How To Pitch Your Product - Shut Up And Listen

Episode 31

In this episode, Scott and Robert will be talking about when you're pitching your product, shut up and listen.

Find us on Twitter @The_Scott_Davis or @RobDickersonJr


Robert: In this Stretch Goals quick hit, Scott and I are going to tell you why you should shut up and listen to us.

Scott: This is the Stretch Goals podcast where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Scott Davis.

Robert: And I’m Robert Dickerson. Actually, we’re going to tell you when you’re pitching, when you’re getting feedback from people, why you should be quiet and focus on what they’re saying as opposed to trying to just talk a bunch of times. I’ve seen this so many times over the years is that people will go in with 100 slide SlideDeck and you’ll sit down with a customer meeting, and they’ll just start reading off their slides. You can see it in the faces of their customers. They’re just bored out of their minds. They’re just like, “Why are you making me go through this?” Some people just can’t read the body language of people. They just keep going.

Scott: Yeah, that’s very true.

Robert: Over and over and over again. Really, this episode is about closing your mouth and asking questions, and listening to the answers. I guarantee you if you ask those probing questions and you listen to what people are saying, you’ll get so much more out of it than if you were to just sit there and talk. Scott, I love hearing your voice, but, really, I want to talk. I want to tell you.

Scott: Yeah, that’s the thing. Everybody wants to talk, right? But no, you said it right. People don’t look at body language, people don’t pay attention to the context or anything. I think the best SlideDecks I’ve seen lately are very simple. They’re probably 10 slides or less and they do one of two things. They either convey certain types of information, or they tell a story, or maybe both, right? That’s all fine but what we’re here to talk about in this episode is when you get up there and pitch, listen to the feedback. I’ve seen investors literally cut someone off and be like, “Nope, nope. Shut up, not interested,” ask them to get down from the stage, because they’re just going on and on. A lot of times they know in the first slide or two, or based on who you are and what you’re telling, they know almost instantly. It’s like love at first sight. They know whether they want to invest or not.

Robert: Yeah, I mean when you’re pitching yourself, that’s one thing, right? You need to be succinct, you need to get your ideas out quickly. I think the shut up and listen part is when you’re pitching for to other people or you’re trying to get them to buy from you. You don’t want to sit there and just keep going through what you’re doing, all about your company, and all about this, and that. Who the hell cares? Let’s just get to the point, right? What we’re trying to accomplish here … And a lot of times I’ll go in with no slides to start out. I won’t just pull up a SlideDeck to start out with, I’ll just sit down with you and we’ll have a conversation about what problems you’re having, what you’re trying to solve. That can be a lead in to your slides, right? That way you might have a SlideDeck that includes miscellaneous information on different things, you don’t need to go through all that if the person you’re talking to is not interested in all those things. You’re trying to cover a bunch of different scenarios with the material that you’re bringing to the meeting. Focus on the things that they’re interested in.

If you sit down, you talk to them, face to face, figure out what their problems are, then you can lead right into, “Okay, so you told me that you’re interested in this and this, these are your problems, let’s talk about how my product can solve those problems,” and you can go right to those slides. It looks like you made it come out like that, right? That’s how you planned to do it.

Scott: Yeah. I think it’s more of a conversation. I use a pitch deck as a way to start a conversation with an investor or someone who might join the team, or whatever the case may be. It’s an icebreaker. “Hey, here’s what we’re doing, read about it,” because what happens is you’re so busy, you’ve got all these things you’re doing, somebody sends you an e-mail, you don’t have a lot of time, but if you make it very brief, you grab their attention, now they want to talk to you. Do something very brief, give them what they need, let them see that, and then they’ll maybe reach out to you. What will happen is when you get to the meeting, don’t have the same pitch deck because you’re talking to that person that already read your pitch deck.

Now, what may happen is there might be people in that meeting who weren’t recipients of that pitch deck originally, and that’s fine, but what I don’t like is when you go to those situations is you have a pitch deck that you either print out, which is a bad idea, because what’s going to happen is they’re going to sit there and thumb through it and they’re not going to pay any attention to what you’re saying. They’re not going to be engaged, and they probably have something else on their mind to begin with. They’re not even really absorbing it. They’re just flipping the pages because that’s what you do, you flip pages to look like you’re looking at it. Don’t do that. Make them focus on you and talk about it. Like you said, talk about their problems, talk about all these different scenarios. Have a conversation because that would be more productive.

I also don’t like doing the pitch deck on the wall because, again, you’re repeating the same thing. What I would do is maybe a demo or show some things that are very specific to what their line of business is or what they’re interests are. I definitely don’t come in with a pitch deck. I like to pitch myself and the story and the product directly.

Robert: Let’s talk about the demo a little bit because I think that is a good point. You’ve made these initial conversations, you figure out that there’s interest, now people want to see the demo. It can be easy to say, “Okay, well, you want a demo, it’s going to take me 30 minutes to show all the different features that I have in this product,” and you end up talking for 30-45 minutes. That deoesn’t really help you. It doesn’t help you get feedback on what they’re interested in. I think you don’t have to show every single feature of your product. A demo is just to give them a glimpse of things that they can do. You don’t need to show exactly how you’d go in and add someone in, all the different steps for example. You can just infer those things and say, “Okay, this is how you would enter someone, this is kind of what it looks like. Now let’s talk about how you’d use to solve a specific problem,” that they’re interested in for their business. You can talk directly how they would be using their product within your company. They can envision how they would use it.

Scott: Yeah, and we talked about this before a little bit in episode 16. Selling your product is more than a perfect pitch. We also talked about how to connect with people in episode 13, how to connect with people you don’t know. These things all apply to what you just said. In order to pitch to these people, don’t go in there with a scripted demo. Go in there with a demo of what they want to see based on what you know about them, and their company, and their interests, and craft an experience that’s specific to them. Then let them ask questions, and then show them that feature. Don’t come in with something scripted that you showed to everybody else. It’s just not a great way of doing things.

Robert: Yeah. What I do with MapOut is I actually customize my demos. What I’ll do is I’ll build, say, an app for that particular customer and I’ll put on there example videos, kind of an outline of courses that they might be interested in, and so they can get an idea. Customize the color scheme, customize the branding for them. It’s a really personalized experience to say, “Hey, I can click on this app. It’s your app. Here’s the content that you would want in there. You can see I’ve already built it in there.” It’s not just something generic. They know that they can see how they would use MapOut to do training, to do education, and that sort of thing. I’ve already customized it and tailored it a little bit for them so they can see how they would use it.

Scott: Yeah. In doing so, you’re listening to them because you immediately gathered their attention and they’re going to start asking questions because it’s about them. Whereas if you came in there with something else, they would be confused and not really understand how it applies to them. You’ve got that learning and discovery phase you have to get them through first to get to the point where you can maybe hopefully sell it to them. Yeah, target it to them. What you’re doing sounds perfect.

Robert: Yeah, it’s just about taking a little bit of time to learn about what your customer’s interested in from those first exploratory meetings, and then feed that information back into your demos so it really makes it customized, it really fits exactly to what they’re interested in. When you ask those questions, really think about questions that you can ask that you can get information back from them that they can really tell you what their problems are, they can tell you how they would use it. That really helps you in the long term figure out how to position yourself, what features to show that people are interested in, and that sort of thing. You tailor your demo as you go.

Scott: Yeah, you know, I think, listen to the questions that they’re asking you because that’s very telling. It’s just like body language. If they’re asking you questions about specific types of features, you need to read into that a little bit and realize where they’re trying to go with it. Maybe they don’t like those features, so you should not talk about it. Or, maybe, they are more interested in a certain aspect and you should go into it a little bit more.

Robert: You can dive down even deeper, right into those questions to figure out even more information. A lot of times, I think, that’s sometimes the best questions when they’re asking you those things. You can really dive down and get feedback. Don’t be afraid to go down those things and get more feedback.

Scott: Absolutely, yeah. I agree.

Robert: All right, let’s wrap this up. We talked about shutting up and listening as you’re pitching.

Scott: Or doing a podcast, by the way.

Robert: Or doing a podcast, yeah. We want to listen to your feedback. But really think about when you’re pitching people, don’t bring these huge SlideDecks. Really focus on not talking and listening to what your customers have to say and using that feedback to really help you create a better presentation, help you create a better product because that’s really what you’re there to talk to people. You’re there to learn from them, you’re there to get their feedback. You want to get that stuff out of them. Their time is very valuable. You probably spent a lot of time to set up a meeting or set up this demo. You really want to get as much as you can back from them as opposed to you just talking because that really doesn’t do anyone any good.

If there’s ways that you can customize your demos, customize the materials that you’re giving them around your product based on previous conversations. That’s a great starting point to help yourself stand out. As small business owners, you need every bit of stuff that you can help separate your product and differentiate yourself when you’re in those meetings. If you can connect with people and you can get them into envisioning how they’d use your product, that can really help you go forward and make the sale.

Scott: Yeah, shut up and listen.

Robert: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to

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Each week we'll share insights and lessons learned to help you create ambitious goals for your business.

Robert Dickerson


Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.

Scott Davis


Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.