The Worst Product Demo I Have Ever Conducted: Here is What I Have Learned

I was still at the beginning of my sales career as a first-time founder.

  • I had the product ready to sell
  • I knew my market perfectly
  • I had full confidence that showing the product would make the prospect buy instantly.

So I scheduled my first product demo. I told my prospect everything there was to know, why it was great and how fast we could get started with him as a customer. At the end of the call, I told him that I would send out the final offer and asked if that was ok.

He said yes. For me, it was a won deal.

After a week passed by, I didn’t receive a response yet. “No worries, he is a busy man” – I thought to myself – “I’ll give him more time”.

After having no replies to my messages, I called. He picked up, angrily, not interested. “Stop spamming,” he said.

remote product demos that win deals

What went wrong? And most importantly, how did I turn it around?

The use case was there, the price was fair enough and the discovery call went great. So, why was the prospect not interested? Why did he say I should stop spamming him? What happened?

✅I knew the market
✅I knew what customer pain points were
⛔I didn’t give him the chance to explain it himself.

Mistake #1: Not listening to the customer and their situation, challenges, and goals.

Learning: Defining a clear date and time to follow up with the prospect is one of the most important things of a demo. Even if the demo went great, not sending a well-prepared follow-up email can break your deal. Let your customer know you were really listening. Pinpointing important use-cases, suggesting potential future features and building a real long-term relationship with your customer. Once you are on good terms with someone privately, the business will likely follow. That’s why following up with the prospect is essential. 

Advice: Try finding out what sparks the interest of your lead on a personal note, try to identify similarity. And don’t be afraid to mention it. It shows dedication and respect.

Mistake #2: Not giving a prospect a clear expectation and not being prepared for the call.

Secondly, I was not prepared and didn’t start before the call with a structured expectation/agenda message.

Learning: Your lead/opportunity will have no idea of what’s going on. It’s an uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what the expected outcome of a meeting is. Not being prepared is even worse and by asking questions you could have answered yourself after doing brief research, the customer will not feel valued.

Advice: Do your 2-minute research, tell them what your plan and wanted outcome of the call/demo is.

Mistake #3: Expecting people to actually open documents sent by a sales rep.

Right before the call I sent my prospect some slides to look over. As I later found out, he didn’t have time to look at them and it was impractical to show him what I wanted.

Learning: The possibility of guiding the prospect through the content while being present on the call, knowing what he looks at and what his specific questions are on the spot is gold.

Advice: Don’t send any documents to your prospects before the call – they will not read it, so It’s a waste of time and effort. Instead, show the document during the call while guiding your prospects through the most important parts and actively listening to their questions.


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Mistake #4: Not building a personal connection. And talking most of the time.

I not only did not listen to the prospect actively, but I also spoke about 80%-90% of the time. I didn’t build a personal connection with him and didn’t follow up on his questions. I simply kept ongoing.

Learning: Be silent. I know it can be hard for a sales natural to stay silent, but the good part is that this is a skill that can be learned.

Advice: Try to get out of your comfort zone, by not talking. You will notice something amazing: the prospect likes talking about his business. And once he feels that you listen, he will open up about what’s not that great. That’s where the magic of use case and pain point identification starts.

Mistake #5. Not establishing a clear follow-up.

At the end of the call, I didn’t agree on a follow-up with him.

Learning: Defining a clear date and time to follow up with the prospect is one of the most important things of a demo. Even if the demo went great, not establishing a follow-up can break your deal.

Advice: No matter what, and I repeat, no matter what: Fix a date and time for your follow-up. If somehow the prospect can’t guarantee it, announce your follow-up date and time for them.

Mistake #6: Prospect didn’t feel in control.

In the end, he forgot about me as soon as he hung up the phone. There was no goal and he didn’t feel that he was in control for one second.

Learning: If a) he doesn’t know what’s going to happen and b) he can’t tell himself what the problem is, you lost already.

Advice: Turn it around and let your prospect talk and know what the game plan of your time together is.

The meeting was over and I had no idea what I could do better.

What made me realize that I needed to change and how I needed to change?

A few lost deals and unsuccessful calls later, I thought to myself: ok, there’s definitely something wrong. Even when I left with a good feeling after a call, I’ve noticed my prospects going silent and ghosting me. This was the moment when the alarm went off. So I got to work. I was lucky enough to have great mentors at my side throughout my career. Recording my calls was also a game-changer for me. I could pinpoint my exact mistakes every time. By writing down these mistakes, I forced myself to do it differently next time.

Top 3 nuggets of wisdom for people who are just starting out:

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel – Sales mastery is a profession and can be learned. Having the right tools to support you certainly helps, but it all starts with the personal connection between you and the customer.
  2. Don’t try to learn everything from your own mistakes. Look at best practices instead.
  3. “First, become friends with the prospect, then make your friend tell you his problems by himself. Finally, present him with the solution, visually, on the spot” – You will have gained a new customer.


by Joachim Van Erps, Sales Manager at Demodesk


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