Thursday, January 14, 2021

Doing Discovery – The Importance of “Why” Questions


    Prospect asks, “Can your software do xxx?”


    Vendor replies, “Yes, absolutely.”  


I can’t tell you how many things that brief conversation has occurred – without any follow-up questions from the vendor…!  What’s missing?  Asking, “Why?”


Far too often vendors execute Discovery by simply asking questions about the prospect’s needs, without asking any clarifying questions – this is a huge lost opportunity…!


Let’s review the conversation again, this time with a more engaged vendor:


    Prospect asks, “Can your software do xxx?”


    Vendor replies, “Yes, absolutely – why is this important for you?”


    Prospect responds, “Oh, it’s really difficult to do today – largely a manual process that takes hours and it is a key requirement for us.”


    “I understand,” says the vendor, “How often do you have to do this – and what else does it impact?”


The conversation continues, with two intriguing outcomes:

  1. The vendor gains a much richer understanding of the prospect’s situation along with the associated value of the capability.
  2. And the prospect feels the vendor has much richer understanding of their situation, making the prospect more comfortable about working with that vendor. 

“Why” questions are delightful triggers – don’t miss these opportunities in your Discovery dialogs!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Upcoming Webinar: Demos as a Team Sport – The Roles of Sales and Presales in Great Demos

January 19 at 9:00 AM Pacific Time (12:00 PM Eastern Time, 6:00 PM Central European Time)

Preparing and delivering demos should be perceived as a “team sport” when two or more people are involved on the vendor’s side. The days of “…and heeeeere’s my Demo Monkey…!” should thankfully be over (we hope!).  But what are the right roles for sales and presales in demo preparation and presentation?  Peter Cohan will join Demoflow’s Larson Stair for this discussion of pragmatics, best (and worst) practices, and some potentially surprising recommendations – along with an exploration of how Demoflow specifically supports a team approach to demos.

Let us know if you have specific questions or topics you’d like us to cover, as well.

Register for this webinar here.

Monday, January 4, 2021

SKOs and "Swipes" – Making Remembering Memorable!

Want a terrific way to ensure that your SKO participants remember the key take-aways?  Try using Swipes, a simple, very effective idea that was first introduced to me during a SKO meeting at McLeod Software by Rick Halbrooks, McLeod’s head of sales (and long-time Great Demo! senior practitioner).

The idea is very simple.  At the end of the day, Rick goes around the room (or virtual room) and has each person state something that he or she took away.  That’s seemingly easy, but he adds a twist:  an idea can only be used once!  If someone else verbalizes your take-away, you’d better have a backup.  Or two.  Or three.  Or more…  Now you can guess where the name “Swipes” comes from!

Participants know, ahead of time, that they need to verbally recall at least one idea at the end of the day that hasn’t already been presented by someone else.  To be safe, each person tends to write down several take-aways, often a list.  Participants tend to pay better attention, since they need to listen and collect Swipes candidates.

Works wonderfully!

Pragmatic Note:  Swipes are wonderful for groups of 50 or so but could be challenging for larger teams.  A solution for larger groups is to do the Swipes in breakout sessions or similar smaller venues. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Success-Ready Leads: A Provocative Definition of "Qualified Lead" Based on Customer Success Parameters – and Its Impact on Presales, Sales and Customer Success

Here’s a novel idea:  Front-load your pipeline with prospects that are most likely to succeed!

How?  Consider filtering and qualifying prospects based on expected outcomes – how closely do prospects compare with existing customers who are happy, referenceable, and renew and expand?  

Why should we contemplate this change?  Ask yourself,

  • How many overview demos are presented to prospects who are a bad fit for your software?
  • How many deep-dive demos are prepared and delivered to poor fit prospects – even after the initial demo/Discovery conversation reveals the risks?
  • How many POCs have been run with these prospects as well?  
  • How many poor fit prospects convert into paying customers who then struggle with implementation and adoption, and fail to achieve their desired value gains?
  • How many customers purchase, but never expand?  If “Land and Expand” is a key sales strategy, this means you’ve expended all of the customer acquisition costs but never capitalized on the higher-leverage Expand part of the equation.
  • How often are presales and customer success staff brought in to try to “save” a customer who doesn’t plan to renew?
  • How much of this time and energy could be been applied to prospects with a better fit – yielding happy, referenceable customers who sing your praises, renew and expand your footprint?

BANT and Similar

Many organizations define a “Qualified Lead” in terms of BANT or similar assessment:

B = Budget – does the prospect have budget allocated for this?

A = Authority – is this person making the buying decision (or is a member of the buying committee)?

N = Needs – are there defined needs (that we can address)?

T = Timeline – is there a defined timeline for this project?

While there are other qualification acronyms and methods employed by vendors today, most are similar to BANT and focus on similar parameters designed to “rule-in” or “rule-out” prospects.  See this link for a good definition of BANT and a slightly better alternative, as examples.

[What do you use in your organization as the definition of a Sales-Ready Lead?]  

These are traditional methods of defining a Qualified Lead or Sales-Ready Lead.  They seek to avoid “wasting” salespeople’s time with prospects who aren’t in an active buying process – but they don’t differentiate between prospects who will be likely to succeed with your offerings vs. those who will struggle, consuming sales, presales, implementation, support and customer success resources – and are less likely to expand your footprint.  

In the worst cases these customers may end up unhappy, poisoning your reputation as actively negative references.  

[Has this ever happened at your company?]

Better Than BANT

In the ongoing quest to improve the quality of leads as they move through the sales “funnel” we proposed and tested the idea of a Demo-Qualified Lead or Demo-Ready Lead as a superior method of filtering prospects – particularly prior to investing sales and presales resources in preparing and presenting any substantive demo.  (See our article on Vision Generation Demos for an elegant method of satisfying prospects’ desires to see a demo, while moving prospects into a Discovery conversation).

For Great Demo! practitioners, a Demo-Ready Lead is measured by having a complete (or reasonably complete) Situation Slide.  Studies with two Great Demo! customers showed success ratios of 6:1 in one case and 10:1 in another – where the ratio is “Closed Business with Complete Situation Slides : Closed Business Based on BANT”.  Pretty impressive!

Further, the Great Demo! Situation Slides definition of a Demo-Ready Lead also includes one key customer success element:  Value Realization Events.  These are small or early “wins” accomplished by the customer after Go Live and represent a conscious effort on the part of the vendor to understand and ensure that customer success criteria are identified in the Discovery stage.

This is a major move in the right direction – but we believe we can do better…!

[What do you use in your organization as the definition of a Demo-Ready Lead?]

A Provocative Alternative – a Success-Ready Lead

Here’s an alternative perspective:  Base your definition of “Qualified Lead” or “Sales-Ready Lead” on customer success parameters.  After all, that’s what you should be aiming for:  happy, successful customers who love you, love your software, and sing your praises (to other, similar customers)!  

Think about your current successful, happy customers.  What are the common attributes that could lead to a good definition of a Success-Ready Lead?  Here are some parameters to consider:

Is the prospect’s size, market or vertical one that is well-served by you?  

  • Is it one of your success “lanes”?
  • Is it an adjacent lane?  And if so, is this a lane you want to pursue?
  • What level of Churn does this lane typically exhibit (vs. other lanes)?

Revenue (or margin) per customer – how profitable are customers in this lane (vs. other lanes)?

  • Will more of these customers improve your margins substantially or not?
  • Is there an opportunity cost in servicing these customers vs customers in other lanes?
  • Do you have an understanding of the lifetime value of customers in this lane vs. other lanes?
  • Customer retention cost – how much are you spending to retain current customers in this lane vs. other lanes?
  • Product cost – how much are you investing in product development to support this lane vs. other lanes?  How does the ROI compare?

Expansion expectation – along similar lines, do customers in this lane tend to grow and expand your footprint?

Is the problem/solution set articulated by the prospect a good fit for your software solutions?  

  • To what degree?  “Percent Fit” might be a good measure, for example.
  • Have other customers with similar problem/solution sets been successful?  Again, to what degree?  “Percent success” might similarly be a good measure.
  • Churn in association with Percent Fit could be another measurement as well.

Success Criteria fit – has the prospect defined their own success criteria and how well do they match your track record?

  • Again, a Percent Fit measurement might be appropriate.
  • Churn again, ditto.

Customer culture – are they an Early Adopter, Technology Adopter, Early Majority, Late Majority or Laggard?  

  • Which of these have enjoyed successful implementation with your software?
  • Which of these have not – and what has been the result (and the impact on consumption of your resources, your reputation, the ability to engage other prospects, serve other customers, etc.)?

Time-to-value and implementation timeline – how long do customers in this lane take to “go live” and to begin to gain value vs. other lanes?

Referencing – do customers with these attributes agree to serve as references?  Do they present their work at your Users’ Group Meetings?

Discovery Conversations Provide Insights – and Many of the Answers

Think about your Discovery calls with prospects:  what questions and answers tell you that this prospect is a good fit or not?  For example:

  • Is the contact a member of the prospect’s executive leadership?  This may indicate that their assessment of the importance of the project is high – and suggests an improved likelihood that this executive may drive the project through to success.
  • Did the contact use your software successfully at a previous company and now wants to implement it at their new organization?  This suggests that many of the criteria in the previous section may already have been met…
  • Did the prospect indicate that another company (one of your current customers) recommended your offering to them?  While not nearly as strong as a first-hand reference, this is also a good starting point.
  • Does the prospect have a defined buying team – how many players are on the team and what are their responsibilities?  The larger the team, the more possibility for distractions, diversions, derailing, delays and disaster…!
  • Does the prospect have experience – and success – in implementing similar software?  Again, this would be a good indicator.
  • Is the prospect’s culture consistent with your customer success profile?  Size?  Market or vertical?  Other lane parameters?
  • How closely does the prospect’s articulated needs (and wants) align with your offering?  50%?  Not so good…  70%?  OK, maybe…  80%?  Better.  90% or above?  Nice…!
  • How do the prospect’s expectations of implementation timeline and time-to-value compare with your typical, successful customers?

Defining Your Success-Ready Lead

A great way to accomplish this is to gather some of your senior sales, presales, implementation and customer success team members to:

  1. Identify the key parameters of successful customers, along the lines in the previous two sections.
  2. Choose a method of quantifying or scoring these parameters – a profile approach can be very useful.
  3. Identify thresholds for qualification levels – e.g., “Great”, “Good”, “Risky”, and “Nope” based on the aggregate scores.  
  4. Frame qualification and Discovery questions to enable this information to be gathered from prospects early in the engagement process.
  5. Implement and refine.

For Great Demo! practitioners, an excellent starting point is to review Situation Slides (and associated Value Realization Event elements) for your most successful customers and compare them with those that have not expanded, struggled, or failed.  This will help you rapidly kick-start this process.

Rule-In the Best; Rule-Out the Worst

These criteria enable you to assess and qualify prospects based on prospects’ likelihood of achieving success.  Additionally, with a Success-Ready Lead approach you don’t risk “disqualifying” serious prospects who don’t meet one or more of the BANT criteria:

  • Do they really need to have budget allocated for all projects?  Many projects are funded without ever being budgeted – if they are deemed sufficiently important.
  • If the prospect contact has been delegated to “explore solutions” by the decision-maker or buying committee, he or she may not have the “authority” required by BANT, but still represents a real opportunity.  
  • The prospect’s understanding of their needs may be incomplete – they are often unaware of the full range of problems they face or the breadth of solutions available.  
  • The timeline may also be in an early stage – too early to satisfy BANT, but it could mature into an active buying process through Vision Generation and Discovery conversations.

Prospects that have poor fit with your Success-Ready Lead criteria can be disqualified – or nurture-marketed until either they change or your success criteria and/or acceptable lanes change.

GIGO – “Garbage In Garbage Out”

GIGO:  The quality of output is determined by the quality of the input.

This old saying is (sadly) directly aligned with current qualification methods in many companies.  In the quest to generate leads (by marketing), move those leads to Sales-Ready status (by SDRs and BDRs), and transition those prospects through Discovery, demos, and POCs, (by sales and presales), there has traditionally been a focus on quantity first, quality second. 

The customary sales “funnel” is the evidence of this thinking – more leads at the top should yield more closed business at the bottom.  And while this is (partly) true, the real picture shouldn’t be perceived as a funnel, but perhaps as a series of pipes.  Prospects with good “fit” will move more smoothly through the pipes, but prospects with poor fit clog the plumbing, requiring more effort to clear the blockages – while holding back the good fit prospects.

In the world of moving liquids through channels, we avoid clogs by placing filters ahead of the channel entrances – filtering your prospects by Success-Ready parameters should enable a steady flow of good fit prospects through your sales and implementation conduits into pools of happy, successful customers.

Copyright © 2020 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Refract/Gong/etc. Studies of Teams Doing Demos?

Has anyone conducted studies of best practices for vendor teams when presenting demos, using Refract or Gong or similar tools?  It would be very interesting to collect data on the following scenarios:

  • Sales and presales as a two-person team (the most likely combination).
  • Salesperson with two or more presales folks – I often see a presales “generalist” accompanied by a SME (for a particular product or vertical).
  • An overarching account manager with two or more sub-teams (often by product, with a product-salesperson and presales person as a sub-team).

Questions to consider:

  • Who should speak at which times during the demo?
  • Who (and how) should customer questions be managed?
  • Who (and when) should offer summaries?
  • How often should there be speaker changes between the vendor players – and how should this cadence compare with vendor-customer speaker switches?  (I can’t tell you how many times I hear salespeople “piling on” after a presales person answers a question or makes a point…!)

In Great Demo!, we offer explicit guidance on these practices, but it would be delightful to have hard data that supports our positions or suggests alternative approaches.

Has anyone run the experiment?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

‘Twas the Night Before the Big Demo

‘Twas the Night Before the Big Demo

(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas the night ‘fore the demo and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, ‘cept my SE and his mouse;

I’d proposed a big licensing deal with great care

In hopes a big order soon would be there;

Management was restless and not in their beds

As visions of bonuses danced in their heads;

And my VP with his forecast and me with my own,

Had just started a long EOQ roam,

When out from my mobile there came a great ring-tone,

I sprang from my chair to answer my phone,

What could it be?  Was it good news or no?

A last-minute order?  A contract?  PO?

Greetings, said my assistant, who spoke on the line,

It was someone to see me, offering help at this time!

Who could it be at this late eleventh-hour,

To make the deal sweet and avoid something sour?

Away to the door I flew in a flash,

And swept it open in my quest for fast cash,

When who to my wondering eyes should appear,

The DemoGuru! And standing so near!

He came in my office and, while dusting off snow,

Said, “I have some news that you’ll want to know.”

He drew up a chair and asked for some tea,

And said to my VP, SC and to me:

“Your deal is in trouble and I’ll tell you now,

Your demo’s confusing, complex and lacks ‘Wow!’

It’s riddled with features and functions and more,

And too many cool things, mouse clicks galore,

Don’t flog them with features and other neat stuff,

Stick with the substance, stay away from the fluff,

The more that you show is not always nice,

Customers may say, ‘Please lower the price!’

The Buzzword-Compliant Vocabulary list,

Are words, I’m afraid, that are better-off missed,

Not Flexible, nor Powerful, nor Easy-to-Use,

Not Robust, nor Seamlessly Integrated abuse,

And no corporate overview, please don’t do that,

After ten minutes they’re grabbing their hats,

Use real data, stay focused, on target, be brief,

Build vision, while you suspend disbelief!

Your customer’s queued and ready to go,

They love the vision you’ve built with them so.

They want Technical Proof in the demo you’ve planned,

Just the key capabilities, everything else banned.”

“But how can we do this?” I heard myself cry,

“We’re victims of momentum, we’re nervous to try,

Another approach, a new way to go,

We have to admit we’re just a bit slow!”

“Do the Last Thing First!” he said with a smile,

“Then Peel Back the Layers, and Do It with style,

Peel it back in accord with their interest,

Stay focused and execute, and you’ll find it best,

Your customer’s Situation is a great way to intro,

Their Problems and Reasons, from CBI flow,

Review these and check – is this still the case?

Are we aligned or are we off-base?

Start with the end, that big pay-off piece,

Illustrate and describe, those are the keys!

Capture their interest, compel their attention,

Make sure it aligns with their mode of consumption,

When it clicks and they’re hooked, they’ll then ask for more,

There’s absolutely no way that they’ll head for the door.

They’ll say, “Please show us, prove that it’s so,

Show us the rest, please do demo.”

Then Do It, just Do It, with no extra clicks,

To return to that Illustrative image that sticks,

Make it simple, make it fast, make it easy and clear,

Then they will realize they’ve nothing to fear,

Encourage their questions, most are not new,

Good ones and Great ones (and Stupid ones too),

Treat Hostiles with courtesy, use your Parking Lot so

Those mean, crusty folks can’t damage your flow,

Peel back the layers, (like an onion),

Show only what’s needed, put nothing else in,

Let them drive the demo, let them think they’re in charge,

While their Vision Solution you work to enlarge!

Summarize, summarize, tell them again,

‘Cause adults do learn by repetition,

And when you show a key take-away screen,

Leave it up, let it linger, so they’ll know what they’ve seen!

“I get it – I’ll do it!” exclaimed my SE, 

“This is all so obvious, it’s way clear to me!”

And he sprang into action, his mouse flew like lightening,

(Frankly, his speed was a little bit frightening!)

And with that the DemoGuru smiled and he said,

“Your way is now clear, put that baby to bed,

Your deal’s now on track, your order secure,

You’ll make your numbers at the end of the year,

Then he strode from my office in the flash of a pun,

Turned ‘round and he said, “My job here is done,”

Ere he drove out of sight, I did hear him say,

“Great Demo! to all and to all a Great Day!”

Copyright © 2005-2018 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

“Thank You for Your Time…” Alternative

Many vendors offer the phrase, “Thank you for your time…” when starting or completing a meeting with a customer, often adding “I know
your time is valuable…”  This is courteous, but positions the vendor beneath the customer, in terms of relative importance.

A very successful salesperson (thanks, Carol!) once shared the following advice that I continue to apply today:

She asked me, “Isn’t your time just as valuable as the customer’s?”  I responded, “Of course it is…”

She then offered a better way starting and closing meetings.  She suggested saying, “I’m glad we are [or were] able to invest this time together today…”  

This positions both parties as equals – regardless of whether you are speaking with an executive, middle manager, staff member or system administrator.  What a delightful idea!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Demo-Ready Lead?


Many organizations have a definition of a “Sales Ready Lead” to differentiate from comparatively unqualified leads – and to help streamline sales processes.  How many of you have generated a clear definition of a “Demo-Ready Lead” – and if so, what are the criteria you use for this?

For example, a number of Great Demo! practitioners require a completed (or reasonably completed) Situation Slide before moving forward with a Technical Proof Demo.

What criteria, if any, does your organization use for a Demo-Ready Lead?