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?

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