Why your product demo sucks, and you're losing customers as a result

By Steli Efti , written on January 22, 2013

From The News Desk

We’ve had the honor to conduct thousands of demos for dozens of tech startups. Every time we work with a new startup we notice the same mistakes by founders presenting and pitching their products. Below is why we believe most product demos are ultimately costing startups new customers.

1. Your demo is way too long.

It’s usually a bad sign when the presenter starts to lose momentum halfway through a long demo. You sound like you’re not enthusiastic about your own product, and your customer loses interest. Not only that, but a half-hour demonstration and a drawn out, meandering conversation implies that you have all the time in the world and, therefore, aren’t busy with other customers.

Cut your half-hour presentation down to 15 minutes, and time yourself. State at the beginning of your demo that you only have 15 minutes and that you should prioritize your demo on what’s important to the customer. Keep the demo to just 5-10 minutes and use the rest of the time to address questions and set up next steps.

2. You’re using cumbersome technology.

Now that you have 15 minutes to influence someone, you can’t waste that time with slow technology for your online demo. Anything that needs native software, which needs to be downloaded, installed and logged into is killing valuable time. You’ve just wasted crucial time if your potential customer isn’t prepared at the start of the conversation, and they usually aren’t.

Try using a screen sharing service that just requires your prospect to click on a URL (We use to see your screen. You’re in control and there is nothing that the other party needs to install.

3. You have no idea what the customer needs.

Take the time before a presentation to ask the simple questions, “Why did you reach out to us and what are you looking for in this product?” The answers to these questions will let you know what parts of your product need to be shown, and what parts can be left out to save time.

4. You are pitching features vs. benefits.

I cringe every time I hear “users are using that in this way” or “here is another really cool feature we’ve built.” What if your potential customer doesn’t use that function and doesn’t care about it? Why not ask why they want to use this product and what problems they are trying to solve with it and then focus on that in the Demo?

5. You’re not asking for a next step.

Now that you’ve completed your demo you have to outline the next steps for the customer. Whether it’s a follow up call with more participants, drafting an agreement or even outlining a timeline of steps moving forward, they need to know what to expect. You should also ask about their decision making progress, such as “what do you need to make a decision about using our product?”

6. You’re not asking for the sale.

Now that they know the next steps, you have to have a strong pitch, ask for the sale and expect to hear a NO! Remember the point of this demo is to showcase your product to a potential customer with the intent to buy, not to make friends, to practice a slick presentation, or to hear yourself talk.

Close your conversation with a pitch reiterating the value your product will add and ask the customer for their financial commitment. If they say they can’t commit, ask, “What else would you need to move forward with our product?”

7. You're giving it to too many people.

Last but not least, your time is valuable. Keep your demos short and restrict them to qualified buyers. If only a small fraction of your demos convert to paying customers, either something is drastically wrong with your product and its market fit, or you need to tighten your qualifying criteria. You want to be on the phone presenting your product to only those with a real chance to buy.

Even, if at the beginning of your demo you find out that the potential customer may not be a good fit, cut the demo short or say: “To be completely honest with you, I don’t think our product would be a good fit for you based on the needs you described. In the interest of saving each other’s time, we should hold this demo until we can address those needs.”

You and your customer will appreciate the time saved and you will ultimately end up turning your product demos into real revenue drivers for your startup.