Friday, December 28, 2012

“Nut Graph” – Applied To Demos

There are a number of terrific ideas in journalism that we can apply to demos – one of which is the “Net Graph”, a contraction of “Nutshell Paragraph”.  In most news stories, the key facts of the story are presented in the first couple of sentences and serve to answer “who, what, when, where, why and how” crisply. 

In Great Demo! methodology, this is very similar to the “Do It” pathway and its accompanying summary.  For example, “To summarize, we just showed how [how] you [who] can access your key report [what] in three mouse clicks [when] right from your laptop computer [where], as opposed to what is currently consuming 2 FTE’s annually [why].”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

‘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 Problems and Reasons, 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, crusty 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!”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stunningly Awful Demos – Two Words to Avoid

Name two words that strike fear and terror into the hearts of customers watching a software demonstration – two words that lengthen demos and turn short, crisp pathways into journeys worthy of Norse sagas.  These are, of course:

            “If”      and      “Or”

Recently, I was watching a demo where a major component of the software was a wizard.  It was a rather wonderful wizard.  Rich with features.  Ripe with options.  The depth and breadth of the capabilities it offered were legion.  How do I know this?

The person delivering the demo started the wizard to show how to execute a specific task – and finally finished the process 55 minutes later.  Truly breathtaking (and not in a positive way…)! 

I said, “Could you please start again and run the wizard the way that someone would use it to complete that same task on a day-to-day basis?”

He said, “Sure” and launched into the process a second time.  How long do you think it took this time?  Three and a half minutes.  

That’s right – using the wizard as designed for this typical task took 3.5 minutes – vs. the 55 minutes consumed in his demo. 

What was the difference?  “If” and “Or”. 

Each time someone presenting a demo uses either of these words, it opens a branch – an additional pathway – and each additional pathway extends the demo, inflicting increased complexity and confusion on the audience.

A Parable

Imagine you need to drive to the store to pick up a few things for dinner – a trip that normally takes 10 minutes each way. You get into your car, leave the driveway and proceed down the street. Your car is equipped with a surprisingly intelligent voice-controlled GPS – so intelligent, in fact, that it decides there are other options you should see on the way.

The GPS takes control and turns off 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 again changes direction and drives 5 minutes to show you a nice park. "Terrific, but I’m not in the mood for a picnic," you say.  "Please return to the original course." The GPS sighs quietly, but obediently returns to the original route once again.

Moments later, the GPS makes a left turn and drives 8 minutes to a new home-products store.  It announces proudly that the store just opened recently and is a great option for everything from paint to plumbing. “Thanks” you comment, getting irritated, “but I don’t need any hardware – please return to the original route.”

Two minutes later the GPS takes control again – and this time it shows you five options for travelling one segment of the route:  An expressway, a toll-road, and three separate local “short-cuts” (none of which are particularly short) – and the GPS travels down each of these.

Now very 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...

Angrily you disable the GPS and proceed directly to the store – and because of the many detours, dinner will be seriously late! 

What if demos were delivered this way?

The Dreaded “If”

It starts innocuously enough, with a single “if”, such as, “Now, if you want to submit this, then you choose ‘OK’…”  But “if” appears to need company and will clone itself…repeatedly!  Here’s an example:

“Now, if you want to submit this, then you choose ‘OK’…  But if you want to change the color, then you go to our color palette which I’ll show you now…, and if you need a different size, then you click here where we have our sizing sub-wizard which operates like this…, and if you want to share it with other colleagues then let me show you our collaboration tool and…”  “Ifs” breed like proverbial rabbits. 

And that’s one way to change a 3.5 minute pathway into a 55 minute torture tour.  When you find you are about to say “If” in a demo, consider asking whether the audience is interested in seeing the capabilities you have in mind before proceeding!

“Or” Horror

Let me describe the sins of “Or” via a simple example or by using a medium-length process, or with a longer task example, or via a nice story, or by providing a couple of references, or by using live software to show seven different ways to accomplish the same task…

Have I made my point – (or) do I need further “Or’s” to illustrate?

Consider:  Is there any task you do that you’d like it to take any longer than necessary?  [Clarification:  any task you do at work?] 

When there are several possible ways to accomplish a task, which should you show in a demo?  Pick the fastest, most direct route – the “Do It” pathway.  No extra information, no discussion of options.  The straight line – the fewest number of steps – from a logical starting point to completing that task.

Cohan’s Razor:  Given the choice of multiple paths in a demo, choose the shortest.  [Apologies to William of Occam.]

Later on, you can ask if the audience might be interested in other possibilities – particularly if the other capabilities are competitively important or otherwise differentiate your offering.

And, of course, the worst phrase of all is “Or if”…  Example:  “Or, if you want save this in other formats let me show you all of the file formats we support…” 

Death By Dead-End

What is a “Dead-end”?  It is the natural outcome of launching down an “If” or “Or” pathway, getting close to the end, but not completing the function – leaving the audience unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

Example:  Have you ever seen someone in a demo navigate to the “Reports” tab, comment that there are 600 pre-built reports available in the system”, then move to another menu option, begin to build a custom report and – after a pile of clicks, scrolls and drags – produce a completed report template, but not run an actual report?  Aaagh!

Even worse, in many cases the demonstrator needs to backtrack through another pile of clicks just to return to the main story.  Hmmm – sounds a lot like our car GPS story above…!

To be fair, there may be situations where some of these alternative approaches may be useful or important. An excellent way to test for interest is to ask.  For example, “We have a number of output options – are there any that you would like to see in particular?” [See my article Competitive Demo Situations – Biasing Towards Your Strengths for more on how to do this.]

Otherwise, avoid alternative approaches and dead-ends…!

In Case “If” and “Or” Aren’t Enough

There are a handful of phrases that put fear and loathing into customers’ hearts when on the receiving end of demos – here are a few of my personal favorites:

“…Let me start by orienting you to our screen layout and navigation …”

Oh my god.  I don’t what to learn how to use your software yet; I don’t yet know if it does anything that will help me in my business.  The last thing I want at this point is product training!

Solution?  Do the Last Thing First.

“…Now I’ll show you our context-relevant help system…”

Double oh my god.  This suggests that I’ll need the help system, because your software is likely complex, complicated, and downright user-hostile.

Solution?  Don’t.

 “…and another really cool thing about our software is…”

This phrase is used, often frequently, in what are known as “run-on demos”.  These are demos without a break, without a pause, and typically no introduction or summary for any particular segment.  These demos are one-way, painful fire-hose deliveries of features and functions flung in a steady stream from presenter to audience. 

Solution?  Break your demo into consumable components – chunks – that can be introduced, presented crisply, and summarized before moving on.

“…now this next part is really important…”

You can say this once, and I’ll believe it.  Twice, I’m still with you.  Three times, I might be able to remember all three. 

But what happens beyond the third use of “really important”?  Confusion, then boredom.  Tedium.  Numbness.  Idle doodling and furtive glances at smart phones.  When too many items are labeled “important” they all become – unimportant!

Solution?  Don’t.

When possible, record and listen to your demos carefully and critically – and if you hear yourself using any of the phrases above, take appropriate action to change!  Overall, consciously avoid “If” and “Or”.  Your audience will be grateful and your reward will be higher success rates with your demos and more closed business.

Copyright © 2012 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Great Demo! Methodology Implementation – Starting Points

Many people comment that training class participants cannot be expected to “eat the entire elephant” post-training, and follow apply all of the new learnings. Instead, it is often suggested that participants choose 3 items they will commit to implementing.

With this in mind, what 3 Great Demo! ideas or tools would you recommend that Great Demo! Workshop graduates put into practice?

My favorite three, for example, are to:

1. Generate and use Situation Slides
2. Develop and present Illustrations – “Do the Last Thing First”
3. Break up your content into short, discrete chunks and take the shortest path from A to B – Just “Do It”

What are your suggestions and experiences?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Post-Demo Phone Calls

One very successful sales person calls each customer participant after a demo to get their impressions and feedback. What a great way to show interest, hear what each individual took away, correct erroneous impressions, etc.  In this particular case, it is the sales person who makes these calls – it could equally be done by the presales team member.

Delightful in any case!