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Sales - 10 min READ

Don't Make These Mistakes on Your Next Sales Demo

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Author photo: Amy Copadis

Amy Copadis


It’s demo time.

You’ve worked hard to get to this point. You’ve been cold calling or emailing, you’ve been asking the right questions and painstakingly making your way through discovery calls, and the prospect finally agreed to see your product in action.

This is the moment for your product to shine: let your prospects see all the bells and whistles and they’ll just have to love it.


Unfortunately, the hard work isn’t over yet.

You’re right on the edge of a sale, but just because they agreed to see the product doesn’t mean you have them in the bag already.

Plenty of sales reps make the same demo mistakes over and over again without realizing why they’re losing these sales.

Here, we’re going to reveal these common demo mistakes so you don’t fall into the same trap.

Avoid these 10 demo mistakes and run your sales demo like a pro.

1. Using technical terms or cliched speech to describe your product.

“This product tracks your PPC keywords for SEM, and this feature finds your broken links so when your site gets crawled it’ll rank better in SERPs.”

For anyone who isn’t a search marketing expert, that sentence was confusing (and certainly not helpful in a purchase decision).

Never assume that your prospects understand the technical terminology of your product. Using industry jargon that they’re not familiar with will only make them feel like your product is too complicated for them to use.

After all, nobody wants to learn a new language of acronyms just to use a new software for their business!

Another common demo mistake involving the way you speak is using cliches like ‘best in class.’ Using generic descriptions like this has no meaning for your audience, and won’t impress them.

Instead of using jargon or cliches, focus on the unique selling points of your product. How does it solve their problems? Show them how the features of your product will help them in their daily life and mention specific challenges or tasks in their workflows.

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2. Glazing over the features that your prospect is truly interested in.

It’s your job to know what’s important to your prospect before you begin the demo.

You absolutely do not want to spend time on features that don’t apply to them while skipping over the features they actually wanted to see.

In previous calls, you should already have established which product features are most important to this particular prospect. So, when preparing for your demo, look back at the sales notes you took in your CRM so you can set the demo up with those features in mind.

For example, let’s say your product offers multiple user profiles with different levels of authority or even separation by team. This is a fantastic feature for a company that has many users, but what if this particular prospect only has one or two?

Obviously, user permissions and teams are not features you need to talk about at length in this demo.

Instead, using the information you gathered during your discovery calls, pick three main features that are good for small teams, and show the value of these features for that particular prospect in your demo.

3. Starting the demo without knowing where your prospect is in the buying process.

To run a better demo, you need to know where your prospect is in the buying process.

Do they already know about this type of software, or are they only aware of the problem they need to solve?

Are they currently using a similar software, but looking to make a change?

Diving in without knowing where the prospect is in their journey is a serious demo mistake that could cost you the deal.

Instead, work through your discovery questions beforehand, even if the prospect is eager to see a demo. That way, you’ll know how much you need to explain, and what angle to take throughout the demo.

4. Going in without a script or definite plan.

This is another common demo mistake that can easily lead to disaster.

Never, ever wing it. You must always have a plan, and it’s important to stick as closely to it as possible.

For example, let’s say you want to run a report during the demo, and you decide to wing it and run the report with parameters you haven’t tried in the demo account before. Plenty could go wrong here: the software could freeze, or the report could take longer to run than you were anticipating.

This shows your product in a bad light, and won’t win you any brownie points.

Instead, set a definite plan with parameters that you’ve already tested. Know how long each step takes to run, and have something to say to the prospect to keep the conversation moving instead of waiting in awkward silence.

Having a plan also helps you structure the call better.

In fact, according to a study by, unsuccessful sales reps go into product demos and jump between topics throughout the call. On the other hand, top performing sales reps had 15.6% fewer topic changes, allowing them to cover more ground but in a sequential manner.

Following a structured plan helps the demo flow better, and will move your prospect in a logical way towards the sale.

5. Responding defensively to questions.

It’s normal for a prospect to have questions during the demo.

Are you prepared to answer them?

Unfortunately, your first reaction may be defensive.

“Does your product integrate with Trello?”

“Well, no. But you don’t need it to integrate with Trello, and it does integrate with all kinds of other tools. Actually most software like this doesn’t integrate with Trello. Trello stinks.”

Obviously, that’s not the kind of response that will go over well with your prospect.

Be calm and remember to respond positively. Never take the defensive position on the call: defense doesn’t score goals.

And what if the prospect asks you a question and you’re not sure of the answer?

Make sure you never give an answer when you’re not 100% sure it’s correct.

Instead, say something like this:

“That’s a great question, no one’s ever asked me that before! I’m not 100% sure, so after we finish this call I’ll check in with our [relevant expert at the company] and send you an email by the end of the day.”

The prospect will respect you more for giving an honest answer, and you’ll avoid the embarrassment of giving incorrect information that you’ll need to retract down the road.

6. Bad-mouthing the competition.

The competition is the enemy. The competition is bad.

This kind of thinking can leak into your product demo, and can make you sound like a three-year-old comparing his toy to his friend’s toy.

“Mine is better because it lights up and yours doesn’t.”

“Our product is better than [leading competitor] because it offers full automation, and theirs doesn’t.”

See the similarities?

This isn’t the time to be bad-mouthing your competition. Why?

While it’s great to have comparison charts and other content to show the difference between you and your competition, bringing these points up in a conversation is much harder to pull off in a classy way.

In reality, this is just another way of putting yourself in a defensive position. If you’re constantly talking smack about your top competitors, it’ll sound like you’re trying too hard to be better.

After all, do you really want your prospects to be thinking about the competition while you’re showing them your product?

Instead, focus on what your product can do for this prospect. Help them see the genuine value instead of a point-by-point comparison with the competition.

Show your product’s unique features, and the prospect will see for themself why your product is the better option.

7. Talking non-stop the whole time.

This is a major sales demo mistake that way too many reps make: turning the demo into one long, uninterrupted pitch.

If this sounds like your sales demo, it’s time to change up the pace.

Once you get into the demo, it’s easy to talk non-stop as you trail through the different features and explain what everything does.

This is a great way to get your prospect to fall asleep on the phone (especially if your demo is during the afternoon slump).

To avoid this, make sure to ask questions throughout the entire demo. For example:

  • How do you think this feature would help your business avoid [common problem]?
  • Is there anything here you didn’t understand before we move on?
  • Who do you think could get the most use from this feature?

Asking questions throughout the demo will help you gauge the temperature of the audience, and adjust your demo accordingly. It also keeps the prospect engaged in the demo, and creates an atmosphere of conversation rather than straight pitching.

And this method works: unsuccessful demos have been found to include long pitching marathons that lasted up to 106 seconds. On the other hand, successful demos don’t involve more than 76 seconds of uninterrupted pitching.

8. Forgetting to factor in the stakeholders.

During the discovery process, you (hopefully) found out who is involved in the final decision, including anyone else at the company and any stakeholders.

Don’t forget those people now.

In the demo, it’s important to address the concerns and wishes of everyone involved in the purchase decision.

While the stakeholders may or may not be at the demo, you need to cover points that are important to them as well.

Remember: the information you present in the demo is the information that this prospect has to use to make a decision. This same information will get passed to the stakeholders, even if they’re not present in the demo themselves.

So, take time beforehand to understand the stakeholders. What kind of influence do they have in the decision? What are their main concerns?

Then you’ll be better prepared to deliver value to everyone involved during the demo.

9. Discussing the price too early or too much.

When do you discuss price during a demo?

If you’re not sure, you have a problem.

Unsuccessful demos have no clear timing when it comes to discussing price. On the other hand, successful demos have a set window to discuss this topic: between the 38 and 46 minute mark, on average.

Setting a structure to your demo call and placing the discussion about price towards the end allows the prospect to be fully impressed by your product before they hear how much it costs.

This also gives you the ability to cover the topic all at once in a more succinct way. In fact, the same study by found that unsuccessful demos spend 8% more time talking about the price than demos that ended in sales.

Script out exactly how you’ll explain your pricing model, using simple terms that the prospect can understand the first time through.

10. Ending the call without a definite follow-up plan.

Have you ever gotten to the end of the demo and realized you had no time left to talk about your next steps?

All of a sudden your prospect is in a rush to get off the phone, and you’re desperately trying to keep him on and figure out a plan to move forward.

This is a serious demo mistake, and makes you look unprofessional.

Instead, leave at least five minutes at the end of your demo to talk about where you’re going from here. This gives you enough time to talk through the next steps calmly, and shows you respect the limited time of your prospect.

Kick these demo mistakes to the curb and nail your next sales demo.

Did you cringe while reading some of these common demo mistakes?

If you saw yourself reflected in any of these descriptions, don’t worry. There’s still time to stop these bad habits and start new, more productive ones.

Before you start, you need to know these three things:

  • Which features are important to this prospect?
  • Where are they in the buying process?
  • Who are the stakeholders, and what concerns do they have?

Then, during your pitch, don’t use jargon or cliches. Use speech that they’ll easily understand, and ask questions to keep the conversation alive. When they ask a question, remember to keep calm and avoid taking the defense, and never bash your competition (even if they deserve it).

Finally, remember to set time at the end of your call to discuss pricing, and to lay out the next steps.

By replacing these demo mistakes with better sales habits, you’ll be more likely to seal the deal in your next demo.

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