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? 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Asking More Questions – Why?

Surprisingly, I often hear the following observation from Great Demo! Workshop alumni:  “Some of our sales people are concerned when we start asking questions about customers’ Critical Business Issue vs. pains, Problems and Reasons. They say we are digging too deep with questions for each opportunity…”

Keep asking – it’s the right thing to do..!   Here are two reasons why:

(1)    No Decision and
(2)    Not The Real Issue

No Decision:  One of the major reasons why sales opportunities result in a “No Decision” is that the customer agrees they have a problem, but don’t see it as critical.  They are willing to live with and stay with the status quo.  Here’s what can happen in these cases:

Customer says, “Yes, we are using Excel and we hate it – takes way too long and has far too many manual steps, plus errors creep in all the time…” 
Traditional Sales Team Response:  “Great, let us show you a terrific solution…” 

The customer sees a demo and says it looks great.  Customer does a POC and says it worked fine.  But the opportunity never closes.  Why?  Because in many cases, the customer is comfortable with the Excel Hell they know – and making a change is actually harder for them, from their perspective, so they stay with the current Excel environment.  It is only when something really critical is sufficiently impacted that they will make a change.  Otherwise, this sales opportunity is a candidate for No Decision.

Not the Real Issue:  When doing Discovery, you might compare the way you ask question with the way a doctor asks questions.  Many times a patient will describe certain symptoms and pains, but they are only indicators and are not necessarily the real, core issue.

For example, a patient could say, “I have a headache…”  For the doctor to accurately make a diagnosis and offer a prescription, the doctor needs to ask many more questions to determine the cause for the headache.   That symptom could be part of a cold or flu; it could be the result of an injury from being hit in the head; it could be a brain tumor (hope not!); it could be stress; it could just be a hangover.  The doctor needs to ask more questions to uncover enough information to make an accurate diagnosis.

Note that simply prescribing aspirin for the headache pain may not be the right solution for many of the cases above; the correct prescription will depend on accurate diagnosis of the real problem…! 

The same idea is also true in business – the symptoms (Problems/Reasons) generally have an underlying (and more important) Critical Business Issue.  Addressing the customer’s stated Problems may be insufficient to address the underlying Critical Business Issue. 

So, keep asking those questions…!