Monday, September 26, 2016

And Now for Something Completely Different…

A number of Great Demo! practitioners report that customers expect to see traditional, boring, save-the-best-for-last show-up-and-throw-up Harbor Tour demos – and that the Great Demo! approach of getting to the point right away may sometimes cause some confusion.  Here’s a simple solution:  let them know that your demo is going to be different, right from the start!

In other words, set expectations.  Outline the plan for your non-traditional demo right up front, at the beginning of the meeting.  You might say something like, “I’d like to try a new approach to the demo today, with your agreement.  Rather than do the traditional ’45-minute-harbor-tour-overview-of-most-everything’, I’d propose that we start with something rather crisp – we can then expand and go as deep as you’d like.  What do you think?”

This has proven to work very well – other suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

“Your Current Solution…”

I’ve noted that when vendors describe customer “pain” in terms of “Your current solution…” the apparent pain may be reduced – and can contribute, unintentionally, to “No Decision” outcomes. 

Using “Your current solution” suggests that the customer’s current situation, while perhaps unpleasant, is still a solution – offering a potentially reasonable alternative to making a change.  This is one reason why I recommend using terms such as “Problem”, “Issue”, or “Problems/Reasons” on Situation Slides at the beginning of a demo. 

[For those needing a refresher, Situation Slides crisply describe the customer’s situation and are presented at the very beginning of a demo.  They include key elements of Discovery – and are a leading indicator for successful demos and demo outcomes.]

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Managing Questions in Demos – Avoiding the Weeds

Far too often in demos, we get questions that either drive us into the weeds (too much detail) or we jump into the weeds ourselves…  Here are some guidelines for managing questions in Great Demos:

Regarding when and what questions to “Park”:

Great Questions (that don’t need to be parked):
-          Questions from high-ranking people are all “Great Questions” and should be addressed right away (crisply).
-          Questions from most middle-managers should also be addressed right away, unless they are really detailed…
-          Questions that lead to what you wanted to show next or in a few moments.

Good Questions (that should be parked until the appropriate time):
-          Questions early in the demo, particularly when high-ranking people are still present, that will require too much detail or demo pathway to address.
-          Questions that require major shifts in your plan.
-          Questions that are specific to an individual (and not of interest to the balance of the group).

It is often reasonable to ask the group as a whole, “Should we park this for now – or would you like me to address it right away?” when you are not sure…  Note that high-ranking people’s desires override others!

“Can I?” vs. “How do I?”:  Listen carefully to the way questions are asked.  When someone asks, “Can it do xxx?” you may only need to answer “Yes” or “No” (if “Yes”, I generally recommend following with, “Is that sufficient or would you like to see it?” when you are early in the demo…  This is particularly true for high-ranking folks – they often don’t need to see the answer, just hear it.

When some asks, “How do you do xxx?” you are more likely going to have to show a pathway.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Musicians, Improv and Demos

What can we learn and apply to delivering demos from musical performance and improv comedy?  A lot!  Here’s a short set of ideas to get started…

Dynamics – louds and softs.  Musicians and comedians know that the interplay between loud and quiet sections of music and speech set up and release tension, as well as to help “refresh” the audience.  A mono-level delivery is boring…  Using the “B” key in PowerPoint followed by lowering your voice (loudness-wise) causes your audience to lean-in to hear what you are saying. 

The Power of the Pause.  Pauses are terrific – they give time for ideas to sink in, they give the audience an opportunity to ask a question or offer comments, and they help to break your delivery into “chunks”.  They can also be used theatrically to set up and release tension as well, and often well beyond what simple dynamics provide.

“Yes, and…”  One of the cardinal rules in comedic improvisation is to always say “yes” and agree, then extend or develop the idea further (no matter how silly it may be!).  It is also an excellent tool to use when working with customers in demos.  Note that, “Yes, but…” translates to mean “No”.  Conversely, “Yes, and…” enables you to redirect, extend, and drive the conversation as needed. 

Timing.  Comedians and musicians understand the importance of timing.  Timing goes far beyond simply starting, ending and staying in sync – the skilled practitioner in presenting demos uses timing to organize the overall delivery, help define chunks, manage (and park) questions and keep audiences fresh. 

Awareness of surroundings.  Great musicians and improv comedians feed off of their audiences – and we should be doing the same thing in demos.  (And especially when presenting over the web, where it is likely the audience may be tempted to check email, browse the web, leave the room, etc....)

Execution of the performance.  Of course, musicians need to play the music – and play it well.  Delivering a demo requires a similar performance – executing the pathways and specific steps (and following the Great Demo! process, of course!).

Listening carefully and responding thoughtfully.  Great musicians and improv comedians are particularly skilled in listening and responding, listening and responding, listening and responding…  And it is the listening portion that is (clearly!) the most important.  You cannot respond well to what you haven’t heard!

Other ideas to suggest?