Friday, December 24, 2010

Speaking Clearly

It is hard to speak clearly and without ambiguity;

It is harder to decipher unclear and ambiguous speech.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

‘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 SC 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,
Present as a team, so if things get hairy,
Sales folks aren’t lost in the back with Blackberry.

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 Reasons and needs, 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, nasty folks can’t damage your flow,

Peel back the layers, Do It Again,
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 SC,
“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 a blink 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 © 2005-2010 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Do Customers “Score” Scripted Demos?

It can be very interesting to compare how different customers score scripted demos in general – and it is important to understand how your customers are planning to score your upcoming scripted demos…

There are at least three scoring methods that are typically used:

1. Efficacy: How well does the vendor’s offering match the requirements – often done on a 5-point or 10-point scale.
2. Ease-of-use: How easy does it appear to use to accomplish each task – again often done a 5-point or 10-point scale.
3. Counting Clicks: customers often count the number of clicks or steps required to complete particular tasks – often as a way of normalizing and removing some level of subjectivity.

Some customers will subtract “points” for not following the proscribed script or other perceived deviations from their process.

Any other scoring methods you’ve come across?

Monday, December 6, 2010

What’s the Difference Between a Business Issue and a Critical Business Issue?

If you have ever “lost” business to “No Decision”, the following may be one reason:

All of us have “Business Issues” that we face every day – and that we do nothing about. “My laptop is slow, my cube is small, the commute traffic is terrible…” and so forth. We just live with these Business Issues. We may not like the status quo, but we don’t take action. A Critical Business issue is one that we are willing to address through the application of tangible resource – time, people, or money – to get it fixed or solved.

Here’s a wonderful example of the difference:

How long would you continue to drive your car with a slightly annoying squeak coming from the front wheels? A few days? A week? Month? Longer? Very few people will take their car to have the squeak diagnosed right away. Many more will do nothing, unless the squeak gets (markedly) worse. Others won’t do anything until something overt (and most likely bad!) happens… It is simply another “Business Issue” as long as the situation doesn’t change.

On the other hand, what if the brake warning light came on or the squeak changed to a horrible howl? Most people would get their car looked at right away, even if it meant taking time from work or home life, and spending a few hundred dollars for the repair. That’s because the issue is now critical – a Critical Business Issue!

Many sales opportunities go to “No Decision” because the customer didn’t consider the problem to be sufficiently important to address – it wasn’t perceived as a Critical Business Issue.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I’d like to propose a new word: “Encrispen” and suggest defining it as “the process and action of making something crisp, clear and focused”. It is the essence of a Great Demo!

If you were trying to communicate this idea to others, what words or images might you use? Here are a few starters:

- Crisp
- Concise
- Pointed
- Quick
- Focused
- Clean
- Swift
- Short
- Get-to-the-Point
- Brief
- Succinct
- Terse

- A camera lens (expressing focus)
- A crisp handful of paper money folded in half
- Origami items, similarly crisply folded
- A raft of razor-sharp pencils
- Potato chips (“crisps”, in the UK)
- A raptor focused on its target
- A vanishing point (an empty subway tunnel that vanishes to a point…)
- The business end of an X-acto knife
- A dart about to strike a dart-board dead-center

What other words, images or ideas might you suggest?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Buying an ERP System – Recommendations for Customers

A recent checklist from Inside-ERP (“ERP To-Do Checklist: Things to Ask Before You Write That BIG Check To A Vendor”) included four items that really resonated with me:

“What are the specific business problems you need to solve with ERP? For instance, do you need to shorten product lead times or improve communications with your suppliers? Are there industry regulations to which your company must adhere?”

Sounds very much like statements of CBI’s (Critical Business Issues) or underlying Problems/Reasons, used in creating Situation Slides for demos.

“What are the goals and metrics that you will use to measure the business benefits of your organization’s new ERP solution? A good starting point for these metrics are the KPIs — such as inventory accuracy, cost reductions and month-end closing processes — that your company is already tracking.”

Wonderful examples of possible measurements of the Delta – the value of making the change.

“What features and functions do you need from a new ERP solution that will help increase users’ productivity and provide access to the business data users most need?”

Simple statement of the Specific Capabilities needed.

The fourth recommendation promoted the idea of an implementation timeline – Transition Vision – and the concept of Early Wins “to allow you to implement them in phases... Taking the implementation in prioritized steps gives IT managers and ERP users a chance to learn new processes.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

“That’s Too Bad…”

A number of years ago I was part of a sales team presenting a demo to a large prospect in Houston (no names…). Things were going great – the end-users were loving the software and management heads were nodding in agreement.

The prospect’s IT manager asked, “Can our users store their data locally, in addition to on corporate server?”

Our presales guy, who was presenting the demo, quickly responded, “Yes, absolutely. Users can download and save datasets locally on their laptops in a few simple steps. Here – let me show you…” And he did.

The IT manager then said, “That’s too bad… We have a strict policy of no corporate data on local machines. We won’t be able to use your software…!” [Ouch!] A sad example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory… What should the presales person have done?

Before jumping to answer “Yes!” (and rushing to demo the feature), he should have asked, “Why do you ask – what are you looking to accomplish?”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Making the Complex Seem Simple

In many demos, vendor software offerings are perceived by prospects as being “too complex; too complicated”. One of our objectives is to avoid this perception: Instead of making the simple look dangerously complex, we want to make the complex look wonderfully simple (while having great potential depth).

This is a key idea in Great Demo! methodology – and the “Do It” pathway is one example of how to achieve this. Another is to avoid words like “if” and “or” when presenting demos. What else can be done to help improve the perception of being wonderfully simple, yet with depth when needed?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New YouTube Great Demo! Videos

We’ve posted 4 new videos on YouTube at  The first three are testimonials from our recent Great Demo! Public Workshop (September 2010) and the fourth is an interview done by DreamSimplicity ( at the same event.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Remote Demos – What If the Host Isn’t There?

What if you have been scheduled to join or present in a Remote Demo, but find that the host is late and has not started the online meeting on time? (Has this ever happened to you?)

One simple solution is to ensure that the host grants alternative host rights to a second person (e.g., you) so that you can start the meeting even if the host is late. This is a current capability in many of the online collaboration tools (e.g., WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Happens If You Peel Back the Layers Too Far?

A colleague once noted that Peeling Back the Layers is like peeling the layers of an onion – if you peel it back too far, you cry.  At a recent Great Demo! Workshop, a participant added that if you continue to peel, you not only cry but you’ll find you have nothing left!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Great Demo! Example of Using Prop/Technology

A recent Great Demo! Workshop participant presented a demo to a large audience using a wonderful prop/technology combination – she used a webcam to show the live use of an iPhone application.  While there are very nice emulators that could have presented the app, using a webcam from her laptop to show the live video of her hands and fingers running the iPhone was very compelling.  It had everybody’s attention riveted!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What’s the Opposite of “Dumb-it-Down”?

Frequently, I hear Great Demo! Workshop participants comment that their software is often perceived as too complex, as overkill for many prospects – and that they need to “dumb-it-down” in their demos.  I’d like to suggest that an alternative, potentially more apt phrasing could be to “Smarten-it-down”…! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

“How Many Sales People Work for You?”

When asked, “How many sales people work for you?”, a VP of Sales replied, “About half of them…”!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

“What would happen if you do nothing?”

Far too often, sales opportunities result in losing to that most common of all competitors: “No decision”. During a discovery or qualification discussion, the question “What would happen if you do nothing?” is an excellent way to test the importance and impact of a situation – and to determine whether the business issue is sufficiently important to the prospect to pursue.

A follow-on question could be, “Would that be acceptable to you?” if the answer is “Yes”, then the business issue is likely not a Critical Business Issue – and would have a strong probability of resulting in “No decision”.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Remote Demos Team Practice

Here’s a simple, pragmatic tip: I have seen geographically distributed sales, presales and marketing teams use WebEx/GoToMeeting/Live Meeting (etc.) to conduct their weekly status/progress meetings on-line. This is a great way to build skills with the tools, with passing control among meeting attendees and practicing the use of the various annotation, white-boarding and other capabilities.

There is often a great deal of cross-learning that takes place – “Wow, I didn’t know WebEx/GoToMeeting/Live Meeting (etc.) could do that… Please show us how you do that!”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Remote Demos – the Role of the “Active Conduit”

[I'd promised to publish a more complete version of this some time after my initial post - here it is.  It is also available in article format as a PDF - send me an email at and I'll send it to you.]

The (very) best practice for Remote Demos is to split your forces – to have a representative from your organization at the customer site to serve as the eyes for the person presenting the demo remotely. The person at the customer site needs to be an Active Conduit of information to the demonstrator – he/she needs to be the demonstrator’s “eyes” on-site.

The lack of this Active Conduit feedback results in poor communication, confused presenters and audiences, and inconclusive results. Executing the role of the Active Conduit is critical to the success of Remote Demos – a passive representative from your company at the customer site is insufficient and a waste of resource!

For many vendors it is the sales person who typically sits with the customer at the customer site. Next best, if you cannot have one of your representatives present, is to ask your champion or coach to be your “eyes” for the meeting.

Here’s a brief list of the items that need to be communicated by the person at the customer site to the remote individual:

Before the demo:

1. Arrive at the customer’s conference room 15 minutes before the formal meeting is scheduled to begin to get things set up and operating correctly:

a) Start the collaboration tool (e.g., GoToMeeting, WebEx, Live Meeting, etc.) session on the customer side.

b) Help test and confirm screen resolution issues – “Yes, I can see your mouse across the full diagonal and we’ve maximized the screen here on the receiving end”.

c) Help test and confirm audio – “Yes, I can hear you fine… Here, let me move the conference phone microphones to better positions so that you can hear us better.”

d) Help test “latency” – “Looks like we have about a 2 second delay right now…”

2. Plan for managing questions – “Can you please plan to capture questions in a Word document from your laptop during the session?”

3. Review any other pre-meeting plans or issues.

During the demo:

1. Alert regarding “latency” – “Looks like you are about 3 seconds ahead of what we are seeing here… You may need to slow down.”

2. Somebody new arrives at the meeting – “Before you go on, we have a new participant in the room…” [And to ask the three questions:

a) What is your name?

b) What is your job title?

c) What would you like to accomplish during our session today?]

3. Somebody leaves – “Just to let you know, Bob had to leave the meeting….”

4. Unspoken questions – “Hang on, it looks like Jennifer has a question [furrowed brow, raised hand, look of confusion, etc.].”

5. Inability to hear – “John, let me repeat that question for you…”

6. Manage and alert during side conversations – “Hold on, we have a side conversation going on about the capability you just presented…”

7. Provide “color” commentary, as appropriate, e.g., “I want to let you know that they are all smiling and nodding their heads…!”

After the demo:

1. Debrief with the customer – face-to-face feedback provides nuances often missed via the phone.

2. Listen for “casual” conversations – what else are the audience members saying about the demo, the product, the company…

3. Afterwards, communicate this information back to the balance of the selling team.

You can train your own representatives to execute these items – or your champion/coach – by reviewing this list with them ahead of your demos. Following these practices will improve the outcome of your Remote Demos markedly!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Demo Self and Team Improvement Suggestion

Participants at Great Demo! Workshops often note that they rarely have a chance to see one another deliver demos to customers – to see and hear how colleagues present, and manage questions and situational challenges – and that this cross-exposure is often one of the most interesting outputs from Workshops.

Here’s a simple (but surprisingly effective) recommendation: schedule to do at least one “ride-along” on another team member’s demo each quarter. Ride-alongs can be done face-to-face or, much less expensively, via a remote demo using WebEx, GoToMeeting, or similar tool. The folks who participate in these sessions should also schedule time for a mutual debrief discussion: “What do we do well; what could we have done better?”

Some presales managers also include this idea as a quarterly

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pre-Filled Login Dialog – Fewer “Clicks” and No Errors

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a demo begin with, “Now I’ll log into the application…” – followed by one or more rounds of typing, correcting, being rejected (miss-entered login or password), followed by more typing (much more carefully the second – or third – time around)! I often suggest to start your demo already logged in, as a result.

However, many applications will time-out and require you to log in again if you don’t start your demo rapidly enough after introductions, etc. Here’s a simple solution to minimize the typing seen by the customer and to reduce the risk of login errors: enter your login and password – but don’t click on “login”. Simply leave it so that you have only a single click to login once the demo “proper” begins. Nice!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RFP – Acronym Alternative

Just heard at a recent Great Demo! Workshop:  RFP = “Request For Pain”.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Cure for Zippy Mouse Syndrome

Record a few of your demos using Camtasia (or similar tool) to track your mouse movements – play them back and be prepared to be shocked...! Use what you learn to adjust and to slow your mouse movements down to make them smooth and d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remote Demos – the role of the “Active Conduit”

I note that the (very) best practice for Remote Demos is to split your forces – to have a representative from your organization at the customer site to serve as the eyes for the person presenting the demo remotely. The person at the customer site needs to be an active conduit of information to the demonstrator – he/she needs to be the demonstrator’s “eyes” on-site. Here’s a brief list of the items that need to be communicated by the person at the customer site to the remote individual:

Before the demo:

1. Arrive in the customer conference room 15 minutes before the formal meeting is scheduled to begin…
2. Start the collaboration tool (e.g., GoToMeeting, WebEx, Live Meeting, etc.) session on the customer side.
3. Help test and confirm screen resolution issues – “Yes, I can see your mouse across the full diagonal and we’ve maximized the screen here on the receiving end”.
4. Help test and confirm audio – “Yes, I can hear you fine… Here, let me move the conference phone microphones to better positions so that you can hear us better.”
5. Help test “latency” – “Looks like we have about a 2 second delay right now…”
6. Plan for managing questions – “Can you please plan to capture questions in a Word document from your laptop during the session?”
7. Review any other pre-meeting plans or issues.

During the demo:

1. Alerts regarding “latency” – “Looks like you are about 3 seconds ahead of what we are seeing here…You may need to slow down.”
2. Somebody new – “Before you go on, we have a new participant in the room…”
3. Somebody leaves – “Just to let you know, Bob had to leave the meeting….”
4. Unspoken questions – “Hang on, it looks like Jennifer has a question [furrowed brow, raised hand, look of confusion, etc.].”
5. Inability to hear – “John, let me repeat that question for you…”

Any others?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dessert Tray – Terrific Example of Vision Generation

A waiter in a nice restaurant wants to sell desserts to a dining party at a table. Compare the following approaches:

Option 1: The waiter says, “Are you interested in dessert? We have some really nice ones…”


Option 2: The waiter brings a tray of fabulous-looking desserts to the table, presents them for visual inspection to the dining party and says, “Are you interested in dessert? We have some really nice ones…”

Which approach will generate more sales of desserts? Why? How can we apply this to demos? (Hint: Think Illustrations and the “Menu Approach”)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Demo Calendar Madness

Many presales people find that they are often overscheduled with demos – I’ve heard numerous situations where demos are scheduled back-to-back. This can be particularly challenging for teams with highly transactional sales processes. Here’s some self-defense against Demo Calendar Madness (a horrifying affliction!):

Block your calendar with buffer time both before and after each demo.

[After you’ve said, “Duh…!”, allow me to continue…]

In my experience, sales people will hungrily consume all possible demo time from their presales counterparts. And any unoccupied calendar time is considered fair game. Sales folks often don’t know (or care) that the slot before their desired demo is a really tough two hour demo for one our your roughest prospects. They simply see the open slot – and grab it!

So, consider blocking 15-30 minutes ahead of any upcoming demo as your time to prepare – and another 15-30 minutes after each demo to debrief, decompress and restore your laptop/files/demo image to its normal pristine condition.

Your sanity will thank you for this…

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are You a Demo Expert? – Why Experts Should Feel Uncomfortable

That’s right. If you are a Demo Expert, you should be consciously uncomfortable. You should always be alert to find ways to improve your practice.

Some seasoned veterans – those with 5 or more years of experience – are often the least likely to change their ways. Many perceive themselves at the top of their game; many believe they are experts. They are the skeptics in many training workshops, the ones who arrive thinking, “I’ve been doing this for 10 years – what could they possibly teach me?”

Given the (shockingly) large number of demos that don’t achieve the desired objectives, is it possible that some seasoned veterans – the putative experts – are part of the problem?

[This is the intro to an article I just completed - it is too long to post in a blog - but send me an email and I'll send it to you...]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Public (Open) Great Demo! Workshop

[Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!]

Our next Public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled for September 15, 2010 in San Jose, California, co-sponsored by SKMurphy ( This is a terrific opportunity for individuals or small groups to learn how to put Great Demo! ideas into day-to-day practice. An overview, agenda, location and pricing information is available here:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Post-Demo Email Practices

What should you include in a post-demo email to the customer, beyond “thank you”?

Clearly, it should include any materials or information promised during the demo meeting – or, at minimum, a listing of the items promised. It should also, in my opinion, include any action items promised by the customer, along with the dates agreed upon for completion of both sets of items (vendor and customer).

A more “complete” version of a post-demo email can include a summary of the key capabilities that were demonstrated. This listing helps to reinforce the customer’s memory and can also serve as a vehicle to support vision generation, up-selling/cross-selling and out-flanking competition.

Additionally, I often suggest wording along the lines of “I’m glad we were able to invest the time together yesterday in our demonstration meeting…” as opposed to “Thank you for giving us your time yesterday”.

Any other ideas?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting CBI’s Right

I note that Great Demo! Workshop participants often write Critical Business Issue (CBI) statements for their Situation Slides that are too low level or too detailed – and that we need to remind them to think in terms of a job title’s quarterly, annual or project-based objectives. What is initially written as the CBI turns out to be the Reason/Problem.

A simple solution is to go online to find example job descriptions for target job titles – this is a terrific way to ensure that CBI’s are at the right level.

I just did this earlier this morning, when I felt a bit uncomfortable about the CBI I had written for a Payroll Manager. It only took a few minutes and now I’m confident I have the right verbiage for a good Vision Generation demo Situation Slide.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Very Interesting Demo – What Did You Like; What Could Have Been Done Better?

A colleague forwarded me this link to a recent video-recorded demo – it is about 10 minutes in length – and has some wonderful examples of good practices and classic demo challenges:

[You might watch it first before reading my observations…]

Observations – What I Liked:

- Very engaging style and personable.
- Cool to see him writing code in front of the audience.
- Very cool to engage the audience (on both the “call the number” and “it is calling you…” segments).
- Clever set-up (“Turn your ringers on…”).
- Great interaction with audience.
- He is clearly enthusiastic and in love with his technology.

Observations – What Could Have Been Better:

- VERY interesting to hear audience question, “Why do you need it?”…! This is a fine demo for Early Adopters (most likely much of the audience in the video), but would be a failure for everyone else. In the demo portion, the presenter never explained what applications his app could be used for!
- Should have increased his session time-out time so that he didn’t have to log in again…
- Should have used a 518 number at first (rather than finding that there were no 212 or 646 numbers available…).
- Should have tested his AT&T connection and/or used another phone that did work.
- He noted that a pile of apps are available (~85) but didn’t cite what any of them do…

The moderator, at the end, asked for an example of a use-scenario for the application – and the presenter finally offered one brief example (voting by phone).

In summary, a wonderful demo for technical early adopters but, potentially, a failure for most others. Comments?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Methodology Workshop Trainees’ Three Typical Groups – Coaching Suggestions for Managers

Participants completing training workshops tend to cluster into three rather distinct groups (based on our experiences with Great Demo! Workshop and other workshop trainees):

- Group 1: Those who “get it” and put the ideas into practice right away

- Group 2: Those who understand the concepts and are interested, but need encouragement to try out the new methods

- Group 3: Those who don’t care and aren’t going to change (“no-how, no-way…”)

Group 1:

The first Group generally leave Workshops motivated, willing and able to put the ideas into practice right away – they may even seek opportunities to try out the new methods as soon as possible. They are typically confident enough in their own capabilities to move forward on their own.

Coaching members of this group is easy and a delight: support their efforts, highlight their successes (extremely important), and promptly respond to their questions as they encounter new situations or challenges. Enable this group to lead the way and establish credibility for the new method and ideas. Publishing their successes both within the team and beyond is a key tactic to achieve this. Managers who hold weekly team conference calls will often use these calls as opportunities to poll for success stories and to address questions.

Group 2:

Members of this Group often like the ideas and are interested in trying them out, but may lack sufficient confidence to try them out in front of customers. They need to be gently (but firmly!) pushed, pulled and encouraged. Success stories coming from their peers (initially from Group 1 members) is one of the strongest ways to help Group 2 people move forward. Proactively harvesting and publishing successes (both verbally and in various written formats) from others is a critical step in achieving substantive implementation, particularly for Group 2.

Group 2 people can also be encouraged to “pick one idea and try it” – as opposed to putting an set of methods into practice. Success with one idea often

Managers often also use quarterly or annual objectives to drive Group 2 member behavior. For example, in Great Demo! methodology, many managers establish quarterly objectives for presales team members to harvest one or more Informal Success Stories per quarter, and/or to publish one or more Situation Slides and accompanying Illustrations to their peer group on a quarterly basis. Both of these objectives drive the behaviors needed to achieve methodology implementation.

Group 3:

Sigh. In a typical normal distribution of people there will nearly always be a few percent who simply won’t change, in spite of encouragement – even in the face of specific quarterly objectives. Members of this Group may or may not understand the concepts from the training – they simply don’t/won’t change the way they operate. They will often articulate this as, “I’ve been selling/demoing/marketing for 20 years and nobody can tell me how to do it…!”

Coaches and managers of Group 3 people generally are left with two options… If the employee is consistently achieving the key objectives (e.g., achieving sales quota if he/she is in sales), then the employee may be allowed to simply continue to produce. If the employee is not generating the desired output, it may be time to help them find a new position…!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Phone Numbers and Conference Call Code Numbers – Terrific Examples of Chunking/Consumable Components

Recently, I noticed that I often insert spaces in conference call entry codes – and suddenly realized why I do this..! For example, I received a calendar appointment for a conference call with the following information [numbers are scrambled to protect the innocent]:

Phone Number: 800 692-5505

Meeting ID: 8931271475

Just before calling in to join the session, I quickly edited the Meeting ID number by adding a few spaces:

Meeting ID: 893 127 1475

This edited version is, in my opinion, much easier to read and to enter on my phone. Why? Because the large, unwieldy number has been cut down into small, consumable components. Interestingly, phone companies already know this – and typically present phone numbers pre-formatted into similar small chunks. It’s another terrific example of other industries re-affirming Great Demo! concepts…!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Demo Methodology Implementation Tip

Many teams that have undergone Great Demo! training use their weekly team calls to help drive implementation – and report that this small tactic has yielded rich rewards. They use part of these calls to share success stories, discuss challenges, and review demo methodology components or tips that have worked particularly well.

In the case of Great Demo! Workshop participants, they often discuss Situation Slides that are proving to be reasonably homogeneous, they share Illustrations that have been particularly effective, and outline “Do It” and “Peel Back the Layers” pathways, in addition to discussing other tips and techniques.

From time-to-time, it can also be useful to have the trainer participate in these calls, as well, to help answer questions and address new challenges that team members have encountered (I do this on request, as part of my deliverables).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sales Effectiveness Priorities

The recent CSO Insights report on Sales Management Optimization includes a very interesting finding:

In the section, “Sales Effectiveness Priorities Going Forward”, the results showed that “Improve Ability to Show our Strategic Benefit/Value” was top of the list – 34% of respondents rated this as their number 1 item and 68% included it in their top 3.

I’ll pose a question: How much of achieving this is embodied in presenting demos?

(And I’ll answer it…) In Great Demo! methodology, the value associated with the customer making the change from the current state to the desired future (aka the Delta) is a key component that needs to be uncovered and clearly articulated as part of the demo.

This is an area where many sales, presales and marketing organizations could clearly do better!

In traditional sales presentations and demos, the sales team often verbalizes something like, “…and using our offering will save you time and money…!” Participants of Great Demo! Workshops learn to uncover specific, tangible ways of articulating value, enabling selling teams to present information that is more concrete: “…and using our offering will enable you to redeploy 3.5 FTE and reduce your inventory by $275K on an annual basis.”

Which statement has more impact?

[The full CSO Insights Sales Management Optimization report can be purchased at]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should Presales People Do Detailed Statement-of-Work Documents?


“Our company does something I have never heard of: The SC [“Solution Consultant” – our presales title] does a deep and detailed Statement of Work (SOW) for each serous prospect. The prospect typically never sees anyone from Professional Services until after the sale. Our company likes this approach – SC’s are perceived, by customers, as very detail-oriented and technically strong people, so they are trusted. The downside is that SC’s often spend a full week working on the SOW alone - which is not scalable.

Our company is now working to double in revenue in the near term. I’m concerned that we can't survive like this when the deal flow picks up. Have you ever encountered SC’s doing this level of real SOW’s?”


Yes, I've actually seen a number of companies do extensive SOW (or similar name) work prior to a sale for each customer. The companies that do this work tend to enjoy very high win rates vs. their competition and comparatively high customer satisfaction and retention rates. It is a great approach for dealing with offerings that require a fairly intense implementation process (system set-up, data migration, customization/configuration, etc.).

The downside(s) are exactly what you note: it is very resource intensive AND there is an enormous requirement for excellent documentation and communication of the SOW information within the vendor's team (e.g., presales to professional services and customer service). At one level, this is the essence of good CRM practices (as opposed to simply a sales forecast system).

It this process scalable? Not really - you need to have a sufficient complement of pre- and post-sales people to support the required/desired sales project bandwidth, so "scaling" often means adding people.

What can be done to improve the process? A few things, possibly:

- Some of the information currently collected in the SOW process may not be material - this could be cut out of the process. You may have to look at a broad range of implementations to determine what could be cut out, however.

- Boilerplate: Good boilerplate text and structure for SOW's can save a great deal of time and effort in documenting the information. It might even get to the level of pre-defined items with check-boxes or similar to help speed the process. Take a look at how doctors document their diagnosis information as an example...

Any other recommendations or suggestions?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Real-Time vs. Time-Slice

Nice positioning/distinction I heard recently: What’s the difference between a dashboard and a report? Dashboards offer “real-time” views; Reports offer a “time slice”.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Great Quote

“It is easier to extract your own molars than to extract information from this system!”

(And imagine the visual image this suggests…!) A colleague offered this comment when talking about trying to find specific patents in the US PTO database – but you can simply fill in the blank with your product/system of choice…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Do We Write vs. Read Journal Papers? And What Does This Have To Do With Demos?

[Note: Skip this post if you have never read a scientific, engineering, or other “refereed” journal article…)]

Consider: How do we write journal papers in comparison with how we consume what others write?

Scientists are typically taught a process to draft papers for scientific and other refereed journals. We review the existing research in an arena, focus on a specific problem area and explore the relevant history. After careful thought (hopefully!), we form a hypothesis. We then define an experiment to test our hypothesis, execute the experiment and, if the results are interesting, draft a paper to publish what we’ve learned.

We generally draft the paper following a step-by-step process:

1. Discuss the general problem, the previous work and existing thought.
2. Offer our hypothesis, with some level of support, and introduce our general plan to test our thinking.
3. We outline the experimental plan…
4. We discuss the specifics of the procedure, materials, and conditions.
5. We present the results, often in an initial “rough” set of data followed by “refined” results.
6. We offer a discussion of what we believe we are seeing in the results and…
7. Finally, we offer a conclusion – often followed by recommendations for follow-on experimentation.

Interestingly, the last thing we often draft, forced on us by the journal publishers, is the Abstract.

Now, consider how we read journal papers:

What do we do first? We read the Abstract! Why? To see if the paper is interesting to us. If it is, we often jump directly to the Conclusion section – to find out what was learned. If we are very interested, we then go back and read other parts of the paper…

Sadly, many of us with science or related backgrounds prepare and deliver technical, marketing and sales presentations following the same strategy that we follow to write papers: we develop a long, detailed story that puts the pay-off at the end – forcing the audience to wait 20 minutes, 40 minutes (or longer!) to find out if they are interested.

The key concept of Great Demo! methodology is to “Do the Last Thing First” – and, if the audience is interested, then peel back the layers in accord with the audience’s depth and level of interest. This maps very closely to the way we read (but not write) journal papers!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Demo Skills Assessment - Do It Now

Some people suggest that delivering a terrific demo is an art. While there may be components of creating and presenting demonstrations that are intangible, many other demo skills can be measured. Multiple measurements done over time provide an understanding of strengths and growth opportunities; and, of course, measurements done by yourself may offer differ from those done by others!
[If you already agree that demo skills assessment is a good thing, you might cast your eyes to the bottom of this post where I offer an assessment tool in Excel format for your use.]

I recommend performing an assessment of your current state of practice on a regular basis. A first assessment provides a baseline; subsequent reviews can offer insight into areas of strength or opportunities for improvement:

If you are an Individual Contributor:
  • To provide a qualitative/quantitative set of measurements of your own performance for goal-setting, personal growth and to seek coaching in areas where you can improve
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-Workshop results, if you plan attend a Great Demo! Workshop
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-event results, if you plan to attend other related skills training (presentation skills, sales skills, etc.)

 If you are a Team Leader:  
  • To provide a qualitative/quantitative set of measurements for managing performance, goal-setting and coaching of your team
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-Workshop results, if you plan to provide your team with a Great Demo! Workshop
  • In order to compare pre- vs. post-event results, if you plan to provide your team with other related skills training (presentation skills, sales skills, etc.)
In some organizations, assessments are done on a regular basis (quarterly, for example) and are often tied to quarterly or annual goals and objectives. There are (at least) 5 assessment perspectives worth considering:
  • The individual’s view of his/her own performance
  • His/her manager’s perspective
  • Another member of the selling team’s viewpoint
  • A customer’s assessment (it is tough to get unvarnished opinions from customers, but terrific when you can!)
  • A relatively disinterested 3rd party deeply skilled in assessing demo skills performance across a broad range of demos types, sales situations, and delivery mechanisms (e.g., me).
You are welcome use my existing Demo Skills Assessment to help “kick-start” your own assessment process. It provides a range of skills and topics rated on a 10 point scale, on either an individual or team basis, in Excel format. Contact me at if you’d like to receive a copy. You are also welcome to edit the Assessment as desired for your own specific situation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Memory Embedding – And Its Impact on Demos

What are a few of your oldest memories? Interestingly, many people describe swimming at the beach or swimming lessons when they were very young children as some of their oldest and yet most strongly retained memories. Why is this?

It has been suggested that the strength of long-term memory is at least partly due to the degree of “embedding” that is done by our brains. Embedding includes repetition of the memory and the number of senses that were involved in the original event, plus the emotional impact of the event. For a swimming experience as a young child, then, it isn’t surprising that the memory can be strong. Consider the senses involved for child at a swimming class in a pool:

  • Sound: The sounds of splashing water, other kids yelling, the instructor’s directions…
  • Sight: The vision of the pool and water, especially the distorted effect of what is seen under water…
  • Touch: The feel of the pool water, churning, bubbles…
  • Taste: The taste and texture of the pool water…
  • Smell: The smell of chlorine and sun-block lotion….
Add to that other emotional components that might also be in play: the sense of accomplishment of your first lap across the pool; the desire to show your mother/father how well you can do; the fear of sinking… The sum is quite a compelling range of input which may all serve to embed that memory strongly.

An early visit to the beach may yield even stronger memories and embedding:

  • Sound: Waves breaking on the beach, sea-gull calls, kids yelling…
  • Sight: The ocean above water, the murky green underwater, breaking waves and foam, sand, birds…
  • Touch: The cold water swirling up your legs, waist, shoulders; a wave breaking over you; foam around your legs; the hot sun overhead; the sand under your feet and the weird stuff you feel (shells, kelp…)…
  • Taste: Salt sea-water, the grit of sand in your mouth…
  • Smell: Sea-shore smells of ocean, decaying sea-weed and kelp, sun-block lotions…

Again, add to these senses the other emotional components: the accomplishment of your first forays into the surf; the fear of sinking, sharks, and other scary sea things…! It is not surprising that many people describe similar scenes as some of their strongest early memories.

What does the mean for software demos? It suggests that the more embedding that occurs during the demo, the more likely the audience will remember the demo. Most demos impact only two senses: sight and sound. The use of physical props and multiple pathways to embed ideas (stories, analogies, examples) – as well as emotional embedding (things that are perceived as fun, fearful, or fantastic) may help increase the strength of the retained memory of your demo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Remote Demos: Turn Off Cell Phone (fer cryin’ out loud…!)

I’ve heard this happen 3 times in the past 2 weeks, so I guess it needs to be said: Remember to turn off your cell phone before beginning a Remote Demo…!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Demo Expertise – and Demo “Experts”

I’m intrigued by the concept of an “expert” – particularly as it relates to creating and delivering software demos. How long does it take to become an “expert”? Does this take a year? 2 years? 5 years? Longer?

More importantly, is length of time the key factor? For example, the ability to learn a process and execute it through a range of conditions might connote expertise. It also might simply mean that a person has learned to execute a poor or mediocre process very well.

Another view might suggest that there are two processes going on: The first is the process of the demo pathway itself; the second is the ability to bring it to life – showmanship. One person could be an expert at the demo pathway, but poor at showmanship; another might be a terrifically engaging personality, while presenting a rather boring or misaligned demo pathway.

Those who have been delivering demos for years may actually suffer another challenge. Cognitive dissonance impacts our impressions of ourselves, with respect to our abilities. For example, many sales, presales and marketing people believe that they are demo experts since they have been preparing and presenting demos for many years. Other data may suggest, however, that their demos are not particularly strong – from data such as failure to achieve quota, repeat demos for the same audience, and losses to competitors or “no decision”.

Are you a demo expert? How can you tell?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

“Demo Day” for Remote Demo Practice

In nearly every Great Demo! Workshop, participants ask for a session on best practices, tips and methods for delivering demos and presentations remotely, over the web, using tools such as GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Adobe Connect. While a few folks are skilled at using these tools, most of us simply start a remote session and present our demo and/or PowerPoint slides using very few of the available tools or techniques.

Given that people won’t try anything new in a live session with a real customer, here is a strategy to help yourself and your team become more effective at operating via the web: A Remote “Demo Day” session. Here’s the process I recommend:

1. Organize to have an internal expert present specific tips and operation of the web collaboration software you use, in a live, web delivery, so you can see the examples in action – and learn how they are done in your specific environment.

2. Next, have the team pair-up to explore and practice using the software’s specific tools and capabilities in one-on-one sessions. A 30 minute session is typically sufficient for each person to try out and practice using the tools (screen size/resolution, annotation tools, selective sharing, giving/taking control, whiteboard, private chat, etc.).

3. Finally, organize a 1 or 2-hour Remote Demo Day session where each team member presents a 6-8 minute demo or presentation to the balance of the group to practice and take feedback. Participants should be encouraged to use a range of tools in their demo/presentation.

These sessions can be done non-consecutively, but I would recommend completing them within a single week. At the end of this process, everyone should be comfortable and ready to use the tools in live remote meetings with prospects and customers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Demo “Capital” – An Undervalued Resource?

Consider the sum of an organization's knowledge, know-how, tools, techniques, tips and success stories related to demonstrating one's offerings. As with other types of capital, how can this best be captured, developed, and leveraged? How is it valued (how should it be valued)?

Your use of Demo Capital should yield competitive advantages and opportunities, ranging from sales successes, to productivity and efficiency gains, to attracting and retaining high-value employees. A first step is to identify what you have…

What is Demo Capital?

Here are some tangible elements of Demo Capital, as a starting point:

- Demo databases
- Demo virtual machine images
- Demo scripts
- Meeting preparation sheets and forms
- Qualification, discovery and analysis forms and documents
- CRM system fields and forms
- Situation Slides
- Illustrations
- Proscribed “Do It” pathways
- Proscribed “Peel Back the Layers” pathways
- Documented answers to typical questions
- Formal Success Stories
- Documented Informal Success Stories
- Market-specific data, notes, and materials
- Competitive strengths/weaknesses pieces
- RFP response boilerplate (and “Row Adding” opportunities)
- Documented stories, props and similar tools proven successful for demonstrations

Intangible (undocumented) Demo Capital elements might include:

- Improvements and changes made to documented materials (but not documented)
- Best practices as evolved by the team
- Tips, tricks and techniques for face-to-face demos
- Tips, tricks and techniques for Remote Demos
- Particularly successful props, stories, and related presentation “nuggets”

Clearly, these lists are not exhaustive – a brief brainstorming exercise should yield longer and more specific lists unique to your own organization. The resulting list should also alert you to the potential value of the Demo Capital you have – and the gaps associated with capture and re-use.

What is the Value of Your Organization’s Demo Capital?

A simplistic answer is the corresponding direct cost to create and accumulate your Demo Capital. This is roughly the number of people involved multiplied by the time invested, multiplied by the average FTE rate for those people. A team of 10 people operating for 10 years with an average FTE rate of $150K yields a valuation of $15M. Is this a fair estimate? Perhaps…

Another approach examines the cost of not leveraging existing capital. This could equate to sales opportunities lost to competitors or “no decision” – often a dangerously large number!

It could be measured by the time-cost and opportunity-cost of doing repeat work:

- People recreating materials or tools (they could not find or were unaware of)
- Team members developing know-how (that already exists in the organization, but has not been communicated or captured)
- On-boarding processes, where individuals may take months or years to learn methods, find tools, and develop processes on their own (that could have been taught in days or weeks)

Or it could be calculated, in the negative case, by the cost of replacing a highly-valued employee who chose to move to another company. However calculated, the inevitable question is, “Are we getting the best results from our investment?” – or, more bluntly, “Are we getting sufficient results from our investment?”

I’ve heard heads of sales observe that it takes a full year to bring a new sales person up-to-speed to be able to achieve quota – and 2 years or longer for a new presales or marketing person to support the sales process satisfactorily. Is this too long and too expensive?

Yield From Investment

Here’s the payoff – and the challenge! There are a range of strategic and tactical questions that guide us on how to get the best yield from our existing investment in Demo Capital:


- What do we have? What’s missing? Where is it? How is it organized, accessed?
- How do we use it today? How could it be better used?
- Are there tools available to help? Are there best practices that we can apply?


- Can we shorten our sales cycles? Improve our sales processes? Increase revenue per opportunity?
- How can we increase efficiency and productivity in our sales, presales and marketing groups?
- Can we improve our ability to hire and retain top-performing staff? How do we develop existing staff further?

Assessing, capturing and leveraging Demo Capital can clearly be a means to address some of the critical business challenges faced by sales, pre-sales, and marketing leadership – and at mid-management and staff levels as well.

If you feel uncomfortable with this as the end of this piece, like something is missing, then I’ve succeeded! I drafted this to stimulate thinking and begin a conversation – looking forward to hearing your ideas, suggestions, and experiences.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Flip-Chart / Whiteboard Version of Situation Slide

In a recent Great Demo! Workshop, a participant did a terrific and rather novel job of developing the customer’s Situation Slide dynamically on a flip chart.

Typically, we present the standard bullets to our customer via a PowerPoint Slide:

- Job Title/Industry
- Critical Business Issue
- Reason
- Specific Capabilities
- Delta

Instead, he verbally articulated these bullets while drawing a rather compelling graph of the current situation vs. the desired outcome. The audience was fully engaged and even contributed additional pieces to the graph. Wonderfully executed!

Monday, April 12, 2010

GoToWebinar “Audience View”

The current version of Citrix’ GoToWebinar offers a very useful new capability. The “Audience View” tab in the control panel provides a small view of what the audience is seeing, including the delay time (latency). Nice!

Unfortunately, this capability is not (yet?) implemented in GoToMeeting – it would be great to have it…

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Webinar Recording – A Conversational Approach to Selling Value

The recording from today’s webinar is now available, just in case you missed it… The webinar was entitled, “A Conversational Approach to Selling Value”, hosted by Citrix, and the URL for the recording is: :

Hope you find it useful – I’d be happy to send the article mentioned in the webinar and/or the presentation slides. If you’d like either, send an email to me at

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stunningly Awful Sales Prevention Demos

Does your organization have a “Sales Prevention Team” – people or processes that lengthen sales cycles and lose deals? Sadly, those who present Stunningly Awful Demos are often awarded membership on this infamous team.

Here are a few true examples of Stunningly Awful Sales Prevention Demos for your shock, horror, and amusement:

The Terrible Tabs Death March

I sat in on a demo recently where the presenter navigated to a page with 10 tabs showing and the proceeded to march through each of them, one by one, in detail.

It was very interesting to watch the body language of the audience. The response to the initial page was positive – it was a well-constructed dashboard and it looked good. The next tab was received with moderate interest, but at the third tab many of the audience members visibly sagged in their seats…!

By the fourth and fifth tabs nearly everyone had checked out (perhaps even the presenter, who had clearly presented these tabs many, many times…). There was an audible sigh of relief as the final tab was described.

This was a classic case of the presenter following the old, established, traditional demo pathway – a slow, painful march towards no sale!

Buying It Back

A true story from a few years ago: Discovery had been done well, the Champion was excited, the 50 target end-users were lined-up and interested. The Solution Consultant presenting the demo had an hour for the meeting…

In the first 10 minutes, he went through the key capabilities the customer was interested in. He then said, “Hmm – looks like we’ve got another 50 minutes left in our meeting today. Why don’t I go ahead and show you some of the other capabilities, other workflows, how to configure for different users and some other custom stuff?”

And he did. He spent the next 50 minutes showing a range of functions, workflows and capabilities – many of which were demonstrated in considerable detail.

At the end of the demo meeting the Champion chatted with the target end-users, then met with the selling team.

He told the vendor, “We’ve decided to purchase a single license of your software. We’ll put it on an expert’s machine and have all of the other users come to the expert to work the problems.”

“Why?” asked the sales person. “What about the other users?”

The Champion said, “The users said your software looked too complicated – they couldn’t visualize using it themselves.”

A classic, very sad case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – and of a reduction of the order size by $245,000 (annual fees!). Sales prevention at its worst!

The Moral? Stop selling when the customer is ready to buy...!

“Here are all the different ways to…”

Imagine you ask the presenter how to print a document during a demo. The presenter’s face lights up and she says, “Printing is one of our real competitive advantages!”

She chooses File Print from the menu, while also noting that you can use keyboard shortcuts as well, or voice commands, if your system is configured accordingly. She then shows how to set-up the voice recognition software, does a test, and then cancels out of it.

She next selects Print Options and walks through how you can choose different printers, or add a printer, or print to file. Next she shows the paper choices, the margin options, the print quality possibilities, tray management on the printer, the print queue, print preview, and print to PDF. Another 13 minutes of your life senselessly squandered by the Sales Prevention Team…

And, fascinatingly, she never actually chose “OK” to print the document – which was the only click she needed to show!

Moral Number 1: Just Do It.

Moral Number 2: Peel Back the Layers (in accord with the customer’s level of interest).

Peeling Back the Onion

A colleague once commented that “Peeling Back the Layers” is just like peeling an onion: If you peel it back too far, what happens? You cry!

Help, Mr. Wizard…!

Wizards are designed to make a complex workflow simple to use – but only if a reasonable path is followed! Here’s another true story:

The presenter started a wizard to execute an analysis of business data – and was still walking me through the options and settings 60 minutes later!

Once he’d finally completed that portion of the demo, I asked him to show me how to complete that same workflow using the wizard in the fewest number of steps – the way someone would typically use the wizard on a day-to-day basis.

How long do you think it took? About 2.5 minutes start to finish.

Moral: [Create your own pithy saying here…]

Desperation Demos

“Wait – don’t go away, we haven’t gotten to the best stuff yet!”


“OK, so that wasn’t interesting to you? Well, how about this? Or this? Wait, we’ve got much more, and more, and more, and more…”

The Overrun Overview

“So I said we’d only take 30 minutes – but, wow, it looks like I’ve been talking for 2 hours! Um, hello, are you still there…?”

The Sales Prevention Team is, unfortunately, only too alive and well. To avoid joining this team, even briefly, we recommend a Great Demo! Workshop, Seminar or reading a copy of the Great Demo! book.

What Sales Prevention Demos have you seen? Send your horror stories to us at and we’ll publish (anonymously) the most frightening.

Copyright © 2010 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 26, 2010

PowerPoint Cheat-Sheet – Particularly Useful Items

A colleague recent sent me Cheat-Sheets for PowerPoint and other Microsoft Office products (actually called “Quick Reference Cards” – but Cheat-Sheet is much more fun). I note that the Slide Delivery Shortcuts can be particularly useful and included some that were new to me:

Slide Show Delivery

End Slide Show           "Esc"

Jump to Slide               "Slide #" + "Enter"

Toggle Screen Black    "B"

Toggle Screen White   "W"

Pause Show                "S"

Show/Hide Pointer      "A"

Change Arrow to Pen  "Ctrl" + "P"

Change Pen to Arrow  "Ctrl" + "A"

Erase Doodles             "E"  [“Doodles” are ad hoc markings]

Send me an email ( if you’d like to receive the full Cheat-Sheet for PowerPoint or the full set for MS Office.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remote Demos – Enabling the Audience to Catch-up

Here's a simple tactic to enable an audience to "catch-up" with what you are showing on your screen, particularly when dealig with relatively slow connections: Stop and then restart screen sharing. This effectively reloads the audience session.

This tactic can be particularly useful if you have been sharing screens with a large amount of images or scrolling graphics that require sending a lot of data to the audience machines. Works nicely!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brain Rules - Absolutely Required Reading For Sales, Presales and Marketing People

This book doesn’t appear to be about business, necessarily, but – it definitely is!

Brain Rules provides both the explanation and, more important, clear guidance on how to help you enable your customers to remember the material you present in demos (and via other communications vehicles as well).

Particularly useful and interesting are the following chapters:

- Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things (attention)
- Rule #5: Repeat to remember (short-term memory)
- Rule #6: Remember to repeat (long-term memory)
- Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses (vision)

I feel as though I’ve slowly (over a period of many years!) been discovering many of the principles that the author presents in the book. A colleague of mine wisely commented that “An hour of research is worth a year in the lab” – but, of course, he’s a cynic.

Summary? Read it. Here’s information on the book:

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, John Medina, Pear Press, Reprint edition (March 10, 2009), ISBN-10: 0979777747, ISBN-13: 978-0979777745.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Demo Route That Shouldn’t Be Traveled

Imagine you want to drive to the store to pick up a few things for dinner – a trip that normally should take 10 minutes one way. You get into your car, leave your driveway and proceed down the street. Your car is equipped with a very intelligent voice-controlled GPS, however, which decides that there are other options you should see on the way.

The GPS takes control and turns off from the direct route to show you an interesting restaurant it thinks you might want to try sometime in the future. You thank the GPS, and ask it to return to the original course. It does so.

A few blocks later, it once again changes direction and drives 5 minutes to show you a nice park. “Terrific…” you say, “but please return to the original course.” The GPS sighs quietly, but obediently returns to the original route once again.

After a moment of quiet, the GPS makes a left turn and proceeds 8 minutes to a new home-products and hardware store. It announces proudly that the store just opened recently and is a great option for everything from paint to plumbing. Annoyed, you tell the GPS “Please return to course!” It does so, after grumbling that you really should see all of the cool options it knows about…

At this point you disable the GPS and proceed directly to the store – dinner will be late!

What if demos were delivered in the same manner? This pathway of driving off course to show potentially appealing options is truly an example of Sales Prevention at work.

A solution? Just “Do It”. Take the direct path from a logical starting point to completing the task. Avoid the urge to take those turns off course.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Date Nit

Given that the purpose of software demonstrations is to (1) build a vision of a solution or (2) show proof, everything we do in a demo needs to support these objectives. In demos we are working to “suspend disbelief” in our customer audience – in other words, we need to make the demo appear to be as close as possible to real life. Anything we do or show that is obviously fake hurts our cause.

Two examples of making a demo obviously appear to be fake are:

- The use of silly or obviously fictional names (e.g., “Mary Manager”, “Dave Departmenthead”, “Sarah Superuser”).
- Naming files or processes “demo” or “test”.

To these I add a third, slightly less obvious item:

- Dates and date ranges.

I was watching a demo recently and noted that all of the reports that were run and presented showed data from 1998 and 1999. This automatically makes one wonder about the software: Has it been updated since then? Are their QA test suites that old? Have they tried the system with current data?

The old data also impacted my attention. Instead of listening and watching the next steps in the demo, I found myself wondering and thinking about data from 1998…

The morals are clear: Use real-life names (people, files and processes) and use dates that are contextually relevant for the customer’s situation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance in Demos

How does cognitive dissonance apply to delivering demos? Cognitive dissonance can be defined as an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously in mind. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency with his/her thoughts.

This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. In movies, a great example is when a man and woman initially despise each other, but then fall in love (grudgingly at first, of course!).

Does cognitive dissonance occur with software demos? Yes and no. [Sorry, couldn’t resist the example!] It certainly happens when the vendor says, “Easy to use…” but the demo shows the offering as complex and confusing, from the customer’s perspective.

Equally importantly, cognitive dissonance may occur within the vendor’s team – particularly in discussions between sales and presales players, both before and after the demo:

- “Have we done sufficient qualification and discovery?” “ Yes, but… we don’t really know what they need.”
- “Did we address the customer’s key needs?” “Yes, but… we did the same demo we always do.”
- “Did we achieve our objective for the demo?” “Yes, but… the customer didn’t ask very many questions during the demo – and they didn’t say what their next steps are.”

What do we, as the vendor, remember from a demo vs. what the customer remembers – or what we think the customer remembers?

Interestingly, our first impressions of the relative success of a demo are sometimes the harshest. As a few hours pass, or several days, our memory of the demo tends to slant more towards the positive. [The effect intensifies with the number of beers/drinks at the airport bar, not surprisingly…] This suggests that demo teams should debrief and capture, in writing, their impressions of the demo meeting as soon after the meeting as possible:

- What went well?
- What could have done better/differently?
- What expected/unexpected problems appeared?
- What did the customer say? What didn’t they say?
- What action items/follow-up did we promise? Did they promise?

Most people’s brains work to resolve cognitive dissonance, tending towards a filtered set of perceptions. Those perceptions often mask or causatively ignore the initially dissonant items – resulting in over-positive final impressions, inflated forecasts, and shock when the deals don’t close!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Avoiding Boring

I was learning about a software company’s presales on-boarding process recently and noted a practice that reminded me of a Seth Godin blog post from a few months back…

The on-boarding process included the following steps (among many others) for a newly hired presales person:

1. Watch our current demo.
2. Read the script.
3. Learn it.
4. Prove you know it by presenting the demo in a role-play session [they called this the “Certification Review”].

The candidate presales person lost points for going off-script or incorporating any changes. Seems like a great plan to ensure that the new hire can follow the process dependably, right?

Here’s Seth’s blog post – it may make us rethink this kind of “certification”:

Upside vs. downside

How much of time, staffing and money does your organization spend on creating incredible experiences (vs. avoiding bad outcomes)?

At the hospital, it's probably 5% on the upside (the doctor who puts in the stitches, say) and 95% on the downside (all the avoidance of infection or lawsuits, records to keep, forms to sign). Most of the people you interact with in a hospital aren't there to help you get what you came for (to get better) they're there to help you avoid getting worse. At an avant garde art show, on the other hand, perhaps 95% of the effort goes into creating and presenting shocking ideas, with just 5% devoted to keeping the place warm or avoiding falls and spills as you walk in.

Which is probably as it should be.

But what about you and your organization? As you get bigger and older, are you busy insuring that a bad thing won't happen that might upset your day, or are you aggressively investing in having a remarkable thing happen that will delight or move a customer?

A new restaurant might rely on fresh vegetables and whatever they can get at the market. The bigger, more established fast-food chain starts shipping in processed canned food. One is less reliable with bigger upside, the other—more dependable with less downside.

Here's a rule that's so inevitable that it's almost a law: As an organization grows and succeeds, it sows the seeds of its own demise by getting boring. With more to lose and more people to lose it, meetings and policies become more about avoiding risk than providing joy.

The link for Seth’s post is:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Customers’ Checklist for Purchasing Software

A recent article in the January 2010 edition of Purchasing offered a checklist for customers of contract management software – and is a good general list for a range of software offerings. Items 1 and 2 are particularly interesting and map extremely well to Great Demo! concepts. Here’s the list:

1. Identify your company’s goals, needs and pain points around contract management. Where are the inefficiencies?
2. Identify what reports you would like to have.
3. Check internally across all departments and business units to see if any contract management systems or processes are already in place.
4. Determine how many people will use the contract management software and how much training they will require.
5. Research and narrow down a potential list of providers that meet your needs.
6. Confirm what pricing from providers includes – service, training, etc.
7. Check your internal IT capabilities before finalizing on a product.

Item number 2, “Identify what reports you would like to have”, speaks directly to a core Great Demo! idea – seeking to understand what end deliverables are desired from the software by the customer. Interestingly, this is one of the first times I’ve ever seen “reports” specifically called out.

In traditional demos, reports and reporting would be the last thing demonstrated – and would likely be missed by high-level members of the customer, who may have already left the demo meeting.

With Great Demo!, if reports are key, we would work to understand exactly what reports are desired and what they should look like – and then we’d present these right up front at the beginning of the demo.

The article is entitled, “On the Hunt for Contract Management Software Under $100,000”, in Purchasing from January 2010.

Monday, February 22, 2010

[Warning – Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!] Great Demo! Open Workshop

We are holding an open 1-Day Great Demo! Workshop March 17, 2010 in San Jose, California. The event is co-sponsored by SKMurphy ( This is a terrific opportunity for individuals or small groups to learn how to put Great Demo! ideas into day-to-day practice. You can find an overview, agenda, location and pricing information here:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Product Selection Tip – Customers’ Perspective

A recent article providing product selection tips for customers evaluating software offerings included the following advice:

- Compile a list of questions from your entire team to ask vendors during their demos…

Interestingly, the article’s guidance for customers is to ask these questions in the demo meeting – there was no mention of asking these questions beforehand. We’ve done such a good job (poor job, really) of training our customers to expect that we lead with demos (rather than qualification/discovery) that this “tip” expects and anticipates that the demo meeting will be the first substantive opportunity for a discussion! (OMG!).

This immediately suggests three tactics:

1. Prior to the demo meeting, contact the customer to ask for the list of questions they may have put together. Use this list as a starting point to guide your qualification/discovery discussions.

2. Use the list of questions as a post-demo review tool: did we address all of their issues? What open topics still need to be addressed?

3. Save and make the list of questions available for the balance of your team, for future sessions with other customers in similar situations.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Demo Memory – Like Muscle Memory

Getting into a groove can be a Good Thing – in that we get comfortable and proficient following a specific pathway…

Getting into a rut may be a Bad Thing – in that we are too comfortable and follow the same pathway over and over again..!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Terrible Tabs Death March…

I sat in on a demo recently where the presenter navigated to a page with about 10 tabs displayed across the screen and then proceeded to march through each tab, one by one, in detail.

It was very interesting to watch the body language of the audience. The response to the initial page was positive – it looked good; a dashboard of information and status. The next tab was received with moderate interest, but at the third tab many of the audience members visibly sagged in their seats…!

By the fourth and fifth tabs nearly everyone had checked out (perhaps even the presenter, who had clearly presented these tabs many, many times before…). There was an audible sigh of relief as the final tab was described.

This was a classic case of the presenter following the old, established, traditional demo pathway – a slow, painful tab-by-tab march towards no sale!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Best Practices for Network Connections for Face-to-Face Demos

I’ve watched a number of vendors struggle with trying to connect to their network/software applications when at customer sites. Typically, they are trying to run through both the customer’s network/firewall as well as their own.

I’ve seen specific cases (many!) where the first 20 minutes of an on-site demo meeting was consumed by the vendor technical person (e.g., SC) working with the customer’s IT staff to figure out how to connect – and fail to connect!

Often, running with virtual machines adds to the challenge. “OK, just reboot now and try it again…” – and it takes 20 minutes to reboot, only to find that you still can’t connect…

Here are current best practices for on-site demos where you need access to your own network:

- Best: Broadband (modem) connection (fastest, most modern version you can find…). This keeps things under your control, with the exception of the possibility of poor phone coverage. This most likely will be the best solution about 95% of the time. You can always ask to move conference rooms, if possible/necessary.

- Next best: Connecting through their network. This is the best choice with respect to performance, typically, but is “fraught with hazard” (who says “fraught” anymore?) Likely this gets harder and harder as IT people seek to make their networks more secure – you’ve got two network security systems to worry about (theirs and yours). It also typically requires IT help to get things set up. I’d suggest this is you are doing a long demo meeting on site (2 hours or more), where the investment in IT time is worthwhile.

- Next next best: Deliver a Remote Demo with one of your people present (e.g., you go to the site and have a separate technical person present the demo over WebEx/GoToMeeting/Live Meeting, while you serve as the “active conduit” to manage the meeting. Again, there may be some network issues, but typically much less than running “live” through their network.

Backup: PowerPoint slides and/or recordings are the final line of defense.

Other ideas?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Live Meeting: Another Task for Your Meeting Manager

I’ve noted that the best practice for Remote Demos is to have a representative at the customer site to be your active conduit of information back to you delivering the demo remotely – to be your “eyes” on location. This person (the “Meeting Manager”) can be a representative from your company (best) or your champion/sponsor (next best) or designee (next next best).

For Remote Demos done via Microsoft Live meeting, there are often problems with screen resolution that result in the audience computer having scrolls bars present, that must often be moved to be able to see the important parts of the screen. In this case, assign your “Meeting Manager” the task to adjust the scroll bars on the customer side of the meeting, to make sure that the customer is seeing what you want them to see…!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Over 10,000 Great Demo! Copies Purchased

Sometime during the last few months Great Demo! passed the 10,000 copies purchased mark (wow!) – this doesn’t include copies resold on eBay and elsewhere, and copies that get passed around within teams…

Many thanks to all of you!

[Shameless self-promotion time: if you don’t already have a copy of your own, it is available on (US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan),, or directly from me at The Second Derivative. I can also provide discounts on volume purchases and can ship right away.]

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Summarize After Answering a Question to Re-engage Your Audience

After answering a question, in the midst of a demo, most presenters simply turn back to their flow and pick up where they left off. This makes sense to the presenter (who knows the demo and the product), but it is very likely that the audience has lost track…

Instead, after answering a question, do a quick recap of the steps you’d just completed (before the question) to re-set and re-engage your audience. Works wonderfully!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We Are Programmed To Forget - And Its Impact on Our Demos

Indeed we are – and consider the impact this has on traditional software demos!

Imagine you are driving home from work or on an errand… What do you remember about the cars and signs you see, the road-side debris, people, buildings and the roads you pass? How much of that information is retained?

Very little is actually remembered about what you saw along your way. Our brains are continuously evaluating what we see and hear as we move through our day – and continuously discarding anything that is not considered important, threatening, or particularly interesting.

What don’t we remember? Everything that is typical, expected, or normal.

What do we remember? Remarkable events, problems, danger and close calls, humor (things that made us laugh), anger (things that made us mad) and other emotional experiences (things that caused a strong emotional reaction).

What’s Forgotten?

How does this impact our demos and what audiences remember? In an hour-long traditional demo, we shouldn’t expect our audiences to remember very much:

- They won’t remember long sequences of features, functions and options…

- They won’t remember complex workflows, loops and multiple “if” cases…

- They won’t remember the confusing interdependencies of configuration choices, multiple roles, and intertwined pathways…

What’s Remembered?

What will audiences recall from traditional demos? The beginning, the end, and the ugly:

- They will remember the first and last few things that are shown…

- They will remember the bugs, crashes, ignored or poorly handled questions, the amusing distractions from other audience members, and particularly stunning fumbling for features.

- And they will remember an overall impression of the demo – as being boring, confusing, and complicated.

They may also remember the absence of capabilities they were looking for – in many cases, even if these capabilities were, in fact, presented!

What can we do to improve our success rates?

Memory Management

Here are three simple (yet very effective!) tactics to help your customers retain the key ideas you want them to remember:

[Shall we all say it together? “Do the Last Thing First!”] When presented with a long list of ideas, people remember the first few items very well and the last few items moderately well – and the material in between generally gets lost. This is the “Attention-Retention” principle (also known as the Serial Positioning Effect).

Take advantage of this and start your demos with the most compelling, most interesting deliverables for each audience. If the audience remembers nothing else, they will remember the most important part of your demo – the payoff, the visual evidence of the solution to their problem.

Along similar lines, people absorb and retain information best when it is presented in discrete “chunks”, as opposed to a long linear flow. Organize and present your demos accordingly – in consumable components – and use a roadmap to help manage the delivery of your component chunks.

Summarize…! Adults learn by repetition – so when you complete a demo segment, summarize. Repeat, verbally, what you just showed them. If you are face-to-face, you should see your audience nodding their heads – this means they have heard you, they understand, and they have a higher likelihood of remembering.

How can you tell if your audience will remember the key points? You’ll see them making notes – writing things down.

We combat our “programming-to-forget” by making notes of the major ideas, issues and questions we want to remember. For software demos, if you are doing well, you’ll see your audience making notes about key capabilities and writing comments about what they find particularly interesting.

I Really Remember…

What else can we do to help audiences remember our demos? Anything that is perceived as remarkable is memorable – for example:

- A unique presentation of a solution to a problem – “Wow! – They showed us the key reports that we need to produce right up front, at the beginning of their demo. And they showed generating those reports in 3 mouse clicks, as opposed to what is taking us a week to do today…!”

- Engage the audience – “That was so cool – they had John drive a portion of their demo, and John still types in all caps…!”

- Develop concepts or materials ad hoc – “It was great when they built a new form for us, first on a whiteboard and then right in their software…!”

- Make it a two-way conversation – “We were really engaged – asking questions and even coming up with new ideas for our process…”

- Finish the demo early – “Wow – they finished early and I had time to get some real work done…!”

- Be humorous, but effective – “It was funny when the sales guy said, ‘The bad news is I have a 60 slide corporate overview presentation to show – the good news is that I’m not going to inflict it on you…!’”

- Use props – “Do you remember when their technical guy came into the room with this huge stack of documents and folders spilling all over the place? Looked like our day-to-day lives, to me…!”

- Run their examples – “That was really nice – we rarely take something of value away from a demo…”

Humans are, by nature, programmed to forget. Causatively forgetting the unimportant, the uninteresting and the unremarkable is how our brains are able to handle the enormous volume of information we encounter every day.

Make your demos memorable by Doing the Last Thing First, organizing your delivery in consumable components, and by summarizing – as basics. Make your demos truly unforgettable by doing the unexpected, the noteworthy, and the remarkable.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Presales On-boarding Training Novel Concept

Here’s a terrific idea for training new presales staff: Teach them your discovery/qualification process before teaching how to demo your software… Why consider this approach?

- It models the principle of doing discovery/qualification before presenting your solutions.
- It teaches new hires how to put together summaries of customer-specific situations (“Situation Slides”).
- It breaks the tradition of “Here’s our standard demo script… Learn it!”

This method also helps put your software in context:
- What specific customer problems does it solve?
- What specific capabilities are needed to solve these problems?
- What customer job titles are involved, and in what specific way?

If anyone (else) is already doing this, please let me know how it has been working for you…

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

“Controlled Vocabulary”

Years ago, a colleague introduced me to the concept of “Controlled” vs. “Uncontrolled Vocabulary”. Watching a series of demos recently reminded me of the importance of this concept. Very simply, with Controlled Vocabulary, everyone in the meeting has a mutual understanding of all words and phrases used in a presentation or demo. Uncontrolled Vocabulary are words and phrases that are introduced by the vendor that are NOT understood by the customer.

Uncontrolled Vocabulary includes (but is not limited to!) words and phrases such as:
- Company-specific acronyms
- Company-specific terms
- Product feature names

Don’t use these in demos and presentations if you want to be most effective in your communications!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Warning – Shameless Self-Promotion Alert! Great Demo! Open Workshop

We are holding an open 1-Day Great Demo! Workshop March 17, 2010 in San Jose, California. The event is co-sponsored by SKMurphy ( This is a terrific opportunity for individuals or small groups to learn how to put Great Demo! ideas into day-to-day practice. Contact me for an overview, agenda and pricing information at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Remote Demos – Don't Forget to Disconnect!

While this is certainly obvious, I’m occasionally amused – and sometimes astonished – by vendors who forget to close their Remote Demo meetings (e.g., via WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.) and corresponding phone connections.

Amused – when a vendor forgets to close the session(s) and the collaboration tool window remains open/active.

Astonished – when a vendor forgets and, still sharing his desktop, starts to write email messages about the results of the web meeting! As a customer, it can be very interesting to see how the sales rep describes what a “great” meeting it was and how the “business is in the bag…!” I’ve heard the same with conference calls that remain open and active after the meeting has completed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Understanding Before Proposing Solutions

We all know that we need to gain a sufficient understanding of our customers’ needs and specific situations before proposing solutions – and before presenting most demos. Here’s an additional reason to do this:

Miller Heiman, Inc. reports in their Executive Summary of their 2009 Sales Best Practice Study that 93% of “World Class” vendors vs. 50% of “All” vendors do “Clearly understand our customers’ issues before we propose a solution”. “World Class” organizations achieved stronger results in five areas measured:

- Average account billing
- Sales force quota attainment
- Number of qualified opportunities/leads
- Customer retention
- Forecast accuracy

Not surprising…!