Monday, August 28, 2017

Stunningly Awful Demos - The Great Demo! Top Ten List of What NOT to Do

Here’s a collection of poor tactics, bad errors and faulty steps you can take to increase the likelihood that your demo will be a failure.  We recommend that you avoid doing these things! 

If your organization’s demos are not as successful as you might wish, consider using this list as an assessment tool.  If these items are occurring in your real-life demos then you may want to contemplate making some changes…

The Stunningly Awful Demos (“SAD”) Top Ten List:

1.     Be unclear on the Customer’s Needs:  “The Harbor Tour”

Offer and deliver a demo in the hope that your customer will see something of interest, eventually.  This is a case of using Hope as a Strategy…!  Customers refer to these long, tortured demos as:

·      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 (“Oh God, it’s the Harbor Tour Demo…” they board the boat, get driven around the harbor for three hours while being asked, “Have you seen anything you like so far?” – and they can’t get off the boat until the end of the ride…!).

Inexperienced salespeople often inflict these demos on their customers as a replacement for doing Discovery.  Jaded presales folks offer these demos when they receive little or no pre-demo information from their sales colleagues.

2.     Present a Linear Demo from beginning to end:  “Where is this going…?”

Have you ever been watching someone else’s demo and, a few minutes into the process, you start wondering, “Where is this going…?” 

You can ensure the same awful fate for your customers by delivering long, linear demos that start at the beginning of a workflow and take forty, fifty or sixty minutes (or longer!) to finally reach the big pay-off screen.  Follow this tactic to ensure that:

·      Your audience is half-asleep by the time you reach the important take-away message and key pay-off screen.  (In some geographies your audience may actually be asleep).
·      The most important people in the audience leave the room while you are still introducing the module names and key navigation features…
·      The customer is so numbed by the time that you do reach your big message that they cannot remember it after the demo is over.

Bonus:  Be sure to show how to set things up – tasks that would likely only be done once (and are often done by a professional services team during implementation) to ensure that you squander more time with unimportant items…

Double Bonus:  With practice, you should be able to consume all of the available time allotted to the demo with set-up and workflow – and run out of time before you get to the “best stuff”!

3.     Start with a Corporate Overview:  “Death by Corporate Overview…” 

Make Number 2, above, even worse by starting the meeting with twenty minutes of your corporate overview.  Regale your audience with your mission statement (yawn), your company’s formation and history (yawn), your revenues-over-time, office locations, markets, products, and that smorgasbord of customer logos (yawn, yawn, yawn, snooze…).

This strategy will ensure that (1) the most important people leave even before you can start the demo and (2) everyone is already bored and losing attention when you do deliver your demo.  Doing this also sets you up nicely for item Number 4…

4.     Don’t reconfirm the Time Constraints for the meeting:  “Sorry, we’re out of time…”

You’d planned on two hours with the customer when you set up the meeting three weeks ago.  Is there any reason this might have changed? 

You arrive at 10:00 AM and dive into your agenda.  Your team delivers your Corporate Overview presentation followed (after twenty minutes) by a long, linear demo… 

Things are going as planned when suddenly your host looks at his watch and says, “Um, can you please wrap things up in the next five minutes?  We have an all-hands meeting scheduled at 11:00…”  You have to end the demo without ever reaching your big pay-off screen and have to ask to schedule another meeting. 

Bonus:  Similarly, don’t reconfirm the list of customer participants or their objectives.  It is always a delight to walk into a room of 20 people when you were expecting 2 (and haven’t had a chance to do Discovery with any of the new folks).  Which takes us back to Number 1, again…!

5.     Show as many Features and Functions as possible:  “…And another thing you can do is…”

Want to make your software appear as confusing and complicated as possible?  Want more ways to bore and torture your audience?  Want to help your customer reduce the price they pay for your software?  It’s easy:  show as many features and capabilities that you possibly can!

A simple way to achieve these negative results is to present your demo as if you are doing product training – “let me show you how to do this, and that, and this other thing…”  To really inflict pain, make sure to show and explain all of the menu options, tabs, navigation tools and, of course, all of the file types you can handle.  Be sure to include all of the “if”, “or” and “also” cases for each option.  These simple steps will make your demo truly Stunningly Awful.

6.     Show the same demo, regardless of the Customer’s Depth of Interest:  “One for all…”

Ignore the fact that the VP in the room only wants a top-level overview of your offering and that the managers in the room are interested only in their portion of the process.  Instead, choose the lowest-level users’ scenario for your demo, such as an end-user “day-in-the-life” saga – or for more pain, start by walking through how to set things up – tasks done only once.

This will ensure that the senior members of the customer’s team grow bored and leave the demo early (~fifteen minutes after the meeting began).  They’ll never see anything that compels their interest, requiring either a second demo meeting (unlikely), a loss to your competitor, or a “No Decision” outcome.

Similarly, the customer managers won’t be thrilled with what they see – your software will look too long, too detailed, and too complicated for them to use comfortably. 

In the end, you’ll have done a fair job training the target end-users, but the training won’t be necessary since you won’t get the deal!  An awful waste of time for everyone involved.

7.     Let Questions interrupt and take control of your demo:  “But what about…?”

You’ve started your demo and things are going well when, after five minutes, someone asks a good question.  You stop your demo, take a few minutes to answer the question and turn back to your laptop.  The customer asks a follow-up question which you dutifully address in more detail, taking another few minutes.  The customer considers your answer, then asks for more details…  And you are now way off-track, lost in the weeds.

In the meantime, what has happened to the rest of the audience?  They’ve checked-out.  They’re having side-conversations, checking texts and email on their phones, or are leaving the room – and you’ve barely gotten started!

Letting questions divert your demo is an excellent way to ensure that you lose the customer’s key players early in the meeting and run out of time before you’ve gotten to your key points.

Another terrific strategy for failure is to allow the Hostiles to take control of the meeting – these are the people who don’t like you, don’t like your company, or simply believe it is their purpose in life to torture the vendor.  Let them take control and you’ll enjoy the same negative results…  They’ll consume the time, bore the balance of the audience, and you’ll never get to deliver your message the way you’d desired.

8.     Let Bugs and Technical Issues consume you:  “Gee, it’s never done that before…”

Here are three wonderful ways for you to show your software in the worst possible light:

·      First, call attention to cosmetic bugs (poor screen repainting, cursor not changing, “graphics garbage”, etc.).  Make sure to point out, “See that?  That shouldn’t be there…!”

·      Second, when you do run into a bug, say “Gosh, I’ve never seen that before.”  Then try the same operation again to ensure that you run into the same bug twice!  The wonderfully SAD result will be your audience thinking, “Their software really doesn’t work and their best technical people don’t even know it!”  Very convincing.

·      Third, call out performance issues by noting, “It’s slow today because…”.  Your audience assumes that your demo environment must be severely hobbled – particularly in comparison to their blisteringly fast network.  Good thing this won’t raise any concerns that might cause the customer ask for a POC, as a result…

As an added SAD bonus, when a crash or very serious bug has occurred that requires re-starting your software or rebooting, make sure that the balance of your team is sitting in the rear of the room texting or doing email on their phones – or better, out in the hall making calls.  This ensures there is no way they can help manage the audience while the demo machine recovers.

Double Bonus:  For face-to-face demos, remember to leave the projector cable attached to your laptop so that your audience can watch every exciting moment of you rebooting your machine and troubleshooting the problem…  Breathtaking!

9.     Limit the time you show your big Pay-Off Screen:  “Ta-da…  Any questions?” 

You’ve been demoing along for forty or fifty minutes and you finally get to your big pay-off screen – the key message.  You present it for 50 milliseconds and then move swiftly to a PowerPoint slide that says, “Thank you for your time – Questions?”
This is a SADly terrific way to ensure that your audience never remembers your key message.  While you have likely seen that pay-off screen hundreds of times, this is the first time your audience has ever seen it.  Showing that screen for a fraction of a second puts your message in the long list with all the other 3000 marketing messages your customer will see that same day…  Good luck!

Bonus:  Include a huge rotating question-mark .gif to completely mesmerize your audience (I’ve seen this…)!

10.  Avoid Summarizing:  “And the next really cool thing I want to show you is…”

Roll along from section to section, through segment after segment, in a continuous verbal assault.  Leave no pauses, offer no introductions and, by all means, don’t summarize after you complete an important segment.  You want your delivery to be perceived as a firehose, furiously flinging features and functions frantically at your audience (frightening, frankly).

This SAD tactic contributes wonderfully to grow confusion, add complexity, and generally bore the tears out of your audience. 

For maximum SAD effect, use this tactic in conjunction with long, linear, non-componentized, multiple-player, multi-product, multi-hour demos.  You’ll have your audience examining their phones or the insides of their eyelids in no time!

Following these “Top Ten” SAD guidelines will certainly increase the probability that your demos will not help you achieve your goals.  When you do these ten simple things, you should expect your audience to say, “Ugh…  That was a Stunningly Awful Demo!”

Copyright © 2006-2017 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Great Demo Update – Public Workshops in CA, EMEA and Possibly Elsewhere - And More

Hi All,

2017 Great Demo! Public Workshops

Our next scheduled Great Demo! Public Workshops will take place October 5-6 and 18-19 in Amsterdam and in Sunnyvale, CA, respectively.

Registration and additional information for these Workshops can be found as follows:

-       October 5-6 European Great Demo! Public Workshop – click here or contact Natasja Bax at
-       October 18-19 U.S. West Coast Great Demo! Public Workshop – click here.

We are also looking at offering a Public Workshop in Atlanta, currently targeting either the week of October 16 or November 13.  If you have a preference, please let me know!

Public Workshops are excellent opportunities for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires. They are 1.75-Day Workshops, with the first day focusing largely on core Great Demo! material and the second ¾ day addressing more advanced topics and techniques. 

We’ve found that these sessions are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization – and best when a combination of sales and presales participants are present (singletons are also fine). This helps to mimic real-life interactions as much as possible, both when preparing demos and delivering them in the role-play sessions.


Recent Webinar Recording Available


“How to Take Your Software Demos to the Next Level”

How indeed?

Join Richard Smith, Brian Geery and myself as we explored life, liberty and the pursuit of demo excellent during this conversational webinar that took place August 1.

You can watch and listen to the webinar recording here (you can likely skip the first 3 minutes of set up…):

Great Demo! Spanning the Globe

With the availability of my crack crew of carefully chosen, finely honed, and immensely well-qualified Affiliates, we can deliver Great Demo! training (nearly) anytime, anywhere…!

However, our schedules do fill up rapidly – so if you have specific dates and/or locations in mind and would like us to block or hold dates for you, please let me know.

For example, we are already receiving requests for sessions at sales kickoff events next January (now that’s good planning!). 

Great Demo! Masters Classes and Doing Discovery Sessions

If you are a Great Demo! Workshop Graduate and are interested in ascending to a higher level of performance, we offer a range of Master classes that may be a good fit for you.

If you are the Manager of a team that you’ve delighted by providing them with Great Demo! training and wish to guide them to a higher level of performance, we can design a customized Master Class specifically for you and your team.

If you survived some other demo skills training that yielded some small improvements, but would like to move from slightly improved to truly terrific, we offer Master Classes specifically constructed to help you or your team ascend to a surprisingly high level of performance – again, customized to your specific desires.

If you realize that you or your team could do a much better job doing Discovery (where many sales cycles are won or lost) we offer a range of Doing Discovery sessions, full Workshops and Masters Classes. 

Contact me if you’d like information on any of the above…

Great Demo! Certified Affiliates

Here is the current list of Certified Great Demo! Affiliates, ready to deliver Great Demo! training and coaching:

Paul Pearce – Located in Illinois
Winning Demo

Art Fromm – Located in New York
Technical Sales Development
+1 (716) 688-4351

Julie Hansen – Located in Denver
Performance Sales and Training
+1 (872) 228-7762

Natasja Bax – Located in The Netherlands
The DemoScene
+31 (30) 761 0631

All are ready to help you make a surprisingly compelling improvement in your team’s demos!

Great Demo! LinkedIn Group – Our Online Users’ Group – Well Over 5000 Members

We have an active Great Demo! Group on LinkedIn – and you are welcome to join.  There are now well over 5000 members in the Group, many of whom are Great Demo! Workshop graduates.  We post topics and ideas for discussion, tips, and information on new tools.  Group members are contributing their own thoughts, adding comments to existing dialogues and raising new topics. 

We work diligently to keep the Group as high-value a tool as possible:  Postings are monitored; members are vetted, and the Group is kept spam-free.  We do encourage carefully selected job postings from vendors with openings (but not from recruiters) and individuals looking for new opportunities.

Recent Articles

My most recent article is “The Role of Sales in Great Demos” and can be found on the Articles page on my website at, along with many more.  All articles are available in both HTML and PDF format and you are welcome to download and pass them along.

Recent Podcasts

Andy Paul, noted sales acceleration podcaster, interviewed me recently – the result is this 43 minute conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of crisp, compelling demos.  The first few minutes are [boring] chit-chat [not my fault, but does violate some Great Demo! principles!]; once you survive these the balance is tolerably amusing and potentially useful…  Enjoy it here:

A good introduction to some of the key Great Demo! ideas is available in a conversational podcast done earlier this year with Chris Orlob at – you can listen to the recording here.  The intro begins about a minute in; the trouble starts a few minutes later!

Great Demo! Books

Many customers have found that the Great Demo! book can have surprisingly large impact on improving the team’s demos.  Copies of the book are available on in hardcopy, Kindle and audio-book formats (US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, China), in both hardcopy and Nook formats, or directly from me at The Second Derivative. 

Amazingly, over 25,000 new copies have been purchased to date, including over 1100 audiobooks (not counting those that are resold on Amazon, or passed around…). 

The Great Demo! Blog and LinkedIn Group are designed to provide an evergreen extension to the book – you are welcome to explore both.

Great Demo! Topics – For Workshops, Remote Delivery or Coaching Sessions

Here is a range of topics and challenges that we’ve helped other groups address, often with remarkable results!

·      Improving Discovery and Qualification – Way Beyond “BANT”:  Many demos fail due to a lack of customer information – we’ll introduce methods to uncover and organize the key information needed to prepare effective demonstrations.

·      Making Complicated Look Simple:  Most enterprise software can appear to be too complicated or complex to customers – participants learn how to make richly featured offerings look easy to use.

·      Communicating Business Value:  nearly all demonstrators are good at showing features, some are skilled at communicating the benefits, but few seem to remember to express the business value for the customer – we’ll make communicating the business value a consistent habit in demos. 

·      Remote Demos and Presentations (e.g., via WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.):  a topic of high interest – we share best practices, tips and some surprising strategies to increase interactivity and improve success.

.   Mobile and Tablet Devices:  The growing use of smart phones and tablets (e.g., iPads) is enabling major changes to demo dynamics – now you can literally bring the demo to your customer.

·      Challenger/Insight Selling Models:  As marketing has struggled to move “latent pain to pain”, many sales teams have adopted a more assumptive approach to engaging customers.  We’ll explore have to create and deliver demos for these “challenging” situations.

·      Value Analysis and ROI:  The value perceived by the customer is often a key driving force to make the change – we discuss and explore aspects of uncovering value and calculating ROI.

·      Dealing with “A Day in the Life”:  Many demos present “A day in the life” of a customer –  often a series of confusing fictional characters working through a set of tasks, interspersed with loop-backs, “if” and “or” pathways  and extensive excursions into “Setup Mode”.  We’ll show how to reduce a painful “day in the life’ down to “Just a few minutes in your life.”

·      Set-Up vs. Daily Use:  In many demos, far too much time is spent teaching users (and management) how to set things up – operations that are often only used once.  We’ll help the team focus on Daily Use mode first and Set-Up mode second – or as needed.

·      White-boarding:  PowerPoint can be pedantic – we explore white-boarding and other “non-linear” presentation techniques to engage and refresh audiences and improve their retention of key points.

·      Storytelling:  Strong stories improve demos and help customers better remember key messages.  We explore how to capture, create and deliver compelling stories for your demos.

·      Uncovering and Leveraging Value:  Tactics and a process to determine value in specific numbers from the prospects’ own situations – and how to re-present this key information in demos and presentations.

·      Out-flanking Competition:  Methods to anticipate, manage and overcome competitors in demo and related interactions.  How to bias discovery towards your capabilities and block competition.

·      Making Demos Remarkable:  Explore, develop and document practices that help your demos stand out, positively.

·      POC’s, POV’s and Sandboxes Tools and Strategies:  The essence is quid pro quo – how to manage the process overall to get the business; when to do and when not to do POC’s and Sandboxes; strategies to increase your success rates.

·      On-Boarding Tactics for Demos:  Establishing good habits for presenting demos begins with the on-boarding process – we’ll discuss how to deconstruct and then reconstruct the “standard” demo.

·      Supporting Partners and the Channels:  Creating demos and demo toolkits for partners and resellers, and persuading them to sell your solutions preferentially –key aspects of enabling channels to sell effectively.

·      Highly Transactional Sales Cycles:  How to perform just enough Discovery and present a crisp, compelling demo based on Discovery just completed – in a 30-45 minute call…!

·      Crystallizing the Message:  What does your company do?  Revitalizing otherwise boring “Elevator Pitches” and making them provocative – conversation starters.

·      Regional and Local Cultural Differences:  Strategies and tactics for working with different cultures and mixes of different cultures – word and phrase choice, pointing (be careful!) and other culture-specific guidance.

·      Calling and Presenting Higher:  Many organizations are under pressure to call higher into their customers – but most presales teams are still operating at a lower technical level.  We’ll share methods to enable the team to comfortably move out of their comfort zones.

·      Team Tactics:  Team-oriented methods and practices for presales, sales and marketing staff in preparing and delivering demos.  Roles and guidelines are developed and practiced for the selling teams to improve results – when demos are delivered face-to-face as well as via a remote connection.

·      RFP’s and Scripted Demos:  Successful strategies and tactics to increase your success rates with scripted demos and RFP responses, including when to pursue, when to pull back, and how to gently subvert the process in your favor.

·      Post-Demo Practices:  “How do you think it went…?”  Capturing and acting on information gathered and promised during the demo can be nearly as important as the demo itself.

·      Trade-show demonstration techniques and interactions:  Trade-shows are phenomenally expensive – we’ll work through clever methods, tips, and best practices to help you get the best return on your investment.

·      New Product Roll-outs:  Vision Generation at its most challenging – we’ll help you create your go-to-market messaging and demos for new products, and shorter the time to getting your first real reference customer!

·      Informal Success Stories:  These are the lifeblood of a software sales and marketing organization!  We’ll develop the structure and methods to capture this key information and create a set of your own.  The team will be ready to leverage these immediately.

·      SaaS Software Demos:  SaaS (aka “Cloud”, “On-Demand”, “Hosted”, etc.) offerings have their own, additional, set of demo challenges.  We identify and cover how to address SaaS customer concerns and demo situations.

·      Demo Metrics:  What can be measured, what should be measured and how to apply and act on the results.

·      Identifying and Leveraging Demo Capital:  Many organizations, teams and individuals are unaware of the often surprising depth and breadth of capital associated with demos – ranging from success stories, to tips and tricks, to demo data and scenarios.  We help you identify, catalog and explore methods to capitalize on this information and know-how.

·      Other Challenges?  Let us know; we’ve helped other customers, maybe we can help you as well!

Other issues, topics or questions?  Feel free to call – I’m typically in my office by 7:30 AM Pacific Time.