I noted a vendor’s recent blog post that recommended avoiding the use of publically-displayed “Parking Lots” for managing questions during a demo. Their reasoning was that you’d end up with a bunch of “I don’t know” or “We don’t do that” lines on the Parking Lot, leaving the customer with an overall negative impression. Instead, they advocated capturing questions on a notepad, privately.
This is very traditional thinking – but misses opportunities to be innovative.
First, is this traditional approach really safe? Perhaps, but the vendor is at risk of the customer wondering, “Did the vendor write it down or did they just blow me off [UK folks read, ‘fob me off’]?” or “Did they simply write down, ‘Idiot question’ or make a few scratch marks, pretending to have written it down…?” Writing the Parking Lot item down on a white board or similar public display makes it clear that the question has been captured.
Now, let’s look at being a bit innovative…
Let’s say a hostile customer asks, “How come your software sucks so bad and costs so much?” Clearly, you don’t want to write this down on a white board verbatim. Instead, rephrase the item focusing on the core issues, but with a neutralizing spin:
You respond, “It sounds like you have concerns about our software’s quality and value…”
Accordingly, you write “Quality and Value” on the whiteboard for that Parking Lot item. Very elegant, very professional, and presents a positive position when people scan the Parking Lot.
But wait, there’s more:
You can add a bit more innovation by using other media as Parking Lots. In addition to traditional whiteboards or (ancient) flip charts, I’ve also seen clever use of iPads (using Reflector to project to the audience), as well Word and Google docs and similar tools, all shown publically to face-to-face and/or over-the-web audiences. Nice! Other suggestions?