If you can’t talk about your product, you’ll never sell it

I’ll never forget a recent conversation I had with an entreprenuer who was trying to raise money for his product. The conversation was a complete disaster for both of us.


His plan was to take me through his powerpoint slides (which for some reason never made it to my inbox in the first place) and then ask for my advice on helping him put together an investor pitch.

What happened was that instead of sitting through powerpoint slides, I started asking him questions over the phone about his company, product, etc. I forced him to think and act on his feet, peppering him with questions about how his product worked, how I might use it myself, and things of that nature.

He wasn’t prepared. Some of the telltale signs were that he…

  • …kept referring to a slide deck that I didn’t have.
  • …was unable to quickly and easily explain what his product did.
  • …couldn’t explain how I as user would use it.
  • …couldn’t answer my questions on how I would configure the product.
  • …was getting increasingly agitated because I kept asking questions.

At the end, the guy got really pissed off and we ended up hanging up on each other. Not good for either side.

So many times I get approached by entrepreneurs who are expecting to make a well-rehearsed presentation. And so many times their whole house of cards falls apart because I start asking them questions, attempting to engage them in dialog instead.

And the reason why it falls apart is not because they can’t present or can’t hold a discussion or because my questions are too stupid, it’s because they really don’t know their business well enough. They either haven’t explained how their product works to enough of their friends, or haven’t really looked into their competition sufficiently or really don’t understand the customer.

Now, all of would have been OK with me because that’s what I’m here for: to mentor. In this specific case, the entreprenuer also had an extremely bad case of “I’m smart, you’re stupid, I’ve read all the books, so shutup and just polish my presentation so I can go and raise some money”.

So what’s the moral of the story? I’ve got two of them:

  • Know your stuff enough to have an informal conversation well enough to sell your product to a customer.
  • If you don’t know your stuff, know that you don’t know your stuff and be open to assistance.
2 replies
  1. Zoli Erdos says:

    I’d guess this type of entreprenuer is more a wannabe then a real one… does not have an existing business, only plans to build one. Otherwise, he would know his product and market (can’t survive without it), even if he cannot put a VC pitch together.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Ed Sim wrote a great post, “Tips for the first VC Meeting“. Read his and then read an older post of mine “If you can’t talk about your product, you’ll never sell it” and you’ll (thankfully!) see a lot of similar thinking. […]

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