Thursday, December 31, 2015

Encrispening Demos – Hard to Do But Well Worth It!

It is much harder to produce a short, crisp demo than to execute a traditional long one.  Why?  Because It requires more thought and more effort to cut something down than to leave everything in.

It doesn’t really require much thought to simply replay a traditional demo over and over (and over and over), but it takes a great deal of thought and effort to take a 90 minute traditional demo and encrispen it to 20 minutes.  What do I keep in?  What do I cut out?  What do I have ready to go, but keep behind my back until the customer asks?

The Great Demo! methodology provides the recipe for encrispening demos – to make them crisp, concise and wonderfully focused on exactly what the customer wants and needs.  The rewards for the investment in effort are tremendous:

Tangible returns reported by Great Demo! practitioners include:

-      Gains of 10% or more in improved close rates overall
-      Demo win rate increases of 25-75% have been reported
-      Reduced “No Decisions” by half
-      Reduced sales cycle length by 50%
-      Reduced of cost-of-sales by 25%
-      Reduced “wasted demos” by 50%
-      Free POC’s and evaluations transformed into paid events
-      Eliminated or reduced the need for POC’s and evaluations
-      Increased deal size and breadth by 2x – both licenses and services

Intangible Benefits are reported as well:

-      Great Demo! practitioners’ customers report a more solution-oriented, consultative, customer-centric approach from the field organization.
-      Captured and leveraged high value “Informal Success Story” information (reference stories).
-      Established positive differentiation from competitors.
-      Dramatically improved Discovery – “You really listened to us…” comments from customers.
-      And substantial improvements are often reported in communications between sales and presales, and in team practices.

Encrispening challenges aren’t limited to demos, of course, as this telegram exchange between Mark Twain and his publisher:

Publisher said:

Twain replied:

Wishing everyone Great Demos in 2016…!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Curse of Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge is, indeed, a curse for presales and sales folks – and the seasoned veterans are at highest risk.  It comes in (at least) two flavors:  

1.       When doing Discovery – “I already know your problems and situation – so I don’t need to ask you…” 
2.       When anticipating questions – “Everyone always asks that – so I’ll pre-answer it before you ask…”

When doing Discovery, seasoned veterans know their customers better than those customers know themselves.  Customer problems and situations have been heard countless times before – so why bother to ask questions?  We already know their situation and we already know what solution is best for them, right?  The problem here is that customers believe their situations are unique – and aren’t comfortable to accept a proposed solution from a vendor who hasn’t asked enough questions of them.

Guidance?  A smart man knows the answers; a wise man knows what questions to ask…

When anticipating questions from customers, let them ask their questions (even – and especially – if you’ve heard that same question 100 times).  Pre-answering questions takes away the possibility of a conversation with the customer.  Further, there are always people who feel obligated to ask something, and if you’ve pre-answered the typical questions, you may force them to pose a question that is way out in the periphery… 

Guidance?  Have your answers prepared and ready to go – but keep those answers (metaphorically) behind your back…  When the customer asks the question, you are prepared.  You (metaphorically) take the answer from behind your back and respond to the question.  Your demo is going perfectly when the customer is asking the questions you hope and expect them to ask at that point!  

Monday, December 21, 2015

‘Twas the Night Before The Big Demo (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘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!”

Copyright © 2005-2012 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Amusing Presales Videos

Here are a handful of amusing and/or cynical presales-related videos for your viewing pleasure:

Rockwell Turbo Encabulator:  Wonderfully produced demo spoof - 

The Expert:  Less about demos, but fun in any case -

Pre-sales Life 1.0 – sadly funny… -

A conference Call in Real Life – WebEx etc. horrors we’ve all lived through -

Subterranean Presales Blues – a bit older but fun also -

Any others to add?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Corporate Overview Presentations – Start-ups vs. Traditional Companies

[Here’s your SNOD:  Snarky Observation of the Day]

What is the difference between corporate overview presentations delivered by traditional vs. start-up companies?

Traditional Company:  It is the low-energy delivery of an unnecessary onslaught of narcissistic and tedious company and product information…
Start-up:  It is the high-energy delivery of an unnecessary onslaught of narcissistic and tedious company and product information.

Note:  As an audience member, run for the hills if you see a salesperson open a Corporate Overview Presentation that shows (in PowerPoint) “Slide 1 of 45”…!

Double Note:  For those who are inclined to comment, “But Peter, they may not know about us…” consider the following:

1.  As a customer, I wouldn’t invite you to consume an hour (or more) for a demo meeting if I didn’t already have a good understanding of your company (for example, from your website).
2.  Shouldn’t your marketing department have already broadcast this information?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fabulous Phrase From Recent Great Demo! Workshop: < = >

< = >

What does this mean?  Less is More. 

It was very effectively communicated earlier this week at a Great Demo! Workshop by one of the customer’s principals who kicked-off the session by moving to a white board and writing, “< = >”.  He then asked, “So, what does this mean?”

A few tentative responses came from the audience, such as, “Less-than is equal to greater-than…?” and “I don’t get it…”  He responded by saying, “It means ‘Less is More’ – this is one of the key guiding principles of the Great Demo! methodology.”  

What a delightful way to kick-off a Kick-off – truly terrific!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Simple Best Practice for Ending Web Demos and Webinars

Here’s a simple best practice for ending web demos and webinars:  Hit “Pause” at the end of your session. 

(Using tools such as WebEx and GoToMeeting) This freezes the screen that the audience sees.  Doing this reduces the risk of forgetting to stop sharing your screen – and therefore the risk of your audience watching you work on your email, or browse some non-business-like websites (*ahem*) or update your forecast or other potentially embarrassing activity… 

I recommend hitting Pause first, then stopping sharing and doing other session-related clean-up next.

Note:  Bonus points will be awarded to presenters who, at the end of their demo, return to the best, most compelling screen (an “Illustration”) before hitting Pause.  I can’t tell you how many presenters finish a demo and then show a PowerPoint slide that says, “Questions?” or “Thank You!” – that’s a serious waste of an opportunity.  The last thing the audience sees will likely be remembered moderately well – take advantage of that!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stunningly Awful Demos: Waaay Out of Alignment

I’m often surprised at how traditional demos are organized – they seem to focus on the least important items for the target audience.  Contemplate the following scenario:

You are presenting a demonstration of your fabulous business intelligence tool to a mixed audience that includes:
- Executives
- Middle Managers
- Business Analysts/Staffers
- “Super-User”/”Power-User” Business Analysts
- IT

Traditional BI demos often start with a blank screen and show how to build a wonderfully rich dashboard or visualization, followed by building another again from scratch, followed by drilling down, slicing, dicing and generally messing around with the visualization and the underlying data – but without much purpose towards solving any business problems. 

Who does this appeal to?  Likely only the Super-Users/Power-Users, who are interested in seeing how easy or hard it is to build visualizations1

- The Executives are thinking, “This is going nowhere; I’ve got another meeting I need to attend – I’m outta here…!”
- The Middle Managers are thinking, “This is going nowhere; furthermore it looks like this is a very complicated tool that only an expert could use – we’ll only need a few seats at maximum if we license this stuff…”
- The Business Analysts/Staffers are thinking, “Oh my God, this looks waaay too complicated for me to use…”
- And IT is thinking, “How much bandwidth is this going to consume on our network – it looks like a real hog with all that data moving around…”

The result?  Fail.

The impact?  More demos, extended sales cycles, smaller initial licenses, increased difficulty in achieving “Expansion” after an initial “Landing”; general whining, moaning, and gnashing of teeth.

Use Modes

Contemplate the following use modes:

1.  Set-up Mode – stuff you do once
2.  Daily Use Mode – stuff you do often (daily, for example)

Now contemplate the following for a typical dashboard or visualization:

- How often does one set up a dashboard or visualization?  Once, typically.
- How often does one consume the information in a dashboard or visualization?  It might be daily, weekly, monthly, etc. – many times a year, in any case.

Traditional demos tend to spend an enormous amount of time showing Set-up Mode – and surprisingly little time showing Daily Use Mode.  When we contemplate each of our audience job titles again, with respect to their modes of use, we’ll see that these traditional demos are generally waaaay out of alignment with their audiences’ interests:

- Executives:  Are always in Daily Use Mode – never in Set-up Mode
- Middle Managers:  Are nearly always in Daily Use Mode – rarely in Set-up Mode
- Business Analysts/Staffers:  Are largely in Daily Use Mode – and only occasionally in Set-up Mode
- Super-User/Power-User Business Analysts:  Live mostly in Set-up Mode
- IT:  Are still wondering about bandwidth issues (pre-Set-up Mode)

If the decision-makers are Executives or Middle-Managers, you can see why the end result of these demos are “fails”.


So, if we want to be in good alignment with these folks, here’s a recommended strategy for this demo:

- Executives:  Start with the Executives, show a few terrific visualizations/dashboards, explaining what business problems they help address – Daily-Use Mode.  Summarize.

- Middle Managers:  Next in line, again show a few relevant visualizations, again explaining the business problems they help solve – and a bit about how to drill-down to find more detail.  Summarize.

- Business Analysts/Staffers:  Next up, show how they can answer the questions coming from their managers – specifically how to drill-down to find root-causes, anomalies, specific patterns and relationships, etc. – use the fewest number of steps to address each scenario.  Ask if they are interested in seeing how to modify an existing visualization.  Summarize.

- Super-User/Power-User Business Analysts:  Now it is their turn, start with a completed visualization, then show how to modify it; then show how to build it from scratch.  Summarize.

- IT:  Address any unanswered questions on implementation, access rights, single-sign-on and, of course, bandwidth.  Summarize.

A Subtlety…

There’s another, more subtle mode to consider, as well:  Collaboration Mode.

It is comparatively rare that people work alone, in a vacuum.  A Middle Manager might want a new visualization to track a particular process and its KPI’s – but she isn’t likely to create it herself.  She’ll contact a Power-User and ask him to generate the visualization – which she’ll likely need to have edited and tuned before she puts it into day-to-day use. 

The old way of doing this was a slow, serial approach.  The Middle Manager described what she wanted and the Power-User went away and built something; they then came together a few days later to discuss.  After some questions and comments back and forth, the Power-User went back to his cube to make some changes (sometimes major changes) and ran version 2.0 by the Manager – and this process was repeated as necessary until done.

Now, both parties can come together (either face-to-face or over the web, using tools like WebEx and GoToMeeting).  The Manager describes what she needs; the Power-User then shows a few completed example visualizations and describes what is possible – he may show how a few changes can be made – to give the Manager a vision of what her visualization might look like.  [Note:  the astute will realize that this is, in effect, a Vision Generation demo…]

They then work together to create the visualization desired.  You might expect portions of the conversation to sound like:

MM:  “OK, can I get a view of the U.S. and map the sales data to each state?”
PU:  “Sure, let me drag that out…  Do you want the data as numbers or in mini-charts for each state?”
MM:  “Wow, show me a few mini-charts – and could you have the total revenue as a single bigger number for each state as well?”
PM:  “Yes – here, I just added it.  Now, what level of detail would you like for the sales figures and pipelines for each state and region – we can place another graphic on your dashboard and break that information out separately…”
MM:  “Cool – can you show me an example?”

Collaboration Mode is a wonderful thing – it is the confluence of Daily-Use and Set-up Modes.

A Further Subtlety…

Most managers today operate in two (additional) modes:

1.  Things are going just fine…
2.  There’s a problem or anomaly I need to address.

These modes map to Standard Reports vs. Alerts and Exceptions.

A Standard Report is something that generally is received on a regular basis and is used to track progress.  A simple example is a weekly forecast – e.g., delivered automatically each Monday to the VP of sales and the Regional Sales Managers – so that they can assess their progress towards achieving their quotas.

These reports are rapidly consumed and reviewed – and if everything looks fine they are filed or deleted.  If there is a problem – “looks like forecast revenues for the Southeast are way below expectations…” – then additional (and often separate) action may be taken.  “Let’s look at the detail for the Southeast deals this quarter and the current pipeline – what are the bigger deals and which ones are at risk?”

Most managers implicitly assign higher value to Alerts and Exceptions – this is where they need to step in and take action.  Standard Reports are good; reports and vehicles that show Alerts and Exceptions are better!

But Wait There’s More…

Most demos remain entirely within the vendor’s software.  This is simply not real-life – nearly no-one spends their day working our software (unless your software is Outlook or Google Mail…).

The sad truth is that most users do not live in our software, in spite of our fervent desires.  Where do they spend their time?  That’s right,

1.  In their email tool and
2.  In a browser.

So, with that in mind, why not map Daily-use Mode to the tools people are most likely using? 

Contemplate showing Daily Use Mode by starting in email and showing an unopened message – you double-click on that message to open it, showing a link to the desired weekly report.  Clicking the link, the report opens in a browser window…   Daily Use Mode for a Standard Report.

Similarly, start in your email tool and again show an unopened message – double-clicking shows an alert, “Pipeline Exception – Low Lead Generation for Southeast” – clicking on the link brings up a Pipeline Detail View visualization in a browser window…  Daily Use Mode for an Alert/Exception!

Ahhhh – Alignment

Aligning the likely mode of use with the corresponding job title yields surprisingly compelling and successful demos.  It’s not rocket science; it’s just common sense!

1 If these folks are the decision-makers, then you are OK for an initial, small implementation…  On the other hand, if they are not the decision-makers, then the trouble has just begun!

Copyright © 2015 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Unconsciously Incompetent Managers - The Impact of the 4 Stages on Coaching

How many newly-minted managers are promoted into their managerial roles from individual contributor positions?  And how many of these new managers are provided with training on how to be a manager?

Far too often, managers are promoted and, because they are now managers, it is assumed that they now know how to manage and coach their teams.  Baaaad assumption!  While this clearly impacts all portions of a business, newly-appointed sales and presales managers are often at the greatest risk. 

It seems to be a rarity for new managers to receive training on how to coach their sales and presales teams.  They were often promoted to manager level because they were great sales people or presented the most compelling demos.  However, when asked to characterize the key elements of a great sales person or the key elements of a great demo, they are unable to do so – “I just do it this way and it seems to work…”  They were Unconsciously Competent in their disciplines.

Regarding presales managers and coaching, there are four stages to consider…

Stage 1:  Unconsciously Incompetent:  Managers who are unaware that they should be coaching their teams and are therefore failing to do so.

    Result?  Un-coached teams; coaching for the wrong results.
    Example:  “Do more demos, damn it…!”  [More bad demos is not an improvement…]

Stage 2:  Consciously Incompetent:  Managers who realize they should be coaching their teams, but have no idea how to go about it.

    Result?  Un-coached teams; coaching for the wrong results; apologetic non-coaching; apologetic coaching for the wrong results.
    Example:  “Can you please do better demos?  Try putting more passion into it…”  [Passionate, yet still bad demos are not an improvement…]

Once managers are taught how to coach – what to look for and how to implement change in their teams – then some real improvements can occur:

Stage 3:  Consciously Competent:  Managers who have learned how to coach their teams and are actively practicing what they have learned (and, hopefully, are constantly working to do even better).

    Result?  Good to excellent coaching; results are clear and measurable.
    Example:  “Do you have all six elements for your Situation Slide?  What happens if you are missing one or more of these?  Here are a few questions you can ask the next time you are doing Discovery to uncover the missing elements…”

Stage 4:  Unconsciously Competent:  Managers who have been coaching long enough that they no longer consciously think about what to look for and how to provide guidance.  Occasionally, there are some “naturals” who were never trained on how to coach but have an innate ability to do so.

    Result?  Typically good to excellent coaching; results can be variable, particularly when no measurements are in place to track progress and tune.
    Example:  “This demo preparation looks a little thin; you can get the information you need by asking more questions in Discovery…”  [Results can be improved and variability reduced when the “naturals” include metrics in their tracking and coaching guidance – but it is often hard for these managers to remember to do…]

Some observations:
- Managers who attend and participate in skills and methodology training sessions with their teams are much more likely to be successful coaches for those skills and methodology elements.
- Managers who take courses on how to coach are much more likely to be successful coaches, overall.
- Managers who establish and track meaningful metrics are much more likely to see meaningful change(s) in their teams.

A few more observations:
- Managers who do not attend and participate in skills and methodology training sessions (with or without their teams) are woefully unprepared to coach to those skills and methodology elements.
- Managers who attend skills and methodology training sessions, but who sit in the back doing email are nearly as woefully unprepared to coach for those skills and methodology elements as those above!

For managers of Great Demo! alumni, I have coaching guidelines and key coaching attributes available for your use – let me know if you are interested in receiving these. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Webinar Recording Now Available: DemoCoach Great Demo! Self-Coaching Tool – Getting Better at What We Do

We recently delivered a 40 minute webinar for Great Demo! practitioners on using DemoCoach:  why to use DemoCoach and how to use it along with some suggestions on how best to get started. 

The webinar recording can be viewed here.

DemoCoach was created to help refresh and reinforce the ideas we cover in our Great Demo! Workshops and Seminars – a way to support you when preparing demos, working with colleagues, and post-demo to reflect on how things went so that we can improve our practices.  DemoCoach is being offered by the fine folks at FactorLab ( to Great Demo! alumni for your use for free (a for-charge enterprise version is also available, with more capabilities). 

- Do I have a complete Situation Slide?
- Is that really a Critical Business Issue for this customer?
- What key Great Demo! element do I want to remember to focus on?

- Did I practice what I had focused on – how did I do?
- Did I execute the demo the way I’d planned?
- What did I learn that I’d like to apply in the future?

Using DemoCoach takes about the same effort as sending a text message or two – and that small investment will likely pay sizeable dividends in terms of improved demos…

Get started now – and make success a habit!

Monday, October 5, 2015

From Bad to Worse – Presenting the “Standard” Demo AFTER Doing Discovery

It is a Bad Thing to present a “Standard Demo” without doing any Discovery; it is even worse to ask your customer to invest time doing Discovery and then ignore what was learned by showing the same old “Standard Demo”.  It is insulting, in fact, from the perspective of many customers!

[Why do I raise this point?  Because I JUST had it happen to me!]

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Importance of “Demo” Data in Demos

One of our objectives in a demonstration is to “suspend disbelief” – we are trying to make things look as real as possible.  The more real things look in a demo, the more believable it is in the mind of the customer.  “Demo” data can have a huge impact, accordingly, on the believability of a demo. 

Data that is obviously fake will hurt our cause – and may drive the customer to request or demand a POC of similar trial.  Examples of fake data include:

- Names of famous actors, book characters, cartoon characters and clearly made-up names (e.g., “Mary Manager”, “Steven Staffer”, “Edward Executive”).
- Clearly fake addresses – street names, cities, countries, etc.
- Clearly fake company names, similarly.

I recommend investing a reasonable amount of energy to acquire and use data that really looks real.  One way to do this is to use data sources that your QA department may already use.  This data is typically realistic and may already have specific fields that map to your target industries.

Interestingly, customers at different stages of the Technology Adoption Curve will likely react very differently to demo data.  “Early Adopters” are often very forgiving of the data that is used.  “Early Majority” customers are reasonably forgiving, but the further you move to the right and into the “Late Majority” the more they need to see their own data (or what appears to be their own data) used in demos.

Any tips for good sources of realistic-looking data?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

“Just Checking-in…”

Just heard a wonderful way to phrase a “just checking in…” email:

“Dear Customer,

I need to follow-up on our meeting [and demo] this week and ask if you could let me know:

- Are you comfortable to move forward?
- Have you decided to go another direction?
- Or are you still thinking…?

Please let me know…!”

Most of us hate to send (and receive) the classic “just checking-in with you…” emails.  They will often go unanswered, in many cases because your customer isn’t ready to say “yes” and/or may be uncomfortable to say “no”.  The addition of the “are you still thinking?” option gives the customer a way to respond without committing (which should tell us that there are still open, unaddressed technical, business, timing or competitive issues).  

And if they do respond, “still thinking…” you can use that to re-open the conversation (and uncover the open issues). 

[Note:  while this may be perceived as more of a sales issue, it still applies to completing the Technical Sale.]


Monday, August 31, 2015

How Does Your CUSTOMER Know When You’ve Done Enough Discovery?

Discovery is done not just for your sake as the vendor, but (even more importantly) for your customer to feel comfortable about your proposed solution.  So, how do you know when you’ve done enough Discovery for your customer’s sake?

For a medical doctor, it is when you have enough information to confidently make a diagnosis to be able to offer a prescription or procedure – and that the patient feels you have gathered enough information to make an accurate diagnosis. 

Consider the following scenario…

You’ve been sick for the past 6 days with what you believe is the flu, since a pile of people from your office have also had it, but you aren’t getting better – and you are beginning to get worried.  You visit Doctor #1 in Hospital #1.  Doctor #1 joins you in the examining room and says, “What’s seems to be the trouble?”

You respond, “I think I have the flu…”

Doctor #1 says, “Yes, it’s been going around – everyone has it.  I’m writing you a prescription for a powerful new medicine call FluBGone.  Get the prescription filled, start taking the pills, and you should feel better in a couple of days…”

Two questions: 
- How did you feel about that interaction?
- How likely are you to get those pills and start taking them?

Most people respond:
- I was not comfortable with the interaction and
- I would not take those pills…
Why?  Because Doctor #1 didn’t ask me any questions…

Unconvinced of Doctor #1, you travel across town to Hospital #2 and see Doctor #2.  As before, Doctor #2 joins you in the examining room and says, “What’s seems to be the trouble?”

Once again, you respond, “I think I have the flu…”

Doctor #2, however, begins to ask questions:
“How long have you had it?  Are you running a temperature?  How high, how long?  Any sweats?  Nausea?  Headache?  Swollen glands…?”  This goes on for 10 minutes (10 doctor-minutes is a long time!), after which Doctor #2 says, “It does sound like the flu, but there are a few things that are a bit anomalous – I’d like to run a blood panel just to make sure nothing else is going on…” 

Later that day Doctor #2 gets the results of the blood panel, contacts you and says, “Yes, it’s the flu.  I’m prescribing FluBGone for you – you should feel better in two days from when you start taking the pills…”

Same two questions as before:
- How did you feel about that interaction?
- How likely are you to get those pills and start taking them?

Most people respond:
- I was comfortable with the interaction and
- I would take those pills…
Why?  Because Doctor #2 asked enough questions and did enough Discovery for me to feel comfortable with his diagnosis and his prescription…  Interestingly, both doctors offered the same prescription – but Doctor #2 made us feel comfortable because of the questions that he asked.

The same principles are true in sales and presales:  We need to ask enough questions for ourselves to be able to propose a solution – and for our customer to feel comfortable that we have gathered enough information to make an accurate diagnosis of the customer’s situation and thereby to be able to propose a solution based on that diagnosis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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

We have one more Great Demo! Public Workshop currently scheduled in 2015:  October 14-15 in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Registration and additional information can be found at

This is an excellent opportunity for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires. It will be a 1.75-Day Workshop, with the first day focusing largely on core Great Demo! material and the second ¾ day addressing more advanced topics and techniques. 

Public Workshops take place in the San Francisco Bay Area (Sunnyvale), in conjunction with the folks at SKMurphy

We’ve found that these sessions are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization – and best when a combination of sales and presales participants are present (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.

PS - If you do decide to register for San Francisco Bay Area Public Workshops and are coming from out of town, you might want to make reservations now at the hotel where the Workshop will take place (or nearby), as hotels in the area tend to fill up rapidly. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How Do You Know When You've Done Enough Discovery?

In your organization’s practices, do you have a measurement or method of determining when you’ve done enough Discovery with your customers?  Do you have a personal measurement that is different (and if so, what is it)?

For example, what amount of Discovery do you require before delivering a Technical Proof demo (or customized or “deep dive” demo)?  Do you measure “sufficient” in terms of time, a completed document of questions and answers, a checklist of topics discussed, a gut feeling, or something else?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Results of Survey: What Percent of Your Team/Teammates Do a Good Job Doing Discovery?

Here are the results of survey (previous post - of Monday August 10):

1. What percent of your team or teammates do a good job doing discovery, in your opinion? 

Results?  Averaging around 16%, ranging from 10-20%.  This suggests some SERIOUS challenges...!

2. What percent think they do a good job doing discovery, but don’t really? 

Results?  Averaging around 60%, ranging from 30-80%.  This seems even more serious...!

3. What percent of Discovery information gets adequately communicated within the sales team? 

Results?  Averaging around 23%, ranging from 10-50%.  This is just sad...

4. What percent of Discovery information ends up in your CRM system or other shared location? 

Results?  Averaging around 32%, ranging from 10-80%.  Not surprising, based on the above...

5. In what percent of sales opportunities was sufficient Discovery information collected? Average is 15% 

Results?  Averaging around 47%, ranging from 25-80%.  It looks like there may be varying definitions of  "sufficient"...

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Percent of Your Team/Teammates Do A Good Job Doing Discovery?

Please respond to this Informal survey – I’m very curious to see the results (and I expect you might be as well):

1.  What percent of your team or teammates do a good job doing discovery, in your opinion?

2.  What percent think they do a good job doing discovery, but don’t really?

3.  What percent of Discovery information gets adequately communicated within the sales team?

4.  What percent of Discovery information ends up in your CRM system or other shared location?

5.  In what percent of sales opportunities was sufficient Discovery information collected?

Please use this SurveyMonkey link ( to enter your responses - and it is only these 5 simple questions!  I’ll publish the results here shortly...  Thanks!

Update:  Here are the results so far (as of Wednesday August 5):

1.  Average is 15% (OK, there is clearly a problem here...)
2.  Average is 50% (perhaps an even bigger problem...!)
3.  Average is 30% (of what was collected...)
4.  Average is 45% (again, of what was collected...)
5.  Average is about 33% (pretty sad...!)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Projector Connection Unpleasantness - And Related Surprises

I rarely write about hardware issues, but this has become so prevalent that I find I must take (virtual) pen to (virtual) paper…

How many times do we or a colleague connect a laptop to a meeting room projector (“Beamer” for some of our European friends…) and are surprised to find that screen resolution on the projector looks like 5 pixels by 3 pixels?  And the presenter can’t even FIND some of the commands that would normally appear on the bottom-right portion of their screen?  Or the “Extended” desktop has been moved somewhere but can’t be found?  Or that PowerPoint Slideshow mode does unexpected things like showing a neutral desktop (instead of the presentation)?

Laptop computer screen resolution has increased faster (much faster, in many cases) than for projectors.  What appears as a gorgeous, crisp, high-definition screen on your laptop (especially new Mac laptops) looks muddled, unreadable and truncated on the far end of the projector.  You may be trying to squeeze a 2880 x 1800 pixel display down to an 800 x 600 projector (and consider:  800 x 600 projectors are still being sold!).

Here are some cures for Projector Malitia (Projector Badness):

- Buy your own projector.  While (potentially) expensive, you will have control over your situation, at least for face-to-face demo meetings.  You’ll be able to pre-prepare your laptop screen resolution and know exactly what will be visible and how to find/work with the limitations of your specific projector.  Consider:  if you are selling software that runs $100K’s for each deal, don’t you want your software to display as beautifully as possible in a demo meeting?  If you can’t do this, then…

- Test your laptop with the projectors found in a pile of conferences rooms.  Go around your own organization and practice connecting your laptop to projectors in various meeting rooms.  Note what happens and generate a plan for the typical environment – and the worst environment.  Then go around a second time to test and make sure your typical and worst-case plans work!

- Now, generate a font-size eye chart.  Use PowerPoint, for example, and type a short sentence or word phrase (no longer than 1 line) into the content portion of the slide.  Choose a fairly large font size for this line.  Then copy and paste it below your first version and reduce the font by 1-2 points.  Repeat several times.  Connect to the projector, go into Slide Show mode, move to the back of the room and see which line you can read comfortably – that’s your minimum font size for that room/projector combination!

- Next, practice presenting portions of your demos with the reduced resolution.  Connect to a range of projectors and practice finding commands and screen locations that would normally be “right there”, but now need to be accessed via scroll bars (so much more fun when operating in VM’s…).  Contemplate adjusting your laptop screen resolution to find a best fit or sadly-happy medium.

- Turn off Presenter View in PowerPoint.  I can’t tell you how many times I watch presenters go into Slide Show mode and then cannot get the presentation to display through the projector – or they “Escape” out of Slide Show mode and suddenly can’t seem to display their normal, working desktop and only see a “sanitized” desktop.  The more recent versions of PowerPoint offer a sophisticated (?) “Presenter View” that can be confusing – and the default, as installed, is to have it “on”.  A solution?  Turn it off…!  (Go to the Slide Show tab, uncheck the “Use Presenter View” checkbox).  Now Slide Show mode should operate in the simpler, (hopefully) more predictable manner.

Hope these ideas help – any others to suggest?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Getting Pre-Demo Info from Sales People

Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges faced by presales folks is the lack of information provided by sales before a demo.  “Just give them an overview” is what we often hear – resulting in the dreaded Harbor Tour demo...  Here are a few suggestions to address this challenge:

Call your sales person as soon as you receive the request for a demo and try to get the key pieces of information needed to complete a Situation Slide (Job Title and Industry, Critical Business Issue, Problems/Reasons, Specific Capabilities, Delta, Critical Date).  Often, sales people have this information in their heads but won’t write it down or send it to you in an email message (or enter it into the CRM system).  However, by interviewing your sales colleague and asking the questions, you may get what you need to prepare a reasonably focused demo.

A stronger approach is to do the same thing, but also open a WebEx or GoToMeeting session and share your screen with your sales counterpart.  That way they can see you typing the answers they provide to your questions – and they often take a stronger level of ownership of the results, accordingly.  In the best case, you’ll get what you need.  In some cases, you may both recognize that you don’t have sufficient information for a demo and that the next call with the customer should be a Discovery session, instead of a demo.  I recommend using double question marks “??” to indicate areas where more information is needed – this seems to help drive the realization that these gaps need to be filled before a demo…

Next, if you have sales people who consistently do not provide sufficient Discovery information prior to a demo, you should go to your manager and have him/her “push back”.  Your managers should (and need) to support a culture of Discovery first, demo next (if needed)…

In many organizations, the presales team has greater longevity with the company than the sales people – many of later may be relatively new hires.  A terrific approach is to simply state that “We always work to complete a Situation Slide prior to presenting a demo” or “We always do Discovery before delivering a demo…”  Make it a part of the corporate culture.

Finally, there may be situations where you still can’t get a reasonable amount of Discovery information prior to a demo (in spite of the selling team’s best efforts).  The Menu Approach is an excellent self-rescue technique that should help to avoid delivering a mechanical Harbor Tour demo.  You can find an article on the Menu Approach on my website at  (It is called, “The Menu Approach - A Truly Terrific Demo Self-Rescue Technique”.)

Other suggestions?