Monday, December 29, 2014

Land and Expand: The Importance of the Delta

No CFO will approve a major expansion of software without a clear understanding of the value equation.  The challenge, often, is that the people who bought the 1 or 2 seats of the original “Land” purchase generally don’t have the experience to uncover and communicate the value.  The vendor may be required to help the buyer with the process since many of these buyers have never orchestrated a large purchase. 

Buyers who go to their CFO’s with incomplete information are likely to be denied their request.  I’ve seen inexperienced managers present to their CFO’s with statements like, “We need a new sales process system; the old Excel system doesn’t really work…”

CFO responds, “Well, you’ve been using the Excel system for the past 5 years…  This doesn’t really seem compelling.”  [Rejected!]

Here’s a simple checklist (for the buyer) to help them with the purchasing process:

Critical Business Issue:  What over-arching objective or challenge are we [the customer organization] seeking to address?
Problems / Reasons:  What is getting in the way?  What systems or workflows are insufficient, and in what way? 
Specific Capabilities:  Here is the list of specific capabilities we are looking for in a vendor’s offering.
Delta:  This is the tangible value we expect to gain as a result of making the change – expressed in specific terms of time, people and/or money.
Critical Date:  The date by when we need to have a solution in place and driving force for that date.

Quick example:  A Director of Sales Operations of a large software company purchased a few licenses of a new sales process tool to try out, liked it, and now wants to deploy it across the full sales organization. Here’s what his summary checklist might look like:

Critical Business Issue:  Achieve 2015 sales revenue objectives; expand pipeline; reduce the number of “No Decision” outcomes.
Problems / Reasons:  Current sales process tool is an Excel application; hard to use, takes forever to roll-up; lots of errors and inaccuracies; actuals vs. forecast numbers rarely match.  Sales people hate it and reports are difficult to generate and distribute; sales managers are unable to accurately assess real opportunities vs. those that will likely end as “No Decision”.
Specific Capabilities:  Simple, fast, web-based entry and tracking of sales opportunities and process steps; clearly defined stages; simple checks on data and process accuracy; reports of weekly, monthly and quarterly forecasts, with highlighting of key projects and issues; rolling 3, 6, 9 and 12 month pipelines on per-rep and per-region basis.
Delta:  Reduce “No Decision” category results by 50%; increase overall revenues by 15% and 6-month pipeline by 25%.  Recover and redeploy 1.5 FTE currently consumed with the Excel system.
Critical Date:  February 13, 2015 for roll-out at 2015 sales kickoff event.

Now the case is much clearer:  The CFO knows why a new system is needed – what goals and objectives are at risk, what specifically what capabilities are needed, and (importantly) what value is expected as a result of implementation, as well as when (and why) implementation needs to take place.  The Delta – the value component – is key.  A CFO is much more likely to say “Yes” to this…!

[For more specific tips on uncovering the Delta, see my blog post on March 20, 2014 “Let’s Talk About Value – Uncovering the Delta”]

Monday, December 22, 2014

The REAL Buyer Stages...

Traditionally, vendors identify a set of Buyer Stages – the steps and thinking that a customer goes through en route to purchasing a product.  I think the traditional list is inaccurate and doesn’t reflect reality.  Here’s one example of the traditional list:

“Classically, there are four main stages:
- Awareness: Identify a business need;
- Consideration: Determine possible solutions;
- Research: Evaluate different solutions;
- Purchase: Select a solution and negotiate purchase.”

I’d suggest the following customer stages are more likely in buying enterprise software:

- Cluelessness:  the customer has no idea that he/she even has a problem…
- Semi-Awareness:  the customer realizes that there is a problem, but doesn’t care…
- Denial:  the customer prefers to ignore the problem and assume that it isn’t really an issue…
- Reluctance:  the customer agrees there is a problem, but wishes it would simply go away…
- Transference:  the customer blames another department/group/person/he/her customers for the problem and hopes they will take care of it…
- Acceptance:  the customer agrees that the problem is his/hers to solve…
- Cycling:  oops – “missed the budget cycle, guess we’ll have to wait until next year” (and maybe the problem with go away in the meantime)…
- Mandate:  senior management makes it a project and gives the customer a goal to solve the problem with an end-of-year deadline…
- Whining:  “I already have too much on my plate…”
- Delay:  “I’ll get to it later this year…”
- Sleep:  customer forgets about the problem for the next 10 months..
- Awareness:  customer realizes, 10 months later, that he/she needs to start working on solving the problem…
- Delegation:  customer forms a team of minions to define the problem and propose solutions…
- Bickering:  each team member proposes a different solution and defends said solutions in a life-or-death corporate struggle of power, intrigue, manipulation and warfare…
- First-Cut:  a set of three candidate vendor solutions are chosen…
- Research:  (by the vendors including, but not limited to, doing Discovery)…
- Vendors’ Presentations:  corporate overviews followed by product line overviews followed by infrastructure overviews followed by overview demos (oh god oh god no no no no no)…
- Deep Dive Vendors’ Presentations:  to an expanded set of players, repeat line above, but in four-part harmony…
- Proposals:  Vendor A:  “Pleeeeeeeeeeze be my customer….!”, Vendor B:  “Pleeeeeeeeeeze be my customer….!”, Vendor C:  “Pleeeeeeeeeeze be my customer….!”…
- Second-Cut:  one vendor removed, customer requests POC’s from the final two…
- POC 1:  three months of inactivity followed by one day trial, followed by “what’d you think?” from the vendor…
- POC 2:  three months of inactivity followed by one day trial, followed by “what’d you think?” from the vendor…
- No Decision:  both vendors are “OK”, but not “great”…
- Readjustment:  customer’s goals are reset for the next calendar year…
[Repeat from Delay as necessary…]
- Selection:  3-5 years later, a winning vendor is chosen…
- Negotiation:  customer agrees to price and terms; purchasing takes a piece, legal takes a piece, the CFO takes a piece; disgruntled players try to torpedo the deal…
- EOQ:  customer delays until December 30, negotiates an additional sizeable discount, plus training and implementation services “thrown in” for free…
- Purchase!  License agreement is back-dated to enable vendor to make his numbers; deal is signed December 35th.

[There are likely more stages, but this is a sufficient start – your add-ons are welcomed…!]

Of course, that is the set of stages for a seasoned veteran that has been with his/her company for many years.  Here are the stages for a newly hired VP or C-level Leader (yes this is cynical, but I believe we’ve all seen this happen!):

- Press Release:  new VP or C-Level Leader just hired!  
- Early Action!  he/she just came aboard and wants to establish presence through implementing a new sweeping program…
- Purchase:  buys the same system he/she bought at the previous company…
- Implementation:  rolls-out to team, followed swiftly by…
- Confusion:  things don’t work as expected…
- Blame:  fingers are pointed in all directions…
- Professional Services:  the vendor’s professional services team is called in to make things work as visualized by the Leader…
- Discovery:  an analysis of the customer’s people and processes reveals that the system will never work as desired – not now, not never…
- Sacking:  several middle managers and numerous staff are sacked, followed a few months later by…
- Resignation:  Leader resigns, citing “cultural differences”…
- Press Release from a different company:  new VP or C-Level Leader just hired!  
- Early Action!  [Rinse and repeat…]

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cold Calls - Do Vendors Research You Before Calling? (Nope)

I am amazed at how many vendors cold-call me, without doing ANY prior research on me or my company.  A little web searching (very little, frankly) would have revealed that I am NOT a good prospect for these vendors.  In spite of that, they call to talk about their products and services (“Hey, we’ve just had a new release and I want to tell you all about it!  It’s all about us, and nothing about you…”).  Most callers offer a demo of their offering, nearly right away – and very frequently offer a free trial or evaluation. 

I often take them up on their offers to see how their “sales” process operates and to stay up-to-speed with current products and services.  (I use “sales” in quotes because any opportunity that lists me or my company is HIGHLY likely to end as a “No Decision” – so sad!)

Typical triggers to receive this type of cold call, in my experience, include:

-          Signing up for a webinar
-          Downloading a paper or article from a vendor’s website
-          Having ever answered my telephone…

What’s been your experience? 

[I wonder how many of these cold calls are driven by “activity”-based metrics, such as “You need to make 20 calls and do 15 demos per day…”?  Sigh…]

Monday, December 8, 2014

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

Hi All,

Here’s the current list of articles on demos in case you’ve missed any, organized by topic.  

They are available on this website the Articles page (  Each article has its own page and a link to a downloadable PDF version.  Feel free to forward them on to others, as well.

If you have ideas or suggestions for new articles, please let me know.  I’ll list a few candidates at the bottom – you can vote for the ones you’d like to see!

The “Stunningly Awful Demos” Series (a perennial favorite!)
Stunningly Awful Sales Tactics – The Future-Sales Prevention Team
Stunningly Awful Demo Communication – Unencrispening the Demo
Stunningly Awful Sales Kickoff Demos:  Selling to Your Sales Force – the Toughest Customer of All!
Stunningly Awful Demo Outcomes – Why Objections Shouldn't Need To Be Overcome
Stunningly Awful vs. Truly Terrific Competitive Differentiation – What, When and How
Stunningly Awful Demos – Two Words to Avoid
Stunningly Awful Web "Overview" Demos – The Gruesome Anatomy of a 1-Hour Web Overview
Stunningly Awful Demos – Insufficient Discovery
Stunningly Awful Demo Evolution – Have You Ever Seen Demos Get Shorter? 
Stunningly Awful Demos – The Great Demo! Top Ten List of What NOT To Do
Stunningly Awful Demos – Debilitating Demo Diseases
Stunningly Awful Demos – Debilitating Demo Diseases Additional Afflictions
Stunningly Awful Sales Prevention Demos
Stunningly Awful SaaS Demos – Lost in the Clouds
Stunningly Awful Remote Demos – The Top Ten List of Inflicting Pain at a Distance
Stunningly Awful Demo Situations – The Horror of Scripted Demos
Stunningly Awful Software Evaluations – A Strategy of Hope?
Stunningly Awful Demos Team Practices – Where 1 + 1 = 0

Great Demo! Core Concepts
Let's Talk About Value – Uncovering the Delta
Surprisingly Delectable Demos – Delightful Dining Analogies
Why Structure a Demo Like a News Article?
The Great Demo! Top Ten List
Stunningly Awful Demo Evolution – Have You Ever Seen Demos Get Shorter? 
Stunningly Awful Demos – The Great Demo! Top Ten List of What NOT To Do
Stunningly Awful Demos – Debilitating Demo Diseases
Stunningly Awful Demos – Debilitating Demo Diseases Additional Afflictions
Stunningly Awful Sales Prevention Demos
Attention Retention in Demonstrations
Too Complex – A Demo Disaster Story
Stand Away From The Mouse! – Letting Your Champion Drive

Advanced Topics
Stunningly Awful Demos – Insufficient Discovery
The Menu Approach – A Truly Terrific Demo Self-Rescue Technique
Stunningly Awful vs. Truly Terrific Competitive Differentiation – What, When and How
Stunningly Awful Demo Outcomes – Why Objections Shouldn't Need To Be Overcome
Stunningly Awful Sales Tactics – The Future-Sales Prevention Team
Stunningly Awful Demos – Two Words to Avoid 
What Makes a Demo Truly Remarkable? 
Demo Capital – Underutilized, Undervalued and Often Insufficient
Stunningly Awful SaaS Demos – Lost in the Clouds
Storytelling and Demos
Why Don't They Get It – Are They Stupid Or What?
Are You a Demo Expert? Why Experts Should Feel Uncomfortable
We Are Programmed to Forget - And Its Impact on Our Demos
Four Opportunities to Harvest – The Value of Informal Success Stories
Transition Vision - "We Love It – But How Are We Going To Get There?" 
The Database Break-Even Point

Remote Demos
Stunningly Awful Web "Overview" Demos – The Gruesome Anatomy of a 1-Hour Web Overview
Stunningly Awful Remote Demos – The Top Ten List of Inflicting Pain at a Distance
Remote Demos – The Role of the Active Conduit
Remote Demonstrations – What Can We Do Better? 
Demos to Mixed Local and Remote Audiences – Tips to Handle Combination Situations

RFP’s, Scripted Demos, POC’s, Trials and Evaluations
Stunningly Awful Demo Situations – The Horror of Scripted Demos
Stunningly Awful Software Evaluations – A Strategy of Hope? 

Team Topics
Stunningly Awful Sales Tactics – The Future-Sales Prevention Team
Stunningly Awful Demo Communication – Unencrispening the Demo
Death By Corporate Overview
Stunningly Awful Demos Team Practices – Where 1 + 1 = 0

New Product Roll-out 
Stunningly Awful Sales Kickoff Demos:  Selling to Your Sales Force – the Toughest Customer of All!
Why Don't They Get It – Are They Stupid Or What?

Presentation and Delivery Tips
The Meaningless-Filler Gratuitous-Phrases Vocabulary List
The Content-Free Buzzword-Compliant Vocabulary List

Growth and Development
Demo Skills Assessment – Do It Now

Recorded and Website Demos
Auto-Demo Hell
More Auto-Demo Hell – A "Customized" Recorded Demo? 
[On the positive side, check out DemoChimp at]

Trade-show Tactics
Trade Show Demonstrations – The Menu Approach

Just For Fun
'Twas the Night Before the Big Demo

And In the Future…
Here are a few candidate topics for my next articles:

- Stunningly Awful On-Boarding Demos – The Trouble Begins
- Stunningly Awful Demo Environments – Failing Early and Far Too Often
- Eight Engaging Examples (What Does “Great” Look Like?)
- Workflow Analysis – Uncovering Four Delightful Pieces of Information (That You Need)
- The Delusion of Product-Centric Demos
- Stunningly Awful Demo Detail – Let Me Explain What Happens Behind The Scenes
- The Terrible Tabs Death March

Vote for the ones you’d like to see and/or suggest others…!

Best Regards,

Copyright © 2014 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fabulous Recorded Demos – Is This Possible? (Yes!)

Until recently, I have generally cautioned against using recorded demos (e.g., from AutoDemo) in marketing and sales processes, as it is unlikely that one recorded demo will fit the broad range of customers’ interests.  However, a bright young company has created a wonderful offering that enables recorded demos to automatically be tailored to address specific customers’ interests – really well done!  

Check out DemoChimp at

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Podcast “You’re Doing Your Demo Backwards…!”

Here’s a link to a podcast with Tom Cooper of the BrightHill Group ( discussing some key demo ideas:

Tom writes a delightful blog and offers services beautifully aligned with Great Demo! – Tom is all about “Helping Geeks Communicate With and Influence Others”.

The podcast discusses the horrors of traditional demos and suggests a handful of solutions to make demos more engaging, more compelling, and more focused on the customers’ needs, issues, and interests.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Demo Tip: Application Toolbars – Start Hidden

Many software products offer a set of toolbars or palettes that are specific to the application.  I suggest starting your demos with these hidden, when possible, to reduce the apparent complexity of the offering. 

I recently saw a demo where the presenter started with a “clean page” surrounded by no fewer than 5 icon-rich toolbars – looked pretty complicated to me…!  Interestingly, he only used 2 of the 5 toolbars during the course of the demo.  The 3 extra toolbars reduced the available screen real-estate and added to the perception of making the product look too complicated.

If possible, start with your application toolbars and palettes off and then bring them in as needed (and only as needed…!).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

“I’ve Saved the Best for Last…” – A Stunningly Awful Strategy…!

I can’t tell you how many times I hear the presenter say, in a demo, "I've saved the best part for last..."  And this is offered after (often) an hour or more of demo details and day-in-the-life feature-function-flow. 

Who is left in the room at that point?  Certainly not the high-ranking people. 
And how are the remaining customer participants’ brains?  Mush.

So don’t save the best for last; instead Do the Last Thing First!  (What a great idea…)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Early Adopters vs. Majority Prospects: Features vs. Solutions – and Doing Discovery

Early Adopters and Technology Adopters are inadvertently training us to deliver feature/function “Harbor Tour” demos…  But it’s not their fault; it’s ours…!

Early Adopters and Technology Adopters love to hear and talk about new features and cool capabilities – and often identify problems themselves that can be solved, synthesizing solutions from the feature set articulated by vendors.  They embrace change and are excited about applying new capabilities to solve existing problems and new, previously unexplored arenas.  However, while important, this group represents a very small fraction of the business population… 

Everyone else is not interested in change, typically, and needs to feel that a problem is truly critical before investing resources to address it – they are interested in solutions, not features and functions. These groups (the Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards) represent the overwhelming majority of the population.  [Note:  This is one of the essential points in Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm”.]

What does this mean with respect to doing Discovery?

Early Adopters and Technology Adopters often don’t need to have Discovery done (and some may not respond well to it).  They are eager to hear about new products, new features and new options – they ask us to do feature/function Harbor Tours.  Worse, they indirectly train us to believe that these demos work well for everyone, because they tell us how exciting our new offerings are.  And they may make a purchase based on what they’ve seen in a feature/function Harbor Tour demo, resulting in a (frightening) positive feedback loop supporting feature/function-let’s-just-show-them-a-demo…  [Note:  some Early Adopter and Technology Adopter purchases are starting points for a “Land and Expand” strategy…]

On the other hand, Early and Late Majority populations need to have Discovery done – they will generally not be comfortable making a purchase without completing rather substantial research on their part, which should include one or more sessions of diagnostic Discovery questions and discussion with a vendor.  [Note:  Even “Mr. Crusty” still wants and needs to have Discovery done, but he/she will only allow a vendor do to so once that vendor has earned sufficient credibility…!]

But wait – there’s more:  Many Technology Adopters are unable to drive a purchase – and simply spend their lives (and the lives of the vendors’ sales teams) looking at technology.  How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m always interested in exploring new technologies…”  This is likely a recipe for a “No Decision” outcome.  Vendors may still need to perform a reasonable amount of Discovery to determine if the opportunity is a real one…!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Problem Solvers vs. Problem Finders

The world today respects problem solvers – without question.  Intriguingly, however, many senior managers are now assigning even higher value to problem finders or problem identifiers.  In the current regime of big-data-what-question-would-you-like-to-ask, people who can identify insightful questions to ask may be providing higher value than those who find the ways to answer those questions.  It is argued – and I’d strongly agree – that identifying insightful new problems to address is often a harder task than  solving problems already identified. 

Interestingly, the Challenger sales model may have elements of this:  those sales/marketing/presales people who can pose intriguing and expected questions may be the people who can drive the most important changes.  Problem Finders are often unsatisfied with the status quo – they are unwilling to accept that things couldn’t be better.

Problem Finders are often operating at higher levels of thinking than Problem Solvers – they are concerned with Critical Business Issues.  Many Problems Solvers find they are dragged into the day-to-day morass of the mundane…

The best case?  Problem Finders who are also Problem Solvers – this is the essence of Silicon Valley and entrepreneurship…!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Technology Adoption Curve - And the Degree of Proof Your Customers Require

A simple way to tell where your customers are on the technology adoption curve is to assess the degree of proof they require prior to making a purchase.

For example, very early in the development of a market, when you are presenting to Innovators and Early Adopters, they will buy after seeing brief Vision Generation demos:  “Oooooo, this looks really good – I gotta get me some of that…!”

Early Majority prospects will require a deeper demo – a Technical Proof demo – to make sure that the capabilities they feel they need are present and work correctly.

You’ll know that you are moving into the middle of the Majority group when you begin to get consistent requests for POC’s and similar trials of your tools in their hands.

And you’ve hit the Late Majority, in many cases, when you begin to receive piles of RFP’s (oh the horror…!).  Let’s not even talk about the Laggards, who will want all of the above plus written guarantees – and then delay purchase until it is absolutely necessary for them...

Note that each vertical that you sell into may reflect its own technology adoption curve and timeline.  Also note that as you proceed from left to right on the curve (Innovators to Early Adopters to Early Majority to Late Majority to Laggards), the degree of proof (and accompanying vendor resources) required increases rather dramatically!

[Note also that if you are unfamiliar with the above terms, it is high time to read a copy of Geoffrey Moore’s seminal work “Crossing the Chasm”!]

[Amusing sub-note:  the last time I visited Buck’s Café in Woodside California I happened to note that he is/was still using a DOS-based cash register – full-on Laggard material!  And Buck’s Café is, of course, the heart of connecting, company formation and deal-making in Silicon Valley – the irony is delightful!  I asked Jamis, Buck’s proprietor, why he is still using a DOS-based system in the center of innovation?  He said, “because it works…!”]

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Corporate Overview Presentations Still In Use – Really?

In spite of logic, rational thinking, and the guidance of many people, it appears that sales (and some presales) people still feel an obligation to flog their audiences with their stunningly misaligned corporate overview presentations.  Why is this still happening? 

Is it because some vendors still believe their customers haven’t done sufficient research on their vendors before inviting a vendor in to consume an hour (or more) of their team’s time in a demo meeting?  After all, most customers probably haven’t yet learned how to “Google” the vendor and learn all about them, right? 

Is it because some vendors really believe that their customers are earnestly interested in the vendor’s history, founding fathers and mothers, revenues over time, location of their offices, major milestones and (oh please) their mission statement?

Is it because some vendor personnel prefer to talk, talk, talk about their company, their people, and their products rather than asking intelligent questions and listening carefully to the answers?

Is it because some vendor on-boarding processes stress learning to recite the corporate overview presentation (rather than learning a set of Discovery topics and/or Challenger questions that would enable a conversation with the customer)?  Hmmm – we may have something here….

Is it because some vendor personnel feel that the only value they can add is to present the corporate overview?  (Egads…!)

What do you think?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Other Vendors' Demos – Great Source for Learning

I’m occasionally surprised to find presales staff who have never seen another vendor’s demo – not even demos from a competitor…  (So, if you haven’t seen demos from other vendors, it is time to do so!)

For everyone, occasionally watching demos from other vendors is a terrific way to regain the customer’s perspective regarding demos.  I typically suggest that you watch demos from vendors where you actually have interest in their products – this helps to make the interaction as real as possible – be a customer.  Sign up for a demo from the vendor’s website and see how you are treated as a customer:

-          Do they just schedule a demo without asking any questions or doing Discovery?  What is the balance pre-demo experience like? 
-          How about the demo itself:
o   Was it engaging?
o   Did it address your interests?
o   Was it interactive – or a fire-hose delivery of features and functions?
o   Did you find your attention wandering – did you “check out”?  (And if so, how long into the demo did this take?)
o   What could have made the experience for valuable for you, as the customer?
-          And what happened post-demo – did they address any open issues or questions, for example?

What you learn you may wish to apply to your own demos and processes!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Great Demo! Reading List – Recommended Remarkable Books

A number of folks have asked for a Reading List (books that I often reference in Great Demo! Workshops) – here is a starter list.  You’ll note I’ve largely omitted books on sales methodology and presales-specific books – all great to read, of course – this list is designed to broaden and expand our thinking beyond our day-to-day activities!

Brain Rules:  John Medina
How information is received, filtered and stored – should be required reading!

Made to Stick:  Chip and Dan Heath
Great for understanding Storytelling and key Storytelling elements.

Crossing the Chasm:  Geoffrey Moore
Technology Adoption Curve, Early Adopters vs. Majority and impact on demos.

Predictably Irrational:  Dan Ariely
People make decisions in strange ways – very intriguing!

To Sell Is Human:  Daniel Pink
Wonderful ideas on how people persuade others (aka “selling”).

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information:  Edward Tufte
Excellent treatise on presenting data and information – extraordinarily important for dashboards, visualization tools and related.

Blue Ocean Strategy:  W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
Terrific strategies for creating new markets and new categories (more targeted at marketing and business development folks).

The Long Tail:  Chris Anderson
Again, more for the marketing and business development sides of the house, but really interesting exploration of how many small things can add up to some really big things…

The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference:  Malcolm Gladwell
Provides a great understanding of the impact and mechanics of word-of-mouth.

Unleashing the SUPER Ideavirus:  Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell
More excellent ideas on applying word-of-mouth approaches.

The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited:  Emanuel Rosen
The previous two listings describe what kinds of remarkable things can be accomplished via viral marketing; this book covers how to accomplish it!

Terrific book by unknown author on demos…

Monday, August 18, 2014

[Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!] Great Demo! Public Workshop

Our next Great Demo! Public Workshop will take place October 15-16 – registration and additional information can be found at

This is a 1.5-Day Workshop, with the first day focusing largely on core Great Demo! material and the morning of the second day addressing more advanced topics and techniques.

Public Workshops take place in San Jose, California, in conjunction with the folks at SKMurphy.  They are excellent opportunities for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires.

We’ve found that these sessions are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization (singletons are also fine). This helps to mimic real-life interactions as much as possible, both when preparing demos and delivering them in the role-play sessions.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Uses (and Cautions) of Recorded Demos

Recorded demos offer some wonderful opportunities for delivering content – but need to be used with careful regards to your objectives and customer situations.  Here are a few quick guidelines to contemplate:

-        Excellent application. 
-        Recorded demos can provide guided instructions on learning software:  “Here’s how to….”  This is a terrific use for recorded demos, since the use scenarios tend to be reasonably consistent – they should focus on the high-probability tasks that users need to accomplish.
-        The astute trainer realizes that many elements of Great Demo! methodology apply directly in recorded demos for training:  The use of Illustrations to show the end result, the “Do It” pathway to show fastest route to completing the task, and typical “Peeling Back the Layers” pathways to explore answers to questions that users will likely ask.

-         Excellent for education and introducing new products and categories. 
-        Very useful for moving “Latent Pain to Pain”, to let customers know what is possible.  These demos need to be crisp and focused – and/or organized into consumable “chapters”.  A 1-hour “end-to-end” or “day-in-the-life” video isn’t likely to yield good results.
-        Again, many elements of Great Demo! methodology apply:  Focus on high-probability use cases; apply Great Demo! methodology using Informal Success Stories (in Situation Slide format, for example), Illustrations and “Do It” pathways.  I’d suggest not going deeper – one of your objectives is to generate enough interest with the customer to ask for and enable a Discovery conversation between the customer and a sales team as a probable next step.

-        Potentially good for Vision Generation, use carefully.
-        Use targeted, high-probability use cases; apply Great Demo! methodology similarly to the marketing demos.  You want to make sure that the customer simply has an “appetizer” and gets hungry to contemplate a larger meal – not fill them up (or worse, present the customer with capabilities and solutions that don’t match the customer’s perceived needs)!  Your objective typically should be a Discovery conversation as the next step.

-        Same as Sales, above, plus can be a reasonable back-up if live environments are not available (and recorded demos rarely crash).
-        Make sure, however that recorded demos are used for Vision Generation.  Recordings are not particularly compelling for achieving Technical Proof…

Some additional thoughts regarding recorded demos in general:

-        Great for consistent messaging.
-        Highly leveraged (produce once, use many).
-        Can enable new hires to engage while they are still learning the offerings.
-        Great for education of customers (and vendor personnel, as well).

-          Cannot have a conversation with the customer; delivery is one-sided.
-          Can be hard to keep up-to-date as products evolve.
-          Requires well-defined, high probability use cases.
-        There is a tendency for many vendors (particularly marketing groups) to put waaaaaay too much into them…!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stunningly Awful Sales Tactics – The Future-Sales Prevention Team

Stunningly Awful Sales Tactics – The Future-Sales Prevention Team
The Curse of the Hunter-Farmer Model

Are your sales teams traditional, better or truly great?  Contemplate the following (ugly) scenario: 

A customer calls his sales person to ask for help implementing software he purchased recently – there seems to be a mismatch regarding the capabilities delivered vs. what he expected…

He leaves a voicemail message, but hears nothing back from the sales rep.  He then calls customer service and describes his problem (again) to them.  Customer service promises to look into it – but can find no information in the CRM system beyond that the order was received by purchasing a few weeks back.  The customer service people send an email to the sales person and receive a curt response, “I brought in the business; your job is implement it!” 

Customer service ultimately tells the customer “Sorry, the software you licensed didn’t include the capabilities you are asking about…”

Frustrated, the customer reduces the scope of his implementation – and has to tell his management that “The ROI for this purchase may take longer than expected…”

A month later, our customer receives a call from an account manager (“Farmer”) at the same vendor.  She asks how things are going…  Our customer replies, “Not as well as I’d wanted – we had to scale back our planned implementation.  I’m a bit frustrated, actually…!”

On the other end of the line, the account manager sighs deeply and says (to herself), “Looks like yet another uphill struggle with yet another customer.  I’ll never make quota this way…!”

Contemplate a second (ugly) scenario:

This time the customer is talking with the vendor’s professional services team.  A similar conversation takes place, with the professional services folks ultimately saying either:

1.        “Sorry, you didn’t license what you need – you’ll have to scale back your implementation…”

2.       “Darn it, that sales person promised the customer those capabilities, now we’ll have to implement them for free…!”

Overall, there are several unhappy parties in these scenarios:  the account manager, the professional services team and – most important – the customer!

Traditional Sales People…

Many traditional sales people – and especially those who are designated and compensated solely as “Hunters” – are interested in the relationship with the customer up through what point in time?  That’s right, the moment the PO is received – then these traditional sales people run, not walk, to the next opportunity!  This results in serious disconnects between a bevy of the vendor’s individuals and departments:

-          Farmer to Hunter:  What did we sell?  What do they need?  What are their expectations?  What can I sell?  Arrgh!
-          Professional Services to Sales:  What implementation was promised?  What was paid for?  When do they expect it?  Errrgh!
-          Customer Services to Sales:  What did they buy?  What was promised?  What mess do we have to deal with this time?  Ack!

But wait – what goes around, comes around:

-          Marketing to Sales:  Who of your customers can we contact to capture some good reference stories?  None of your accounts…?  Darn…
-          Sales to Marketing:  How come we don’t have any reference stories available?  How can I sell to new customers without good references?  Arrrgh!

Sales people that simply sell and run are active members of the Future-Sales Prevention Team – helping to ensure that their competition will get the next rounds of business!

Better Sales People…

Better Sales People (and Sales Teams) uncover customers’ Critical Dates – dates by when the customer needs to have a solution in place – and then walk backwards from those dates to map out the major steps that need to take place to ensure that implementation will be completed successfully, in time for the desired “Go Live” date.

This particular conversation with the customer can also have some delightful consequences:

Customer:  “So we need to have your system in operation by September 15, in order to meet our project deadlines…”

Vendor:  “Understood.  Well, based on the capabilities you need, we should map out a rough time-line to get you up and going.”

Customer:  “Sounds good…”

Vendor:  “OK, for an implementation like yours, based on our experiences with other customers in similar situations, we should plan on a few days of final end-user training, preceded by pre-roll-out testing; before that is configuration, implementation, and admin training…  Hmmm, looks like in order for you to meet your target date we need to get contracts to legal tomorrow!”

With a rough plan in place, the profession services team can be brought in to discuss the details.  And these Better Sales People and (and Better Sales Teams) then track progress against the final plan to help resolve challenges and ensure that implementation can take plan on time, on spec, and on budget.  (Note that the Sales Team here can include a Hunter and corresponding Farmer, in addition to profession services folks).

But wait:  there’s more!

Truly Great Sales Teams… 

What happens when an individual makes a substantial software purchase on behalf of his company – from his perspective?  A huge weight descends onto his shoulders – the responsibility associated with the size of the investment.  And that weight is not lifted until that investment shows some tangible return.

Truly Great Sales People and Sales Teams map out and track the process of implementation with the customer from Discovery, through purchase, through roll-out and deployment, all the way to that point in time when the customer enjoys a Value Realization event – a small victory that can be announced internally to peers and management. 

“We completed this last cycle in one day vs. what previously took us a month – hooray!”  And that’s the point in time when the weight is lifted from the buyer’s (virtual) aching shoulders.

Value Realization events don’t necessarily require a full year of ROI.  They may simply be an early win or small victory – representing a small, but tangible portion of overall ROI desired.

Truly Great Sales People and Teams identify Value Realization events in early conversations with the customer.  Often, these discussions take place towards the end of Discovery – once the customer sees that a solution is possible, he wants to understand how to put that solution into place.  This vendor and customer can then rough-out a mutual plan of the steps to achieve the desired Value Realization event. 

An example Discovery question might be, “How will you define an initial success for this project?  Not the full ROI, but just an early success or victory – what would that look like?”

This also enables the vendor’s professional services teams to focus implementation and training on achieving the Value Realization event, in particular.  Importantly, the customer sees that the vendor is truly interested in the customer’s success – not just selling and running to the next opportunity.

Transition Vision

This process has a name:  it’s called “Transition Vision”.  It’s the process of helping the customer see how he will move from his current painful situation through deployment all the way to the point in time when victory (for him) can be declared. 

The vendor that executes this process well vs. the vendor that ignores it has a significant competitive advantage.  Consider the following story:

You’ve decided to trade-in your old Honda and get a new SUV.  You visit Car Dealership #1 and, as you walk towards the show-room, you see exactly the car you want – the right color, the right options and you are entirely comfortable with the price posted on the car [Editor’s note:  this is the less-than-believable part of the story…!].  A salesperson comes up and you say, “I’d like to buy this car.  I’ve brought my current Honda to trade-in to help pay the balance of the purchase price.”

Salesperson says, “Great!  Go ahead and sell your Honda, and when you have the full amount come back and we’ll get you into that shiny new SUV…!”

You walk away, disgruntled, and decide to try Car Dealership #2 across town. 

You arrive at Car Dealership #2 and, as you are heading to the show-room, you once again see exactly the car you want – and again, with the right color, the right options and the price is exactly the same as at Dealership #1.  A salesperson comes up and you once again say, “I’d like to buy this car.  I’ve brought my current Honda to trade-in to help pay the balance of the purchase price.”

Salesperson says, “Great!  Did you bring the registration and ownership papers for your Honda?”

You indicate that you have the papers with you.

Salesperson says, “Very good – if you’ll give me those documents we’ll take care of all the transfer-of-ownership paperwork and filing – and we’ll make sure that the paperwork is all done correctly.  You should be able to drive away with your new SUV in about 45 minutes…”

Who will get the order and why?  Two (really valuable) observations:

1.       The vendor that builds a Transition Vision with customer – a vision of how the customer can move from his current, painful situation to that glorious future with the solution in place and yielding the desired results – is in a competitively advantageous position vs. vendors who simply present a solution.

2.       The point in time when a customer achieves a Value Realization event is also the point in time when the customer becomes – a reference!  (I’ve seen sales compensation plans include harvesting customer references as a key component.  What a terrific idea…)

Truly Great Sales People and Sales Teams become partners to their customers – and those customers will preferentially buy from those vendors again.  Wouldn’t you?

Copyright © 2014 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When the Best Solution Is NOT Your Offering

Have you ever found, when doing Discovery with a prospect, that the problem they face may not be best addressed by your offering – that another organization’s product would be better choice for them?  Do you go ahead and propose your offering anyway or do you suggest a solution from another company?  (Note – I’m not talking about direct competitors’ products, but other non-direct competitor alternatives…)

A few thoughts:

First, the quest for rapid revenue may not be the right choice, particularly if the main problem faced by the customer requires capabilities that you don’t offer.  An example?  A customer called me asking for demo skills training for his team.  In our Discovery conversation, I realized that his team had a bigger need for behavioral presentation skills training than for demo skills.  I could have gone ahead with delivering demo skills training, but felt he’d be better served by training his team to get more comfortable in front of audiences (body position, word pace, tone, etc.)  I suggested he talk with the folks at Mandel Communications (who do a delightful job teaching people how to present).  He did and put his team through their training.  Some months later, he called me again and said his team was ready for demo skills training (and they were) and we did a series of very successful Great Demo! Workshops. 

Interestingly, making a recommendation that is NOT your offering can pay delightful dividends, in terms of dramatically increased earned credibility and trust.  Your prospect will likely come back to you, the next time they are looking for solution to a problem, rather than your competition.  This is exactly what happened in this case – my customer told me, after our first Workshop, that he preferentially chose Great Demo! because of my initial recommendation for behavioral presentation skills training.

You’ve become a trusted advisor – as opposed to simply pushing a product.

Friday, July 18, 2014

(Warning – Shameless Self Promotion Alert!) Great Demo! Intro Video

It’s my pleasure to offer this brief video intro to the Great Demo! methodology:

It provides a sample of the key ideas – an appetizer, not the full meal…!   Please contact me if you are interested in exploring further.

I want to thank Demos on Demand for this video.  They provide an advanced B2B video platform that’s specifically designed for technology markets—and they do a wonderful job recording demos and whiteboards—really great stuff!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Remote Demos: Check for Screen Resolution Readability

During a Remote Demo today, where I was the customer on the receiving end of the demo, I asked the vendor to change his screen resolution because the text and images he was sharing were too small for me to see clearly.  He suddenly realized that this problem had been going on for quite a while – and that most of his customers have also been unable to see sufficient detail in his demos…! 

I noted that most customers won’t say anything – they either assume that there is nothing that can be changed – that “it is what it is…”  They just live with it and make no comment, squinting at their screen, suffering quietly through the demo and unable to consume the content.

This suggests a tip when you start a Remote Demo (as the vendor):  Ask, “Can you read this text comfortably?”  If yes, then proceed.  If no, then adjust your screen resolution down (to a lower resolution) and check again.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"SC's are not paid by the word..."

Heard from a very wise presales manager recently:  “Presales folks are not paid by the word…!”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Cooking Analogy for Demos – Length of the Recipe

A recent Great Demo! Workshop participant observed that for most home cooks, a recipe that has a long list of ingredients and a long set of instructions is less likely to be chosen over one that is shorter.  He also pointed out that the longer, more complicated recipe presents more chances to make mistakes (“Damn, it wasn’t supposed to look like that…!”). 

Clearly these ideas are directly applicable to demos!

Monday, June 9, 2014

“A Day in the Life…” Reduced to “A Few Minutes in Your Life…”

Many vendors’ software demos present “A day in the life” for a customer – generally consisting of trying to follow the activities of a series of confusing fictional characters as they work through a set of somewhat interrelated tasks, interspersed with loop-backs, “remember this from earlier?” statements, “if” and “or” pathways (“Now, if you want to do this, then you…” and “Or, here is another way to do the same thing…”), extensive excursions into “Setup Mode”, and lost time getting dragged off-track into the deep, thick weeds…

Yes, these demos are still (unfortunately) very much alive – just suffered through one a few days ago…!  

But there is a remedy:  A recent Great Demo! Workshop participant just reported that Doing the Last Thing First caused one of his customers to say, “Wow, you just reduced a painful “day in the life’ down to ‘just a few minutes in my life.’  Thanks!”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stunningly Awful Demo Communication – Unencrispening the Demo

Stunningly Awful Demo Communication – Unencrispening the Demo

The higher the customer’s job title, typically, the stronger is their desire for vendors to be crisp, focused and precise in their communications.  “Get to the point!” is what many senior managers are thinking, even if they don’t say it out loud.  Instead, their actions often speak louder than words, as they quietly get up and walk out of the demo after just a few minutes…

Here are a few areas where we can likely improve our verbal delivery in demos:

Mixed Metaphors

“This will help you knock it out of the park and out-flank your competition…!” says the vendor.  “Huh?” thinks the customer – who misses the next several sentences from the vendor as he chews on the verbal gristle he was just served…  If you are going to use a metaphor, stay with it!  Don’t swap horses in the middle of the meal!  (How’s that for a bad one?)  Here are a few more, just for illustrative fun:

"I don’t think we should wait until the other shoe drops. History has already shown what is likely to happen. The ball has been down this court before and I can see already the light at the end of the tunnel."
(Detroit News, quoted in The New Yorker, November 26, 2012)

"I knew enough to realize that the alligators were in the swamp and that it was time to circle the wagons."
(attributed to Rush Limbaugh)

"The committee was tired of stoking public outrage with fortnightly gobbets of scandal. It decided to publish everything it had left, warts and all. Now everyone is tarred with the same ugly brush, and the myth that forever simmers in the public consciousness--that the House shelters 435 parasitic, fat-cat deadbeats--has received another shot of adrenalin."
(Washington Post, 1992)

“I’ve decided to put down roots and send up a trial balloon – I’m throwing my hat in the ring…!”
(anonymous, for  now)

Blech and gack.

Inappropriate Analogies

“We eat our own dog food…!”

Ick, really?  Why would you do that?  Instead, contemplate communicating the same idea with a gentler version, “We drink our own champagne.”  Much more palatable!

Your vs. You’re

This is just sloppy writing and proofing – but how many times do you see someone use “your” when they should have written “you’re”?  Just saw an example recently:  “Your really going to like this upcoming release!”  Sigh. 

Don’t you wish your word processer had a “reality checker” in addition to its spell-checker and grammar checker?


A few years back I was hosting a visit to our facilities by a group of Japanese customers, whose English was fairly good (but not complete).  At one point in the discussion our head of development responded to a question regarding timing for delivery of a specific capability – he was then asked, “How did you come up with that timing?”

He replied, “Oh, I just pulled those numbers out of my butt…”  I watched our customers’ faces as they contorted, trying to make sense of his answer…  Fortunately, one of our guests was able to understand the idea and provided his colleagues with a more accurate (and less literal) translation – and smiles and nodding heads replaced the perplexed (and slightly frightened) expressions.

Many U.S.-based sales, presales and marketing people communicate as if the rest of the world has fully adopted our version of English.  They are, of course, in error.  They have missed the pitch, dropped the ball, fumbled the handoff, and simply not make the extra point.  (How’s that for a combo with mixed metaphors?)

Solution?  When presenting to international audiences, consciously choose vocabulary and word phrases that are simple, clear and as internationally universal as possible. 

Two Countries Separated By a Common Language

This famous quote by Winston Churchill highlights additional differences in English spoken in different locations.  A number of years ago, we had a Marketing Communications (MarCom) group that was not particularly well-beloved by the field sales and presales organization.  The result was this rather embarrassing story:

The MarCom group typically provided “give-aways” for the various trade-shows that we attended.  In one case, they produced a particular piece of apparel complete with our logo brightly imprinted for a trade-show in London.  Now, in the U.S. this particular item is called a “Fanny Pack”.  In the UK, “Fanny Pack” has, well, a different meaning (you are welcome to look it up yourself…!). 

Our MarCom group generated signage for our booth at the show, emblazoned liberally with “Get Your Fanny Packs Here!”  The signage was installed at the booth and when the show opened it certainly attracted more attention than our MarCom folks had anticipated…!  An (embarrassingly high) number of UK customers came to the booth and asked, rather loudly in many cases and with great mirth with others, “Can I please have a fanny pack?”


Regional Differences

You, Y’all and All Y’all:  Which is singular and which is plural?

Add these to the list above…  But wait, there’s more…!

Slinging Slang:  That Dog Don’t Hunt and Other Homilies

In San Diego, “Gnarly, Dude…!” is an expression of appreciation (and/or the presence of large, thin-lipped, glassy, tubular waves – or exactly the opposite:  slow, blown-out mushburgers).

In New Hampshire, you may be told, “But it won’t do you no good, you can’t get there from here…” (pronounced “heah”), meaning your directions are faulty.

In the Carolinas, “That dog don’t hunt” indicates that your suggestion likely won’t work.

In Texas, “It’s fixin’ to rain” is a weather forecast and “fixin’ to…” indicates that something is likely to happen.

In Hawaii, “Da kine!” is what you want to hear, in conjunction with an accompanying “shaka.”

And here’s a beauty that combines several items from the topics above:

“I conclude that the city’s proposal to skim the frosting, pocket the cake, and avoid paying the fair, reasonable, and affordable value of the meal is a hound that will not hunt."
(a labor arbitrator, quoted by the Boston Globe, May 8, 2010)

Solution?  Again, choose verbiage that is as neutral as possible – particularly when working with international groups or customers from diverse U.S. locations.

International Equivalences

“It’s awesome!” in the U.S. is the same as “Ja, well, it is adequate” in Germany and the UK’s “That’s brilliant!” (but it is likely that the UK offering was really meant to be sarcastic…).

Listen closely!

Cloudy With a Chance of Feature Obscuration

Vendor says, “For this next new feature let me explain our thinking and rationale for development…” followed by “and here’s the underlying architecture, schema and data organization…,” which leads to “the seventeen options for configuration and set-up,” “the three different ways of accomplishing the same task” and the “hundreds of pre-built templates and reports we’ve generated…”

The customer, reeling under this onslaught of verbal rubbish and useless details, wonders “Where is this going…?” followed minutes later by “When will this be over?”

Solution?  Start with what good things the new capability will enable – the relevant deliverables – and then offer explore it in as much depth as the customer is interested in seeing…!

Note that the affliction above often develops into a more violent and virulent form, known as…

Expert’s Disease

Many of us with technical backgrounds feel obligated to explain how things work – before providing the simple answer desired by the customer.  For example, your customer asks, “What time is it?”

You respond, “Well, in order to tell you the time, let me first explain how a watch works.  Now in this watch, the time is metered by a small quartz tuning fork that vibrates at a constant frequency – assuming, of course, that it is in a sealed environment, because the density of the surrounding medium will impact the actual vibration frequency.  Now the older manual watches used a coiled spring and an escapement mechanism, which operated on the principle of an impulse action and a locking action, actuated generally with either a pendulum (in large, standing clocks) or a rotating balance wheel and um… sorry, what was  your question again…?” 

A solution?  Answer the immediate question right away – and then test (ask) if your customer desires further elucidation.

Kinda, Like, Sorta, Ya Know?

As noted at the beginning of this article, the higher the job title, typically, the stronger is that person’s desire for vendors to be crisp, focused and precise with their communications.  Imagine the reaction of a 55 year-old Senior VP to a vendor saying, “And like here, kinda, are the types of reports that we, like, sorta do, ya know…?” 

Instead, be precise:  “These are three examples of reports you can produce with our tool.”  Much better!

The Content-Free Buzzword-Compliant Vocabulary List

In a demo, the vendor states, “Our powerful software is flexible, intuitive, easy-to-use and integrates seamlessly with your other tools.  Robust and scalable, your organization can enjoy the benefits of our best-of-breed world-class offering – the most comprehensive solution available.”

What have you learned so far?  Nothing, other than this person is clearly a talking marketing brochure (and that you may be able to declare victory in “Buzzword Bingo…”)!  Vendor credibility drops precipitously and the audience furtively starts to check email and the sports scores on their smart phones… 

Robust, Powerful, Flexible, Integrated, Seamless, Extensible, Scalable, Interoperable, Easy-to-use, Intuitive, User-friendly, Comprehensive, Best-of-breed, World-class – any to add to the list?

[Pet peeve:  “Most comprehensive”?  Impossible!  Something is either comprehensive or it’s not!]

A solution?  Convert these meaningless buzzwords to concrete, fact-based statements that can be supported by evidence – where the evidence is the capabilities and processes you demonstrate.

Faux Fictional Names

“In our demo we’ll be using the following characters for our storyline:

                Mary the Manager                        Andrew the Admin                        Ulysses the User
                Oscar the Occasional User          Ernie the Expert User                     Theodore the Third Party
                Sean the Senior Manager             Victoria the VP                               Alex from Accounting …”

This tactic has two drawbacks:

First, one of our objectives in a demo is to suspend disbelief – and anything that is obviously fake hurts our cause.  As a result, I don’t recommend fake names such as those above. 

Second, asking the audience to remember the relationship between “Mary” and her job title has the additional negative impact of consuming the (far too) limited number of memory slots we humans have available. 

Solution?  Use the wonderful pronoun (and its derivatives) “You”:

“So, here you would see the report you need to manage this process…”
Your team would then receive this alert…”
“And here’s where you and your expert users could configure the system…”

Your objective is to build a vision in your customers’ minds that they are using the software.

Fabulous Phony Fictional Names

I’ve seen databases populated with the names of Hollywood stars, movie characters, comic-book creatures and sports figures.  Don’t.  Just don’t – it’s even worse than above and screams “fake”!


Our demos need to be clear, concise and compelling.  To achieve this, we need to focus carefully on both what we show and how we present it. 

Copyright © 2014 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.