I had an epiphany recently about the congruence between Peter Cohan‘s Great Demo! methodology and a lean approach to sales and presentation practices. I use the following simple definition for lean practices from Wikipedia:
[Lean] considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, “value” is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.
The simplest definition of the Great Demo! is “Do the Last thing First”
Which means that you should focus a demo on the critical element of your offering that your customer is interested in. This normally means that you have a plan for covering the following in about six to eight minutes.
- Introduce – Summarize Situation
- Offer an illustration or example of the result or outcome the customer wants
- Do The Last Thing First – show how to achieve this result as directly and in as few steps as possible.
- Answer questions, this may include peeling back the layers on other features or needs.
- Summarize the key take-aways and next steps.
Your hope is that step 3 turns step 4 into a much longer conversation but you are prepared to pack up and leave if they are not interested in the key results you can offer them.
But why is this lean? There are normally two good reasons why a startup wants to demo their offering to a customer:
- To offer a vision of a solution to trigger a conversation about a problem that the customer is interested in solving and to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and objectives.
- To offer technical proof that your offering can solve their problem and trigger a conversation about how they can implement and roll out the solution in their business.
In both cases you are focused on understanding what the customer needs and is willing pay for: your vehicle for this is the conversation that occurs after you have illustrated your solution with a key example that communicates your understanding of their needs. The summarize step is a critical part of that communication. By summarizing what you have heard you allow them to correct any mistaken impressions you may have gathered, and by summarizing your message again briefly at the end, you have an opportunity to focus more specifically on their needs with what you have learned.
All too often however, startups offer one of these demos instead:
- An IQ test: that asks the prospect “can you figure out how you might use this product to create value in your business.?” Here the focus is not on a vision of a solution that will create value for your customer but an explanation of your technology.
- A smorgasbord of features: that asks for a lot of time to explore your product and offers a “proof by exhaustion” that there must be something in the product that they will find useful. These can degenerate into training sessions that make the assumption the customer has seen the value already instead of offering technical proof of a result you know that they will value.
- Their funding presentation: the investors liked it so the customers should as well, never mind that they are two distinct audiences with very distinct needs and objectives for doing business with your firm.
There is quite a bit more to the Great Demo! methodology than I have outlined here, but at root it encourages you to save your customer’s time by getting to the point quickly with an example of a solution you believe that the customer will find valuable. The real goal of a demo is a serious conversation: either about a customer’s needs or how they can they implement your offering in their business.
Learn More Tue-Sep-4 at Noon PDT when we have Book Club for Business Impact on “Lessons Learned implementing the Great Demo! methodology“, join us live to take part in a roundtable conversation. Update Sept 6: “Recap and Audio from “Lessons Learned Implementing Great Demo! Methodology”
Learn More: Upcoming Workshops
Note on “Customer” vs. Prospect: I use customer throughout this post when most of the time they are actually prospective customers or prospects, I normally reserve customer to mean someone who has paid you but felt customer provided a better linkage with the lean definition.
Update Sep 3: I was reminded that I also blogged about the “Situation Slide” formulation used by Great Demo! to guide pre-demo discovery of customer needs. See “Worry About Scaling After You Find Your Niche”
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