The wonderful thing about
“toolkit” software offerings is that they can do so many things – the challenge
is that the customer often doesn’t know what’s possible – they have no vision
of a solution…
I was preparing for a Great
Demo! Workshop for a software toolkit company that enjoyed/suffered from the
exact problem above – their demos explored a number of individual components
(many, actually!) with descriptions of what each component does and how they
interact with one another.
Their demos were a component
compendium, with the presenter describing each in turn:Name, location, followed by a list of its
feature-function capabilities, including how they connect to other components
(with a large number of “if’s” and “or’s”).Component name, location, features-functions, connections.Name, location, feature-functions,
connections….Name, locaaa…, ffffffea…Zzzzzzzzz…
On the scale of boring, their
demos were somewhere in the range of watching your laptop update its operating
system, studying drying paint, and standing in the long check-in line for an
economy flight (when you have no status on that airline and no battery life
remaining in your phone).
Clearly, they had a problem
with their demos…!
On my way from the airport to
their facility to start the Workshop, I had an idea. I stopped by a toy
store and browsed the “LEGOÒ”
section, selected a box that looked like a good example, purchased it, and
continued on my way to the customer.
As we began the Workshop, I
pulled out the LEGO box and poured the contents onto the table in front of me –
a pile of 174 various LEGO pieces, in a range of shapes and colors:
I then invited one of the
participants to join me at the table and asked him to choose any LEGO brick and
describe it to the balance of the Workshop participants.He did so, listing its color, noting the
number of attachment points and the overall shape – and he included some
remarks about how it might connect with other pieces.
I asked him to repeat the
process with three more LEGO bricks – and he obliged, following the same
I then asked the audience
what they understood so far about this toolkit – the response was, “Well, we
understand that there is a pile of LEGO bricks with different attributes and
they can be connected…”
Very accurate!I then asked, “So, what is the value of this
The painful answer was,
“Well, it can’t be very much because it’s just a bunch of bricks…”
My point exactly.It’s just
a bunch of individual tools – individual components that by themselves have low
What is missing from
this?What would make the “bunch of
bricks” more interesting – and be seen as substantially more valuable?An understanding of what the bricks can make – the end result – and in this
case, the picture on the box is the solution to this challenge:
The picture generates a vision in the customer’s mind of what is
possible.It’s the end result that captures the
customer’s interest and generates the desire to build that “Mighty Dinosaur” –
and in the case of LEGO bricks, entices the customer to purchase that package.
Many software products suffer
from exactly this same problem – toolkit software in particular – and
traditional demos are generally insufficient to solve it.Traditional demos present the individual
components, with descriptions of what they are and how they might connect to
other things (API’s, for example), but neglect to communicate what the toolkit
can enable or create.
I’ve seen dozens of demos
that do just that – consume 60 minutes describing the features of each
component – but leave it up to the customer to figure out what the components
Note that Early Adopters and
Technology Adopters actually synthesize solutions very well on their own – once
they understand enough about the components – but they represent a very small
portion of the population.Everyone else
lacks the ability to see the end result without help from the vendor…This is often articulated by the sales team
in comments such as, “…They just didn’t seem to get it…!”
Start with The End Result (aka Do the Last Thing
So, when presenting software,
and especially toolkit software, show visuals of the end results the software enables the customer to create – the
ultimate deliverables.Share “the art of
the possible” to build a vision what good things the toolkit can produce – to
stimulate the customer’s desire to gain
those end results.
Once the customer sees what is
possible – and in alignment with their goals – they’ll begin to ask how the software works.They’ll ask, “How do the pieces connect to
build sub-assemblies; how do they communicate; how can workflows be constructed;
can alerts be set up for exceptions and problems; can reports be modified or customized?”This is where you enter the delightful
universe of “Peeling Back the Layers” in accord with the customer’s depth and
level of interest.
Here are few examples of
“toolkits” in other disciplines – and example end results and deliverables…
1.Other boxes of
2.A pile of building materials:
And two more creations:
something truly fabulous!
Get the picture?
A Vision Generation
One of the biggest challenges in the world of software sales
is communicating what is possible.Most customers are unfamiliar with the range
of solutions available to solve their problems.Further, most customers are unaware
of the options and possibilities that our software packages provide.
Traditional demos try to show as much as possible in the
allotted time so that the customer can be exposed to this range of
possibilities – but they present far too much and at far too low a level.Tons of components, features, and functions.
Sadly, with traditional “overview” demos the only vision
generated is, “This looks like way too much for us; it looks complicated and
Vision Generation is all about communicating the Big Picture
– sharing the art of the possible.And
the best way to achieve this communication successfully is to have a number of compelling
end-results ready to show your customer, along with a description for each that
describes what the customer is
seeing, how it can help them solve
their business problems, and how much
value the customer may enjoy by consuming the software.
Here’s the exercise:
Review your current demos and ask yourself: Which screens (or reports, etc.) in the demo
get your audience excited?Which screens
and reports cause them to interrupt and ask questions?Which screens and reports generate an animated
discussion between audience members?
These screens and reports represent terrific candidates for
Vision Generation.Capture them and pop
them into PowerPoint so that you have them ready to use any time you are in a “What
does your software do?” or “Show us a demo…” situation.
Next, practice communicating the three key ideas for each
the audience is seeing
will help them solve their business problems
value could be gained by consuming the capabilities
Once you have a “talk-track” that you like, consider
recording it or documenting it (in the “Notes” area of PowerPoint, for
Great!Now you’ve got
a set of compelling, engaging visuals, along with your verbal delivery,
sufficient to support Vision Generation discussions with customers.[Note:Great Demo! practitioners call these visuals “Illustrations” – an apt
“…The Risotto Looks
There are (at least) two ways you can use your pack of
in Vision Generation meetings
2.In conjunction with a Menu…
A terrific starting point for Vision Generation is to share
a list of high-level solution areas that your software addresses – present it
as a Menu of what is possible.You can
introduce each Menu item briefly and ask your customer for an indication of
level of interest – e.g., “High”, “Medium”, or “Low”.The result is a rank-prioritized list, based
on the customer’s interest (what a
Where do the Menu items come from?Well, your pack of Illustration screens is a
great starting point.For each screen,
identify what high-level challenge or problem it addresses and add it to your
growing Menu.Once you have five or more
items, you are ready to open for business…!