Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why vs. What vs. How

Consider the following three questions with respect to your software:

What is it?
How does it work?
Why is it important?

Far too often demos focus briefly on the “What is it” portion and then largely on the “How does it work” segments – leaving the “Why is it important” for customers to figure out on their own.  While this may work adequately for Early Adopters, it fails for most other populations.  The lack of communicating the “Why is it important” information in demos is often referred by sales management as failing to articulate the “Business Value”. 

Let’s explore the intriguing differences between these three questions with a simple example:  Your colleague turns to you and asks, “What time is it?”

You respond, “It’s 9:30…”

That’s what time it is, right now. The answer is a simple fact – a number. What it means, however, to your colleague and why it might be important are missing.  

As you offer the time, you might ask, “Why do you want to know what time it is?”  The range of responses represent the potential “Business Value” for your colleague, for example:

- “Oh good – I have a call at 10:00...” [Business Value:  I have time to get ready for the call…]
- “I’m right on time for my 9:30 meeting...”  [Business Value:  I’m right on time – no apologies to make…!]
- “Darn, I’m late for my 9:00 meeting..!” [Business Value:  Better work on an apology/reason…]
- “I need to meet my friend in 15 minutes...” [Business Value:  I better leave now to be on time…]
- “Great, I have 1 more hour…”  [Business Value:  I can do some other work before…]
- “I mean, what time is it in Singapore?” [Business Value:  I have to connect with our Singapore office and don’t want to call after hours…]

In most demos, presenters say, “Here’s where you can see what time it is…” – that’s the “what”.  Unfortunately, the presenter often misses the next step – describing the “why”:  “So that you can tell if you are early, on time, or late for your next appointment and prepare or adjust accordingly…”

Even worse, many presenters go directly from the “what” to the “how”:  “Here’s where you can see what time it is…  And here’s how the time system works:  there is a spring that drives an oscillating mini-pendulum, lubricated by molybdenum, that actuates the first set of gears that drive the main gearing to rotate the second hand one step forward, while accumulating (and this part is really cool) the next 59 seconds in a capacitor that then releases its charge to drive the minute hand…”   

In a demo, contemplate presenting “what” your software does, followed by “why” it is useful – the Business Value.  Let the customer ask to see “how” it works, if they are interested.

In Great Demo! methodology, we suggest presenting the “why”/Business Value when you are presenting Illustrations and in each Summary, at least. 

For an Illustration, you might say something like, “What you are looking at here is a dashboard that shows the day-by-day operation of the department.  Each bar on the graph shows the time taken to execute the workflow, so if you see an exception you can drill down to explore why that exception is happening, find the root cause, and address it to improve your overall results.”

Here’s a bonus thought:  If you have done a great job in Discovery, you should be able to connect the Business Value back to specific pain points and capabilities desired.  In these cases, you can add the phrase, “…which you said you need…” to your Business Value statement.  Sweet!

So why communicate the “why”?  To communicate the Business Value!

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