broken up around each section to allow for pauses and discussion with the client.
As you read through it, imagine what it would look like as I walk the prospect through how this fits into their day to day, and solves their pains at each step, visually while screensharing the product. And think about what yours would look like! What are the natural workflows that your prospect works through on a daily basis. How does your solution fit into them and make them better, faster, stronger?
Search: Enhanced candidate discovery was TalentBin’s first value proposition, and one of the most easily comprehended by prospects. This section was where we touched on the importance of being able to discover potential engineering candidates who were previously undiscoverable in traditional recruiting databases, or at least super hard to find, entailing far too much manual effort.
Advanced Searching: We knew nothing would capture the attention of a technical recruiter like showing them the potential candidates they could find and engage with our solution, especially as compared to standard databases, so we started with that.
“Well, I saw from your company’s career site that you need to hire some Ruby engineering staff there in the Dallas area, so let’s search for some. So here’s how we build a search for people who know Ruby in the Dallas area. See how easy that is? Now we can save that search for later use since we’re going to come back to this. Also, by saving that search, you’ll now get recommended candidate emails from those searches every few days. OK, now let’s go through these search results. Excellent! Well, it looks like we have around eight-thousand results there. That’s promising, since LinkedIn only has 1,150 for that same query! Very nice, so that’s like seven times the number - I’m betting there’s a pretty hefty load of people in these search results who have zero LinkedIn profile! And, of course, the way that you’d do this previously is to manually browse through Github or Stack Overflow or Twitter - it might take you five minutes per valid candidate. This way they’re already ready for you to review! And tons of them aren’t on LinkedIn being accosted by every other recruiter with a LinkedIn Recruiter seat!”
Qualify: This is where we would cover how having all of this implicit professional activity aggregated together was fantastic for qualifying that a candidate had the characteristics that recruiters were looking for, and how using that contextual information, both professional, and personal, in outreach could dramatically impact response rates and recruiter efficiency.
Search Previews: “OK, let’s start looking at some of these profiles. You can see that we show a preview on the search page that shows the relevant information for the skill that was searched for, along with the various profiles we have for the candidate. And if you want to, you can tag these folks as “interesting” or “not interesting” for later bulk processing. But for now, let’s check out an individual. Suzie here looks interesting.”
Profile View: Understanding that a candidate “fits the bill” and is at least worth reaching out to is a core recruiting workflow. Whether doing that with a resume or a LinkedIn profile, recruiters are used to doing that. So showing them how they can do that with a TalentBin profile, but with data aggregated together from all over the web, was important.
“Let’s click into her profile, and now you can see that we’ve aggregated all of her various web profiles together. See, here’s her Github, Stack Overflow, Meetup, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and we even have her Lanyrd social conference profile. Nice. If you ever wanted to click out to these, you can just click on these like this. However, the big idea here is to aggregate together than activity so you don’t have to do that.”
Interest Details: Understanding “why” a given candidate has the relevant professional skill is also important for recruiter, and often they would historically spend time cross-correlating resume claims with sources of professional activity on the web. Further, they knew that using contextual information in outreach was valuable to raise responsiveness, but was often something that took too long to do in a scalable fashion.
“So let’s look at how we know that Suzie has “Ruby” relevance. OK, see down here on her profile, we’ve got her “interest viewer” section, and if we click on “Ruby” there we see that, wow, Suzie is really into Ruby! She’s following a number of Ruby repositories on Github, she has it in his Twitter biography, is a member of a couple Ruby Meetups, and has answered some Ruby questions on Stack Overflow. Nice! Looks like Suzie is really into Ruby. The problem is that historically this is the sort of thing you’d have to spend 5 minutes clicking all over the web to determine. Nice that it’s right here so you can check it out, and maybe even share with the hiring manager. Let’s go check out her LinkedIn profile. Whoops! That link is dead! Probably because she deleted his LinkedIn profile. But we’ve got it! We can see that she’s got a bunch of other interests in technologies that are relevant to use, but Ruby is the big one, so she looks like a live one!”
Outreach: This was where we covered all of the messaging benefits that TalentBin brought to bear. That included better means by which to contact candidates, but also efficiency tooling like integrated emailing and open and click tracking. The goal here was to show how TalentBin was far superior to existing solutions for high impact, high volume outreach.
Contact Vectors: Recruiters were well aware that having a personal email address for candidates was far better than sending them an InMail through LinkedIn. The challenge was that email addresses were historically hard to find easily, and so many recruiters would skip this step. Showing them that they were readily available in TalentBin, at scale, was exciting to them.
“So, Suzie looks legit, so let’s go ahead and reach out to her. If we go up here to this “Contact” button, you can see that we have all of the contact vectors that we can use. Notice that we have her Gmail address here, but we also have her Facebook, Meetup, and Twitter contact vectors if we wanted to use that. We typically have about 60% email address coverage for these core search types, which is really great, as email is so much better than InMails, right? We all know it’s better, but it can be time intensive to go find those email addresses manually. Pretty sweet that TalenBin already has them there for you! Also TalentBin has built out a number of automation and analytics features that work especially well with email, so let’s use that.”
Integrated Messaging: Being able to quickly transition from “this person looks good” to “let’s send them an appeal” is a core use case for recruiters. Moreover, recruiters know that spam issues are a concern, as are when LinkedIn InMails go to Gmail’s “Social” tab. So we would walk through how TalentBin’s integrated email client solved all of that.
“Notice that when we click that, a messaging interface pops up? That’s because TalentBin is an email client that integrates directly with your Gmail or Exchange just like your iPhone or Android would. So you don’t have to worry about spam issues like when you have a shared sender IP address like when a product sends the email for you, and you don’t have to worry about emails going to “Bulk” like typical marketing automation solutions or “Social” like a LinkedIn InMail. Also, all email you send through TalentBin will show up in your “sent” folder in Gmail or Outlook, and when a candidate replies, it’ll go right to your inbox, either on desktop or on your phone. So you know you won’t miss things showing up in other places.”
Smart Templates: When you have to execute dozens of outreach messages in order to engender a few responses, it becomes daunting. Especially if you’re not a natural writer. This was something that loomed large for recruiters. They know that spammy canned templates weren’t great, but didn’t know a better way, other than time-intensive customization. So showing how TalentBin did the writing for them was a mind blower.
“OK, so let’s use one of these smart templates here. Great, so you’ll notice that it already pulled in basic things like Suzie’s name into the various variables, but you can also see that it pulled in the activity from her “Ruby” interest here referencing her Github, Twitter, and Stack Overflow activity, and also her personal interest in “Barbecue”. Isn’t that cool? We do that so you can get the open-rate and response-rate benefit of candidate-facing customization, but without the extra time sink. Customizing subject lines and email content with contextual information dramatically raises response rates, but historically has been a pretty time intensive exercise. This helps streamline that so you get better open and response rates without chewing up your whole day. You can of course modify as you see fit, and we encourage that, but we throw together a rough draft for you!”
Email Instrumentation: The notion of knowing who was engaging with candidate outreach, and its value, was a new concept to most recruiters. LinkedIn doesn’t tell recruiters if an InMail was opened or read, so recruiters were just used to sending messaging and not getting any feedback if there was no response. Showing them that they could understand who was opening emails and clicking on links, and prioritizing those candidates was a whole new world. Also, many recruiters are former sales staff, and familiar with the concepts of pixel-based email instrumentation like Yesware, Tout, and so on, so their reaction was something like “Finally! Yesware for recruiters!”
“So when we send this, it will send from your email account just as if you sent it from Gmail or Outlook, so you don’t have to worry about it going to spam, but what’s even better, is that we put a tracking pixel into the email and instrument all the hyperlinks. So see those links in the template pointing to the careers page, or maybe your Glassdoor reviews, or a demo video of the product your company makes? If Suzie clicks on it, you’ll know. And if she opens the email multiple times, you’ll know. And then we’ll show you that information so you can know who’s excited about your outreach, but just hasn’t responded yet, and follow up with them appropriately.”
Automation: The recruiting industry when TalentBin started out wasn’t nearly as automated as its sales and marketing cousins. So showing recruiters how the drudgery of some of the most banal, yet incredibly important, activities in their day to day could be automated away - allowing them to both execute those banal tasks that they may have been shirking, while at the same time allowing them to spend time on higher value, and likely, more fun, tasks was eye opening to them.
Automated Follow Up: Recruiters often knew that sending a single message to a candidate they had discovered wasn’t enough to engender a response. But existing CRM solutions made follow up really tough and very manual, and LinkedIn already had a spam problem, and rate limited InMail sends, so recruiters were stymied in their ability to easily follow up with juicy candidates. Opening their eyes to the benefits of follow up automation was transformative to them.
“So we’re going to send this automatically customized email to Suzie, and because it’s being sent to her personal email address, has a customized subject line, and the content has been automatically customized, we’re maximizing our chances for a response. However, the one thing that raises response rates even more than that is by sending follow up messages. That’s right “one and done” might be how people send InMails, but it’s crappy recruiting. You spent all this time to find this candidate, and qualify her that she’s relevant, why wouldn’t you take more than one shot at engendering a response? In fact, each incremental email you send can raise chances of response by 10%.
The problem, historically, is that this sort of follow up could be time intensive. TalentBin solves this by automatically sending follow up messages that you’ve pre-populated. If a candidate doesn’t respond, TalentBin will automatically send the second message at the appointed time, as a reply to the existing email thread. And when a candidate responds, they automatically drop out of the campaign - and they’re sitting in your inbox, waiting for you to call them or respond. We call it “automated follow up,” and in tens of thousands of automated follow up campaigns, we’ve found that north of 80% of responses come after the first email. So if you only send one email to a candidate, you’re missing out on 80% of the responses you could be getting. So by using this, you can multiply your response rate by five times. Pretty awesome, right?”
Drip Marketing Campaigns: There was a recurring theme in our interaction with customers that “writing is hard.” So making it as simple as possible to provide them with killer recruitment content for these automated campaigns was important. It proactively handled the object of “I get that all of these campaign features are cool, but how am I going to write all this content? That sounds like work!” This section handled that concern, so instead they could focus on the promise of all these wonderful responses from potential candidates.
“What’s better, you can customize the follow up messages, and create as many as you like. In fact, we have some standard drip marketing templates that show the kind of messaging that you might want to drip out to a candidate over time to help with this. When you initially sign up with TalentBin, you and your Customer Success Manager will run through the Campaign Onboarding flow and pull in all the sort of recruitment marketing content for those campaign messages - like your organizational benefits (drinks? Snacks? Lunch?), what’s exciting about your organization, links to online demo videos, your Glassdoor review, recent press about your organization, and so on. So you can imagine set all that up at the very beginning of becoming a TalentBin customer, and now every time you find a Suzie, or a Jeremy or Frank or whatever, you can quickly send excellent initial messaging to their personal email, and enter them into a high impact campaign. All together, this sort of thing done manually might take an hour or two of effort per candidate, and TalentBin collapses the time requirements for that by more than 90%. So you can let TalentBin handle repetitive drudgery, and you can spend your time on higher value things, like negotiating compensation, closing candidates, pre-closing hiring managers, and so on.”
And so on. As you can see, the goal is to connect the known pain points, to the solution, to the product, step by step with the prospect so they can truly see how this fits into their workflow and makes their life better. You know you’re doing it well when prospects are saying things like “That’s awesome” or “You have no idea how much this will help me with XYZ.”
So that’s demo basics and how you should be thinking about your demo script as you approach prospects!