Top 3 Pitch Deck Introduction Deal Breakers

I used to be the Strategy Lead for my business unit at IBM, which was essentially an internal consulting role. I had been working on a project for a few months, and it was time to present to the GM. The GM’s role included sitting in a lot of meetings, so needless to say, he saw a lot of decks.

When my (virtual) meeting kicked off, I didn’t have a deck. This was by design.

I’ll never forget the shock in his voice. He was so used to seeing decks, that he was ecstatic to not have to look at another one for that hour. And that got me his buy-in a whole lot faster.

I don’t think it was the fact that I had no deck that did it – I think it’s the fact that he was so used to seeing bad decks, that not having to look at anything was a relief.

What makes a deck “bad?” It’s a long list, but here are some of the top Pitch Deck Deal Breakers:

Top 3 Pitch Deck Introduction Deal Breakers

Me, Me, Me

So many decks start with some combination of:

“Our company has 8 locations across 3 countries”

“Here are a list of our clients” (Cue the dreaded “NASCAR slide”)

“Our founder worked at a big company when he realized that stuff didn’t work. He didn’t like that, so he wrote some code and here we are”

Here’s the problem:




I’ll say it again. No one cares.

Your prospects are people, and people care about themselves. When it comes to a meeting, they don’t want to hear your history. They want to hear about themselves. To paraphrase the character Marla Singer in Fight Club – people want you to listen to them, not to just wait for your turn to speak.

Instead of starting out by talking about you, talk about them. Or, even better, don’t talk at all. Ask a good open-ended question and let them do the talking. You’ll be amazed at how much information your prospect will give you, all you have to do is ask.

Here’s some high level information that isn’t particularly relevant (or interesting)

“There’s now more data than has ever been created in the history of mankind.”

“Your industry is growing at a CAGR of 4.5%.”

“Consumers are smarter than ever before.”

“We need to democratize data/set it free because not enough people have it.”

“There are big changes in your industry.”

When we make statements like this at the beginning of the meeting, there are often a few consequences. First, the statements tend to be very vague, or broad, which reduces their relevance with the audience. If I’m an individual pharmacist, for example, does it really matter how much the pharmacy industry is growing? But, if I’m worried that I’m going to be replaced by a pill-sorting robot, that might be an industry trend that’s of interest.

Second, the people in the room often know more than we do about their industry. It is very easy to come off as patronizing or condescending (“the marketing technology landscape has shifted” – I used to use this one) to an audience that already knows everything you’re telling them. Plus, frankly, it’s boring.

Finally, this often feels like an opening for the sake of an opening. “I’m going to give you three industry trends, but then I’m never going to refer to them again throughout my demo.” If those three things become the core of the demo – “here are 3 major changes, and here’s how you can be ready for them” – then it’s a real intro.

Hey! You suck

I wrote about this in detail over on the Presales Collective blog, but so many demos and presentations start with the presenter making the audience feel bad about themselves or their jobs.

“So that <technology> you bought 18 months ago? They’re garbage” (These statements lead to someone getting fired for making a bad decision

“Your systems are stuck in the 1990s”

“Here are all of your pain points: pain point 1, pain point 2, pain point 3. Do you feel the pain yet?”

It’s great to recap discovery findings, or tell the audience what you learned from your prior conversations. But, it’s so easy to do it in such a way that offends the audience. When we tell them how bad they are at something, they will either shut down or get defensive. This is a biological response, often that they can’t control, called “fight or flight.”

The worst part? They might not even know why they’re upset. But they’re just upset.

And if they do know, then you’re going to be the brunt of their frustration/anger/etc.

So instead of talking pain, talk about opportunity. How are you going to make their life better. They know the pain – telling them just makes them feel worse.

Recap: Top 3 Pitch Deck Introduction Deal Breakers

  1. Opening with a company story
  2. Data no one understands
  3. Dissing the other Demos or Software

Try opening with discovery instead of demoing

I subscribe to the 80/20 rule of discovery and demo. At the beginning of a sales cycle, I try to run the meetings as 80% discovery and 20% demo. Later in the cycle, I’ll do the opposite. So the next time you have a bunch of slides about yourself, or about pain to kick off the meeting, ditch them. Instead, take the 10-15 minutes you would have wasted, and use it to get to know your customer. You may learn more than you think, which can only help you get further along to making the sale.

Looking for someone else to take over your demoing? Looking for someone else to build your demo pitch deck? We do that. Better Decks, Better Demos.

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