In competitive situations, we rather strongly recommend going first with your demo/presentation. Next best is last; the middle is serious cause for concern…
In a recent conversation with a colleague, he described the general plan for an RFP response demo, commenting that of the three competitors involved his company would be presenting last. I said, “Sorry to hear this…!”
I noted that whoever goes first sets the “Anchor” – fixing in the customer’s minds a “standard”. Doing so has significant advantages:
“Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the "anchor") when making decisions. During decision making, anchoring occurs when individuals use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments. Once an anchor is set, other judgments are made by adjusting away from that anchor, and there is a bias toward interpreting other information around the anchor. For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is really worth.” [Wikipedia]
If you are the first to present/demo in a “Bake-off” competition, you are able to take advantage of this Anchoring effect to define what “standard” looks like – everyone else will be compared to you. Interestingly, equivalent capabilities presented second will be perceived as “me, too” – generally a distinct disadvantage. Similarly, any capabilities presented second that might be better, but follow a different pathway, may be perceived as “different”, but often in a negative view, simply because they are different, and not “standard”.
A bit of a Catch 22…!
And if you present third of three vendors, the customer is quite likely mentally “done” with the process: “We’ve seen two vendors over the past four days and their stuff looked very much the same – we have one more to go… [sigh].” They’ll be tired and possibly bored.
So if you are last, how do to address this? Be different in your delivery – and be aware of the few unique advantages of going last.
Be Different in Your Delivery:
The customer has likely seen two very similar demos from your competition – and they are assuming/expecting that yours will look the same. They’re numb, so wake them up:
- Invite customers to “drive” portions of the demo themselves. This completely changes the dynamic of the demo.
- Use props and visual aids liberally. Use drama – what can we apply from the theater?
- Use stories liberally – particularly stories of how other, similar customers solved their problems and the rewards they enjoyed.
- If this is an RFP response, learn how the customer is scoring the demo – and take that scoring into account (scale, time, number of clicks, etc.).
- For numerical scoring situations, ask for confirmation that each segment you present captured the highest possible score (and if not, ask why – have the conversation to try to move it to the highest possible score).
- Use the Menu Approach, when possible – particularly when setting or adjusting the overall agenda for the demo. Get the customer engaged and involved right away.
- Customer Fill-in – ask the customer to provide example file names, alert thresholds, dates, etc. – if it is all the same to you, ask the customer to “fill-in” the blank.
A Few Advantages of Going Last:
- In a long list of unstructured information (with is, essentially, what a series of RFP response demos is), you want to go first (best retention of information) or last (next best). The last thing presented will be remembered significantly better than anything in the middle – so take advantage of this.
- Educate, copy, refute… The first vendor to present is “educating” the customer on what standard looks like. They have the advantage of setting the anchor. The second vendor has a serious disadvantage, they are either a copy – “me too” – or uncomfortably “different”. The last vendor, however, can refute the standard – for example, “You’ve likely seen one way of doing ____ - and that’s fine for some situations. However, by executing this differently, you’ll be able to embrace many more ____ in your workflows…”
- Fewest clicks: if you know that your competition generally takes more clicks or steps to complete workflows, call this out. “What you’ve seen before likely took several minutes and a moderate pile of mouse clicks to complete – that’s the typical approach. However, what you are about to see completes the same process in 2 clicks…” Different, but better.
- Consult with your Champion on items that should be avoided or detailed further in the demonstration – going last provides a unique opportunity to learn from what has taken place with the previous vendors’ demos and adjust.
The Morals? Go first whenever possible and set the highest possible standard. If last, recognize and address the challenges; exploit the few advantages. If in the middle, do everything you can to change the order!
Other suggestions to add?