Common Mistakes in New Product Introduction Demos

A baker’s dozen of common mistakes that I have seen founders make preparing and delivering new product introduction demos and presentations.

Common Mistakes in New Product Introduction Demos


  1. Don’t keep giving the same presentation if it’s not working. I am surprised when I ask teams who have presented to two or three dozen prospects, “How has the presentation changed since the first time you gave it?” and I am met with blank looks.
  2. If prospects don’t understand your presentation it’s possible that you are talking to the wrong people but it’s just as likely that there are serious problems with your presentation.
  3. Do not keep giving the same presentation if it’s not working. That’s not a typo, it bears repeating. Working means that you are not only getting expressions of interest but your sale is actually advancing. I know that when you talk to experienced sales folks that they will tell you that “sales is a numbers game” and you just have to keep pitching until someone decides to buy. There is one very important qualifier to the “numbers game” approach, and that is that you are using a presentation and sales approach that has actually been proven to work in a repeatable fashion.
  4. Give the demo to people you trust who can act as proxies for your target prospects.  Ask them how to improve it. If someone introduces you to a prospect, be sure to reconnect and ask them how the prospect felt and what could be done to improve the presentation. The prospect may be much more willing to be candid with a third party that they trust; most folks don’t want to give bad news to you directly.
  5. A lukewarm response is the worst of all. You can’t get any feedback on what to improve–unless you were introduced by a third party you can ask for help– and the sale is not advancing.
  6. You can tell that the sale is advancing if you are learning more and more about the customer’s problem.  The prospect gives you data to run a test. They ask for an evaluation license and can give you a timetable and a list of experiments that they want to run. If these things are not happening your presentation is not working.
  7. Before you give a demo, make sure that you can clearly state the prospect’s view of the problem they are hoping to solve with your software. Confirm this by stating it and asking you have understood their situation correctly. Don’t give a demo if you don’t understand the problem that they are trying to solve. A demo is not an opportunity to train someone on your software; it’s an opportunity to offer either a vision of a solution or proof  that your software can solve their problem.
  8. If you have raised some money, perhaps in an angel round, do not take your investment presentation and use that to attempt to close business. I know it can be hard to believe that something that was so useful when talking to investors won’t have a similar powerful effect on prospects. But let me be clear:  you need to throw your investment presentation away and start from scratch.
  9. Keep copies of each presentation that you give. Always have two people at a presentation. One to give it, the other to observe. They can trade off but one should always be watching the prospect(s) to determine what’s resonating and what isn’t.  Take time after the presentation to de-brief and write your thoughts down. Save a copy of your notes with a copy the slide deck that you used.
  10. On the title page for your presentation you should include: key audience member(s), company name and date of presentation; these should also be burned into the footer of each page. Three benefits:
    1. It gives the impression of personalization and prior custom preparation. Doing this should force you to at least think through what’s needed for this particular audience.
    2. It’s the minimum information you will need to keep you various presentation distinct. This allows you to keep an archive of all of your presentation and watch how it evolves over time.
    3. If you are asked for a soft copy of the slide, provide a PDF version of the talk, instead of PPT, with this info burned into it then the audience is more careful  about who they circulate it to.
  11. Include your company name, URL, and copyright  on each slide. They may become detached from the deck.
  12. Probe for a date or impending event that may drive a decision. Be cautious of people who tell you that they need something “yesterday” since yesterday will never come (again).
  13. Always have an engagement checklist and implementation timetable (if only at a high level) ready. Rehearse presenting it but keep it in backup slides. Do not have the prospect ask you “what does it take to get started” and stammer out “I’m not sure, no one has ever asked that before.”

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