Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buyer’s Perspective – “That was very helpful…”

A colleague who often assists customers in selecting software relates a true-life story regarding the impact of poorly-constructed and poorly-delivered demos:

At the close of a demo from one of several candidate vendors, the key player at the prospect said, “That was very helpful….” The vendor went away happy.

However, after the vendor had left the room, the key player turned to the other meeting participants and elaborated. He said, “That was very helpful – they just helped us eliminate a candidate – them!”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Tool to Capture Discovery Information

A very nice tool is now available to capture and communicate prospect discovery/qualification information, internally within your organization.

At a high level, the tool from pebble Discovery ( helps to avoid your prospect asking,

“Didn’t I just answer all of these questions from your sales person last week?” – told to the presales person…

“Didn’t I just answer all of these questions from your presales person, before we signed the contact?” – told to the implementation team…

Here’s more from pebble Discovery’s 1-pager overview:

We provide a software system to support presales discovery efforts for software vendors and VARs.
· Get more done in less time.
o Leverage resources.
o Produce the one document prospects say will speed up the buying process.
· Optimize the investment for your prospect and you.
o Provide continuity between presales and implementation.

This system helps you establish:
· Why do they need a new system now
· Who’s involved in the buying process
· What are their hot buttons
· What are the functional requirements
· Limitations of the current system
· How your system can help the prospect
· What’s needed for a winning demo.

How It Works

Pebble Discovery is a client-server system. Discovery templates are maintained, by industry, on the server. Your presales people can enter information into their laptops offline and then sync with the server database. If you have multiple people working on a prospect, everyone can sync with the database to keep up-to-date. The information is then available to the implementation team who can also work offline on their laptops reviewing and analyzing the information they need.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

20,000 Words Per Day…

The author, Joseph Sommerville, notes:

"Effective communication skills are essential to successful business development. Yet they're often under-emphasized and sometimes completely ignored. Why? Because we communicate so much and so often (approximately 20,000 words per day) we often take it for granted. But regardless of how good your product or service is and how much expertise you have in your area, it all goes to waste unless you can communicate it to others."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remote Demos – and Screen Savers

I’ve now seen this happen several times…

You are watching a vendor present a demo remotely and, after about 10 minutes, the “audience” computer switches to its screen-saver. There are a few moments of thrashing as someone leaps to move the mouse – and anything that was said or presented by the vendor during that time was lost.

This repeats, of course, every 10 minutes for the balance of the session…!

Instruct your key audience member(s) to turn off their screen-saver(s) or change the setting to longer than the expected event!

(Interestingly, the presenter will most likely be unaware that the screen-saver is kicking-in on the remote computer(s)…)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"SE Whisperer"

Here is a great article/blog entry from a sales person’s perspective about interactions with their presales counterparts:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Buyer’s Perspective: “Questioning Software’s Usability”

An article by Harold Hambrose in Baseline Magazine entitled “Questioning Software’s Usability” raises a number of buyer-perspective issues well worth noting:

· “How do they know the tool will be effective in the hands of your employees?” – this is, in essence, a direct recommendation for a POC or Evaluation. They author notes,

“Ask if the software vendor will allow your users to sit with the application and perform a familiar task… A vendor demo isn’t good enough, because these demos are basically infomercials.”

I often recommend “letting your customer drive” in demos – to prove ease-of-use for themselves and to help avoid the need for a POC or Evaluation. This is another strong reason to do so!

· “Show me the metrics!” – the author continues,

“Ask for performance numbers. Find out how many minutes, hours, days or weeks it will take for your employees to become comfortable with the system, and how long it will take for them to really get rolling.”

This is where the concept of building a Transition Vision with the customer is so important. The customer may like the ultimate vision, but is concerned about how they will get there from where they are today. A Transition Vision is a solution to this challenge (see my article here for more on how to accomplish this).

· “Does the application make sense to you?” – a long, complex, multiple-personality demo is a certain way to fail this criteria!

Performing your demo in small, consumable components – with a summary at the end of each section – will help address the question the author poses. Presenting each key segment via a “Do It” pathway, with no extraneous steps, helps even more!

The complete article is from the November 2008 issue of Baseline Magazine, page 14 (; the author is Harold Hambrose of Electronic Ink (

Monday, March 9, 2009

“All Truth Pass Through Three Stages…”

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

- Arthur Schopenhauer

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What Makes a Demo Truly Remarkable?

What makes customers say, “Remember the time that vendor did that really amazing demo?” What is the difference between a good demo and a Truly Great Demo!?

They’re remarkable. They’re memorable. They stand out from all of the other demos and presentations – because they were really different...

“…Remember the time that the SC brought in that huge stack of papers and books to search through one-by-one – it reached from his chin all the way down to his knees!”

“…It was so great when they had our VP of sales drive a portion of the demo – our VP could barely type. He used to do everything in all CAPS because he didn’t want to have to shift...!”

“… Remember when that salesperson showed receiving an article via the web – on a ship at sea on his Blackberry – that was truly amazing!”

“…I loved it when they let me search their database – I found answers that I didn’t know were possible, emailed them to myself and had my project done on-time and much better than I’d expected!”

These demos were so remarkable that they got the business and stayed in customers’ minds long afterward. Let’s explore what makes certain demos truly great – and how to increase the proportion in your own organization.

Good vs. Better

Presentation skills classes help presenters improve their level of practice. Sales methodology courses provide processes to help sales people progress and secure business faster. Demonstration skills training enable sales teams to achieve improved demos.

All of these help people get better at what they do. For some of us, the starting point is low (e.g., “Our demos suck…”) – for others, they want to go from good to better (“Our team of seasoned veterans is good, but we can all improve…”).

Most training enables a step-change – a new way of doing things that goes beyond the status-quo. In the world of software demos, helping people to eliminate unneeded features and functions from their demos is good – but it is not going to result is a demo that is perceived as particularly remarkable.

[Warning – shameless self-promotion paragraph alert!] Great Demo! methodology, on the other hand, is an example of doing things really differently – a major change. The “Do the Last Thing First” concepts help sales, presales and marketing people change from good to great; from linear, boring, traditional demos to crisp, compelling and effective deliveries.

Stand-up Comedy – and Demos?

Stand-up comedians constantly test their material. They introduce new ideas, explore audience reaction, and add or delete accordingly. Their expectation is that each subsequent performance will be better than the previous – evolution at its best: survival of the fittest jokes…!

Comedians need to have material that is consistently remarkable. Should demos be any different?

- When you use a prop in a demo that really engages the audience and makes them light up, repeat it for the next group (that has the same or similar Situation).

- When you present a terrific pay-off screen or key report (an Illustration) that really resonates with the key player, do it again the next time you demo to someone with the same job title.

- When you tell a story that has the audience on the edge of their seats, keep it in the act.

- When you see the key member of your audience making notes about the Informal Success Story you just related, plan to do it again.

Demo elements that were memorable – that were particularly remarkable – are the elements to harvest, refine, and reuse. Demos should evolve to incorporate the best material for each customer’s Situation.

Share, Plagiarize, Leverage…

You have your personal stock of remarkable demo ideas; consider tapping into ideas from your colleagues, competitors and third parties as well.

- In your own team, organize a “Demo Day” where team members present demo components and ideas that worked extraordinarily well.

- Watch demos from other companies – on the web, at conferences, or as a customer when vendors present at your company – and collect ideas to incorporate into your own demos.

- Watch presentations (, for example) to harvest novel and remarkable ideas for your own use.

Quid Pro Quo

Here’s an offer: send me a remarkable demo story (sanitized, as necessary); I’ll collect them and send back the aggregated set to everyone that contributes, so that you can take “pre-competitive” advantage of the ideas. The remarkable demo stories you share don’t necessarily have to come from your own organization…

To sweeten the deal, I’ll ship a highly coveted Great Demo! Telescoping-Laser-Pen Pointer (the ultimate demo presentation tool…) to those who provide the best, most remarkable ideas.

Good to Great to Truly Remarkable

A good demo is typically what you were taught when you first came aboard – “Here’s the demo for product X…”

A Great Demo! results from aligning to customer needs and turning a traditional demo upside down – “Do the Last Thing First”.

Truly Remarkable Demos harvest the best, most memorable elements of a Great Demo! – and replay them on a consistently-improving, ongoing basis.

Truly Remarkable Demos have the highest success rates of all in securing the business!

Copyright © 2009 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Recent CSO Insights Report Is … Insightful

The authors report that those organizations that train their sales teams in presentation and demonstration skills enjoy marked increases in close rates. Here’s more detail…

The CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization 2009 Survey Results and Analysis notes that:

· Selling is getting harder. (1)

· The top objective for Sales Management in 2009 is to “Increase Revenues”. (2)

· The second highest objective for Sales Management in 2009 is to “Increase Sales Effectiveness”. (3)

Happily, the authors do offer a solution: they suggest that “2009 needs to be about investing your way to sales effectiveness.” Here are a few pearls extracted from their report for your consideration…

1. Organizations are finding that they can deliver presentations and demos via web-based meetings.

The report specifically recommends exploring training for sales teams to operate effectively in web-based demos and presentations – this may have a large pay-off in reduced cost-of-sales.

2. Fewer leads are converting to first conversations, and fewer of these initial conversations are leading to demos.

This suggests that demo success is more important than ever. The demos delivered to those prospects that do mature to the “see a demo” stage need to have the highest probability of success. Demos cannot be left to chance – there need to be clear processes for executing pre-demo discovery, demo preparation and delivery.

It is becoming unacceptable to lose a sale because “the demo didn’t go well…”

3. [OK, you gotta love this…]

“One trend that is worth exploring is: What exactly are we trying to accomplish during a presentation or demonstration? In the 90‘s we saw a lot of emphasis on making sure salespeople clearly articulated the capabilities/features of their offerings and also the benefits the prospect could expect to achieve.

Today however, with the vast amount of product information already in the hands of potential clients via the Internet, the focus of the presentation/demonstration needs to go beyond features and benefits. We are seeing more demand from clients for a clear understanding of their problems and potential solutions. And when a sales team is able to effectively present how their solution matches a prospect‘s need, the rewards are significant…”

What a wonderful argument for a Great Demo! Workshop…!

There’s more: according to the report, the ability to align a solution to customer needs impacts

a. the subsequent conversion rates for sales opportunities (pipeline progress)
b. forecast accuracy

The authors note:

“This insight may make it worth the time and effort to review exactly what your sales teams are trying to accomplish... Is the sales messaging they are using product-centric or customer/solution-centric? At the end of a meeting, can your prospects repeat back how they could work with you to achieve gain or remove pain? Are your reps not only helping prospects see what can be accomplished, but also providing a clear path as to how this improvement can be achieved?”

4. Strangely enough, (he offered with gentle cynicism…), the authors report that those organizations that trained their sales teams in presentation and demonstration skills enjoyed marked increases in close rates.

The moral? Many organizations today are saying that they can’t afford the budget to train their sales and presales teams; successful organizations are saying they can’t afford not to train their teams!

CSO Insights’ full report is available for purchase can be found here.

(1) It was pointed out this was rather obvious…
(2) Ditto.
(3) Ditto ditto.