Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19, Presales, and Leadership

Presales practitioners as leaders. 

This is a critical time for presales folks to leverage their trusted advisor status to lead and guide our customers in operating and communicating over the web.  Let’s step up to this challenge!

COVID-19 and Sheltering in Place

The world is uncomfortable and concerned.  Non-essential organizations are operating remotely.  Most of our customers have moved to home offices – new environments for many. 

And these new home offices are often hastily erected – a pundit offered that someone had set up a laptop on an ironing board, as the only horizontal surface available! 

There are distractions at home – children, for many, require more face time.  Dogs and cats don’t understand that a conference call is taking place.  Sounds from cooking, cleaning, kids playing, noises from neighbors and conversations in other rooms are new background sounds in the business world for many. 

In moving to home offices, customers have lost their ad hoc office workplace discussions and hallway interactions.  They are uncomfortable and concerned. 

COVID-19 and Presales Practitioners

While we are also uncomfortable and concerned, many presales folks have been working at home for years.  Comparatively speaking, presales people are way ahead of the curve.

We are comfortable with home offices – we know the rhythms and the routines.  We know how to deal with the distractions and the challenges of operating remotely.

We are familiar with using Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting.  We have our offices set up with our headsets, phones, routers, power-strips, printers, etc. – and have organized to operate smoothly based on years of experience, in many cases.

For most customers, however, this is new – it is uncomfortable and troubling.  We need to guide our customers through this transition – we have the experience.

Time to Lead!

This is a time for skilled presales folks to take the lead and guide our customers in remote operations and communications.

You are likely more skilled and more experienced in remote meetings than your customers.  Accordingly, take the lead in guiding the interactions with your customers.

Help them learn effective use of web collaboration tools – offer informal training sessions.  Offer suggestions on how to best set up their home offices.  Teach them how to use online whiteboards, guide them through Discovery conversations using those whiteboards.  Offer tips on how to improve their office lighting for their webcams.

Share the insights you’ve learned working from home over the years.  You are then truly being a trusted advisor.


Many of us know that working over the web takes longer than face-to-face for many functions.  It takes time for everyone to join a web meeting.  It takes time to start sharing a screen over GoToMeeting.  It takes time to deploy and use annotation tools in Zoom.  It takes time to organize break-out rooms in WebEx. 

It takes time for people to remember they have muted themselves…!

So have patience – and ask for patience.  Everything is likely taking a bit longer than before – and can be a bit of a struggle for some. 

When you launch a web meeting, go through a checklist to make sure that everyone is connecting satisfactorily and that communications will be as effective as possible.

When you are doing Discovery, take a moment to open a whiteboard and teach your customer how to draw – then erase and let them diagram their processes.

When you are doing a demo, tell your audience, “Hang on, let me grab an annotation tool…” to highlight a key portion of your screen.  Let them know what you are doing!

When you are assisting a customer with a POC task, help them share their screen so that you can see what they are doing – and guide them through the steps. 

When you are discussing a Value Realization Event, build a whiteboard together to map out the rough implementation timeline, go-live date, and target Value Realization Event.

It can all be done over the web, but it will be more challenging.  We need to lead and guide our customers.  And we need to have patience and to ask for patience.

The Conversational Conduit

You, as presales, are likely the most skilled in your company to be the Conversational Conduit between your company and your customers.

Presales folks are amongst the most intimate with our customers’ situations – their needs and desires, their goals and objectives, their challenges and constraints.  You know their software infrastructure and environment, you know the other tools they use, and you understand how they consume your software.

You have been communicating with a broad range of customer job titles – often including members of the C-Suite, senior managers, middle managers, front-line managers, staff members, administrators and assistants. 

And these people see you both as a resource and as someone who has their best interests at heart.  You are a trusted advisor. 

Accordingly, you are likely best suited to continue the conversation, remotely, with your customers – and to serve as a communications pathway between your organizations. 

This is a privilege, an honor – and an opportunity to lead!

Be Human

Connecting over the web can be colder, more awkward and more uncomfortable than face-to-face.  Let’s improve the experience!

When you start a web meeting, turn on your webcam – and encourage your customers to turn theirs on as well – let’s humanize the meeting. 

If this is the first time you’ve met these folks, do a virtual handshake – or virtual elbow bump – with each person, just as you would when you meet face-to-face. 

For people you’ve worked with previously, smile and wave to your customer as you say “hello”.  Compare shut-in experiences.  Share tips you’ve learned on how you and others are coping.

As a break, or between multiple sessions, take your customer a virtual tour of your office, using your webcam.  Take it outside and share a view of your yard/garden and the current weather.  Humanize the experience!

Tool-Up and Up-Skill

If you are not fully experienced with using Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting and other tools – or don’t have the tools you need, get equipped and get skilled!

Get a good, clear headset for your verbal communications.  Confirm that your voice isn’t getting “clipped” due to bandwidth issues.  Test to remove echoes.

Acquire an online whiteboarding tool if you don’t already have one. 

If you are using Microsoft Teams or similar tool for your demos, get ZoomIt or an equivalent so that you can annotate during demos. 

And if you have rarely or never used the annotation tools, whiteboards, breakout rooms, and other capabilities in your web collaboration tool, get experienced!  Set up a session to learn how these tools work and practice using them – it is no longer sufficient to simply click and talk.

The Leaders of the Leaders – Equip, Enable, Empathize, and Coach

How can presales management support their teams – and develop and enable the leadership we are describing?  Very simply:  by helping your team tool-up and up-skill. 

Ask them, “what do you need to operate effectively from your home?”  Based on your experience, are there other tools, equipment or recommendations that they are missing, or haven’t considered?  Make sure they are fully equipped for the next several months.

Ask them, “What training do you feel you need to work from home?  Where do you feel you could improve or have gaps?”  Similarly, suggest resources for training to fill these gaps and others that your team members may not have contemplated. 

Equally important, reach out to the team both as a group and on an individual basis – regularly.  For folks who previously worked in offices, this will be even more important.  Consider virtual after work sessions – virtual happy hours, for example – to let people “blow off steam” and socialize. 

Check-in more frequently with individuals – this is a period where people are stressed and worried.  Show empathy – after all, it is likely that you are just as stressed and concerned as the folks on your team!

Coaching during this crisis is critical – both to help your team improve their practices and, frankly, to maintain morale.  Do virtual ride-alongs over Zoom/WebEx/GoToMeeting of Discovery calls, customer check-ins, demos, POC meetings, and also consider joining some of the interactions between your team and other departments of your company, and third parties. 

Inspect, assess, coach.  Tools like Refract and Gong provide terrific mechanisms for remote – and asynchronous – coaching to take place. 

COVID-19 and Software

Software is a critical key to surviving and ending this crisis.

Software is enabling us and our customers to continue to work at home – think about that! 

We, as a world population, are running much of the world from home, via software.  Right now, the world is relying on software – software for manufacturing the essentials, software to operate supply chains, software that enables remote communications, software that enables our customers to keep their businesses running, and software to find drugs, new cures and ultimately vaccines to beat COVID-19.

Our Role – Our Responsibility

Accordingly, our role in presales is perhaps even more important than before.

We help our customers articulate their needs, define solutions, evaluate options, confirm capabilities, understand implementation – and realize value from their software purchases. 

We communicate our customers’ goals and objectives, constraints, challenges and future desires back into our organizations. 

We are, more than ever, the critical conversational conduits, guides and leaders in the world of software.  It’s time to lead!

Copyright © 2020 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Webinars, Webinars!

Enjoy these two webinars – one past, one upcoming…

Webinar Recording – “Scaling Presales Effectiveness”

Peter Cohan joined John Care and Don Carmichael on March 26 when the fine folks at Consensus convened this panel in a “Scaling Presales Effectiveness” webinar, with a general theme focusing on remote engagement (but we covered a wide range of topics).  Click here for access to the recording.

And if you have specific questions or topics that weren’t addressed, please send them to us at

Upcoming Webinar – “Getting to Great:  Coaching for 7 Habits for Stunningly Successful Demos”

Date: Friday, April 3, 2020
Time: 8 am PDT
Duration: 50 minutes

Traditional-average demos – and traditional-average demo delivery – are simply insufficient today!  We’ll introduce seven habits that correspond to (rather dramatic) increases in demonstration success and how to coach your team or yourself to master these habits.

Attend this webinar to:

·       Learn “The 7 Habits of Stunningly Successful Demos” from speaker and author Peter Cohan to move your demo structure and delivery from traditional-average to stunningly successful – mapping to validated and proven best practices.

·       See how to coach your team or yourself towards these specific skills and behaviors from Richard Smith, Co-Founder of

Now is the perfect time to rethink your demos, retool your demo structure, and refine your demo delivery!

Click here to register.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Microsoft Teams – Currently Not Recommended for Remote Demos

I am sorry to report that, in my opinion, Microsoft Teams is not recommended for use in delivering Remote Demos.  Very simply, it currently lacks a set of annotation tools that are needed to highlight specific parts of software screens in demos and, accordingly, to enable presenters to drive sufficient interactivity.

While Teams has some other nice-to-have capabilities for collaboration, the lack of annotation tools renders it not recommended for Remote Demos. 

Zoom, GoToMeeting and WebEx all offer excellent sets of annotation tools, including free-hand drawing, text, boxes, circles, highlighters, “laser” pointers, etc.  The use of these tools helps to move Remote Demos from talk-and-click-and-talk-and-click to true conversations.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Great Demo! Tuesdays - Europe

[Posted by Natasja Bax, Certified Great Demo! Affiliate in Amsterdam]

I hope you are well and safe. In these challenging times, we must all stay connected. Therefore, I'm introducing Great Demo! Tuesdays for all Great Demo! practitioners. Each Tuesday at 11 AM CET, We'll discuss a theme in a 1-hour session. We start with with a brief introduction, and then we open up for questions or discuss a customer case. No obligations, you can decide each week if you'd like to attend.

March 24: Situation Slides
March 31: Illustrations
April 7: CBIs
April 14: Do It Pathways
April 21: Fewest Number of Clicks
April 28: Peeling Back the Layers
May 5: Multiple Chunks

If you'd like to join, click on the link below. We'll use the same login for each session. Feel free to invite other Great Demo! practitioners as well.

Zoom ID: 897 104 180
Access code: 066881

[And we are also planning to hold similar sessions in the Americas - more info shortly...]

Monday, March 16, 2020

New Offering for Remote Demos and Presentations – The Sad (But True) Situation – And What You Can Do About It

Two thoughts:

1.     If your audience isn’t engaged, they won’t retain your message. 

2.     We rarely try something new in front of a customer.  And that’s the problem!

In spite of numerous blog posts, articles and webinars discussing tips and best practices of driving interactivity over the web, the sad truth is that most people simply haven’t made any changes to their practices.

How many web demos and presentations start with, “Can you see my screen?” – following by nothing but the presenter talking and clicking? 

Ask yourself, what do you do?  Are your audiences engaged?

When you ask your audience, “Any questions so far?” how often do you hear “Nope, we’re good…” or the chirp-chirp of crickets in an empty room?

If your audience isn’t engaged, they won’t retain your message.  The challenge is interaction – or, rather, the lack of interactivity.  This needs to improve to be effective over the web!

It will be a while before we can return to face-to-face meetings – so we are offering targeted coaching services to help you (rather dramatically) improve the effectiveness of your remote demos and presentations.

Introducing “Great Connection!” – Remote Demos and Presentations Coaching Sessions

These 90- to 120-minute sessions for small groups will have you connecting and driving interaction with your audiences effectively and confidently.


1.     We’ll introduce and discuss the best practices and tips
2.     And each participant will put the ideas into practice in the session.

We’ll practice:

-        The use of annotation tools
-        Whiteboarding over the web
-        Parking questions over the web
-        Enabling audience members to drive or annotate
-        The Pause button
-        Pre-meeting set-up practices (e.g., checking latency and full screen mode)
-        And (gently but firmly) pushing audiences for feedback and responses

And for those doing webinars or large sessions (with microphones muted):

-        The use of the chat tools
-        Using Q&A along the way
-        Individual unmuting and muting of audience members

You’ll be able to put these skills to terrific use in your very next web demos and presentations – driving interactivity like you’ve never seen before!

Great Connection! Pragmatics

-        We’ll use the tool you typically use (e.g., Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting).
-        Group size is limited to 8 participants per Great Connection! session.
-        Duration is 90-120 minutes (plus 10 minutes of set-up).
-        Pricing is $475 per Session.

Contact us at to book a Great Connection! session right away – and get jump on your competition (because everyone is going to want this)!