Thursday, January 28, 2016

Further Beyond BANT – Great Discovery Questions – Competitive Advantages

Contemplate the following idea:  Every competitively advantageous feature in your offering should have one or more Discovery questions associated with it – and the best time to introduce those competitively advantageous capabilities is in Discovery, via a series of Biased Questions.

Corollary:  Every key competitively advantageous feature in your COMPETITOR’s offering should also have one or more Discovery questions associated with it – and the best time to out-flank and minimize the impact and importance of those features is also in Discovery, via a series of Biased Questions designed to negate the importance of that capability. 

Second Corollary:  If you determine that your customer really values the competitor’s capability and sees it as highly important, if you cannot match or even the score with other capabilities of your own, you may choose to pull back and end your sales process (for the present) – and make that decision in Discovery.  If you are going to fail, fail early and fail inexpensively (as opposed to doing a series of demos, followed by a long POC, and then losing to your competition)!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Vision Generation Demos - The Crisp Cure for Stunningly Awful Harbor Tours

What is a Vision Generation demo?  It is just enough demo to generate a vision in the customer’s mind that a solution to a business challenge is possible – and to enable a Discovery conversation to take place. 

A Vision Generation demo should only take a few minutes – and may consist entirely of one or two well-chosen screens or screen-shots (“Illustrations” for you Great Demo! practitioners…).  Let’s explore…

Many software vendors have two types of demos:  

1.  Overview
2.  Deep Dive

Both types, when delivered in the absence of sufficient Discovery information, can lead to stunningly awful results.  Generally speaking, “Deep Dive” demos are delivered after a reasonable amount of Discovery has been completed.  Most overview demos, however, are inflicted with little or no Discovery information in place (and qualification questions alone are not sufficient!).

As a result, overview demos have a range of (customer-generated) names, including:

- Show-up and throw-up
- Spray and pray
- Tech splatter
- The IKEA demo
- Living in the Land of Hope
- Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot, and, of course,
- The Harbor Tour

These painful demos often last 30, 45, or 60 minutes – or even longer.  I’ve heard vendors say, “We couldn’t possibly do an overview of the system in less than 2 hours…”

Customer recipients during and after these demos are often heard to mutter phrases such as:

“Where is this going?”
“Kill me now…”
 “That’s an hour I’ll never get back…”
“What was the point?”
 “Who invited those guys in here?”

Equally bad, vendors know that they are wasting time delivering overview demos that go nowhere…  (Not to mention potentially huge travel and opportunity costs, so I won’t).  What if you could reduce your traditional overview demos from 1 hour down to a few crisp minutes?   What could you use that time for, instead?

Clearly, the best solution is to complete sufficient Discovery prior to any substantive demo.  However, many customers are either unwilling or unable to provide Discovery information in the absence of a demo.  They may even say, “Just show me an overview and I’ll let you know if anything looks interesting…”

How do we solve this conundrum? 

One Guideline and Two Ideas

First, consider the following "rule":  no demo shall last longer than 4 minutes without receiving sufficient Discovery information.  Note that "receiving sufficient Discovery information" can take place during or immediately after those 4 minutes of demo...  Think in terms of quid pro quo – if I show you something (a brief demo), I expect something in return (some Discovery information). 

Second, contemplate the idea of Vision Generation demos:  JUST ENOUGH demo to enable a Discovery conversation to take place.  In Great Demo! methodology, a Vision Generation demo might include an example Situation Slide ("Here's how we helped other ______ [job title] in _____ [industry]...") followed by a compelling Illustration or two.  Total time?  About 4 minutes or less...

This highly successful approach is based on reference selling, gently borrowed from a range of sales methodologies (including Challenger, Solution Selling, CustomerCentric Selling, Sandler, SPIN, Miller Heiman, Value, TAS, etc.), and applied specifically when you’ve been asked to present an overview demo.  It goes like this:

A customer arranged a demo meeting with you, but has not (yet) agreed to a Discovery conversation.  His expectation is that you’ll deliver some kind of “overview” demo…  What you know so far is that he is the VP of Sales of a mid-size software company (and you sell sales automation software tools). 

You say, “I’m glad we are able to invest this time together today.  Before we get into a demo, let me share how we’ve helped other VP’s of Sales at similar-sized software organizations address some of their business challenges…”  You then present the following slide in PowerPoint:


Job Title/Industry:             VP Sales, Mid-size Software
Critical Business Issue:    Achieving/exceeding quarterly and annual quota
Problems/Reasons:          Poor insight into pipeline/forecast
Specific Capabilities:        Rapid view of actuals, status, problems
Delta:                                $2M incremental revenue

You note that “VP’s of Sales at other, similar software companies shared their concerns about making their quarterly and annual numbers.  They said what was holding them back is that they had little or no visibility into their current forecast and pipeline going forward.  They said it took way too much time and effort to determine which sales projects were solid, which were at risk, and where there were holes or gaps in their pipelines.  They often had to go back and forth with IT, who would run searches on their behalf, but the results were often not what they needed, requiring several iterations of the process – and errors and miscommunication often took place.  The result was that it was very difficult to coach the sales team properly and they were often at risk of missing their quarterly numbers.”

You continue, “They said they were looking for some way to access the full forecast and pipeline information, see exactly which deals were in good shape and which needed assistance, and understand exactly where the forward-looking pipeline was strong and where there were gaps.  They said they wanted to get this information in a dashboard or similar vehicle that they themselves could query and drill down for details, without any need for IT.”

You explain, “We provided those capabilities – and our customers report that they’ve been able to generate 1-3 million dollars in incremental revenue and redeploy several full-time-equivalents in sales and sales operations to other, more productive tasks.”

You then ask, “How does this compare with your situation?”

There are three possible answers from your customer [Quiz – before reading on:  what are they?]:

1.  “I have that same situation…”
2.  “I have a similar situation…”
3.  “My situation is different…”

After your customer’s response, you ask, “Tell me about your specific situation…”

Customer says (for example), “Oh, well, I am under pressure to make my numbers – that’s consistent.  However, we have pretty good pipeline management capabilities today, but I do have a number of sales people who either sandbag [under-forecast] or who have Happy Ears [over-forecast] and both of these groups need coaching.  Right now I don’t have good insight into their projects – our current system doesn’t support this…”

You ask (as you begin to take notes), “What are you using today…?”

What has just taken place?  You and your customer have just entered into a Discovery conversation – which is exactly what you want.  Delightful!

Discovery, Then Demo, Then Discovery…

In the scenario above, it is likely that you continue the Discovery conversation for some time – and you may get to the point where you’ve now learned enough to provide a more substantive, focused demo. 

In the spirit of quid pro quo it may be your turn to provide information – and a short, focused demo segment based on what you’ve learned so far may be very reasonable.  After that, back to Discovery…

Here’s a quick road-map of the process so far:

-  Vision Generation Demo (≤4 minutes)
-  “How does this compare with your situation?”
-  Discovery questions and conversation – 10, 20 or 30 minutes – as long as is comfortable
-  Brief focused demo (brief Technical Proof demo, in Great Demo! methodology vocabulary)
-  More Discovery questions and conversation
-  Another brief focused demo segment, if appropriate
-  Repeat as needed…

Your objective is to gain a clear and complete understanding of your customer’s situation – partly so that you can put together and deliver a more substantive focused (Technical Proof) demo, if needed – and partly so that your customer is comfortable that you have a sufficient understanding of their situation.

Discovery is done partly for you, the vendor – and partly (largely!) for the sake of the customer.  Customers are typically unwilling to accept a solution if they feel the vendor has an insufficient understanding of what they believe is their unique, specific situation.

One Guideline and Two Ideas?

For those of you who were paying attention and counting, you’ll note that I promised one guideline and two ideas – it looks like I owe you one more idea, so…

The Vision Generation demo described above assumes that you have a reasonable understanding of your customer’s top challenges before the meeting.  However, what if you don’t have a good idea of your customer’s main problem areas?

Consider using the Menu Approach to identify customer challenges and topics of main interest.  (The Menu Approach article on my website at describes how to put this into practice in detail – you can browse for it or simply send me an email and I’ll send you the article.)

The Menu Approach presents the customer with a list of high-probability topics of interest – and invites the customer to choose which topic(s) are of most interest to them.  You can then transition to a corresponding Situation Slide and use an appropriate Illustration or two for each topic – delightful!

Note that the Menu Approach can be applied on-the-fly during the meeting – or you can send a Menu of topics (with brief textual description of each topic) to your customer ahead of time and ask them to rank the topics in terms of importance to them: “High”, “Medium”, or “Low” – and send the list back to you. 

This “self-Discovery” exercise enables you to target the “High” importance topics for crisp Vision Generation demos and to drive the Discovery conversation in accord with what is perceived as most important by the customer. 

But Wait:  There’s More

Finally, here are a few additional ideas you may find useful – or at least amusing!

A colleague of mine, when asked to “just show us an overview demo” by his customers, responds, “I’d be happy to – our overview demo takes about 2 hours for each product – and we have a pile of products.  When would you like to schedule this?”

When receiving the same request (“just show me an overview”), another colleague tells the customer, “Oh, do you really want me to show-up-and-throw-up?  Spray-and-pray?  Take you on a tour of an Ikea?  You really want a Harbor Tour demo?”  After the laughter dies away, he says, “I can either torture you for a few hours of overview demo – or we can invest a few minutes of discussion to focus in on what you want.  Your choice…!”

Another Great Demo! practitioner described the “Serial Serving” analogy.  He told the customer, “Well, asking me to do an overview demo is like asking me as a waiter in a nice restaurant to just start bringing dishes of food to your table – and let me know when you get something you like…  Or, I can show you a menu of what we offer, so that you can see what is possible for your meal and then choose what is most interesting to you!”

Vision Generation – An Encrispened Demo

A Vision Generation demo is designed to provide the customer with just enough demo for the customer to be willing to invest more time with you.  Four minutes of Vision Generation may be all that is needed to start a substantive conversation.

Just think:  if you are able to reduce your traditional overview demos from 1 hour down to 4 minutes, what delightful (and more productive) activities could you use that time for?

Copyright © 2016 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Traditional “Overview” Demos – Similar to Serial Serving…?

A recent Great Demo! Workshop participant noted that traditional “overview” demos are similar to what he called, “Serial Serving”.  Intrigued, I asked, “What is Serial Serving?” 

He replied, “It is like being presented with dish after dish of food in a restaurant, none of which you requested, but you sample them as they appear – with the result that you are full before they finally bring something you really like…!  Each dish is carefully prepared by the chef and served by the waiter, but without any input from the customer – an onslaught of offerings…”

I raised a questioning eyebrow…  Obligingly, he elucidated:

“Imagine you walk into a nice restaurant and are seated at a table.  The waiter doesn’t bring you a menu, however, he brings a plate of sautéed shrimp straight from the kitchen, saying ‘This is one of our most popular dishes…!’  Unfortunately, you don’t really like shrimp and ask the waiter to take the plate away. 

The waiter returns and places a large bowl of cooked green-leaf vegetables in front of you, saying, ‘This is another popular specialty of ours:  soy-seasoned spinach, collard greens, and kale.’  You try a few bites and it is acceptable, but not really what you had in mind.  You push the plate aside…

The waiter reappears, this time with a plate of polenta, covered with a confit of red peppers and onions; he presents the dish, noting, ‘Nearly everyone likes this…!’  However, you are not really a polenta fan – you try a few bites and again push the plate away…

Now the waiter presents, in quick order:  potato soup, a grilled beef steak (with special Spanish spices), stewed tomatoes, rabbit stew, cheese fondue, and pot-au-feu, commenting that ‘We just added these dishes recently and we are very excited about them…!’  You try small portions of each – and begin to feel a bit overwhelmed.

Without respite (and no entremets or intermezzo), our waiter delivers a platter of petit-fours, a carafe of cabernet, an urn of sea urchin roe, a bowl of braised Brussels sprouts (in a bold Bordeaux), a seared sliver of salmon (slightly seasoned with sesame), a mug of mugwort, a ramekin of rutabaga ratatouille (with a rhubarb reduction), and shots of soju, sherry, Sambuca, sangria, sauterne, schnapps, and scotch (several with peated barley, several with plain barley).  Obligingly, you sample what you can (with a special emphasis on the selection of shots, most likely, at this point).  You are now full, definitely overwhelmed – a bit concerned about the likely size of the bill…!

Sadly, you were never served what you really wanted (rack of lamb). 

As you leave, the waiter asks, ‘What did you think?  What did you like?’

You respond, not wishing to offend him, ‘Oh, it was all pretty good…’

He asks, ‘Will we see you back again?’

You reply, again trying to be courteous, ‘Oh yes…’ – but you have absolutely no plan to be back – ever…!

That’s Serial Serving – and it is exactly synonymous with what vendors do when they present traditional overview demos!”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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

In response to a number of requests, here’s a quick update on the articles published over the past year (plus a few months):

-          Stunningly Awful Demos:  Waaay Out of Alignment
-          Stunningly Awful Demo Phrases
-          Stunningly Awful On-Boarding Demos – The Trouble Begins
-          Stunningly Awful Sales Tactics – The Future-Sales Prevention Team
-          Stunningly Awful Demo Communication
-          Let’s Talk About Value
-          Stunningly Awful Sales Kickoff Demos

They are all available at  You are welcome to download the PDF versions and forward them on to others, as well!

The Great Demo! blog delivers these articles fresh off of the virtual press, along with a range of other tips, tools and ideas – you can find the blog at  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Beyond BANT - Great Discovery Questions

When doing Discovery, “BANT” is simply insufficient for non-transactional software sales cycles.  (BANT = Budget, Authority, Need(s), Timeline).  It can be a good starting point, but clearly more in-depth questions and discussion is needed with our customers.  Here are a few example questions to help stretch the discussion beyond BANT:

- Tell me about the culture here:  what is the team’s willingness/ability to change? 
- How does your company perceive itself – or want to be perceived:  as an Early Adopter, a Fast Follower, more of a Majority type, or a careful Late Adopter?
- When was the last time the team had a change of process or implemented new software?
- What happened with the past few new systems you purchased and installed?  How did those implementations go?

These few questions represent just a couple of areas to explore beyond BANT – any others you’d like to add to the list?  (It should be a long list…!)