Before the rise of the inbound marketing methodology, the traditional sales process involved a sales representative reaching out to a company to book a meeting and talking through their pain points and challenges. During this conversation, a sales representative likely provided a prospect with a demo of their product or service in an effort to communicate the value of their solution in an interactive way. Oftentimes, this demo would make or break a sale — if the demo wasn’t successful in showcasing the ways the product or service could solve for a prospect’s pain points, then they weren’t likely to close as customers.
Although this is still partly true, things have changed and the structure of the buyer’s journey has evolved. Rather than the success of a sales conversation depending on a demo, prospects are coming into these conversations with a great deal of research to back them up. They no longer need a demo — usually, what they need is a limited, free version.
How Freemium and Demo Requests Intersect
According to HubSpot, “A demo request is a preview or trial version of a software solution, distributed free of charge by companies once prospects hand over their contact information. Demos only work for a restricted period of time and are often conducted by sales reps over the phone or via video conferencing to show product features to the prospects.”
In the past, demos were incredibly successful because they provided a prospect a glimpse of what the product or service actually looks like and how it could provide value before they committed to purchase it. This is not to be confused with a freemium model, however. The free version of a freemium product is offered indefinitely, whereas a free trial that is offered as a part of a demo only lasts for so long.
Now, things in the sales process have changed and prospects are doing far more research ahead of time. This means that most of the buying process is starting to occur before prospects even talk to your sales team.
This doesn’t mean that sales has been taken out of the process — the way your sales team engages with your prospects is different, including the cadence at which touchpoints occur. Your buyer is way more empowered, and with that empowerment comes the desire to truly try before they buy.
Because of this, companies have shifted to provide a free trial or a freemium version within their go-to-market strategy instead of a demo. Now people can enter the funnel in different ways, without even engaging with a person from your company. Instead of needing to go through a sales representative as a gatekeeper, a prospect can limit their engagement to your landing pages to access a free trial or freemium version of your product or service.
When you start using a freemium model as a part of your go-to-market strategy, your onboarding process is critical. You need to make it as easy as possible for someone to set up the product or service on their own. Although onboarding can be done via outreach from the company providing the product or service, a lot of companies have switched to offer a quick tour and onboarding tutorial within the product or service itself.
If, as a company, you fail at providing an accessible onboarding process and someone doesn’t understand how to leverage your tool, it’s unlikely they’ll convert into a paying customer.
What Role Do Demo Requests Play Now?
Demos still come into play in a more complex sale. Companies like HubSpot often rely on a demo to bridge the gap between their free version and the fully upgraded, enterprise version of their products and services.
Because of the complexity of the solution, the assistance from sales representatives and experts to guide a customer through the decision-making process and facilitate their onboarding process will greatly impact whether or not a customer makes the jump to upgrade.
Most free versions are very limited in comparison to the enterprise version of the same product or service, and demos can be utilized to demonstrate the value that an enterprise version holds. However, with less complex solutions, a free version sufficiently exhibits the value on its own rather than relying on a demo to illustrate the benefits.
Demo requests used to be the entry point to a product or service, but now companies are offering other paths for a prospect to experience the value of the product. Rather than playing a role in the sales process, demo requests have become crucial in the consideration phase and are been used in tandem with a freemium model to leverage the value of a product/service.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.