Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Avoid dead-ends. Let me say that again: avoid dead-ends. I recently watched a demo where the presenter explored what seemed to be all possible potential pathways to complete a single task. What could have been completed in about 30 seconds – about 5 mouse clicks – took 24 minutes!

The presenter pursued two sets of non-productive pathways:

- Alternative approaches (“…and another way to do this is to…”)
- Dead-ends (“…but for this example we won’t do that and instead we’ll go back to where we were a moment ago…”)

The end result was a Stunningly Awful Demo, perceived as too complicated, too convoluted, and too complex by the audience.

When you have the option to present a range of pathways or related capabilities, choose the highest probability pathway for the customer at hand and execute that pathway with the fewest number of steps to complete the task.

To be fair, there may be situations where some of these alternative approaches or dead-ends may be useful or even important. An excellent way to test for interest in exploring any alternative approaches or capabilities represented by dead-ends is to ask.

For example, “Are you interested in seeing how you can do this task using the menus instead of the wizard we just used?”

Or, “We have a number of other output options – are there any output formats that you would like to see in particular?”

Otherwise, avoid alternative approaches and dead-ends…!

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Solution to "Death by PowerPoint" - In Nine Minutes

Gavin Meikle has put together a very nice, compact (nine minute) video that provides a simple set of solutions to the typical misuses of PowerPoint. He effectively summarizes the key messages in Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points in a compact, easily consumable format.

Here’s the link to his video/presentation: http://www.trainingdesign.be/2008/01/20/its-powerpoint-jim-but-not-as-we-know-it/

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yet More Auto-Demo Hell - A "Customized" Recorded Demo?

Should a recorded or canned demo by “customized”? Interesting and tough challenge…!

By definition, recorded demos are not customized for any specific customer. However, an attempt to create a single recorded demo that embraces the needs and situations of a range of prospects with different job titles in differing markets is likely doomed to fail.

Example: Consider CRM demos that try to cover the needs of salespeople, sales management, and marketing. Sales management is most interested, typically, in forecast accuracy and transparency – which relies upon data entry by salespeople. A demo that shows a rep entering a pile of pipeline information (deal size, key players, likely close date, probability, deal stage, etc.etc.) will likely please the VP of sales but annoy the sales reps.

Similarly, the above scenario does little to help a marketing manager charged with executing lead generation campaigns – her demo needs to speak to the results and processes of campaign execution and management.

In summary, recorded demos need to be “customized” at least to address relevant market- and job-title specific situations. Recorded demos that show no apparent effort to customize are likely to:

1. Be perceived as insulting by the customer (“we are not all alike”)
2. Will result in more work for the vendor to get the same business (“I didn’t see what I needed in your demo – and it appeared to be inflexible”)
3. Violates nearly every customer-centric principle (and certainly the core principles of the Great Demo! method)

When I’m working with customers to help with their recorded demos (e.g., hosted on their websites), I recommend a Menu Approach to lead each individual prospect to the specific, generically-customized demo that matches that customer’s industry and job-title. That means, potentially, multiple recorded demos as opposed to a single demo that hopes to somehow embrace everyone.

Does this mean that you need to generate recorded demos for every target job title and market? Yes and no…

Yes; in that the prospect should perceive that they have been led to a demo that is specifically relevant for them. No; you should expect that the situations for many job titles will be reasonably homogeneous across markets – providing the ability to leverage one recorded demo across those markets. (You’ll need to be careful/clever about what data is used). Often, you can apply different voice-overs to one core demo to lend the appearance of a recorded demo that has been customized for a specific target audience.

The perception that a recorded demo has been created specifically for an audience can truly accelerate the sales cycle!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

More on Auto-Demo Hell…

A recent Great Demo! Workshop participant (from his marketing department) shared a challenge he was facing: His boss asked him to prepare a recorded demo that could be hosted on their website right away to support the launch of a new version of their product.

When he (wisely) asked some of his sales counterparts for input on the draft demo, he was told:

- Looks great!
- Looks awful!
- Perfect for my customers!
- Totally wrong for my customers!

What was happening?

After discussion, it became clear that the sales team is organized into two major groups: “Hunters”, who work to secure new business and “Farmers”, who’s role is to develop existing customers. The Farmers loved the demo and the Hunters despised it. Why? Because the demo focused on the new capabilities recently released.

Current customers are, generally speaking, attuned to the typical use cases for the software. They generally “get it” with respect to the possible uses for new features and capabilities that are provided in a new release. A demo that focuses on these new features may be adequate for current customers. (Note that using Situation Slides that summarize the intended use cases will be more successful than a demo that simply highlights capabilities).

On the other hand, new prospects may have no context and will likely be confused when presented with a feature-based demo. A demo that focuses on a set of new features will be even more confusing – it assumes a base understanding of the software already released.

Consider your sales organization and the nature of your customers when preparing recorded (or core) demos. A demo prepared for a users’ group meeting may be terrific for existing customers but will fail horribly when presented to new prospects!