If a demo is going well, your audience will pepper you with questions. This is a great sign of an engaged audience. It gives them the chance to focus on their key topics. Unfortunately, given the open-ended nature, many new demo’ers find answering questions to be particularly challenging. This blog post will give specific advice on how to handle questions.

Rule 0: DO NOT CUT THE PROSPECT OFF This is so fundamental it is both rule 0 and written in caps. No one likes to be interrupted. When you interrupt a prospect it comes across as arrogant, or worse, dismissive. Remember, you are talking for most of the demo. The prospect wants to feel heard and understood.

Corollary: Never answer a direct question until you know what “side” the person is on. Let them expand on their point. E.g…

  • Prospect: “Does this software allow people to share data?”
  • Demo’er: “Of course! It’s a cloud based technology so we make it easy! You just click on the ‘share now’ button. We have customers who use this for analytic collaboration, an example is….
  • Prospect: “Ah. Well, we had a huge issue last year when someone in finance accidentally shared payroll data with the entire marketing team. We need to prevent sharing across teams.”
  • Demo’er: “Oh, uh, of course also have the ability to limit sharing, depending on the needs…”

In this example, even if you had a fantastic answer to their real question (data governance), you could lose this person by explaining the “other” side. You’ve taken a potential big supporter and made them a potential enemy.

What to do instead?

  • Stay quiet and let them finish their question: you’ll be surprised how much they will expand on their thoughts and perspective when given the chance.
  • Ask a follow-up question to clarify: if you don’t understand, you must follow up. Simple open-ended questions like “can you give an example?” “what do you mean?” work perfectly. This helps the prospect feel heard and understood. It helps you answer the question more accurately. Win-win.

Now You Know the Question… How to Answer

If you understand the question and know the answer…

  • PAUSE! Breath! Use silence to reflect on their perspective and think through how you will deliver the answer succinctly. This will lead to a better response and show that you are giving through to their questions.
  • If the question is important enough (use judgment), dive into a vignette you have prepared for this topic. Once you’ve practiced the vignettes will be crisp and flow well. People respond to stories.
  • If the question is smaller, be concise and direct.

If you don’t know the answer do not answer the question!

Remember, this isn’t a final exam. You don’t need to answer questions when they are asked. This is especially important in topics like security, integrations, and competitive comparisons (if you aren’t familiar with the competitor). It’s very likely the person asking the question knows the topic better than you. The best response to this is:

“Unfortunately, I’m not completely sure how to answer that question. I don’t want to accidentally mislead you, so I’d rather consult with our <engineering/systems/services> team and get back to you by the end of the week. Do you mind if I write down your question and get in touch then?”

When you do this, you must actually write down their question and you must actually get in touch with them. This is a actually a great chance to build trust (or lose it). It’s also a great excuse to extend the conversation and build a relationship.

Last Note: Write all of the questions asked down. These are the topics that are important to your prospect. Keeping track of their biggest needs is incredibly helpful later on in your sales cycle, especially as you consider what to showcase in a final presentation.

Go back to part 1 or part 2 of this series