Wednesday, April 27, 2016

“Let Me Show You What’s Going On ‘Behind the Scenes’…” More Demo Ineptitude

How many times have you heard someone say, in a demo, “Let me explain what is happening behind the scenes…”?  As an audience member, do you typically care about these details?  (Nope).  Do high-ranking managers typically want to see or learn these details?  Nope.

And yet, the more technical the offering, and the more technical the presenter, the more often we hear these frightening words spoken.

Contemplate the following two examples:

You are considering purchasing a hybrid car.  What is the most important thing you care about, with respect to that car?  The answers are typically “gas mileage” or “the environment”.  For those of you who have considered a hybrid, have you looked at the batteries?  (Possibly).  Did you care that “the battery pack of the second generation Toyota Prius consists of 28 Panasonic prismatic nickel metal hydride modules—each containing six 1.2 volt cells—connected in series to produce a nominal voltage of 201.6 volts. The total number of cells is 168, compared with 228 cells packaged in 38 modules in the first generation Prius….”  (  (Nope).  Similarly, did you care how the car decides when to change from full electric to gas engine?  (Nope).

Have you ever purchased a book on Amazon using the “Buy now with 1-Click” button?  Do you care what happens “behind the scenes” when you click that button?  (Nope).  All you really care about is getting your copy of your book delivered to your tablet or mailbox.  (You are welcome to run this experiment yourself by purchasing a copy of “Great Demo!”).  Do you care how many separate vendors and steps are involved (Amazon, credit card company, merchant bank, database tracking your history, printer, packager, shipper, etc. etc. etc.)?  Nope.

Yes, there are certainly some people who are interested in “what goes on behind the scenes”, but they are fewer in number –and are typically lower-ranking.


Before you (or your team) dives into a detailed show-and-tell of “what’s happening behind the scenes” ask yourself is this important (to the customer) or necessary to learn?  Or, at least, ask the customer if he/she/they would like to know these details before plunging in…!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Curious Thoughts On Coaching, Demos, Life, the Universe and Everything… But Mostly on Coaching

I recently completed an interview with the fine folks at Refract ( that explores a range of topics, then settles down and explores coaching for presales (and demos, in particular) – and a curious thought struck me:

Very few presales managers have ever been taught how to coach…! 

This is intriguing and gently frightening…  Think about it:  most front-line presales managers are promoted from their previous individual contributor positions into their new manager roles because they excel at presales.  In many cases, they are given their new roles without any training on how to manage.  In nearly all cases, they are expected to coach their new team, but are never provided with training on how to coach.

The result is a negative feedback loop: 

VP:  “You need to coach your team…” 
Presales Manager:  “I try to tell them what to do…” 
VP:  “Well, do it better…”
Presales Manager (inwardly):  “Arrrrrrgh….!”

Interestingly, many arenas outside of the business world require coaches to learn how to coach.  Example?  Some years ago I volunteered as assistant coach for my daughter’s soccer team.  I’d played soccer for years (reasonably good goalie at one point) and knew the game – and figured I should be able to coach the girls.  However, I was surprised to learn that the league required all prospective coaches to learn how to coach – and I had to take a 2-day course on coaching.  I was even more surprised to find how useful (and ultimately important) it was to have learned those coaching skills (partly to help develop the team and partly to manage the parents on game day…!).

Brief segue:  What is the difference between training and coaching?  You can train someone to follow a process; coaching explores how well that process is being executed and makes improvements in performance.  Training introduces process; coaching improves the performance of that process. 

For example, you can teach someone how to run a 5 kilometer race:  you start, pace yourself over the first 4.5 kilometers, and then “kick” the last half a kilometer to finish.  The runner listens to the instructions, then runs the course as best he/she understands or interprets the plan.  That’s training.

Coaching is what happens next.  A Coach, who has watched and timed our athlete during the run, reviews what happened with him/her – and offers corrections and changes.  “Start a bit faster; remember to focus on smooth, steady breathing, and when you see the final half kilometer distance sign you can start your ‘kick’ – increase steadily over that half a km so that you are at top speed in the last 100m before the finish line.”  That’s coaching – working to improve the performance of the process.

Our athlete (after a bit of a rest), runs the course again, focusing on the guidance from the coach – and sees some significant improvement.  Importantly, that’s the positive feedback loop that coaching enables.

So, for you new (and experienced) presales managers, Is there hope on the horizon for you who wish to coach (or coach better)?  Why, yes!  For Great Demo! practitioners and their managers, I can provide coaching tools and guidance on how to coach – simply send me an email if you’d like to start the conversation at

Are there any additional sources for learning coaching skills you've come across?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Podcast: An Interview with Peter Cohan

Scott Sambucci, who leads SalesQualia, drives a discussion with me on demos, life, the universe and everything (OK, mostly on demos).
Here’s Scott’s description of what we covered and more detailed notes:
  • Why you only have once chance at a product demo and how to do it right the first time.
  • There no such thing as standard demos and how to discover the “Critical Business Issues” of your target accounts in preparing your demos.
  • “The Curse of Knowledge” and how answering your prospect’s questions before they ask can KILL your demo.
  • How to demo your software crisply…!
  • How did Peter get into demo skills training.
  • Do the Last Thing First – don’t teach people how things work, rather show them what good things will help them solve their problems.
  • Assembling and using data from demos, delivery and sales results.
  • Doing it right the first time – your demos will be much shorter and you’ll likely do fewer demos to get the business.
  • No such thing as a standard customer/demo.
  • Doing Discovery, ask sufficient questions to be able to design a demo that fits the customer’s need.
  • The “Curse of knowledge”, when you have seen it all before and you forget that every customer is unique. 
  • Pre-answering questions before they are asked takes away the role of the audience.
  • How to address having new people in the meeting that you haven’t had a chance to do needs assessment with.
  • Always start a demo with three questions:  What’s your name, job title and what would you like to accomplish?
  • Turning the demo from being all about the vendor to all about the customer.
  • Use the fewest number of steps to complete any particular task.
  • Manage your infrastructure. Expect your hard disk will crash! Be ready for anything.
  • Do the Last Thing First reprised. 

The entire podcast runs just about 1 hour in length – that should be just about perfect for 1 or 2 commutes…!