Thursday, December 29, 2016

Getting Better?

This could be titled, “Do you REALLY want to get better at what you do – or are you fooling yourself…?”

I had an interesting conversation with a presales manager recently regarding helping his team get better at what they do (wrt demos, in particular).  He recently took over managing an existing team of presales folks, most of whom had been in their roles for several years – they were largely “seasoned veterans”. 

In a series of discussions with the individual members about their current practices and improvement, they ALL said “Yes, I want to improve my skills; I’d like to get better at what I do.”  However, when they were presented with the idea of establishing a baseline using a set of metrics and then using those metrics to help identify areas for improvement, many “pushed back” and said they didn’t like the idea of using measurements.


How can we really get better at a skill if don’t measure our performance? 

Note:  it is NOT helpful for sales people to simply say, “Great job…” to their presales counterpart after a demo.  At best, that “feedback” will result in simply maintaining the status quo.  Specific feedback, particularly around areas that can be measured is what will help us improve.

Here are some example demo performance measurements, as a starting point for this discussion:

High Level (Note that much of this data is likely already in your CRM tool…):
-        -  $ of Revenue per demo, per presales person.
-        -  $ of Revenue per demo, for the overall presales team.
-        -  $ of Revenue per demo, per sales person.
-        -  $ of Revenue per demo, for the overall sales team.
-        -  Order amount divided by the number of demos needed to close the order (again on an individual and team basis).
      - Conversion Rate (Demos to closed business).

More Specific Skills Improvement Areas (Here is a starter list):
-         - Number of times we communicate the benefit of a capability.
-         - Number of times we communicate the business value [even better].
-         - Number of clicks to complete a specific task.
-         - Time between questions from audience members (is this a firehose demo or a conversation).
-         - Number of “pre-answered” questions.
-         - Time spent doing Discovery vs. in the demo.
-         - Number of stories used per demo.
-         - Number of analogies or metaphors used per demo.
-         - Number of times away from the software – e.g., using a whiteboard, using props or visual aids.
-         - Number of times we invite the customer to drive during the demo.

Comments?  Observations?  Suggestions? 

Monday, December 19, 2016

‘Twas the Night Before the Big Demo - A Hopeful Holiday Poem

‘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, (like an onion),
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 © 2005-2016 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dealing with “Day-in-the-Life” Demos

A colleague once cynically commented, in response to a request for a “day-in-the-life” demo, “Give me a week and I can show you a day-in-the-life…”  Very clever, but still painful!  Day-in-the-life demos are challenging, so here are some Great Demo! principles you can apply:

First, if you have a mixed audience consisting (for example) of high-ranking executives,  middle managers and staffers, DO NOT start with a day-in-the-life from the staffers’ perspective.  Why?  Execs will (quietly) walk out and middle managers will visualize your software as complicated.  Follow Great Demo! methodology and present to the execs first, then the managers – and then the staffers, after the higher ranking folks are satisfied.  (You can use the concept of “teasers” to let each group know what Good Things are in store for them as the overall meeting progresses.)

Next, Situation Slides and Illustrations very much still apply.  Using a Situation Slide to confirm the customer’s situation (and desired gains and outcomes) is an excellent starting point for any day-in-the-life demo segment.  Illustrations can and should be used to summarize and/or confirm the desired outcome(s) and end results of these workflows.

Now consider the following ideas:  
1.       Fewest number of clicks:  ALWAYS applicable.  Nobody wants their day-in-the-life to take a week!  
2.       Break things into “chunks”.  Just as people take breaks throughout a workday, you should break the overall workflow up into logical chunks as well.  
3.       Use a Roadmap or agenda to help manage the process, keep the audience (and you) organized, and to enable you to “chunk” with discrete beginnings and ends to tasks and subtasks. 
4.       Introduce the segment at the beginning; summarize at the end.  
5.       Avoid using “If”, “Or”, and “Also” – these words branch your demo and make it MUCH longer than it needs to be…  
6.       Instead, let the audience ask, “Can it do xxx?” and “How do you do yyy?”  Turn the demo into a conversation, rather than a firehose!  
7.       Use a Menu to prioritize chunks and portions of the workflow(s), when possible.  No need to invest 50 minutes at the beginning with a workflow segment that is of least interest to the audience.  
8.       When possible, take a lesson from Julia Child and show the end product (the fabulous roast turkey/beef/lamb/pork/tofu, ready to be carved) to get the audience’s juices flowing, then start the workflow and follow it for a few steps (get the roast into the oven) – and then jump towards the end to finish the workflow.  You may not need to show all of the intermediate steps (do you really want to watch a turkey roast for 6 hours?).   
9.       Mouse smoooooooooothly and deliiiiiiiberately.  Avoid Zippy Mouse Syndrome (unless you really want to make your software look complicated).  
10.   Let a member of the audience drive, under your guidance.  This will help to prove ease-of-use and make the segment much more engaging…!

Any other suggestions? 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Really Interesting (But Not Surprising)

The clever folks at, who provide tools to record and apply analytics to sales conversations, uncovered the following really interesting (but not surprising) conclusion:

The average B2B sales rep spends between 65–75% of a call talking, leaving only 25–35% of the call for listening. 43/57 seems to be the golden ratio.  In fact, increasing the prospect’s talk time from 22% to 33% significantly boosts opportunity win-rates.”

You can read the full article here:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stunningly Awful Demos – Lost in the Weeds

(The Elegant Art of Managing Questions and Time)

You are in the midst of delivering a demo and things are going well…  Somebody asks a question and you answer it, then start to return to your planned demo – but he asks a follow-up question.  You answer that in more detail, since it required a deeper response.  Again you think he is satisfied, but he asks a further follow-up question, which you proceed to answer in breathtaking depth, showing detailed examples in your software and covering extensive whiteboard space with drawings and text…

After several minutes you realize you are waaaay off track and “in the weeds”.  Except for the (low-ranking) person who asked the questions, everyone else looks bored or confused.

Worse, you notice that the high-ranking members of the audience somehow left the room while you were in your explanation.  To add insult to injury, you are now short on time as well!

How do we simultaneously encourage questions, yet make sure they don’t take us off track?

Chaos Controlled

The Swiss are very organized (understatement).  In Basel, they celebrate Carnival (called “Fasnacht”), in a typically Swiss way: “Now we will have chaos, and this is the way we will organize it…”  The chaos is carefully scheduled to start and end at precise times.  You can march anywhere you want, as long as it is within the carefully defined limits of the old town.  And you can wear any costume you want, as long as it is one of the 13 specifically prescribed characters. 

We can learn a thing or two from the Swiss, with regards to demos.  Yes, we want to encourage questions and make things as interactive as possible – but we need to manage the process as well.

There are three types of questions we might expect to receive in a demo:

- Great Questions – which we should answer right away.
- Good Questions – which should be “parked” for later.
- Stupid Questions – which should also be “parked” for later, but with a nuance…

Let’s take them in order…

Great Questions

Great Questions make our hearts sing with joy (they do!).  They are questions that lead directly to the next point you want to make; they underscore the value; they are the questions you want your customer to ask.

In Great Demo! Workshops, we teach the idea of having answers to typical questions ready to go, but placed (in a virtual sense) behind your back.  You want your customer to ask these questions – and when they do so, and do so at the right time, they are truly terrific – they are Great Questions.

You’ll know your demo is going perfectly when your customer asks the question you want them to ask at that moment.

You answer Great Questions crisply – one or two sentences – that’s it!

Good Questions

Most of the questions we receive in an otherwise well-prepared demo are Good Questions.  They are earnest, honest and indicate interest from your audience – and they are the very questions that can take your demo into the weeds.

How do we handle Good Questions?  Park them. 

For example, early in the demo, someone asks, “What infrastructure is required to install your software?” and you know the answer will likely require some discussion and detail – and your audience includes high-ranking executives, middle managers, end users and administrators.

You respond, “Thank you for that question.  That deserves more development than I’d like to invest right now…  Let me capture it here, on the whiteboard.”  You right it down and then ask, “Have I captured it correctly?”

Your customer indicates agreement.

You say, “Thanks, let’s plan to address this later in our session or in the Q&A segment – is that acceptable to you?”

Your customer says, “Yes” – releasing you to continue your demo as planned.  Very elegant, very professional.

This process works extremely well.  Why?  Because your customer sees you capture his/her question, removing the concern that you are simply dismissing the question (which can happen if you only acknowledge it verbally or appear to write it down on a paper pad to yourself). 

You’ve essentially made an agreement with your audience that you will address that question.  Note that the timing is now up to you.  You could address it later in the demo, during Q&A – or in a separate session over the phone or web.

Just Say “Yes”

Things are going well and someone asks, “Can it do xxx?” (“Can it print?” is the example I often use in Great Demo! Workshops).  Instead of simply answering, “Yes” – we dive into our software to show how it is done, along with several options and alternatives.  We’ve taken what was possibly a Great Question and turned it into a Good one…

Listen carefully to how people ask questions.  When they ask, “Can it…?” you may only need to respond “Yes” or “No”.  You can test to see if they want further explanation by asking, “Is that sufficient or would you like to see it?” Most often, your audience responds, “Nope – I’m good.”

When your audience asks, “How do I…?” it is more likely that they need to see how it is done in your software.

Stupid Questions

Stupid Questions come from two sources:  truly stupid people and hostiles.  Hostiles are the people who don’t like you, they don’t like your company, they don’t like your product; they feel it is their obligated duty to torture the vendor…

How do we handle hostiles?  Two approaches:

1.  Sustained, small-arms, automatic weapons fire.  OK, kidding.  (And that approach is likely only legal in Texas and Alaska).
2.  Treat their Stupid Questions in a similar fashion to Good Questions.  A hostile asks, “How come your software sucks so bad and costs so much…?”  (Note:  clearly not a Great Question…). 

You respond, “This requires more development than I’d like to invest right now.  I’m going to capture it here on the whiteboard [along with all of the other questions].  We’ll plan to address it later on or during the Q&A session.”

Important note:  do not give the hostile the option to respond.  You want to close him/her down. 

Interestingly, we often see other members of the audience help you manage the hostile – they may, in fact, ask the hostile to stop tormenting you, when they see you are using a reasonable and rational process to manage the session.

So the strategy is to treat Stupid Questions similarly to Good Questions – queue them up on the Parking Lot for later.

Some Subtleties 

All questions from high-ranking people are Great Questions (even if they are Stupid). 

You can turn a Great Question into a Good Question by going too deep with your answer.  You are allowed (encouraged, even) to park yourself in these cases…!

Teaser answers:  you can mitigate the potentially awkward feeling of parking a Good Question by offering a brief, “teaser” answer – just a sentence or two before you complete parking the question. 

When parking hostile questions, consider one of two strategies:

1.  Write it done verbatim for public display.  The advantage is that it shows how stupid the question really was.  The disadvantage is that the audience will be looking at “Sucks so bad and costs so much” for the duration of the session.
2.  Paraphrase it by finding its central issue.  For example, translate “Sucks so bad and costs so much” to “Quality and Value”.  Looks much better on a whiteboard…!

When should you address any Stupid Questions that you have parked?  That’s up to you.  Interestingly, many hostiles leave the meeting before you get to the parked questions…

Body language:  there are likely hundreds of books written on how to answer questions, many of which focus a good portion of their guidance on body language.  Here are a few suggestions harvested from these tomes:

1.  When listening to a question, initially move towards the asker – and don’t move backwards, away from him/her.  That appears to the audience as if you are running away!
2.  When listening to a question, assume a neutral body position (no folded arms, don’t jingle keys or change in your pocket, don’t fidget with a “clicker”, pointer or your mouse).
3.  When listening to a question, don’t look at your watch (you can lose major elections this way).

More Chaos Control

Who else can help you manage the chaos?  Your sales counterpart (if present) has a number of specific roles to play:  He or she should be prepared to “rescue” you by stepping in to help parse and park questions.  Sales people:

- Can help to identify Great vs. Good/Stupid questions.
- Should manage the Parking Lot, capturing questions for you.
- Should help clarify questions (often by asking questions in return).
- Should repeat questions when you are operating over the web.  (Why?  To make sure you heard the question correctly and to give you a few extra seconds to prepare an answer!)

Managing Questions and Time

There are three types of questions we can manage in a demo:

- Great Questions – which we answer right away.
- Good Questions – which we park for later.
- Stupid Questions – which we also park for later, but without giving any choices…!

Managing questions in your demos with this process will help make your demonstrations crisp, compelling and surprisingly effective.

Copyright © 2016 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Terrific Tool for Delivering (and Tracking) POC’s

I recently came across a new tool that could rather dramatically improve the way that POC’s are done today.  It is called Virtual Labs (the company is called Cloud People -  The tool was originally developed to enable training of IT staff, but they pivoted a few years back and have produced capabilities that enable POC’s to be prepared, delivered, tracked and managed in some delightfully new ways.

Traditionally, it often takes (substantial) time to build POC environments – Virtual Labs can cut this to a fraction.  But wait, there’s more…!

Once a POC is deployed, it is often tough to see how the customer is using the environment.  Are they using it at all?  Are they running into problems?  Are they working the tasks/use cases that were agreed upon?

Virtual Labs enable vendors to generate complex POC environments rapidly, hand them over to customers (via a browser); and track and manage the use by the customer.  Vendors get direct insight into how the customer is progressing – see the time spent using the software, number of users, logins, etc.  Vendors can also set triggers to uncover problems or issues (e.g., is the user is taking too long to complete a task?). 

If the customer has a question or problem, a browser-based q&a session can be established with the vendor right within the environment, if I understand correctly.  Libraries of use cases can be pre-prepared and deployed as desired, as well. 

This looks like a potentially game-changing tool for POC’s – check it out!

Monday, October 31, 2016

When Was the Last Time YOU Were a Customer?

Great Demo! is all about the customer’s perspective – what is it the customer is looking for in the demo, what do they want out of the interaction. 

This suggests two recommendations:

Recommendation Number 1:  Go be a customer.

Many presales folks that were hired fresh out of school (or a few years out of school) have never interacted with a vendor as a customer –and have never seen any other vendors’ demos.  This makes it very hard for them to understand what it is like to be a customer.

So, give them homework.  Tell them, “Go find a software product you are potentially interested in and request a demo from that vendor’s website – and see what happens.  Go through their process:  how long before someone calls you, what do they ask about you, what does the demo seem like, etc.  Go be a customer…!  (No obligation to purchase, of course). 

People often report how surprised they were at what happened and how they were treated – it can be eye-opening!

Recommendation Number 2:  Go be a customer.

Many seasoned presales veterans have forgotten what it is like to be on the customer side of the table.  Regain that lost perspective by executing the exact same homework, as above – sign-up for a demo of a product you have some interest in – and see how you are treated as a customer.  Some things to note:

- How long before you are contacted by the vendor?
- What amount of Discovery do they do (or is it simply a few quick “qualification” questions)?
- Do they inflict a corporate overview presentation – and/or a product overview?
- Do they present a standard “overview” demo or really try to customize it to your specific situation?
- If they are presenting over the web, how much interactivity do they drive?

Now, contemplate your own organization’s demos – how different are they from what you just experienced?