Tuesday, May 26, 2020

7 Habits for Stunningly Successful Demos – DEMOFEST Presentation

Great Demo!'s Peter Cohan will be sharing 7 Habits for Stunningly Successful Demos (and more) on Wednesday May 27 at 8:00 AM Pacific Time at DEMOFEST.  You can register here: https://lnkd.in/gjtr3U5

This 50-minute session will include:

-        Why and what’s in this for you
-        A (very brief) example of what Great looks like
-        7 Habits for Stunningly Successful Demos
-        Some comments about demo metrics
-        Avoiding “No Decisions”
-        Some insights into Doing Discovery (as time allows)

We will be exploring data-driven best practices (as opposed to opinions) – looking forward to “seeing” you there!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Software Demo Considerations for Customer Success Teams – Podcast

Yes, Great Demo! practices are equally important and applicable for folks in Customer Success. 

Peter Cohan joined the fine folks at Creating Customer Success, discussing key Great Demo! ideas as they apply post-sale to secure renewals and expansion, including how to connect presales and customer success teams in a simple, effective (and elegant) way to help customers achieve value as soon as possible.

You can find the recordings here:

-        Apple: https://apple.co/2X78pFs
-        Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2zMcl6x

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Using Analogies and Metaphors (and More) in Demos

Well-crafted analogies and metaphors1 help our audiences remember the key ideas we present in our demos.  Some examples are very effective, others could be improved…  Let’s explore!

Beyond Facts

If you simply present your capability (a “fact”), typical audiences don’t retain it (unless it addresses something really key).  Facts by themselves are flat and lack luster, they don’t stand out.  They are unremarkable and are correspondingly difficult to remember.

Analogies and metaphors often build visual representations of ideas that are “sticky” – they form memories that last longer and are easier to recall than facts. 

Here are some examples I’ve heard – fact first, then the analogy or metaphor.  First specimen:

“We have a broad range of reports.”

Nothing particularly remarkable here, is there?  A different vendor offered:

“You can choose from a broad range of reports.  It’s like having a supermarket of reports, ranging from fresh meats and fish, arrays of vegetables, rice and pasta, eggs and dairy, exotic canned goods, chips and cookies – if you need it, your desired report is likely here…  Bring your shopping list!”

“…a supermarket of reports…”  Much more memorable!

Another example:

“You can set search filters to find exactly what you need.”

Meh.  This next variation I heard is quite a bit more, um, pointed…:

“People talk about how hard it is to find ‘a needle in a haystack’.  Well, this search capability is like a powerful magnet precisely extracting that iron needle in a fraction of a second…!  Haystack?  No problem!”

“…a powerful magnet…”  I want one of those…!

Another example, for software that automates various workflows:

“We automate your manual processes…”

ZZzzzzzzz….  Here’s an alternative I heard – a nicely “crafted” description!

“It’s like the difference between a team of workers laboring with hand tools slowly building cabinets and fixtures – vs. equipping your team with state-of-the-art computer design driving integrated power tools – not only producing beautiful works in a fraction of the time but also improving the craftsmanship and quality!”

“…state-of-the-art computer design driving integrated power tools…”  Wow.

Finally, an example from my distant past, with respect to applying combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening to pharma and materials science research – we used to say (while holding up a 384-well micro-titer plate),

            “It’s like doing a year’s research in the palm of your hand…!”

[For those who are familiar with this industry, no explanation is necessary; for those who are unfamiliar, no explanation will suffice!]

Facts are boring and unappetizing.  Spice up your demos with a generous seasoning of analogies and metaphors.   Make it a memorable meal…!

Regional vs. International Issues – Be Aware!

A while ago I was delivering a Great Demo! Workshop in Europe to an international audience and during our first break, a woman came up to me and asked me to:

1.     Slow down a bit and
2.     Be a bit more careful with my choice of words.

This was a great reminder – and humbling, personally.  I work hard to slow down my delivery and try to choose more “internationally”-understood English words and phrases (and to avoid U.S.-specific colloquialisms), when presenting to non-native English speakers – and I believe I generally do a good job.  However, it was clear I could do better…!

It is difficult for non-native-English audiences to spend a day or two working in English – it can be confusing, at minimum, and very tiring overall…!   Accordingly, U.S. folks presenting to international audiences need to be aware of their word and phrase choices.

Here are some examples that I have heard (along with possible non-U.S. interpretations):

-       “Hit it out of the park” – [What are you hitting, and why?]
-       “Out of left field” – [Which field?]
-       “That’s the minor leagues” – [Is this a music reference or perhaps a follow-on movie to The Justice League?]
-       “The cat’s out of the bag” – [Why was the cat in the bag?  What did she do?]
-       “That dog don’t hunt” – [Whose dog doesn’t do what?  And why?]
-       “It was wicked” – [Wicked – is that evil or good, or a reference to the musical?]
-       “Piece of cake” – [Ahh, it must be time for dessert or our next coffee break, yes?]
-       “That’s just putting lipstick on a pig” – [Um, why and what did the pig do to you?]
-       “Break a leg” – [Sounds painful…]
-       “Monday morning quarterback” – [Do they play American football on Monday mornings?]
-       “The whole nine yards” – [What happened to the 10th yard?  And how many meters is that?  (8.23)]
-       “Go Dutch” – [Is that like, “Go AFC!”?]
-       “It fell through the cracks” – [Are there cracks in our software?]
-       “We threw him under the bus” – [Now that’s going to leave a mark…!]
-       “Off kilter” – [I’m totally lost on this one]
-       “Out of whack” – [Too bad, no more whacks in your bag, huh – perhaps the cat has more whacks in her bag…]

How does this apply to demos?  Directly!

Contemplate the challenges faced by your customers when they are listening to demos presented using phrases and language that are U.S.-specific – and delivered at rapid-fire pace. 

One of our top priorities in presenting demos is clarity of communication – so we should take the guidance from my Workshop participant and

1.     Slow down
2.     Choose words and word phrases that are as international-English as possible…!

Interestingly, it cuts both ways.  Just as U.S.-based phrases can be confusing to non-U.S. audiences, other international regionalisms can be equally puzzling.  Here are some UK-based examples followed by a rough U.S. translation):

-       “Let’s table that” (The U.S. translates this as the opposite of what other English-speaking countries mean!)
-       “Cover off”?  (Completed)
-       “Football”  (Soccer, the beautiful game)
-       “Thongs”  (Flip flops, zories, clam diggers…)
-       “Entrée”  (Appetizer)
-       “Chips and crisps”  (French fries and chips)
-       “Rubber”  (Eraser)
-       “Storey”  (Floor)
-       “First floor”  (Second floor)

Winston Churchill (or George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde) famously remarked about the U.S. and the UK that “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

Even within the confines of the U.S. meanings change.  For example:

-       “Wicked” as noted above…
-       “Sugar”, as in “Give me some sugar…!”
-       “Pasty” – pale or delicious?
-       “Dressing” vs. “stuffing”
-       “Fix” – repair vs. about to…
-       “Dope” – don’t even get me started on this…!
-       “Pop” vs. “soda”
-       “Shopping card” vs. “carriage” vs “buggy” (vs. “trolley” in the UK)
-        “Puppy chow” (U.S. Midwest)
-       “Ugly” – unpleasant looking vs. rude or unkind
-       “Awesome” – can mean absolutely anything, it appears…!

The moral?  Think about your words before you use them.  Be as clear as possible and practice using “International” English when appropriate.

Beware the Morass of Mixed Metaphors

Metaphors and analogies are terrific – but can be risky if applied haphazardly.  Mixed metaphors can be more amusing than useful – particularly if your audience focuses on trying the “decode” the metaphor as opposed to getting the point directly. 

Here are a few sad examples of mixed metaphors for your inspection – vote for the worst or best, depending on how you view this…!  Note that these are all real, captured from various demo recordings, blogs and articles:

“All too often we relegate the demo to the ‘been there, done that’ corner, content to put into practice all of the tired, tried and possibly true techniques that will get us in the door but see us coming up short when it comes down to closing with confidence and power. Today we’ll examine some of the practices that can be tossed out with tomorrow’s trash, and look at ways to pump up our demo game.”

This mixed metaphorical mélange starts in a corner, moves to the door, then gets tossed and finally pumped.  A busy afternoon!


“While it may seem like good sense to cover all your bases, throwing too much at your prospect actually weakens your message. Even a short diversion from focus can confuse the issue and cause your prospect to tune out during an otherwise stellar case. You make your prospect do all the work of picking out and remembering the most relevant pieces.”

Love it:  “Cover bases, throw too much…” (OK, so far so good…), but then the baseball analogy gets rained out with “…focus, tune out, stellar case, picking out pieces.” 

How about:

“With these ideas in your back pocket, you can break through to the toughest of clients and keep your organization firing on all cylinders no matter how much of a time crunch you are in.”

Short but packed!  “Back pocket, break through, fire on all cylinders, time crunch.”  I think this is the winner so far.  And I really want to see someone breaking through, leading with their back pocket while firing on all cylinders…!


"And like the U.N. Security Council Members, it only takes one veto to kill an entire deal. Because of the proliferation of stakeholders needed to approve a deal to get it off the ground, a sure thing can become dead in the water long after the sales cycle seems over."

Better have the Security Council equipped with both wings and fins…


"Our reps use our … platform which provides the toolset they need to spread your compelling sales message and get those who buy in the wiggle room they need for others to sign off on their decision."

This one mixes a bad case of rampaging pronouns with toolsets and wiggle rooms!

But wait there’s more:

"Modern decision-makers have a million things to take care of, so even a small objection or a momentary scheduling snag can threaten to eject them out of your funnel as their plate fills up with other priorities."

Wow – breathtaking…!

The moral?  Once again, choose your words carefully and build your metaphors thoughtfully…! 

Manufacturing Metaphors and Accumulating Analogies

Some people can generate effective analogies and metaphors as needed – “on the fly”.  Other folks may want to have a handful of prebuilt (and tested) examples to draw from. 

Here are a few suggestions for those of us in the second group:


-       Any time you hear a terrific metaphor or analogy, write it down – and include the context, if necessary. 

-       Similarly, collect good candidates from your reading and listening.  Books, articles, podcasts, webinars – any time you come across something you like, capture it.

-       Raise the question at your next team meeting, “Is anyone using any particularly effective analogies or metaphors?”  In a team of presales folks it is likely that one or more have some really great ones…!


-       Like so many things in the Wonderful World of Demos, practice is useful and likely important – so do so…!  Rehearse your new analogies and metaphors in your demo dry runs.  Get feedback from your peers on how they resonate – and get comfortable with your delivery.

-       Test with real audiences – and assess the impact.  Are people nodding their heads as the ideas sink in (or shaking their heads sadly…)?

-       Next, take a lesson from stand-up comedians:  They test new material and, if it works, continue to refine and include it in their act going forward.  And of course, new content that fails is scrapped.  You can apply the same methods in your demos similarly.

-       And, of course, when you have material that really resonates, share it with your colleagues – make it a virtuous feedback loop.

What About Stories?

Ah, stories – the most effective communications leverage the power of stories.  Archimedes noted:

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

One might observe that where facts are the world, and analogies and metaphors are the fulcrum, stories are indeed the lever…!

If your demo is like a 60-foor high-rise building, facts occupy the lower floors, with respect to retention.  Analogies and metaphors find comfortable lodging in mid-upper levels, enjoying improved visibility.  For the best views, impact and retention, effective stories enjoy residing in the penthouse suites…!  

Chip and Dan Health identified and characterized the key principles of stories and storytelling in, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” – this terrific book should be required reading for anyone in presales or sales.

And for a delightful description of how to apply stories in your demos, see our article on the topic, “Storytelling in Demos”.

Think of memories like a spider web.  A fact is like a single strand attaching an idea to a support.  Analogies and metaphors build a memorable vision, adding many more strands and connections.  Stories imbed your idea in a complete web, securing the memory against the wind and weather of time…!

1 I never remember which is which…  I was once told an analogous story about a metaphor – or perhaps it was a metaphorical tale of an analogy?  Or a simile-like metaphor?  In any case, as Steven Wright once quipped, “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it…!”

Copyright © 2020 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Webinar Recording Available – The Perfect Presales Demo Environment – and Terrific New Tool

Have you ever heard (or said):

“Sorry, I don’t have an example like that in our demo system…”
“No, we can’t show that workflow – this is a demo database…”
“Our demo environment isn’t up-to-date – that’s why this feature isn’t working…”
“No, I don’t have good data to show in this report – no data, in fact – sorry…!”
“That report hasn’t been built for our demo system – but trust me, it’s terrific!”

In your demos, how often do you find you are apologizing for an inability to demonstrate capabilities, complete workflows, or present compelling results and reports? Far too often, in many cases!

A perfect demo environment enables you to show what you need to show, clearly and convincingly. No apologies, no excuses. In this webinar, we provided (some surprising) recommendations for demo environments to make your demos as crisp, compelling, and successful as possible.

The team at Demoflow (a new and very intriguing presales tool) and Peter Cohan presented a two-in-one webinar on May 14, with first portion focusing on best practices for demo environments (including some rather surprising ideas) followed by an overview of Demoflow.

You can find the recording here.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

7 Thoughtful Habits for Web Meetings

Consider using face-to-face meeting practices as a model for web meetings.  For example,

1.     You wouldn’t walk into a company conference room with your hands covering your face, so turn on your webcam!
2.     You wouldn’t sit down at a company conference room table wearing sweatpants, so dress reasonably for web meetings!
3.     You wouldn’t leave last week’s donuts, coffee cups, papers, and white board scribbles in a meeting room when preparing the room for a customer visit, so clean up your home office!
4.     You wouldn’t have people sit in a dark conference room for a conversation where they couldn’t see one another’s facial features, so organize your home office lighting to (nicely) illuminate your face!
5.     You wouldn’t whisper or garble your comments and questions in a face-to-face meeting, so make sure your microphone is clear and audible, without VOIP “chop”!
6.     You wouldn’t force people to sit in a conference room for 2 (or more) hours without a break, so take breaks as desired during web meetings!
7.     We wouldn’t eat, “multi-task”, text or online shop in a face-to-face meeting…  Oh, OK, perhaps we would – but we probably shouldn’t…!

Any others to suggest?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

UPDATED! Great Demo! Virtual Public Workshop Scheduled – June 9-11 – Americas

Learn how to create and deliver surprisingly compelling and effective demos using this proven methodology – from the comfort of your home office!

This is an interactive workshop geared especially for you who demonstrate B2B software to your customers and channels. You’ll work with your demo and we’ll help you turn it into a surprisingly compelling demo that Wow’s your audience in the first six minutes!

Facilitated from Denver, the Workshop is scheduled to take place in a series 90-120 minute sessions over 3 days.  You’ll learn how to Great Demo! and have time to get other work done in between sessions – what a delight!

More information, including registration and pricing, can be found here – or contact JHansen@GreatDemo.com.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Million Dollar Demo and the Good Little Salesperson

Once upon a time, there was a software company, with a Good Little Salesperson.  One day, the Good Little Salesperson came across a customer that looked hungry for a solution – a solution that the salesperson knew his company could provide. 

He said to the customer, “Hey, we have a solution for you – would you like to see a demo?”

And the customer said, “Sure, but wouldn’t you like to know more about our situation?”

He responded, “Nah, once you see our product you’ll love it!” 

So the Good Little Salesperson organized a demo for the very next morning, then contacted his presales Solution Consultant (SC) and told her, “We have a huge opportunity and I’ve scheduled you to do a demo tomorrow at 8:00 AM.”

She answered via Slack, “Well I am available – what do we know about the customer’s situation?”

He replied, “It’s a huge opportunity and they want to make a decision right away…”  And yet it wasn’t really a huge opportunity and the customer wasn’t really in a hurry…

And so the very next morning, the Good Little Salesperson started a web session at 8:00 AM with his SC and the customer joined a few minutes later. 

And the Good Little Salesperson didn’t ask who was on the call on the customer’s side or what they wanted to accomplish, but he did consume several minutes introducing himself and a bit about his SC.

And the Good Little Salesperson didn’t ask if the customer was already familiar with the Good Little Salesperson’s company, background, history, sales offices, revenues and product line, but he did consume the next 20 minutes with corporate and product overviews.

And then the Good Little Salesperson introduced the SC and said, “Now she’s the expert and she’ll show you everything…!”

And so the SC did her typical “overview” demo, hoping that she might uncover some areas of interest, but the customer didn’t offer any information. 

And the customer didn’t frequently interject, “Wow – this is terrific!” but was strangely silent for the full 60 minutes of the demo, other than brief “We’re good” responses to the Good Little Salesperson’s periodic queries of “Any questions so far?” and “Does that make sense?”

And at the end of the demo the Good Little Salesperson asked, “So, what did you think?”  And surprisingly, the customer didn’t answer, “Wow – we gotta get some of that!” but rather responded with a non-committal, “Interesting, thanks…”

And so the Good Little Salesperson said, “Great – I’ll send you a proposal!”  And he did generate a and send a proposal for $100,000 of software and services.  And then the Good Little Salesperson added this $100,000 opportunity to his forecast for the quarter and he did give it an 80% probability of closing.

And a week later the Good Little Salesperson had heard nothing from the customer, so he sent a follow-up email.  And the customer strangely didn’t send a purchase order or respond at all, in fact. 

And two weeks later the Good Little Salesperson did the same…

And a month later…

And a month after that…

And it turned out that the Good Little Salesperson never received an order from the customer, who meanwhile had engaged another vendor who didn’t dive immediately into offering a demo and who did have several Discovery conversations with the customer, ultimately culminating in a $450,000 three-year subscription, that did increase over the next couple of years to a total of $1,000,000 over 5 years.

And then the Good Little Salesperson did get fired…

And that’s the story of The Million Dollar Demo and the Good Little Salesperson

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Take Your Webcam Cover Off!

Many of us have placed covers over our webcams – often to avoid unintentional video of ourselves and/or because we simply don’t like to see video of ourselves…

However, today we need to humanize the web communication experience – and establish personal relationships with our audiences. 

Consider face-to-face meetings:  I’ve never seen anyone walk into a meeting room with their hands covering their face…! 

So, let’s connect with our customers and audiences.  Take your webcam cover off and turn on your webcam – and encourage the same with your customers.  Wave or do a virtual “elbow bump” when you do introductions.  Smile and gesture, as you would if you were face-to-face.  Use props or visual aids, when possible. 

Let’s humanize the web communication experience – take your webcam cover off!

Monday, April 20, 2020

A Surprising Stance on Demos and Some Startling Data

By Steve Kraner, Guest Blogger
Where does the demo fit in a software or SaaS sales cycle?
As a sales coach, you might be surprised, but I am all for product-led growth – I am also all for dropping salespeople out of the process.
All friction and cost should be removed.
If your software can be sold with a standard demo, you should create a slick demo and put it on your website.
But, why would you ever have salespeople do a standard, one-size-fits-nobody demo?
The only reason to have salespeople or SE’s do a demo is to tailor it to the customer.
However, most demos I see in my baseline observation of customers are the same long, generic demo, given up front for every customer. These demos are really training in how to use the software, accompanied with unconvincing assertions about results attained with other customers. The customer response is apathetic and the calls end with no traction.
In a few short weeks, we can turn that around by doing a proper discovery call prior to a demo. As a result, the demos are short and to the point. In fact, there is often nothing that resembles a traditional “demo.” These calls end with one of these outcomes:
1.     Respectful disqualification and appreciation by surprised buyers who are thankful for a refreshing dose of disarming honesty.
2.     A Mutual Action Plan that is truly mutual.
But the that belief that we need to lead with presentations and demos is strong and has resulted in some intentional and accidental experiments in my work with clients.
Black Duck
In 2019 at Black Duck Software, we gave buyers the choice of starting with:
1.     An overview of the solution
2.     Questions to get a deeper understating of the buyer and their goals
 94.2% of buyers in the study chose #2.
Accidental Experiment
In 2019 an accidental experiment resulted from a sales manager who was so committed to leading with demos that he instructed his team to offer a demo at the beginning of the call. I was surprised to hear this modification to the methodology we were deploying, as I reviewed the call recordings.
Interestingly, the recordings proved that when offered a demo, buyers declined in all cases except one, in which the response was unintelligible. In this team’s fervor to offer (force) demos, they still sometimes did the demo even after buyers declined. Forcing demos into discovery calls resulted in:
2.     Salespeople missed needs that buyers, in an attempt to be heard, stated clearly
3.     The buyer’s subjective preferences were not revealed
4.     Cost/benefit was not discussed
5.     No business case was developed
6.     The decision process was not understood
7.     The demo was a generic, one-way delivery that was rushed
8.     It caused the conversation to move away from the buyer’s need, toward the seller’s solution, before their need was fully understood.
9.     Buyers were confused by fast-paced screen changes that were not synched with the talk track
10.  Buyers pushed back on assertions made about results with other customers as ‘not relevant to our situation’
11.  These demos resulted in buyers who said, “We’ll call you.” And sellers who said, “If I don’t hear back in a week, I’ll ping you!”
Since this was one team of two, we were able to compare with the other team who adhered more closely to the suggested methodology. Their calls were not perfect, as they were mastering the process. But they did not include suggesting or forcing a demo in the discovery call. Given greater focus on discovery and more time, these calls resulted in:
1.     The buyer’s unique needs were more fully understood
2.     Salespeople were less likely to miss needs that buyers stated
3.     The buyer’s subjective preferences were stated in a description of the Utopian Vision
4.     Cost/benefit was discussed
5.     A business case was developed
6.     The decision process was understood, often in great detail
7.     There was no demo during that call, unless a customer specifically asked for one, which was rare
8.     The call ended up with clear next steps outlined in a Mutual Action Plan (MAP).

That plan included a future demo if it was a part of the buyer’s due diligence process. Many MAP’s did not include a demo, in favor of other forms of proof the buyer found more compelling.

These MAP’s were truly mutual. For example, in one case the buyer asked for a demo, but he wanted a private demo so he could help tailor it to the other decision makers. He explained that he feared the result that so often results from a standard demo.
2020 Progress with Another Client
At the start of this engagement with a new client of mine, the team was in the habit of presenting and doing the same generic presentation over and over. 100% of the initial call recordings included the same generic slide deck and talk-track for every customer.
However, at week five, one of the reps had progressed in his mastery of the diagnostic process. He did the first presentation that was truly tailored to the customer.
By week 10 of the mastery process half the team had done diagnostics followed by a tailored presentation/demo. The week 10 call recordings make it clear that the level of engagement from these customers stands in stark contrast to those upon whom a standard pitch was inflicted. It also became clear to the team that it was not unusual to find the buyer’s real, immediate and entirely unique need 30 minutes into a call. In these cases, the opportunity would clearly have been lost had the need not been revealed.
30 years of recorded sales calls
Buyers do not bring up demos. Salespeople do. If you search 1,000’s of call recordings, you will find only a small fraction in which the buyers say the word “demo” first.
I have said that to tens of thousands of salespeople, and no-one believes it applies to them. So, when it happens, I point it out in the call notes. An analysis of 1,435 calls for three clients who applied the methodology in 2019 and 2020 reveals:
·       269 in which the seller said “demo” first
·       44 in which the buyer said “demo” first
·       1,122 in which “demo” was not mentioned
That’s 3% in which the buyer said “demo” first…
These results are unlikely to be typical, since all of these recordings are done by salespeople at some point in one of my mastery programs, in which we do not push demos. We co-build Mutual Action Plans.
30 years of call recordings lead me to suggest that salespeople are better off not forcing a demo into a discovery call.
Buyers are better off, too. It comes as no surprise to me (as someone who has been a government buyer and one who sold to the government) that a recent Government Services Administration study shows:
·       83% of IT projects are late
·       74% are over budget
·       67% never produce the desired goal
Gartner provides similar sad statistics for commercial projects.

Prescription without proper diagnosis is malpractice.

Steve Kraner, Your Sales Trainer

Steve Kraner is NOT a natural salesman.

He describes himself as an engineer who crossed over to the dark side.  Steve’s delivery is generously spiced with humorous and relevant stories garnered during a colorful, 23-year sales and sales management career. He invites audiences to challenge him and the highlight of his programs is the “no-holds-barred” interaction.

Learn more about Steve and his program at https://softwaresalesgurus.com/