Monday, March 31, 2008

Only the Astute...!

How many of you noted the ever-so-small graphing error in my Attention-Retention article? All of you? (How kind of you to let it pass....!)

In any case, a recent Great Demo! Workshop participant noted that in the Great Demo! Attention-Retention graph, I show executives actually returning to the room, after previously leaving. While possible, this is not very likely - and is an error in my plot.

Here's the corrected graph, using the orginal data:

That looks much more reasonable...!

Arriving 15 Minutes Ahead of Time

When I recommend, in Great Demo! Workshops, that you plan to “arrive” 15 minutes ahead of time for a Remote Demo, I often see a combination of confusion (in some people) and recognition (in others). I realized that a simple way to explain the idea is as follows:

For a face-to-face meeting, do you typically try to arrive 15 minutes early? If so, why? Most typically, Workshop participants respond:

- So that we’re not late…!
- So that we can set up and be prepared when the meeting starts [the right answer]…
- So that we can meet and mix with the audience [also a good answer]…
- So that we can meet with the principal(s) to make capture any changes in the plan, objectives, or participants [another good answer]…

For Remote Demos, why should this be any different?

In other words, treat your Remote Demo session (when possible) the same way you would a face-to-face demo and “arrive” at the meeting 15 minutes ahead of the formal starting time.

“Arriving” means coordinating with a customer Champion, Sponsor, or other key player – or a colleague at your organization who will be at the customer’s site – ahead of time, and setting the collaboration tool meeting (e.g., WebEx, Live Meeting, etc.) for 15 minutes ahead of the formal start.

That will give you time to ensure that the collaboration tool is working properly, that the audio is OK, and then to still have time to run through the other reasons listed above.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Auto-Demo Hell

[This article was contributed by Doug Nugent, writing on behalf of The Second Derivative]

We’ve all experienced some sort of software demo hell, either as a member of the audience, or, more painfully, as the presenter. But the days of live demo hell are slowly beginning to disappear. Presenters are more savvy and strategic in how and what they present, and as a result audiences are being spared the torture. But unfortunately, we are now entering the era of auto-demo hell.

With the advent of Software-as-a-Service –designed for easier access (no installation), a lower price-point (single users), and a global reach (multiple languages), the opportunity, or more importantly the business case, cannot justify the personnel needed to perform live demos –either in person, or over the web. Hence the rise of the automated demo.

Online automated demos have traditionally fallen into the marketing strategy, but they’re quickly becoming a significant, if not the primary component of the sales strategy. Like it or not, automated online demos are making or breaking the sale, and unless companies trying to sell their software services can justify a highly skilled sales force (or the ever-popular, but risky sales channel), sales are destined to mediocrity.

“Our demos are excellent, we only get positive feedback” you say? Of course, because you’re only hearing from people who’ve purchased –the lowest possible hanging fruit. How many people drop-off before the end of the demo? One of the beauties of automated demos is the ability to track their success , especially when they incorporate a “Buy Now” button. But the objective of course is to maximize the crop. Consider these current challenges:

  • Online automated demos are often produced by the marketing department, and are designed to present the entire product in one fell swoop. Not to ‘dis the marketing team, but in the live demo world this would be considered the “shotgun” approach (aka “harbor tour” or “show-up and throw-up”), and is likely to result in a significant and rapid viewer drop-off rate.

  • Again, as one of marketing’s key objectives, automated demos are often a presentation of features. Sure, features are great, but features don’t sell.

  • Automated demos are usually dry, un-engaging and difficult to relate to. But remember, low-cost SaaS solutions often get purchased by end-users (=emotional).

  • Automated demos cover a plethora of features all at once – the majority of which might not matter to the viewer. And if the most important feature (reason for buying) is buried at the end of the demo…goodbye.

  • When the demo ends, what’s the call-to-action? Most likely it’s “here’s our number/email… pleeeease call us”, and if there hasn’t been a required preregistration process (burdensome to most viewers), how can you possibly followup?

So, we can now agree –automated demos are critical for sales, and without a more strategic approach, online demos are only cherry-picking. Here are a few best practices you may want to consider when preparing the online automated demo.

  • Gear the demo to the benefits, not the features – it’s the benefits that sell.

  • Know your audience, and customize individual demos or content that can be easily navigated to for the majority of decision-makers. Pin-pointing specific benefits to the appropriate viewers will keep them engaged.

  • Know the business issues you’re addressing, and let ‘em know you know –right at the beginning. “Hey, they’re sharing my pain!”

  • Tell a story – specifically a story each viewer role can relate to. Again, it will keep them engaged, and will help them visualize using, and benefiting from the product themselves.

  • Make sure the story presents compelling reasons for them to change from what they’re doing now…“Wow, how have I lived without this!”

  • Show the conclusion at the beginning. Sure, the conclusion is usually the payoff at the end of the story, but the worst case will be that someone discovers they’re looking at the wrong demo, and can re-direct themselves. The best, and most common result will be a hooked viewer. They’ll see the final result and will want to know how the heck they can get there. As Michael Bosworth (sales methodology expert) describes it, it will fill them with hope and curiosity - Hope that it will work for them, and curiosity about how.

  • Close, and close early - make sure there’s a “Buy Now”button on every page. Give every customer the ability to close the sale when they’re ready –not when the demo ends.

These are but a few, albeit critical components to making the most out of automated demos. And keep in mind, they only become increasingly important as the entry cost lowers, and the audience widens (other languages, industries, business processes…). The one key fundamental rule to remember –demo to your audience and their specific needs – and let the demo do some selling.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Seven Thoughts or Processes

Cognitive neurologists (and psychologists) have empirically determined that typical humans can work with up to seven ideas or processes at one time. This appears to be a natural limitation of our short-term memory mechanics.

It is important to consider this when preparing demos – any demo that asks the audience to track more than seven ideas at once is (generally speaking) doomed to fail. Or, at least, it should be expected that the audience will lose track of any material that goes beyond the seven ideas limit.

In addition, bear in mind that your audience may not grant access to all seven “registers” – after all, there are other things going on in their day that they are most likely tracking as well. With this in mind, it (once again!) suggests that one should organize demos to be presented in consumable components that can be presented and easily assimilated with the remaining registers that are available.

An illustrative exercise is to contemplate you own workday – right now. How many ideas are you juggling or working on concurrently? Write them down. Now, how many “registers” are left for new information coming from someone else’s demo?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The B Key

When someone is presenting using PowerPoint, where is your eye typically forced to go? Most likely, you will find yourself staring at the screen (no matter what is on it!). This is one of the aspects of the "tyranny of PowerPoint".

If you are presenting, however, and you want to make an important point - or add drama to your presentation - try using the "B" key.

In Slideshow mode the “B” key toggles between the presentation and a blank (black) screen (it doesn’t matter if you use upper or lower case – simply pressing the key executes the toggle).

Using the "B" key provides you with the opportunity to direct attention to yourself (and away from the PowerPoint slides). This can help you to make critical points, move to a whiteboard for an ad hoc drawing or to develop a concept, or otherwise break up the standard PowerPoint slide-after-slide-after-slide presentation!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Dreaded “If”

There are a handful of phrases that put fear and loathing into my heart when I’m on the receiving end of a demo – here are a few:

“…Let me start by orienting you to our navigation and layout…”

Oh my god. I don’t what to learn how to use your software yet; I don’t even know if it does anything that will help my business. The last thing I want at this point is product training!

“…Now I’ll show you our context-relevant help system…”

Double oh my god. This suggests that I’ll need the help system, because your software is complex, complicated, and downright user-hostile.

“…and another really cool thing about our software is…”

This phrase is used, often frequently, in what are known as “run-on demos”. These are demos without a break, without a pause, and typically no introduction or summary for any particular segment. These demos are one-way, painful tirades from presenter to audience.

The phrase above strikes terror into the heart of typical audience members because it really means, “now I’m going to show you something else that you likely don’t need and aren’t interested in, but you can’t escape while I’m still talking…!”

“…and the next thing I want to show you is…”



The dreaded “if”. It starts innocuously enough, with a single “if”, such as, “Now, if you want to submit it then you choose ‘OK’…” But “if” appears to need company, and will clone itself…repeatedly! Here’s an example:

“Now, if you want to submit it then you choose ‘OK’… But if you want to change the color, then you go to our color palette which I’ll show you now…, or if you need different sizes, then you click here where we have our sizing wizard which operates like this…, and if you want to share it with other colleagues then let me show you our collaboration tool…”

It may never stop!

The dreaded “if” generally precedes an exhausting, interminable review of all possible options and choices, shown to the audience in excruciating detail.

When you find you are about to say “if” in a demo, consider asking the audience if they are interested in seeing the capabilities you have in mind before proceeding!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Semi-Shameless Self-Promotion

Here's a semi-shameless self-promotional announcement:

I'll be delivering a Great Demo! Workshop on Saturday March 8 in San Jose, California.

This is a "public" Workshop, open to any and all interested parties. The Workshop is organized in two parts:

So how is this "semi-shameless"? I'm doing the Workshop in conjunction with and on behalf of SKMurphy, Inc. - and the Workshop is designed for small start-up organizations (e.g., a few people) as opposed to larger businesses (e.g., Microsoft).

My typical target audience are B-to-B software companies with a substantial field organization and the Workshops are nearly always non-public, specifically oriented to each customers' situation. This Workshop, on the other hand, focuses on helping start-ups create demos that will help them get their first few customers (in many cases), and/or re-tune their "pitch" from investors to customers, and/or similarly re-tune their pitch from early adopters to majority customers.

While start-ups are the target audience for this Workshop, individuals from larger organizations are welcome and will find the material extraordinarily useful...! In any case, this is a terrific opportunity to learn some new ideas and put them into practice.