12 hilariously bad sales pitches you should avoid as a salesperson
Have you ever walked away from a sales pitch knowing that you totally bombed?
Maybe you have horror stories from when you first started out in sales. Maybe you were having an off-day. Or maybe you were the recipient of a truly bad sales pitch.
While these make for great stories, every hilarious sales pitch failure can provide valuable lessons in what not to do.
Whether you’re writing a cold email, hitting the phones for some cold calling, or giving a short sales pitch at a networking event, learning from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others can improve your pitching skills in the long run.
Ready to see some funny sales pitches (and learn from what they did wrong)?
12 hilarious sales pitches that are so bad, they make you cringe
Get ready for a good laugh—these sales pitches are some of the worst we’ve seen.
1. The shouting match
If you’re looking for a funny sales pitch, look no further than this classic scene from The Office:
Source: The Office, Deedle-Dee Productions
While Jim was obviously playing the part of a difficult prospect, Dwight sure wasn’t ready to handle his objections effectively.
How to avoid this: Be adaptable. It’s hard to know exactly who might answer the phone, so a good sales rep is ready for anything and doesn’t let things get under his skin so easily.
2. The dart-thrower
How often have you heard a salesperson throwing darts in the dark?
This is one of the worst mistakes that new sales reps can make, and it normally goes something like this:
Rep: At HR Software Inc., we have a product that helps you lower your hiring costs. Are you interested in that?
Prospect: No, our hiring costs are pretty low.
Rep: Well, it also allows you to speed up your onboarding process for new hires, does that sound like something you need?
Prospect: Not really, we have a very streamlined process for onboarding.
Rep: Don’t worry, our software is also proven to increase productivity for your HR team by 25%. I’m sure that’s something you need.
Prospect: Honestly, no.
How to avoid this: Stop throwing darts—instead, ask open-ended questions that allow you to understand the prospect’s needs before you pitch specific benefits of your product.
Using the right questions is a creative sales pitch technique that will help you build rapport while you shape your pitch based on the actual needs of the prospect.
3. The car on fire
Source: Tommy Boy, Paramount Pictures
This hilarious sales pitch scene from Tommy Boy is full of what-not-to-do’s for salespeople. (Such as, don’t light parts of your prospect’s office on fire.)
But the real problem with this pitch is that Tommy spends far too long bad-mouthing his competitors instead of focusing on the benefits of his own product.
How to avoid this: Instead of harping on how terrible your competitors are, focus on the value of your own product. Create sales battle cards that provide you with quick soundbites to respond to common objections. Focus on the success of the customer and you’ll be heading in the right direction.
4. The lazy researcher
Researching the prospect takes time and energy, but it pays off in the long run.
On the other hand, salespeople who skip the research phase end up sending cold emails like this one shared by JD Miller:
As JD explains, this email assumes his company is using Salesforce (they’re not) and that they have a need for this product (they don’t). The sender also lists three companies as ‘peers,’ but none of them are related to JD’s business.
JD responded to this email, suggesting that the rep do a bit more research about him and come back if he thought he could add value.
Less than 30 minutes later, this response came in:
A bad sales pitch just got worse.
In JD’s own words:
Although there’s plenty of information about me and my company on LinkedIn, our website, Glassdoor, and news articles, he was still looking for me to invest the time in teaching him about my business – teaching him how to sell to me – so that he could make another pitch for a product I’ve already decided I don’t think I need.
How to avoid this: Do your research. Not only will you save time by pitching to prospects that you know are a good fit for your product, but you’ll also gain credibility with your audience.
5. The drunken Life Cereal pitch
Source: Mad Men, Lionsgate Television
Don might’ve gotten the sale, but that’s not an excuse to give your next sales pitch drunk.
Aside from having too much to drink before pitching, smooth Don Draper made one huge mistake: instead of focusing on what the client actually wanted, Don starts spewing different slogans hoping one of them will stick.
How to avoid this: If a prospect isn’t happy with something during the sales process, talk the problem out before offering a solution. Ask questions to understand what the prospect is really looking for, and then you’ll be able to give a solution that makes sense for them.
6. The missing CTA
This hilarious sales pitch shared by Monika Jansen definitely needs some work:
There are a number of things wrong with this sales pitch, such as:
- It’s not grammatically correct
- It’s 100% focused on the seller, not the buyer
- It’s a giant, run-on sentence that is difficult to read
But let’s focus on the main problem: there is no call to action.
That means, once the reader actually figures out what this salesperson is trying to sell, they have no direction on how to proceed.
How to avoid this: Before even starting to make a sales pitch, you need to know what the goal is. What action do you expect the prospect to take after reading or listening to your pitch? Once you have that clearly in mind, you can shape your sales pitch so that each sentence leads into the next, all the way to an irresistible CTA.
7. The plea for attention
This bad sales pitch, shared by Thomas Sobczak, takes persistence to a whole new level:
Subject: I'll never let you go, Thomas!
I'm bummed we haven't been able to connect but I TOTALLY get it.
Your inbox is perpetually being filled with emails you didn't ask for but our extensive customer base coupled with my own personal belief & confidence in our workflow automation platform, is why I feel I must persist in my quest to connect with you to quickly explore if we might be a fit.
I could send you a smorgasbord of links praising the innovative things X Company is doing across the (insert industry acronym here) landscape, but I would rather implore you to check us out on your own. If what you find resonates with you, please shoot me an email, text, call, messenger pigeon, or take a second to throw 5 minutes on my calendar.
This email is a bit of a mess, combining a lighthearted, casual introduction with formal phrases like “persist in my quest” and “I would rather implore you”.
And, while certainly being persistent, this rep is still throwing the bulk of the work on his prospect, asking (sorry, imploring) the reader to check out the company themselves.
How to avoid this: If you’re going to ask for attention, make darn well sure you deserve it. Focus on the prospect and the value you can bring to them, and you won’t have to plead for their attention.
8. The shifting product pitch
Source: New Girl, Fox Broadcasting Company
This funny sales pitch from New Girl features a number of mistakes, including the fact that neither Nick nor Schmidt seemed to know exactly what they were selling (Jess to the rescue!).
How to avoid this: Know your product, and practice your pitch. Use scripts to run mock sales calls with colleagues and get more practice.
9. The one-size-fits-all approach
Another common mistake we see with new salespeople is promoting their product as one-size-fits-all, focusing more on getting the sale than on delivering real value to the prospect. This leads them to make promises they can’t keep, and ignore clear signs that this prospect is not a good product-fit. It normally goes something like this:
Prospect: This sounds interesting, but our budget is tight right now.
Rep: I’m sure I can get you a discount, I’ll adjust to whatever budget you have.
Prospect: Great! We’d like to start using this by next week, is that possible?
Rep: Absolutely! Our normal implementation and onboarding time is 3 weeks, but I’m sure we can speed that up.
Prospect: Glad to hear it. I noticed most of your customers are SMBs, are you sure you’ll be able to handle all our data as an enterprise company?
Rep: No problem at all, our engineers are working on solutions as we speak.
This rep is setting up his prospect for some serious disappointment, which is not a good way to start a relationship.
How to avoid this: Recognize that not every prospect will be a fit for your product. Own up to your limitations, and be willing to point your prospects in the right direction if your product isn’t a fit for their budget or needs.
10. The overwhelming data email
This bad email template, shared by LeadFuze, shows how easy it can be to overwhelm prospects with too much data:
While including relevant statistics in an email can be good to help prove a point, this email takes it a bit too far. Creating a list of random statistics makes this email hard to read, and the question (what would it mean to your top-line revenue if…) becomes impossible to answer without an advanced degree in applied mathematics.
How to avoid this: Back up your statements with proof — such as statistics — but choose one key statistic or one short customer story to prove your point. The prospect is much more likely to retain one statistic than three.
12. The cringe-worthy quarantine email
Back in the spring of 2020, we shared some of the worst crisis emails we had received at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a hilarious sales pitch we still laugh about:
We all know what assumptions do to us. This rep assumed his prospect was spending his time during a global pandemic watching Netflix, and claims that connecting with him will be a more fun way to pass the time.
How to avoid this: Never make assumptions about your prospects. Do your research, refine your approach, but never assume you know everything. Let your prospects guide you to the right value prop, and be willing to listen to what they actually need.
What's the worst sales pitch you ever received?
We've all been on the receiving end of a bad sales pitch. Sadly, there are probably more bad ones than good ones—and that's what gives the sales profession a bad reputation.
If you've got a sales horror story of your own, I'd love to hear about it. Let me know on LinkedIn!
Learn from these hilarious sales pitches and avoid their mistakes
While these sales pitches are good for a laugh, they’re also a valuable warning for all salespeople.
It can be far too easy to fall into these same traps. So, make sure you’re constantly refining your own sales pitch. Regularly review the data on your sales pitch, and collaborate with your team when it’s time to give it an update.
Most importantly, never give up learning the art of pitching. The more you continuously build your sales pitching skills, the better success rates you’ll see.
Want to take a deep dive into the world of sales pitches? We’ve put together expert advice and top trends into one handy resource: The ultimate sales pitch guide for high-performing reps.
Read through to see how to structure, craft, refine, and deliver your sales pitch, along with real-world examples that show you how it’s done.