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Prospects Will Ignore You Reciting a List of Product Features but They Like a Good Story Stop reading the product manual to potential clients and start helping them see your product as a solution they can use.

By Yoav Vilner Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Steex | Getty Images

Here's a lesson you don't need to learn the hard way. Showcasing your product's features is, ironically, not the best way to close the sale. This type of demo is one of the most likeliest ways to kill a lead.

The problem is that this approach doesn't give the prospect any real inspiration to take action because effective sales demos are only possible if the demo-giver is a good listener. The gift of gab will only get you so far. A good sales demo is a perfect opportunity to learn more about your prospect, what they need and where their pain points are.

Studies show that the ideal talk-to-listen ratio for a winning demo is 65:35. You need to spend about two-thirds of the session cluing into what the prospect tells you, and not the other way around. Let's look at three strategies you can use to pivot your own sales demos to humanize the approach and make space for valuable conversation.

Related: Your Competitive Advantage Is Not Your Product -- It's Your Story

1. Sell stories, not products.

McDonald's founder Ray Kroc was a master of the art of storytelling. He was known for his ability to turn any sales pitch into an invigorating tale. Kroc's secret was in the formula. He crafted a beginning, middle and end to each of his stories, leaving his audience with a compelling call to action that seemed like the logical next step in the story. He also kept his stories short, so prospects could understand what he had to offer and how they could benefit. And finally, Kroc helped his prospects envision their success.

We see this kind of formula approach in the storytelling model of Malcolm Gladwell. He advocates a seven-step approach that makes the story relatable, visual and attention-grabbing. The story makes a real promise.

To tell the most effective story possible, though, you'll need to build on your prospect's concerns and position your product as the antidote to their pain points. "The best way to effectively demonstrate your product is to imagine a scenario where your product could be used," recommends Jarek Wasielewski from ClickMeeting. "Then tell a story about what the problem was and how the customer (real or imagined) was able to solve the problem with your product."

Related: How to Use Storytelling to Sell Your Brand and Vision

2. Engage them.

Listening to the people you're selling to, and engaging them to the best of your ability, is critical to making the sale. But what does that look like in real time? Looking again at the data from Gong's case study, the most effective sales demos have some time use traits in common:

  • Limit the call to 40-50 minutes in order to keep the demo to the point but still allow enough time to craft a story and truly engage

  • Spend no more than five minutes talking about prices, so that the focus is primarily on the product benefits

  • Save three or four minutes at the end to talk about the next steps your prospect should take and why

Building engagement will be easier if you allow natural space for conversation. While most successful demos naturally contain quite a bit of pitch information, it's best to give over those parts in shorter bursts, with natural starts and stops that encourage the prospect to chime in.

Lastly, remember that your audience appreciates honesty.

3. Focus on "why," not "what."

You can instantly transform your sales demo technique by pivoting the focus from "what" to "why."

The "what" are the technical features of your product. While important, they don't directly address your prospect's pain points, and they can get in the way of the storytelling. The "why," on the other hand, is the part of your sales pitch that addresses what the customer truly cares about -- how much better things will be for him or her after the sale.

Related: Why Creating Your Brand Must Go Beyond Marketing

There's also the "why" of your brand. No matter how much you personalize your demo to align with your prospect's story, your product has the potential to resonate because your company stands for something unchanging.

Simon Sinek has become synonymous in the business world for the concept that named his influential book, Start With Why. As he explains in one recent Entrepreneur interview, "The "why' of a company is like the character of a person. It is who you are. It is how you show up. We don't change who we are simply to get new friends now and then -- and if anyone says that we do that, I would argue that in one of those scenarios, we aren't truly being ourselves."

Instead of pitching what your product is, how it works and the technical details behind it, take the time to listen to your prospects, allow space for real engagement, and really drive home the "why" behind what you're selling.

Before jumping into your next sales demo, put yourself into your customer's shoes. Pinpoint their problem, figure out how you can help, and engage them in a conversation that helps them believe in your "why."

Yoav Vilner

Entrepreneur, thought leader and startup mentor

Yoav Vilner has founded several companies, and is currently CEO at Walnut. He is also a startup mentor in accelerators associated with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the U.N.

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