[Last Updated: September 2022] Enterprise customers today are looking for a successful, value-adding partnership, so high-level alignment matters far more than getting a perfect solution right out of the box. That’s why product demo best practices are among the most effective weapons in a seller’s arsenal. Done right, they’re less about products and features than understanding pain points and aligning on a shared vision of the solution.

That’s something, according to our Emissaries, many sellers seem to forget—and worse, certain deal-breaking demo no-nos are anything but uncommon. So much so, in fact, that Aircall’s Collin Cadmus recently shared a wise list of the 10 top things to avoid doing in demos. We liked that post so much that we decided to unpack his list a bit and add some context—and science—around why these mistakes are so costly and ways to implement demo best practices.

Showing Up Late

Prospecting is hard—in fact, between phone calls, emails and more, it takes more than eight touch points in 2023, on average, to land an initial meeting with your prospects.. And the same study found that 10% of deals require 11 touches or more. That’s a whole lot of effort, and you just might blow it all up if you show up late.

Don’t believe us? Check out these scientific studies showing that when you show up late for a meeting, it actually drives other attendees to look for ways to punish you. Does that bode well when you’re trying to build support, overcome objections and get stakeholders in line? No, it doesn’t.

So if you’re doing an onsite, carefully map out your travel in advance, allowing for inclement weather or anything else that could slow you down. Always leave plenty of lead time baked in.

Letting Dumb Tech Snafus Demo Your Demo

Between wifi passwords, audio settings and video-connection cables, our Emissaries say they’ve seen a lot of potentially promising sales meetings jump off the rails almost immediately on account of frankly elementary tech issues.

Fortunately, as with most simple challenges, the fixes are incomplex, too.

  • Wifi: You should plan to use ethernet for every meeting, which means you’ll need to have the appropriate cables ready. Bear in mind, however, that some prospects may have security concerns about you plugging directly into their ethernet during onsite demos—in which case, the onus is on them to hook you up with a working Wifi password. Of course, this is also the kind of thing you ought to ask your internal advocate about beforehand in order to nip potential connectivity issues in the bud.
  • Audio: This is a sales demo, not a trip to Mars. Yet how many times have you squandered the opening minutes of meetings in awkward intervals of silence while repeating, “Hello? Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?” That’s not a great start. But a good headset, plus one quick rehearsal run, should keep that from happening.
  • Video: If you’re running the meeting remotely, do a trial run sharing your screen with a coworker. And again, if you’re going to be onsite, you should talk to your advocate about the setup in the conference room. Plus, just to be safe, have some converters and cables at the ready, too, so you can cover any contingencies.

Being dogged by foreseeable tech challenges—there’s really no excuse for it (nor does it commend your know-how as a digital tech partner). So don’t forget to prepare ahead of time as a demo best practices.

Going Into the Meeting With Distractions Enabled

Personal bookmarks, notifications about your plans for the evening, non-work emails—none of these were likely part of the original plan for your demo. Why let them sneak in at the last minute?

Make sure you close and minimize all open tabs, and have a fresh internet browser waiting and ready in advance of your meeting. And be sure you’ve disabled notifications of every kind, too. One study found that 50% of workers struggle with being distracted by their phones at work. This can interrupt the flow of your presentation. Worse yet, they may even be embarrassing.

This part of the demo, at least, is willfully within your control—why lose it?

Talking Over Your Prospect

Take it as an unfortunate fact of life, like death and taxes, that your average enterprise buyer isn’t going to trust you from the outset. In fact, that mistrust is characteristic of 97 percent of buyers today. But there are things you can do to overcome that.

Listen carefully and thoughtfully—what Gong.io calls “commercial-grade listening.” It sounds so simple, but these are the first steps in reversing that trust deficit.

Talk over your prospect, on the other hand, and you’ll signal to your buyer that their hunch about salespeople was right all along.

Jumping Into Pricing Before You’ve Demonstrated Value

As a savvy and experienced seller, you’re well aware that the majority of buyers want to talk pricing on the first sales call. As such, you’ve prepared ahead of time to talk through all aspects of pricing, including how pricing for your solution stacks up against your competitors. Fantastic!

But before you go there, however, it’s imperative to have covered all of the bases. Specifically, it should be abundantly clear in your prospect’s mind exactly the pain points your solution addresses, and how that in turn translates to bottom-line value for the business. Otherwise, any conversation about pricing will simply feel premature—and the cost of what you’re selling, no matter the price point, is likely going to be seen as exorbitant.

It’s a mistake our Emissaries say they’ve encountered far too often as enterprise buyers. As one of our Emissaries, a former VP of IT at Kellogg’s, put it, “The bottom line is, you need to look for a way to really showcase the value, rather than just getting into a price discussion.”

Finally, once pricing is on the table, you’d better be prepared for the possibility that your prospect asks for a discount—it happens all the time, and there’s nothing to freak out about.

Forgetting to Follow-Up

Follow-up is essential—and the research bears this out. One study found that as much as 80% of the time, deals require five separate check-ins after the initial meeting to get to closed-won. Yet, according to the same study, nearly half of sales reps are liable to give up after the first follow-up call.

That’s a mistake you can’t afford to make. In fact, our Emissaries consistently tell us that lack of follow-up can torpedo even the most promising potential deals.

“The follow-up is critically important,” explained one former senior director of marketing at Cisco. “I can’t tell you how many pitch meetings I’ve been to where there was no follow-up. No call, no response.”

So following up on a sales demo is absolutely essential. It’s how you continuing to nurture the relationship. And to do so most effectively, always look for ways to add value when you communicate. For example, are there compelling case studies you can share? How about new product features that are in the pipeline and particularly relevant to your prospect?

Gestures like these are how you maintain momentum, convey genuine interest in solving your prospect’s pain points and position yourself as a valuable long-term partner down the line.

Executive Summary on Demo Best Practices

Demos are one of the most valuable options in any enterprise sellers’ toolkits. Yet, according to our Emissaries—former enterprise buyers at Fortune 500 companies—these demos can do as much damage as good, and things often go awry. So if you’ve got a promising prospect locked in for a product demo, here are six surprisingly common demo best practices you’d better be sure you avoid.