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.]