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Avoiding a Common Sales Demo Mistake

A Sales Growth Company
March 2, 2024

We’ve all been there. You’re looking for a new software to streamline a nagging process. You reach out to the industry leaders, expecting high end service, only to find delays, unfulfilled promises, and chunky, canned sales demos. This is a daily annoyance your customers face. We’re going to rewind time again today to when ASG (then A Sales Guy) was heavy in the recruitment business. A journey in finding a new Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that highlights the glaring mistakes sales teams are making.


First impressions are everything, especially for software. One bad experience, especially early, and a user may never come back. So, when ASG started searching for a new ATS system, expectations were high. We sought out the best of the best and what unfolded was a series of disappointments that highlight the broader issues in sales and customer engagement.


The Initial Outreach: A Test of Patience

We started where any other customer would. We found our 3-4 options and reached out expecting to book meetings in the next few days. Instead, we were met with silence for weeks. It took a public display of dissatisfaction (via X, formerly Twitter) to finally elicit a message. The company admitted to issues with their lead management system, promising a quick follow up. A week later, we were finally contacted. From initial outreach to meeting was nearly a month. A frustrating delay for a prospect with an urgent issue.


The Discovery and Sales Demo

The company proposed two meetings: a discovery call to understand our business needs and a sales demo tailored to these requirements. Their approach seemed promising. During the discovery, we made it abundantly clear – robust reporting capabilities were the critical driver in our search. The hope was that the demo would showcase solutions centered around this need.

It did not. The sales demo was a massive disappointment. An hour passed without a glimpse of the reporting features so crucial to our decision-making process. When time ran out, the seller explained that reporting was next on the list. Next on the list, after an hour. The thing we said was the most important piece was more than an hour into the demo. That’s too late. We were frustrated and felt our time had been wasted.


The Follow Up

In a subsequent call, the seller attempted to salvage the situation, asking for another shot to show the product’s reporting capabilities. The damage was done. Excuses and arguments stood in place of accountability, only deepening our distaste for the organization.


Trust in Sales

Let this story be a cautionary tale about the role of trust in sales and customer relationships. If you make a promise to a prospect, fulfill it, quickly. A discovery should influence the customization of the sales demo. Wasting a client’s time with excuses undermines trust and jeopardizes the potential sale.

They key takeaway for any sales organization: listen to your customers, prioritize their needs, and deliver on your promises. Accountability, when things don’t go as planned, can salvage trust and, possibly, the relationship and your reputation. Excuses and deflection only exacerbate the issues and further the frustrations of your buyer.


Let’s break down where this journey broke down:

The Lie

Don’t tell me we’re doing a discovery call to customize the sales demo and then NOT customize the demo. That’s just straight-up bullshit. If a customer tells you reporting is the number one feature to their decision, show them your reporting capabilities. Don’t put it LAST! If you’re going to steal 15 extra minutes of your prospects time with a discovery call, you’d better make up for it by providing a targeted, informative, effectively delivered demo. Don’t tell me you want 15 minutes extra minutes of my time to create a customized demo, then give me the same shitty sales demo you give everyone else.


The Time Waster

I wasted an hour and twenty minutes on the phone not getting what I needed. I wasted my time explaining my business and what I needed to run it. I wasted an hour being walked through a sales demo that didn’t give me the information I needed to make a decision. I wasted valuable time because this company couldn’t get their shit together and do what they say they were going to do.


The Bullshit

Don’t bullshit me when I call you out on your glaring and blatant screw up. Don’t come up with excuses. Don’t tell me you were saving it for the end, AFTER you went over the allotted hour time slot. Don’t tell me that you were showing me the other features because my team was on the sales demo and they were the ones going to be using it. I told you I was the decision maker. I told you what the key decision factor was going to be. I told you exactly what I needed to see and you didn’t show it to me.

Don’t bullshit me, just own up to it, take your lumps, be accountable and move on. Arguing with me and coming up with bullshit excuses only makes it worse.

Trust in sales is nothing new. We’ve know this for years. Yet, when companies don’t deliver as promised, trust is eroded. When trust is eroded, it makes it very difficult to sell to them. No on feels good about buying without trust.

Do what you say you’re gonna do. Do it well and if by chance you mess up. Just fuckin’ own it. Your bull shit just makes it worse.


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