Wednesday, December 21, 2011

‘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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Many Slides Long IS It?

As someone starts up PowerPoint (or Keynote) and opens their presentation, have you ever noticed that you rapidly scan to see how many slides long it is?  And what is your reaction when you realize that the deck is 30, 40 or more slides long, and the individual slides look rather thick with text, data and charts?  Terror?  Denial?  Acceptance and preparation for boredom?


If you are the presenter, don’t let them see your slide deck in any preview mode that shows the length – or (much better) trim it down to the actual number of slides that are really needed (and/or that can be consumed by your audience).

If you are an audience member and the presentation is scheduled for an hour or more, prepare yourself accordingly!  (E.g., think of synonyms for “boredom”; write haiku poems on painful presentations – and don’t forget the “seasonal reference” required in real haiku; have a smart-phone ready and out of sight for some surreptitious web browsing, etc…)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Words We Choose To Use...

We should be cognizant about our audiences’ backgrounds, training and educational/cultural experiences and perceptions, because the words we use in our demo delivery (and Discovery conversations) can have strong impact on perceptions of our offerings and solutions. 

 In a study done on potato chip bag labeling, it was found that there were two general types of packaging, with respect to vocabulary:

The first used 8th grade vocabulary and focused on appearing to be “plain-speaking” and “genuine” – these packages were for lower-end chips (Lays, Utz, etc.) and targeted buyers of same.

The second packaging used 10th-11th grade vocabulary with phrases like “hand-raked” and “crafted” – this packaging was used for the higher-price chips (Boulder, Kettle, Terra, etc.). 

Not surprising, perhaps, but fascinating in any case!

The study was done by Dan Jurafsky, at the Stanford University Department of Linguistics.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Demos and Discovery – Interesting Metric

For those who like to track things, here’s an interesting demo success metric to consider:  compare the amount of Discovery done prior to a demo (in minutes) to demo length (also in minutes).  One should expect the ratio of these will typically be >1 for successful demos – those that result in a sale (or movement to the next stage in the sales process).  For organizations that choose to track this, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the ratio is actually >>1 (much much greater than 1) for demos that result in a sale…!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

“Slide Number 37…”

It fascinates me that in so many sales-oriented technical presentation slide decks, the biggest “pay-off” or “Wow!” slide appears about 7/8 of the way through the deck…

Friday, December 2, 2011

“Ask the Author” Office Hours

I’ve found that providing question-and-answer sessions to Great Demo! Workshop participants a few months post-event has been very effective in helping teams and individuals to implement the ideas and improve personal practices. I’d like to propose offering these to the broader Great Demo! community.

Specifically, I’d like to suggest setting up regular conference calls that anyone in the community can join.  We might schedule these to occur on a monthly basis, for example, and have each call run an hour in duration.  Participants could send me topics ahead of time or voice them during the call.  I’d expect we would discuss and share success stories, challenging situations, questions, tips and ideas on demos and closely related topics.

These could be, essentially, informal users’ group meetings.

If you are interested, please send me an email at, along with any suggestions or preferences on how to make this work well.  We can then look at specific timing and mechanics.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Insufficient Discovery – Great Doctor Examples

Scenario 1:

Imagine walking into a doctor’s office and, before you can open your mouth, the doctor immediately writes prescriptions for a broad range of drugs…  The doctor then says, “Let me know if any of these drugs seem to help address any problems you have.”

Scenario 2:

Imagine walking into a doctor’s office and (again), before you can open your mouth, the doctor immediately writes prescriptions for a broad range of drugs…  A few days later you come back, at which time the doctor says, “So what seems to be the trouble?”

How are these different from presenting a demo to a customer before doing any Discovery?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Discovery - It Shouldn't Be Surprising That...

It shouldn’t be surprising that many sales and presales people are not be particularly skilled at doing Discovery…  Why?  When interviewing candidates for new sales and presales positions, we don’t explore their Discovery skills nearly in the same depth with which we evaluate other skills, such as the ability to deliver a credible presentation. 

Consider the typical process for assessing a new sales or presales candidate:

-          We review their resume and cover letter (note:  people are perfect twice in their lives – at birth and on their resumes!).  It is very rare that anyone claims to be proficient in doing Discovery as a resume “bullet”.

-          Next, we bring promising candidates in for an interview, in which we ask many questions about them and allow them some questions about us and our organization – this is typically as deep that our evaluation of their Discovery skills ever goes – a handful of questions about the position, responsibilities, objectives, the company, etc.

-          Candidates that survive an initial interview are often invited back to deliver a 30-60 minute presentation (on a topic of their choice) – we want to make sure that they have sufficient presentation skills, since it is an important skill for their role.

After a discussion with their references, we make a final decision, draft an offer letter and, once accepted, welcome the new hire on board.

Our assessment of candidates’ Discovery skills was limited to a few questions, mostly about the job and related topics.  We never really explored candidates’ ability to execute real Discovery.  We are much better at assessing candidates’ abilities to tell than to ask!

Here’s a recommendation:

For candidates that survive the interview (and presentation, if desired), invite the candidate(s) back to perform a Discovery session with you as the customer.  Let the candidate use their current company/offerings as the basis (and candidates can tell you what role you should play in terms of job title and other situational information).  This provides you with a direct method of evaluating their Discovery skills and methods, giving you much clearer insight into how each candidate may perform when working with real customers.

If you feel that strong Discovery skills are an essential part of your team members’ toolkit, then consider including a critical review of these skills during the interview process.  [Note:  if you have existing team members whose Discovery skills are less than desired, that’s where I may be able to help!]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Improving Demo Delivery – Great Demo! Self and Team Coaching Tools

A number of Great Demo! Workshop participants and their managers have asked for help in improving their practices, particularly with applying Great Demo! core principles to demo delivery.  Accordingly, here are two tools to help individuals self-coach and managers coach their teams (in addition to the Assessment tools already available).

The first is a Great Demo! Demonstration Delivery Review Sheet.  This is a simple template that enables individuals or managers to review the results of specific demos in terms of the key Great Demo! delivery components.  Tracking these over time can provide a wonderful understanding of what learnings were retained and put into practice, what each individual is doing well and where there are opportunities to improve.

The second tool is a Great Demo! Key Attributes listing, which roughly assigns relative importance to each delivery element and aligns with the Delivery Review Sheet.

Send me an email at and I’ll send you these tools – I can also send the Assessment tools as well, if you don’t already have them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Discovery - Burn Victims

Customers that tried to address problems previously and failed are known as “burn victims” – and they tend to be very careful about subsequent solutions!

“Have you tried to fix this before?”  Answers to this question can yield some interesting and sometimes surprisingly information. 

A “Yes” response requires careful follow-up questions.  “What happened?” is a good starting point.  You want to understand what actions were taken, what tools were purchased (if any), when this all took place – and what were the outcomes for the organization and those who were impacted. 

If the answer is “No,” your response could be “Why not?”  It might be that the problem was never big enough to address (but now it is) or that prior solutions were perceived as insufficient (in what ways?).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What’s in a Name? More Than One Might Expect – Consider “Discovery” vs. “Qualification”

The process of gathering information about customers’ situations is variously labeled “Discovery”, “Qualification”, “Analysis” and other terms.  Interestingly, the name used by your organization may encourage or discourage the effectiveness of the process.

Consider:  “Qualification” is (often) about putting boundaries around a sales opportunity:  “Is it adequately qualified?”  This may yield a limited set of answers to questions such as:

-          “Does the customer have a problem – have they admitted “pain”?
-          “Is there budget allocated?”
-          “Is there a time-frame in mind?”
-          “Do we know the pathway to purchase – who will make the decision?”
-          “What alternatives or competitors is the customer also considering?”

The answers to these questions tend to focus inwards on getting the deal done for the vendor.

“Discovery”, on the other hand, is all about exploration, and suggests images of uncharted waters, novel vistas, new viewpoints and ideas.  Discovery is a process of asking questions – that may lead to more questions.  It should be perceived as a “Archimedean Spiral” of exploration, covering more and more territory (look it up: 

One nearly consistent attribute of very successful sales people (those who consistently make or exceed their numbers and are a pleasure, generally, to work with…) is their ability to perform broad and deep discovery.  They ask “Why, who, when, where, what, and how” questions.  They plumb for details and search for high-level drivers.  To paraphrase a famous outdoors equipment company (The North Face), they never stop exploring.

Interestingly, people who are known as Discoverers or Explorers are often perceived as heroes – those who opened new worlds or brought new knowledge to light:  Captain James Cook, Louis Pasteur, Madame Curie, Captain James T. Kirk (even fictional explorers may be heroes!).  Contrariwise, the list of heroic people who were known for qualifying or putting boundaries around things may be much shorter!

Friday, November 11, 2011

“Why” Questions – Uncovering the Drivers in Discovery

“We need a new system…” says the customer.  “Great!” says the sales person, “We’ve got several possibilities for you…!”  And the discussion then proceeds to explore lists of features and functions, needs and use cases.  This is all wonderful, but what’s missing?

Why do you need a new system?” is a key question to ask, when appropriate.  The answer to this question may change the entire dynamic of the Discovery discussion and the resulting sales process.

For example, if the customer responds, “Well, we’ve been interested in a new system for some time…,” it may suggest that the customer is not really serious and that solving the problems inherent in the old system is not sufficiently important to change – it is not a Critical Business Issue.  This sales opportunity is a good candidate for a “no decision” outcome.

On the other hand, if the customer responds, “Well, the COO has mandated implementing a new system to drive down costs and she wants it in place before we complete an upcoming acquisition…,” then you have identified a Critical Business Issue (“reduce costs”) and a Critical Event (before the acquisition takes place).  This sales opportunity is much more likely to end with a completed order.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Discovery - Fail Early, Fail Cheaply

Far too many sales opportunities run far too long, for a range of reasons.  One simple example is not asking questions about “show-stopper” requirements early enough. 

A show-stopper issue is exactly that – is it an issue or requirement on the part of the customer that is:

1.       Absolutely required
2.       Non-negotiable
3.       Not available from you, the vendor (and there is not reasonable work-around)

A simple example of this is a customer who absolutely, positively desires an in-house implementation installed on their own servers (and you only offer SaaS, with no possibility for installation on customers’ servers).  For some customers, this might be a objection that can be overcome, but for others their position may be fixed and unchangeable.

It is best to understand this early in the sales process, during Discovery, rather than later on, to avoid unnecessary investment by both the customer and the vendor in demos, additional meetings and other discussions.  Imagine how the customer Champion would feel, after organizing a series of demo meetings for key players in multiple departments, to learn that the solution simply won’t fit!  (Very angry).  And then imagine what that ex-Champion would tell his or her peers at the next conference about that vendor…!

Contemplate making a list of show-stopper questions or issues to add to your Discovery documents and outlines – and be prepared to ask these questions during Discovery.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Provocative Questions – Starting Discovery

Using provocative questions is a great way to start conversations and move a discussion into Discovery.  A good provocative question causes your customer to:

-          Rapidly qualify himself in or out as a reasonable prospect
-          Agree that there is a problem to solve
-          Open up to further questions

For example, imagine you sell sales process management/automation software and are at a conference with piles of prospects present.  You join a table for lunch with 8 other people and everyone introduces themselves briefly.  Someone asks you, “What do you do?”  Your response can range from boring to intriguing:

Boring:  “We sell sales process automation software.”  (Yawn…)
Typical:  “We help sales teams improve their processes.”  (OK thanks, next…)
Intriguing:  “Have you ever seen a sales team document their opportunities consistently?”  Hmmmm, interesting…!)

For the intriguing option, a “No” response (often accompanied by a wry smile or wince) tells you that the prospect has that problem – and the prospect may immediately volunteer more information, “No, in fact our sales people “sandbag” on deals they are confident about and have “happy ears” on far too many opportunities that never close…!”  At this point, you can comfortably launch into Discovery questions about the team, sales cycles, current process, etc.

The key to formulating strong provocative questions is to take a key indicator or qualitative measurement of what you do and rephrase in the form of a question. 

For example, in the world of demos, I love to ask, “Have you ever seen a bad software demo?”  If the response is yes (and it often is…), we are off and rolling comfortably into a Discovery conversation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sales Manager Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance is the uncomfortable situation of trying to rationalize ideas that conflict with one another.  Sales managers (and presales managers) are often highly susceptible – particularly with regards to skills and methodology training.  Managers are generally very happy to provide training for their teams – but often don’t participate, themselves, in the classes.  In many cases, they believe they already know the material (even if they’ve never seen it!) – they may believe that since they are managers then they (somehow) already know it. 

In my experience there is often a gap between the actual level of understanding of concepts and the perceived level of understanding, particularly with sales managers (this gap can often be large; I’ve been victim to it myself when I was in sales management).  The result is an inability for sales managers to assess, track and coach their teams – leaving sales people to either subscribe to the ideas on their own or (quite often) go back to their old ways. 

In the world of software demos and Great Demo! methodology, here’s a good example of this in action:  if the number of demos done (or requested to be done) in the absence of Discovery is uncomfortably large, this suggests that sales people are not practicing the key ideas.  If this number continues to be large over time, this then suggests that sales managers are not coaching their teams to improve their sales people’s performance.  I’ve noticed a fairly close correlation between these situations and managers not participating in the Great Demo! training for their teams.

Similarly, if the team’s “no decision” rate is uncomfortably high, this may (again) suggest that insufficient Discovery is being done, as well.  Here’s a simple test:  examine the opportunities that led to “no decision” and then examine if Situation Slides were generated and if they were complete or sufficient.  Specifically, was there a clear Critical Business Issue?  Delta?  Critical Date/Event?  The lack of any one of these increases the likelihood of a “no decision” result.

The moral? 

Good managers provide training for their teams.  Great managers participate in training with their teams – and coach to reinforce, support and improve performance for each individual.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Great Quote

“The more you say, the less I will remember.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Great Demo! and Stunningly Awful Demos Articles – What Have You Missed?

Over the past few years I’ve generated a fair number of articles on demos and related areas – here’s the listing in case you’ve missed any, organized by topic. 

I’d be happy to send any of these to you via email.  Alternatively, they are also available on our website at  Each article has its own page and a link to a downloadable PDF version.

Feel free to forward them on to others, as well.

Great Demo! Core Concepts

ü  The Great Demo! Top Ten List
ü  Stunningly Awful Demo Evolution- Have You Ever Seen Demos Get Shorter?
ü  Why Should a Demo Be Like a News Article?
ü  Competitive Demo Situations and "Bake-offs" – How to Bias Towards Your Strengths
ü  Stunningly Awful Demos – The Great Demo! Top Ten List of What NOT To Do
ü  Stunningly Awful Demos - Debilitating Demo Diseases
ü  Stunningly Awful Demos - Debilitating Demo Diseases Additional Afflictions
ü  Stunningly Awful Sales Prevention Demos
ü  Why Don't They Get It - Are They Stupid Or What?
ü  Attention Retention in Demonstrations
ü  Too Complex - A Demo Disaster Story
ü  Stand Away From The Mouse! - Letting Your Champion Drive

Demo-Related Topics

ü  What Makes a Demo Truly Remarkable?
ü  Demo Capital - Underutilized, Undervalued and Often Insufficient
ü  Stunningly Awful SaaS Demos - Lost in the Clouds
ü  Storytelling and Demos
ü  Are You a Demo Expert? Why Experts Should Feel Uncomfortable
ü  We Are Programmed to Forget - And Its Impact on Our Demos
ü  Four Opportunities to Harvest- The Value of Informal Success Stories
ü  Transition Vision - "We Love It - But How Are We Going To Get There?"
ü  The Database Break-Even Point

Remote Demos

ü  Stunningly Awful Remote Demos – The Top Ten List of Inflicting Pain at a Distance
ü  Remote Demos - The Role of the Active Conduit
ü  Remote Demonstrations - What Can We Do Better?
ü  Demos to Mixed Local and Remote Audiences – Tips to Handle Combination Situations

RFP’s, Scripted Demos, POC’s, Trials and Evaluations

ü  Stunningly Awful Demo Situations - The Horror of Scripted Demos
ü  Stunningly Awful Software Evaluations - A Strategy of Hope?

Team Topics

ü  Death By Corporate Overview
ü  Stunningly Awful Demos Team Practices - Where 1 + 1 = 0

New Product Roll-out

ü  Selling to Your Sales Force – The Toughest Customer of All - Product Launch Demos
Presentation and Delivery Tips

ü  The Meaningless-Filler Gratuitous-Phrases Vocabulary List
ü  The Content-Free Buzzword-Compliant Vocabulary List

Growth and Development

ü  Demo Skills Assessment - Do It Now
Recorded and Website Demos

ü  Auto-Demo Hell
ü  More Auto-Demo Hell - A "Customized" Recorded Demo?

Trade-show Tactics

ü  Trade Show Demonstrations - The Menu Approach
Just For Fun

ü  'Twas the Night Before the Big Demo

My next article will likely explore Discovery issues and challenges (another in the Stunningly Awful Demos series) – if you are not already on our emailing list, please let me know if you’d like to receive it.

Additionally, let me know if there are other topics you’d like to see explored in an article!

Monday, October 24, 2011

RFP Responses – When to Pull Back

Far too often vendors invest incredible amounts of resources in RFP responses and resulting Scripted Demos – even when they know they have little (or no) chance of success.  If your organization wins fewer than 50% of the RFP’s you respond to, you may want to consider making a change to find better investments for your team’s time and energy. 

If you believe you are in a poor position in an RFP response process and none of your requests for gaining access to the customer for a Discovery conversation or re-ordering the script have been permitted, consider pulling back – saying “No” to the customer.  [Gasp!] 

Here’s why you might want to contemplate this strategy (particularly before investing additional time and substantial effort in a demo competition):

You may be on the customer or consultant’s list of vendors to show that they covered a sufficient number of vendors before making their decision – even though the decision had already gone to the vendor who is first on the list.  This is known as being “Column Fodder” (from Solution Selling).  Corollary:  Be First!

You may not have sufficient capabilities in your offering, particular in comparison with your competition. 

Be honest with yourself – if you don’t have a reasonable chance, then don’t invest the resources.  Don’t “live in the land of hope”…!  If you don’t really have a reasonable chance to win the business, then decline the competition – and invest your team’s time and energy in sales projects that have a higher expectation of success. In these cases, it may be better to fail fast, fail early, and fail cheaply…

Consider Pulling Back When:
  • You are clearly not column “A” – the RFP was clearly written for another vendor
  • You’ve had no access to the customer for Discovery conversations – the resulting RFP is simply a list of features and functions without context
  • The RFP response time was too limited – this suggests that a decision has already been made for another vendor, but the customer’s purchasing process requires multiple vendors be “evaluated”
  • There was no ability to change or modify the RFP – again this suggest that the customer has already made a decision in favor of another vendor
  • There was no ability to change or modify the demo script – this could be an effort on the part of the customer to establish a “level playing” field – or it may favor another vendor’s offering
  • These is no clear Critical Business Issue – the sales opportunity may like end in “no decision”
  • There is no Critical Date or Event by when the customer needs to have a solution in place - ditto
Many vendors report that when they do Pull Back and say “No”, customers often come back to the vendors to ask the vendor to participate!

Accordingly, be prepared to negotiate for what you want if the customer says, in response, “But we need you to participate”.  Define and know what you want to ask for.

For example:
  • Access to the customer/business players/key users
  • Ability to rearrange the script
  • Adding rows to the RFP – that are included in a subsequent revision

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Metrics – Why We Need To Include the Denominator

In addition to earlier posts, here’s a simple idea:  make sure to include an appropriate (or more complete) denominator in measurements.  A richer denominator enables you to measure effectiveness; the numerator only measures activity.

The example I love to use is to compare: 

“Demos Completed per Quarter”:  Measures activity only (and often results in a negative spiral of “we need more demos so that we have enough pipeline to meet our numbers…”).


“Demos Completed per Quarter per $ of Revenue”:  measures the effectiveness of the team’s demos in securing business.

Expanding on this:

“Demos Completed per Quarter per $ of Revenue on a per-salesperson basis”:  measures the effectiveness of individual sales people in the use of demos in their sales opportunities.  This does assume that other variables are largely independent, which may or may not be true.  There may need to be some level of normalization done to be able to compare sales people’s performance (e.g., quota size, average order size, etc.).


“Demos Completed per Quarter per $ of Revenue on a per-presales-person basis”:  measures the effectiveness of individual presales people in the execution of demos.  Again, this also assumes that other variables are largely independent.  Similarly, normalization may need to be done to compare presales people’s performance (e.g., was discovery done adequately, quota size, average order size, etc.).

Tracking these kinds of metrics over time provides managers (and individuals) with tools to coach and tune the overall organization’s effectiveness, on an individual-by-individual, region-by-region, or overall team basis.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Improv Comedians – and Demos

I was told that only 2% of comedians can do improv comedy successfully…  Everyone else practices their acts constantly – I’d say that the same principle applies to demos.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Remote Demos – Pause Sharing at End

Here’s a simple safety tip:  at the close of a Remote Demo or Webinar, “pause” sharing of your application or desktop.  This offers two advantages:

First, you minimize the risk or showing something you did not mean to show to your audience – for example, flipping over to read email or updating your Facebook page while still sharing your desktop(!).

Second, you can freeze the screen with an Illustration showing or other “payoff” screen (could be a Menu showing items completed in the demo, could be an Illustration, could be a summary slide, etc.).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple Sales Process Metrics for Demos

Here are a few sales process metrics to consider tracking that will enable managers and individuals to understand where there are problems or challenges (e.g., with the process overall and/or individual sales or presales staff).  These same can be used to help drive implementation of Great Demo! methods after initial training has been completed:

For each sales opportunity:

- Was the opportunity the result of receiving an RFP?  (If “Yes”, then treat these separately – see below.)
- Was Discovery done?
    • Was a complete Situation Slide generated for each key player? 
- Was a Great Demo! done?
    • Or was the demo a “Harbor Tour”?
- What was the outcome (close, loss, no decision)?  (A “no decision” could be defined, for example, as an opportunity that did not close in the forecasted quarter…)

Tracking these over each quarter will enable teams to determine, very rapidly:

1.  The impact of completing Discovery (vs. not), with respect to closed business.
2.  The impact of Great Demo! demonstrations vs. Harbor Tours on achieving closed business.
3.  Who is or who is not doing Discovery.
4.  Who is or who is not doing Great Demos! vs. Harbor Tours.

For opportunities from RFP’s: 

1.  Were we “Column A” (were we first or the favored vendor)?
2.  Were we able to perform Discovery?
3.  Were we able to change the order of a resulting Scripted Demo?
4.  If “No” to 2 and/or 3, did we “Pull Back”?

Similarly, tracking these will enable teams to determine, very rapidly:

1.  When to say “Yes” vs. “No” to RFP response requests.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Methodology Implementation – Metrics Matter (Very Much!)

6 to 1 – that’s the ratio of closed sales opportunities using Great Demo! vs. “Harbor Tours”, as tracked by one Great Demo! Workshops customer.  More specifically, he reports that for business that closed during a 12 month period, 62 sales projects used Great Demo! demo Discovery/prep and delivery methods vs. 9 sales projects where Discovery was deemed insufficient and the resulting demos were Harbor Tours.  Sales projects ranged from approximately $200K - $1.5M in deal size.

Equally interesting were the numbers reported for “No Decision” outcomes:  For those sales projects that had a complete Situation Slide for each key player, No Decisions ran at less than 10%.  For sales projects that had incomplete Situation Slide information No Decision rates were above 60% (ick).

How was this information used?  There were two very interesting process changes that took place, as a result:

First, it was mandated by senior sales management that adequate Discovery information be uncovered prior to scheduling a demo – specifically including assessment of Situation Slides prior to agreement to proceed with a demo.  (There were some loopholes for extenuating circumstances, but the gross majority of demos are now preceded by what is considered to be adequate Discovery).

Second, sales pipeline measurements were changed.  Previously, sales people were incented to schedule demos (as many as possible) as a key indicator of overall pipeline activity – which had resulted in a negative feedback spiral of doing more and more unproductive demos, resulting in less closed business per demo, causing management to increase the number of demos per sales person per quarter to try to increase pipeline.  After reviewing the numbers from above, sales management changed “number of demos scheduled/completed per sales person” to “number of demos completed per sales person per $ of revenue” – a very clever way of measuring the effectiveness of demo preparation and delivery.

The bottom line?  This particular team will be having one terrific “President’s Club/Sales Kickoff” in a wonderful location next January!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Using’s Chatter To Support Great Demo! Implementation

A number of Great Demo! Workshop customers report using’s Chatter functionality to reinforce and support roll-out and ongoing implementation.  For example, they report:
- Posting success stories
- Using and editing Situation Slides and Illustrations
- Posting tips and advice
- Discussing new and challenging situations
- Asking where to find or use specific pieces of Demo Capital
It is nice, simple mechanism to keep team members engaged and to share ideas.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Public Great Demo! Workshop

[Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!]

Our next Public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled for October 12, 2011 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 are available here: .

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Clearly You Weren’t Listening…”

I’ve come across an affliction that, untreated, can cause serious chronic trauma to sales teams and forecasts:  Ignoremucitis.  This terrible disease manifests with the following symptoms:

1.       Sales team does a great job in qualification and discovery, asking many excellent and thoughtful questions.

2.       Sales team then presents a demo that essentially ignores everything that was learned.

3.       Customer chooses to purchase from a competitor or does nothing.

Additional collateral damage can include loss of sales team credibility, negative buzz from customers to other customers, and an ever-increasing spiral of trying to increase the sales “funnel” with more leads and more unproductive demos…

This horrible disease is curable.  For individuals, a single application of the Great Demo! book (applied topically, not to be ingested) has shown remarkable efficacy in studies done by the FDA (Famous Demonstrators Association).  For team-sized epidemics, the FDA recommends an initial dose of Great Demo! Workshops, followed periodically by refreshers to maintain desired antibody levels against future outbreaks.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Demos - Measure What You Want to Impact

Too many organizations measure the number of demos delivered – without exploring whether these demos were needed or productive.  In fact, a number of sales organizations incent their teams based on the number of demos scheduled or delivered, under the belief that the more demos in the pipeline, the better the pipeline…  This generates a negative spiral of doing more unproductive and unnecessary demos, yielding forecasts that are increasingly inaccurate and consuming valuable resources that could otherwise be allocated to more profitable sales opportunities.

It is my experience that doing fewer, much more qualified demos results in higher close rates and more accurate forecasts.  Great Demo! practitioners report measuring:

-          Demos per $ of revenue
-          Close rates
-          Sales cycle length
-          Cost of sales (per revenue $)
-          Free vs. paid trials and evaluations (POCs, POVs)
-          Number of trials and evaluations required
-          Deal size and breadth
-          No decisions
-          % follow-up calls
-          Internally-circulated demo success stories

Other measurements to consider?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We Are All In…Support

Most of us have heard the phrase, “We are all in Sales”, but I recently heard an interesting twist on this:  “We are all in Support”.  This is a terrific flip from the traditional positioning that everyone in the organization is part of the sales team and selling process. 

The idea that everyone in the company is ready, able (willing), and proactively working to help customers implement, use and get the desired value from the offerings is huge…!  It can be a key competitive differentiator, particularly when the customer perceives that the functional capabilities of your offering  vs. a competitor’s are essentially equal.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Public Great Demo! Workshop

[Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!]

Our next Public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled for October 12, 2011 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:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Demo Capital – Underutilized, Undervalued and Often Insufficient

[This is a rather long article for a post - send me an email at if you'd prefer a copy emailed to you]

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)?  And is what you have today sufficient?

Use of your organization’s 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?

Interestingly, its existence is often assumed rather than truly recognized.  Demo Capital is the aggregate sum of your organization’s demo infrastructure and know-how, ranging from laptop configurations to demo success stories swapped at the bar during kick-off meetings. 

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

-          Demo databases, data, and accompanying application scenarios
-          Demo virtual machine images
-          Specific demo support software and tools
-          Demo scripts
-          Recordings of demos and demo segments
-          Qualification, discovery and analysis forms and documents
-          CRM system forms and fields
-          Meeting preparation sheets and forms
-          Situation Slides
-          Illustrations
-          Defined and practiced "Do It" pathways
-          Similarly defined "Peel Back the Layers" pathways
-          Documented answers to typical questions
-          Formal Success Stories and reference customers
-          Documented Informal Success Stories
-          Market-specific data, notes, and materials
-          Competitive strengths/weaknesses tables and pieces
-          RFP response boilerplate (including "Adding Rows"); won/lost RFP’s
-          Documented stories, props and other tools applied in successful demos

One could define Tangible Demo Capital as any demo-related entity that can be accessed and used by the team as a whole. 

There is likely an even larger collection of assets and know-how that can be classed as Intangible Demo Capital – these are any demo-related entities that cannot be accessed and used by the team as a whole.  In addition to anything above that is simply undocumented or unknown beyond any specific individual, other intangible elements might include:
-          General best practices generated or evolved by individuals
-          Tips, tricks and techniques for face-to-face demos
-          Face-to-face presentation skills and techniques
-          White-boarding tips, methods and use scenarios
-          Tips, tricks and techniques for Remote Demos
-          Menu Approach super-sets and sub-sets for specific customer scenarios
-          Lists of probable or likely customer Critical Dates or Events
-          Particularly successful props, stories, and related presentation "nuggets"
-          Methods for handling specific questions and hostile audience members
-          Tactics for dealing with typical customer objections
-          Tips and proven methods for outflanking specific competitors
-          Successful Transition Vision development with customers
-          POV, POC and Evaluation success strategies and methods
-          Training techniques for new sales people and channel partners
-          Post-demo debriefing methods and tools
-          Other team-related tactics and techniques
-          Testing/retesting demo environments (particularly those with frequent releases)
-          Methods for surviving a full day at a trade-show booth – (and an evening at the bar)
-          Undocumented Informal Success Stories and related anecdotal success stories
-          Improvements and changes made to documented materials (but not documented)

[This last arena can be huge!  Just consider the (likely) multiple versions of “standard” overview, corporate and product presentation decks that have been evolved by individual team members, for example…]

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

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

Demo Capital only has value if it can be, well, capitalized upon.  Let’s briefly examine the cost of not leveraging existing capital. 

Could we have avoided losing opportunities to competitors or "no decision" if a team member had access to another’s experience or tools?  (“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost…”).  Similarly, could a specific tip or idea have eliminated the need for a second meeting or repeat demo for one customer? 

Nearly all sales, presales and marketing teams complain that they don’t have enough time to get everything done.  What is the opportunity cost associated with repeat work?

-          Recreating materials or tools (that individuals could not find or were unaware of)
-          Re-developing know-how (often through painful experience)
-          Re-discovering applications of these (e.g., an effective white-boarding method)

There are approximately 220 “selling” days per year – it is extraordinarily painful to find that one or more of these days have been wasted (particularly if the impact resulted in the difference between achieving one’s numbers versus missing them!).

Yield From Investment

Here’s the payoff - and the challenge! There are a series of strategic and tactical questions that can help extract the best yield from your existing investment in Demo Capital – and to determine what might be missing or need improvement:


-          What do we have? What's missing? Is it sufficient?
-          Where is it? How is it organized and accessed?  How do we use it today?
-          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?  Reduce the number of demos per dollar of revenue?
-          Can we increase efficiency and productivity in our sales, presales and marketing teams?  What would help the team achieve quota most consistently?
-          Can we improve our ability to attract, hire and retain top-performing staff?  How do we further develop existing staff?

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

Is It Sufficient?

For a specific example of an addressable but often painful “gap” in Demo Capital, let’s revisit the “Is it sufficient?” item from the previous section, with respect to demo data.  For many products, generating demo data that is satisfactorily broad for a range of markets yet specific for any one arena can be a tough challenge – especially when your offerings span multiple job titles, disciplines and markets. 

Generating meaningful demo data (and corresponding application scenarios) to address customer situations that might range from commercial banking to manufacturing to retail typically require either an enormous effort or some very clever data design, or both!

The importance of relevant demo data can be exceptionally high.  The ability for customers to see meaningful and realistic data as part of “their” solutions can be the difference between winning and losing the business. Data that is perceived as fake or unbelievable hurts your cause; data that appear to be real and relevant support your efforts.

Asking a customer to “pretend” with data that is obviously from an alien arena is a recipe for disaster.  A few specific things to avoid include:

-          Data that includes the words “test”, “demo”, or similar.
-          Data that is obviously fake, for example that include famous actors or other people with well-known names.
-          Ancient data – imagine describing “real-time access to up-to-date information” with screens that show the most recent records are from August 2006!

Have you ever felt you lost an order because of the quality of your demo data?  If yes, then what might currently be perceived as “something we just have to live with” should be recognized as a real Critical Business Issue – and needs to be addressed with a tangible investment of resources (time, people, money).

What about your on-boarding process?  How long does it take for a new presales, sales or marketing person to come fully up-to-speed?  What if you were able to leverage existing (but currently unshared) success stories, demo strategies, tips and techniques that are already in use – but are locked in other team members’ heads? 

In this example, the information is sufficient but the access to that information is not.  One simple solution is to implement a series of “Demo Days”, where team members present demos they are particularly proud of or that were wonderfully successful.  These sessions yield stories, tips, and new ideas that can be shared and used immediately within the team.

Underutilized, Undervalued and Often Insufficient

Demo Capital is too frequently taken for granted – both the presence and absence – resulting in what can be rather fearsome lost opportunities and unmet challenges.  Review your existing investment and determine: are there major gaps that need to be closed; are there opportunities waiting to be harvested?

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