Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stunningly Awful Web “Overview” Demos – The Gruesome Anatomy of a 1-Hour Web Overview

[Warning – graphic and potentially painful content…]

1-Hour Web “Overview” Demo Timeline

There’s a rough but strangely consistent timeline for a web-delivered “1 hour overview demo” that seems to go like this [starting time for each element on the left side]:

00:00:  Fumbling with WebEx/GoToMeeting/Live Meeting – “Did you get the link?  Can you see my screen?” (This consumption of time has been delightfully called the “WebEx/GoToMeeting/Live Meeting Tax”).

00:04:  Semi-mutual introductions, but generally one-sided:  introductions (and brief personal history of each of the vendor participants), but limited information requested or offered regarding customer participants – and no request to do discovery on the part of the vendor

00:08:  Corporate overview presentation (gag…)

00:18:  Product overview presentation (yawn), including

1.      Obligatory architecture slide(s), with equally obligatory rectangles and cylinders representing software and database components (how novel…)

2.      Obligatory product-centric slide (showing company’s product in the center of a circle of other things (e.g., users, other applications, process steps, you name it – so novel, once again!)

3.      Key “differentiators”, presented without context to the customer’s needs or specific situation (and largely forgotten by the customer, since they haven’t yet seen a solution that makes remembering anything relevant)

4.      Case studies, if any, generally appear at the end and are typically skipped over “because we are short on time…” (too bad – real case studies would be the most interesting part of the overview)

00:28:  “Actual” demo, including

a.      Opening statement that “we need to compress the planned 45 minute demo into 30 minutes “so we’ll have to go real fast…”

b.      Request that “this be interactive, so please stop me if you have any questions…”, followed by a fire-hose-like delivery with no time for meaningful questions

c.       Re-introduction of the offering (again, even though it was covered in the product overview presentation)

d.      Brief introduction of the for plan for a “story” and 3 fictional characters whose “day in the life” will be followed in the demo

e.      Overview of navigation elements…

f.        Introduction and definitions of key vendor jargon, acronyms and product names

g.      Explanation of how to set up and configure the application, which then consumes most of the remaining time (even though this task is typically done once, when first implemented, and then rarely ever after)

h.      A walk-through of the workflow (a run-through, in fact, since time is really getting short)

i.        A rapid, largely verbal description of the canned and custom reporting capabilities (often including the claim that “we have over 600 canned reports…” of which a typical user might consume only 1 or 2…!)

j.        Comment that “we didn’t have enough time to show you everything…”

00:58   Sales person summary, with platitude marketing “value proposition” statements (that have little or limited bearing on the customer’s specific situation)

00:60:  Wrap-up with no action items

Frightening, gruesome and remarkably common!

If the objective was to “show the customer a demo” then that objective was achieved – but it is very doubtful that other tangible progress was made in the sale.  Very sad; and largely a waste of time for all involved.

But Wait – It’s Even Worse…

The pain often starts earlier – and ends later.  Many presales people find they have scheduled (or have been scheduled by someone else) to deliver two or more demos back-to-back.  For teams in highly “transactional” sales situations this can run all day…!

Far too often, one demo runs beyond the time allocated – causing the presales person to be late joining the next web session (“Sorry I’m late…”) and allowing no time to prepare.

Similarly, there’s no time at the end of the demo to document questions, issues or impressions for the presales person before having to dive into the next demo session.  It only takes a few of these in a row to reduce whatever notes might have been captured to a few, often erroneous items!

A Few Recommendations

(Note – these are not necessarily mutually exclusive!  One or more of these ideas can be combined)

0.       Set the WebEx/GoToMeeting/Live Meeting session to begin 10 minutes before the “real” meeting is scheduled to start (not applicable if multiple customer participants are connecting from several remote locations, but truly terrific if the customer participants are in a single conference room).

1.      If you must do a corporate overview, reduce it to one slide.

2.      Turn the call into a Discovery session, if possible (and appropriate).

3.      Reduce the product overview presentation to just the case study slides.  Case studies can be a wonderful way to move the customer into doing Discovery – “here’s an example of how other, similar customers have used our capabilities to solve specific business challenges – how does what they faced compare with your situation?”

4.      Use the Menu Approach (a terrific self-rescue technique), if the audience is a group and/or if your software addresses a range of problem areas.  [See my article entitled, The Menu Approach – a Truly Terrific Demo Self-Rescue Technique for more details.]

5.      Organize the demo itself in chunks – similar to how newspapers and web news services present news articles.  [See my article entitled, Why Structure a Demo Like a News Article for more details.]

And, for those who often are currently scheduled to do multiple demos back-to-back, consider blocking the 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after each demo as “Prep” and “Clean-Up” time on your calendar – give yourself a fighting chance!

Copyright © 2012 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Menu Approach – A Truly Terrific Demo Self-Rescue Technique

Have you ever been in a situation where:

a.      You find yourself in front of an audience about which you know nothing of their needs or interests – and they’ve been promised a demo…

b.      You are asked to join a web session, right now, and the sales person says, “They asked to see a demo…”  (again, you have zero information about the customer)…

c.       Someone walks up to you at a trade-show booth and says, “What do you guys do?” or “Show me a demo…”

 Are you interested in a delightful self-rescue technique for situations like these?  It’s called The Menu Approach – and it is a logical, simple and surprisingly effective method for dealing with situations where your audience is partly or largely undiscovered.


Imagine walking into a nice restaurant – and you are quite hungry.  You sit down and a few moments later the waiter comes up to you and asks, “What would you like to eat tonight?”

You have no idea what they offer, so you respond, “What do you have?”  The waiter says, “Well, we have lots of items – appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, desserts – what would you like?”

Very frustrating…!  Clearly, you are both making no progress – and it is very much the same situation as requests for demos where neither party has a clear idea of the other’s desires or capabilities.

A solution?  For our restaurant scenario, the waiter says, “Here, let me get you a menu…”

The menu provides a rapid method for the customer to assess what is possible, what sounds good, and what items or combination of dishes to order.  A menu presents a high-level listing of the range of offerings – and we can apply the same principle to the wonderful world of demos.

The Menu Approach

Back to situation “a.” at the top of page 1, above…  You are in front of a group of 12 people, about which you know very little – and you’ve been asked to present a demo.  Instead of taking the customer on a painful and boring “Harbor Tour”, you start by presenting a list of topics that you believe may be of interest.  For a Great Demo! Workshop, a typical list might look like:

-          Remote Demos – Generating Interactivity
-          Making Demos Remarkable
-          RFP’s and Scripted Demos
-          Storytelling and Demos
-          Managing and Out-flanking Competition
-          Managing Questions and Time
-          POC’s, POV’s, and Sandboxes Tools and Strategies

You say, “Here is a list of some topics we could cover.  Let me describe each one briefly and then I’ll ask for a show of hands – and each of you can vote for as many topics as you wish1.” 

At the end of the exercise, your list now might look like:

-          Remote Demos – Generating Interactivity - 10
-          Making Demos Remarkable  - 11
-          RFP’s and Scripted Demos - 5
-          Storytelling and Demos - 3
-          Managing and Out-flanking Competition - 9
-          Managing Questions and Time - 2
-          POC’s, POV’s, and Sandboxes Tools and Strategies  - 5

You then re-order, to yield a list that is rank-prioritized in accord with customer interest:

-          Making Demos Remarkable  - 11
-          Remote Demos – Generating Interactivity - 10
-          Managing and Out-flanking Competition - 9
-          RFP’s and Scripted Demos - 5
-          POC’s, POV’s, and Sandboxes Tools and Strategies  - 5
-          Storytelling and Demos - 3
-          Managing Questions and Time - 2

Wow!  You now have accomplished several, truly terrific things:

1.      You’ve uncovered the customer’s most important issues (they’re at the top of the list)

2.      You have a road-map for the balance of the demo

3.      You can organize your time to ensure you address the high-importance topics – and it’s OK if you don’t have time to cover everything on the list.

Additionally, you may have also expanded the customer’s vision of what solutions and solution areas your organization provides, as it is possible that the customer was previously unaware that you have offerings across this range of topics.

A Few Subtleties…

When counting votes, remember that businesses are not necessarily democracies – and all votes are not necessarily equal.  For example, if there is one C-level person in the room, and she is the only one who wants “Managing Questions and Time”, that topic moves (magically and mystically) to the top of the list.

Similarly, you can choose to bias the presentation (and subsequent scoring) of topics up or down in accord with your current understanding of the customer’s situation – “Many of the other customers we’ve worked with in very similar situations to what you’ve shared with us so far found that the topic on managing POC’s was most important – they were able to save months of otherwise wasted effort as a result of what they learned…  How many of you are interested in this?”

Finally, when you complete a topic, you can use strike-through text to show that it has been completed, giving you (and the customer) a written record of what was completed and what is still open:

-          Making Demos Remarkable  - 11
-          Remote Demos – Generating Interactivity - 10
-          Managing and Out-flanking Competition - 9
-          RFP’s and Scripted Demos - 5
-          POC’s, POV’s, and Sandboxes Tools and Strategies  - 5
-          Storytelling and Demos - 3
-          Managing Questions and Time - 2

 “Show Me A Demo…”

If you have ever worked a demo station at a trade-show, you are familiar with the prospect who walks up to you and says, “What do you guys do?” or simply, “Show me a demo…” (Clearly, they know not what they ask!).

A solution?  Use The Menu Approach.  You can have your list of topics available on your demo computer or tablet – or consider having a list produced as a poster, laminated, and attached to the wall of your demo station.  You can then simply point to your Menu and begin the same process as above:  

“Here is a list of some of the things we do – let me describe each briefly and then you can let me know which one(s) are most interesting to you.”


Many Great Demo! Workshop participants have reported that The Menu Approach is one of the most effective tools they have used.  The Menu Approach – a truly terrific demo self-rescue tool for situations where your audience is partly or largely undiscovered.

1Often referred to as a “Chicago-style” vote…

Copyright © 2012 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.