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.