Wouldn't it make more sense to let potential users try out the product, as is the norm in B2C, leading to more client engagement and potentially more traction? And what's all the secrecy about?
I don't think it's secrecy. I believe it's bad selling.
"Look at this awesome thing I developed! Surely if you look at it, and I can control the demonstration, I can explain everything about it. Then you'll really want it!"
Sometimes a product or service creator can be fearful someone will "steal" their idea. They have not realized ideas are a dime a dozen: it's execution that is difficult to match! This could lead to the perception of secrecy. But I believe poor understanding of selling is a much more common issue in the SaaS world.
Many products are developed because the creator had an idea. Not because the market told them they needed it, note. This is why so many SaaS startups fail. No need. Then they make up some sort of pricing structure which has no basis in reality and certainly isn't profitable...and then must go out into the marketplace and try to convert people into becoming users. Tough road!
What most salespeople (and people who shouldn't really be in sales, but accidentally fell into the role) fail to understand is that customers rarely buy because of ALL the features your product or service has. They tend to buy because of ONE of these.
Example: a network security product I sold had four main features. But buyers would only be interested in one of them--a different one each time. Only months later, when they came back and asked the now-perceived-as-expert (me), "Gee, we need X...do you know anything that does that?" I could then happily inform them, "What you have now does that already."
Sell first, educate later. Often, putting too many choices or things to think about in front of a prospect will result in overwhelming them. Another example: I'm a producer for a TV network. When we first meet with a prospect, I don't go into everything we can do. I stick to one big idea, and that's what we sell. When I first started in the field, I tried upselling, cross selling, what have you. Nope. All that did was confuse the prospects. Now I sell them on the one big idea...and then come back a little later, now that they're used to working with us, and pick up the other orders I knew would be a good fit following the first discussion.
The standard belief is: "If I can just get in front of enough people and tell them about every single feature of my SaaS, I will get lots of customers." And to a degree this is true. If you see enough prospects, you'll accidentally make some sales. But you probably won't truly know why they bought.
The demo is an outdated mode of selling. These salespeople don't know any other way, though. They want you on the call. Live. Then, they believe, they can convert you into a paying user. On your own, as a consumer, you're not to be trusted to come to your own correct conclusions.