Monday, September 13, 2021

Great Demo! Supporting the PreSales Academy

The Great Demo! team is delighted to announce a relationship with the PreSales Collective to provide and teach Great Demo! methodology elements for key sections of the PreSales Collective’s PreSales Academy.  Specifically, the PreSales Collective will use Great Demo! in the PreSales Academy’s Discovery, Demonstration, and Types of Technical Validation segments.

While the presales community is enjoying a renaissance in the availability of presales’ tools and skills training options, there is a growing need for presales practitioners.  The PreSales Academy seeks to bring new faces into presales, particularly from outside the software industry and from other disciplines within the industry.  The Academy training is designed to provide these people with basic, company-independent skills and knowledge to kick-start and accelerate the availability of presales candidates as new hires.  

The Great Demo! Discovery, Demonstration and Types of Technical Validation segments for the Academy are a subset of the full methodology, tailored specifically for the general, foundational objectives of the Academy.  These segments will be facilitated by Great Demo! Partners and Principals in live sessions, with testing to assess the participants’ retention of the key ideas.  Volunteers from the PreSales Collective are supporting the effort with coaching and role-play feedback.

In addition to these essential volunteers, the Great Demo! team encourages other presales vendors to support the Academy by providing similar industry-hardened training for other Academy segments.  Our overarching objective is to enable the presales community to grow – in numbers, to meet the critical need for presales practitioners and to accelerate the community’s development of richer skills and know-how.

Great Demo!’s Peter Cohan offered, “This represents a major step in providing industry-wide academy programs for presales that complement existing training.  We are delighted to participate and look forward to the first cohorts joining the workforce as presales new hires.”

The PreSales Collective’s Co-Founder James Kaikis stated, “PreSales is the best job that no one has ever heard of.  PreSales Academy (PSA) provides a stepping stone to breaking into the technology industry in a role that is not only incredibly important, but in demand.  PSA will open doors for the next generation of PreSales talent and play a vital role in bringing diversity to our wonderful profession.”

Yuji Higashi, PreSales Collective Co-Founder, commented, “PreSales is an incredibly rewarding career that more people should have access to.  With PreSales Academy, we’re excited to create a new pathway to PreSales, giving people who otherwise may not have the opportunity, the chance to change the trajectory of their careers and their lives.  Thank you to Great Demo! and everyone who has contributed to building PreSales Academy”.

Contact us at if you have questions or comments.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Avoiding Harbor Tour Demos: “Ifs”

When you find yourself using "If" early in your demo you are likely embarking on a Harbor Tour – and the more “ifs”, the longer the Tour!

Each time you use “if”, you are generating a branch in your demo.  And, almost by definition, you end up pursuing each branch to a logical conclusion, making your software look complicated, difficult to use, and possibly too feature-rich for your audience.

Here’s another way of looking at it:  Each “if” presented in a demo represents a discovery question that was unasked (and unanswered).  Each “if” suggests information that could (or should) have been explored prior to the demo itself!

A suggestion:  Listen to recordings of your demos and make a list of each “if” occurrence.  Ask yourself, “What could I have done in discovery to avoid the ‘if’ pathways?”  Contemplate how much crisper your demo would have appeared – and how much more focused on your prospect’s specific situation and needs…

Here's a during-the-demo self-rescue thought:  Any time you are about to start with “if”, ask a question instead!  This will make your demo more interactive and take you down the pathways that matter to the prospect.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Presales Metrics – What to Measure and Why

With the appearance of presales-focused tools and products, presales managers and leadership now have the opportunity to track activities and establish metrics.  But what should be tracked?  What should be the measures?

Contemplate the following:  Deming (and perhaps others) said, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”  This means you may need to look carefully at system design as well as the corresponding metrics…!

Here are five metrics to pique your interest – we’ll discuss some of these below:

  • Number of Wasted Demos (e.g., Harbor Tours):  To understand qualification effectiveness – a terrific point of leverage.
  • Revenue $ per Demo:  To measure demo effectiveness (and not just activity).
  • Revenue $ per POC:  To measure POC effectiveness.
  • Closed Business without POCs (and corresponding revenue for these opportunities):  Enables exploration of why and how!
  • Margin per POC:  To understand how best to utilize presales resources.

This article is designed to stimulate your thinking – it is not an exhaustive listing for possible presales metrics.  Rather, I hope that you:

  • As presales leadership, use this to evaluate your current measurements, objectives, goals, and vision;
  • As front-line presales managers, contemplate how your metrics could improve your team’s results and reduce friction;
  • As presales practitioners, see this as an opportunity join the discussion and contribute your perspective.

Let’s start with some obvious targets:  Productivity and effectiveness.  All organizations strive for these attributes – but are they the best measurements for your purposes?


“We did 100 demos this week – we are really productive…!”

It is good to know what the team is doing and how it invests its time.  How many discovery calls did we do?  How many demos?  How many POCs?  

Many sales and presales teams equate productivity with success:  “More leads!”  “More demos!”  “More POCs!”  But will more of these translate into increased revenues or happy customers?  

In theory, maybe.  If you can process more leads, perform more demos, and execute more POCs, you will likely generate more revenues – and you will be more “productive” if your measurements of productivity are “Number of Discovery Calls per Week” or “Number of Demos per Week” or “Number of POCs per Month”.  

But what happens if lead quality gets worse (“More leads!”)?  Your percentage of leads converting to sales will drop.  In order to achieve the same revenue targets, you’ll need to process even more leads, discovery, demos and POCs.  This same outcome also happens when opportunity size diminishes – and it gets even worse when both lead quality and opportunity size decrease.  

You work harder, doing more discovery, demos, and POCs, but you find you don’t have sufficient time to do a good job – quality suffers.  Which means your effectiveness drops, so you need to process even more leads.  You’ll be turning the crank faster and faster for less and less yield.

Image you have a bucket and are trying to put out a fire.  You fill the bucket with water and throw it on the fire, and begin to make headway against the flames.  But the water level drops and you can’t fill the bucket before each toss – now only 50% of the bucket volume hits the flames with each cycle.  But wait, your bucket develops holes and now only 25% of the volume makes it to the flames.  Despairing, you work faster and faster, but the flames advance and… you are out of business…!

In an activity-based assessment of productivity, increasing activity will only yield positive returns when the system output is fundamentally positive.  This means high-quality leads, good discovery, great demos, and well-executed POCs, with high overall close rates.


A real-life metric to assess non-productivity is to track the Number of Wasted Demos – demos delivered to prospects who had no intention of moving into an active buying process with you.  These often take place as “introductory” or “overview” demos to prospects who survived BDR/SDR qualification (with no real discovery).

In Consensus’ 20201 Sales Engineering Compensation and Workload Report, the 847 organizations responding to “What percent of demos would you classify as unqualified or under-qualified?” reported:

Minimum Less than 10%

Maximum More than 80% [ick]

Median 30%

If 10, 20, or 30% of your team’s demos are truly wasted, a simple exercise is to calculate the hours/days/FTEs consumed and ask the opportunity cost question, “what else could this time have been used for?”


  • If you typically need 3 demos per closed deal
  • And your average deal size is $100K
  • And your average overall win rate is 25%,

Then every 3 wasted demos has an opportunity cost of $25K.  A presales team doing 10 demos per week amounts to about 500 demos per year.  If 10% of those demos are waste, then the overall opportunity cost of those 50 demos is roughly $400K – and 20% is $800K and 30% is $1.2M…


This suggests investing in better qualification upstream…!  The concept of a Demo Qualified Lead (below) is one way to address this; teaching presales practitioners how to do Vision Generation Demos to recover at least part of the wasted time is another.

We should contemplate two types of metrics and the data they collect:  “Data for Inspection” vs. “Data for learning”.  “Data for Inspection” tells you what has happened; “Data for Learning” should tell you what to change to improve…


“Our demos are really effective – the team is at the top of its game…!”

What does it mean to be effective in presales activities and how can we measure this?  

We just saw that being more productive – doing more of the same – does not necessarily yield the desired results.  Being more effective means executing our tasks better, in terms of quality or time or both.  

Note that pathways to better leads have already been defined in many organizations.  A Marketing Qualified Lead has a heartbeat; a Sales Qualified Lead may have sufficient BANT attributes; and a Demo Qualified Lead should include the elements of a Great Demo! Situation Slide.  This progression increases lead quality for each succeeding sales process step.

But how do you measure better discovery, better demos, better POCs?

Effective Discovery

Discovery is a simultaneous exploration of prospect “fit” on the part of the vendor and initial solution “fit” on the part of the prospect.  Good fit for both parties results in less friction for all subsequent steps in their mutual relationship.  Discovery should measure fit, accordingly, and is an enormous point of leverage for everything downstream!

Prospects know this, intuitively, and often express it when they terminate a sales cycle – they’ll say, “your product isn’t a good fit for us.”

Some salespeople live in the “Land of Hope” regardless of fit, typified by the statement, “It’s a huge opportunity!”

Presales must determine – and measure – the quality of fit.  Most organizations do this qualitatively today.  You’ll hear evidence of this at QBRs, when presales folks are asked, “How good is this opportunity…?”

How can we measure fit?  Great Demo! Situation Slides offer one simple (and effective) method.  For each Specific Capability desired by your prospect, assess your relative ability to deliver on a scale or percent:

  • Workflow Number 1:  80%
  • Workflow Number 2:  90%
  • Report Number 1:  100%
  • Root Cause Identification:  60%
  • Etc.

This can be represented, ultimately, as an overall score, either as a simple average or (better) as a weighted average based on relative importance each capability to the prospect:

  • Workflow Number 1:  80% fit; Relative Importance 100
  • Workflow Number 2:  90% fit; Relative Importance 80
  • Report Number 1:  100% fit; Relative Importance 100
  • Root Cause Identification:  60% fit; Relative Importance 100
  • Etc.

Incorporating the opportunity size enables you to compare opportunities to determine where to invest your resources.  It also solves the traditional challenge of the rep’s claim “It’s a huge opportunity…!” when analyzed in comparison with others.  

A $1M opportunity with a 20% fit metric gives a normalized score of $200K; a $600K opportunity with 80% fit yields a score of $480K.  I know where I’d spend my time…!

Effective Solutioning

This is a key part of presales activities, particularly for organizations with multiple or complex offerings.  It is the link between doing discovery and proposing a solution, and provides clarity for preparing demos or POCs.  

Solutioning effectiveness may be tougher to measure than other presales activities, but you should be able to apply the ideas from measuring effective discovery to solutioning.  These need to map to your sales or solution strategy, of course.  

If you emphasize Land and Expand (or Land then Expand), you may be biased towards smaller initial solutions with faster implementation and rapid ROI.  Conversely, vendors of complex ERP systems and similar offerings may pursue initial solutions with the broadest possible footprints.

Effective Demos

Michael Jordan once said, “You can practice eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.”

The same is true for demos.  Many presales practitioners believe they are “at the top of their game” with respect to demonstrating their software.  They have a clickstream and talk-track that they’ve done hundreds of times – it’s smooth and polished.  And yet, their demos don’t seem to move the business forward any better than their peers’.  

Clearly, simply counting the number of demos delivered is not an indication of quality – what is?  Here are a few metrics to contemplate for demo effectiveness:

  • Number of demos required to close the business.  If everything else is equal, this could be a good measure – but things aren’t typically equal.  (It is still good to track this, however, as it provides insights when combined with other factors such as opportunity size and sales cycle length).  
  • Revenue $ per Demo.  This is a terrific metric that gives you insights on an overall team basis, a regional basis, as well as indicators for individual sales and presales people.  

Consider:  Salespeople with high Revenue/Demo numbers means that they have well-qualified opportunities with good fit.  Presales practitioners with high Revenue/Demo numbers means that they have likely done a good job with discovery, demo prep, and demo delivery.

  • Number of Opportunities where Demos resulted in closed business without POCs (and corresponding Revenue per these Opportunities).  Any organization looking to reduce the number of POCs they run – or unnecessary POCs – should cheer for this metric.  Tracking and comparing across different markets and segments provides additional insights and can help tune and improve sales and presales playbooks.
  • Speaker-switches per Minute.  This helps to identify stunningly awful Harbor Tours (with very few Speaker-switches per Minute) and correspondingly bored, disconnected audiences vs. engaged prospects with high Speaker-switches per Minute.  Note that there will be significant regional differences between North America, EMEA, Latin/South America, and various portions of Asia Pacific!  Gong, Refract, and similar tools include this metric in their analyses of recorded calls and demos.

Effective POCs

Many sales reps offer POCs in their first conversations with prospects.  And while for some vendors POCs offer structured, predicable pathways to closed business, others know that (1) many of their POCs are unnecessary and (2) they could be executed more effectively.

This suggests (at least) two sets of metrics:

  1. Metrics to test whether POCs are necessary or desired;
  2. Metrics to explore POC execution.

For Number 1, a Yes/No response to the question, “Prior to beginning the POC, is the pathway to purchase understood and agreed upon?” provides an excellent test.  A corresponding metric explores “How many POCs were executed with a Yes response (and what were the close rates) vs. a No response (and what were those close rates)?”

For Number 2, POC execution, there are a series of metrics that can be examined:

  • % of POCs that yielded closed business (tracked quarter over quarter).
  • % of POCs that were “successful” (e.g., achieved the POC success criteria) but did not result in closed business.  (Hint:  Go back to Number 1…!)

In some cases, 1 and 2 can be combined…!  For example, the simple question, “Do we have clear, measurable success criteria for this POC?” yields tests for both 1 and 2.

Note that both of these above only begin to explore POC effectiveness…  We can dig deeper:

  • Linear factors such POC length (in days) and Presales Hours Consumed provide insights into your investment in POCs.
  • Revenue $ per POC gives an indication of POC “margin”; Revenue $ per POC divided by the Presales Hours Consumed would be an excellent indicator of POC effectiveness.  Exploring this metric on an overall basis vs. regions vs. sales reps vs. presales practitioners provides opportunities to compare performance.

Overall Presales Effectiveness

One intriguing measure of presales effectiveness is the ability to increase your sales:presales ratio.  This means the ability to support more salespeople and opportunities, which should yield additional revenues (without scaling presales headcount commensurately and without sacrificing quality).  

Another common metric is Time in the Middle of the Funnel (MoF) – where the clock starts with the first presales-prospect interaction (e.g., “Demo 1”) and ends the last (e.g., POC completion).  

Two more to consider are Cost of MoF per Prospect (and Prospect Type) and Revenue divided by MoF Cost on an overall basis, per region, per opportunity, etc.

One interesting measure is Revenue $ divided by Time in MoF.  One might predict a reasonably constant ratio, assuming that larger opportunities take longer to close.  Any anomalies should be investigated!

Paired Metrics

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”  

Most sales organizations focus on revenues – but are we only interested in increasing revenues?  If so, we don’t care about the cost of those additional revenues.  I’d suggest that we really want to improve margin, by increasing revenues while holding cost-of-sales down or by finding ways to increase revenues and decrease cost-of-sales.  The singular objective of “increasing revenues” can lead to some unanticipated outcomes.

A simple example of this is traditional quarterly sales quotas.  If quota is the sole or main measure of success for a salesperson, then that salesperson will pursue every piece of business – regardless of fit – to achieve the quarterly numbers.  This means that some portion of closed business will likely churn, with unhappy customers spreading word of their poor experiences.

Andy Grove suggested:  For every metric, there should another “paired” metric that addresses the adverse consequences of the first metric.

Accordingly, one way reduce churn (and have more happy customers) is to incorporate churn into the overall sales metrics.  An example might be phrased as, “Your quarterly quota is $500K; your revenues will be counted as new license revenue minus revenues lost to churn (that you sold).” [Gasp…!  I can hear Heads of Sales balking at this but think about it…!]

Certain measurements need to be done in pairs or as ratios.

For presales, metrics like Revenue $ per Demo incorporate this pairing by making it a ratio.  Measuring the number of demos alone is insufficient (“Do more demos!”); exploring Revenue $ per Demo creates the pairing.

Interestingly, tracking “Number of Demos resulting in closed business without POCs” provides a very insightful pairing.  We want Revenue/Demo or Revenue/POC to increase, and the Cost/Demo and Cost/POC to decrease (preferably both).

Vision, Goals, Objectives and KPIs

How are these similar or different?

Vision is articulating your overarching aspirations.  For example, a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) might express a vision for the organization as, “We want to maximize lifetime customer value for our customers, our partners, and ourselves”.  

Breaking this down, the CRO might say, “We want to enable our customers to enjoy as much value as possible through the use of our offerings over the life of their use; and we want our partners and ourselves to generate as much revenue with the highest possible margins over the same time period.”

[I’m a big fan of this vision…!]

Goals provide the first step of clarifying vision.  Another way of articulating goals is to ask, “What are our desired outcomes?”  For example, “We want our customers to be truly delighted with our products and services.”

Objectives define the specific strategies for achieving your goals.  Aligning to the “delighted customers” goal above, an example objective might be, “We need to onboard our customers as quickly and successfully as possible” or “We need to ensure that customers enjoy the expected value from their investment with us.”  Note that a single goal might involve several objectives.

[“SMART” is an acronym often used to clearly define an objective:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (or Realistic) and Time-bound.  The objectives examples above are incomplete, accordingly, and would need to be more clearly specified!]

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) express and measure progress towards realizing an objective.  For the onboarding objective, “Time-to-Go-Live” is a KPI, as is “Time from Go-Live to achieving a specific Value Realization Event.”  Monitoring these enables you to establish baselines and track progress.

A presales vision statement might offer, “We want to be perceived as the best in the industry” or “We add value in every interaction.”  A corresponding goal for the presales organization as a whole might state, “Support sales to achieve quarterly quotas while promoting the best interests of prospects and customers.”  (Note the pairing.)

The objectives would need to support this goal for the various types of interactions:  discovery, solutioning, demos, POCs, interactions with sales, customer success, product, etc.  KPIs would enable tracking the team’s performance towards achieving those objectives.

Presales Metrics Revisited

Presales has entered a renaissance, enjoying increased visibility, emerging tools and communities, and cataloging of know-how and best practices.  This is the perfect time to rethink your vision for your organization (or your personal vision), set goals, assign objectives and explore KPIs to guide you and your team towards achieving your vision.

And remember:  Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”  So choose wisely!

Copyright © 2021 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Great Demo! Chat Recording: XO: eXtraordinary Outcomes - Episode 34

Hosted by Subhanjan Sarkar, The Buyer-Led Sales Expert


Rather than describe this session myself, I asked a customer to offer their observations of this recording – here’s what they said:


“We found the origins stories [about the methodology and the book] interesting, but the next sections were particularly useful, as you described and developed many of the Great Demo! key ideas. The segment on Vision Generation Demos clarified my understanding and your discussion of Technical Proof Demos is an excellent introduction for new people and a great refresher for our Workshop graduates.”


You can find the recording here.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Webinar Recording: First Call Demos and Discovery – A Surprisingly Effective Approach

Your prospect is interested in a demo, but you’re not sure what they want to see – the prospect looks like a good lead, but that’s all you know…

How do you satisfy your prospect’s desire to see a demo without inflicting them with a Harbor Tour?  How can you move them (gently, but firmly) into a discovery conversation in the same call?  Is it possible to do both and even offer a reasonable focused demo as well?


We shared methods to accomplish this, while leveraging the capabilities of a fabulous new tool (Demoflow).

You can find the recording here.   Access Passcode: 1Xz5pY%7.

The actual webinar begins about 4.5 minutes in…  Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Presales Metrics: What Are Your Goals, Objectives and KPIs?

What are yours?

To refresh, goals express your overarching aspirations and provide the first step of clarifying vision.  Another way of articulating goals is to ask, “What are our desired outcomes?”  For example, “We want our customers to be truly delighted with our products and services.”

Objectives define the specific strategies for achieving your goals.  Aligning to the “delighted customers” goal above, an example objective might be, “We need to onboard our customers as quickly and successfully as possible” or “We need to ensure that customers enjoy the expected value from their investment with us.”  Note that a single goal might involve several objectives.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) express and measure progress towards realizing an objective.  For the onboarding objective above, “Time-to-Go-Live” is a KPI as is “Time from Go-Live to getting the first value from use.”  Monitoring these enables you to establish baselines and track progress.

What Goals, Objectives, and KPIs have you established and track in your presales organization?

Monday, August 9, 2021

Intriguing Webinar: "Change Before You Have To: Leading the Presales Transformation Inside Your Organization"

Took place Thursday August 12 – registering here will likely enable you to access the recording, when available - and we'll post the link to the recording once it is ready.

This was an insightful discussion!  Join Adam Freeman, Garin Hess, Freddy Mangum and Great Demo!’s own Peter Cohan in this conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of positive change in presales organizations. 

How will the impact of presales change or increase in the next several years?  For example, presales is moving from a cottage industry to intelligent industrialization with the appearance and adoption of tools and skills training specifically built for presales.  What do this mean for you?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Doing Discovery with Groups? Divide and Discover

The takeaway is, “The Smaller the Group the Better...”

Many sales and presales folks often try to gather as many prospect players together as possible for Discovery calls.  This is not recommended…!  

Your best strategy is to have an individual or two prospect participants (next best) on a call at a time.  Why?  Several reasons:

  • Many individual contributors and middle managers are uncomfortable sharing information with an executive on the call, particularly if that exec is their manager’s manager.
  • Similarly, folks from one department are often reluctant to expose departmental issues when representatives from other departments are on the call as well.  
  • Managers of teams may hesitate discussing specific team issues with the team members present.
  • A single open-ended question may consume a surprising amount of the scheduled call time if all or most of the prospect participants take a turn to answer.
  • Additionally, an opinion-based anchoring effect can take place, particularly if a senior manager or exec presents an initial opinion (effectively gagging contrary or differing perspectives from others).

So, if you are presented with a Discovery call with multiple prospect participants, here are some guidelines:

  • Use the time to answer many of their questions – it is quite likely that some of the players are not fully up-to-speed with the information provided so far.  This may be a good opportunity to get everyone aligned.
  • Focus on demographics and other “easy to ask, easy to answer” questions and topics.
  • For managers and execs, ask about their objectives for the project.
  • Finally, gently (but firmly) recommend to “continue” the conversation with individuals or related pairs to enable more specific discussions.

The Smaller the Group the Better!