Archive for August, 2013

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–August 2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these hot off the mojo wire or wait until these quotes for entrepreneurs are collected in a blog post at the end of each month. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.

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“Hold a book in your hand and you’re a pilgrim at the gates of a new city.”
Anne Michaels

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“Zuckism says that if you can tap a deep enough need at a big enough scale you can strip-mine a billion intimate lives for profit.”
Kevin Kelleher in “The Trouble with Zuckism

I think Facebook and GMail are well no their way to becoming highly regulated, or perhaps third party services that monitor private communications to inject ads will simply be outlawed. I think the pendulum will start to swing back in the next five or ten years, especially as firms continue to erode privacy boundaries purely to increase their profits. In the same article Kelleher observes: “Facebook is, in its DNA, a cold-blooded parasite, subsisting on ad dollars extracted from necessary human relationships.”

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“The greatest pleasure is obtained by improving.”
Ben Hogan

h/t Torbjörn Gyllebring (@drunkcod)

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“Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.”
George Santayana

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“Children see magic because they look for it.”
Christopher Moore in “Lamb”

I think this is why entrepreneurs see opportunities that others miss: they are alert to the possibility of better tools, better methods, and the repurposing of existing tools to new uses.

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“To broaden your horizons take a step forward.”
Frans Hiddema

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“A standpoint reached as the result of an ascent has a different meaning from that same standpoint reached as a result of a fall.”
Eduard Douwes Dekker

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“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore, we can never count on it as we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we could not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”
Albert Hirschman in “Development Projects Observed

Used as the opening quote for If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be

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“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”
Winston Churchill

Used as the closing quote for If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be

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“Don’t start with the details. Start with the key ideas, and in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions.”
John Medina in “Brain Rules

Used as organizing paradigm for “Lego Box Presentation Method

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“If we had cake, we could have cake and ice cream, if we had the ice cream.”

First principle of ineffectual entrepreneurship, the opposite of effectual entrepreneurship which works from assets and relationships you have instead of what you don’t have. A favorite expression of my Uncle John.

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Why don’t we listen well? The person we’re listening to isn’t important. Change that perspective, and you fix the problem.
Susan de la Vergne in “We’re Terrible Listeners — And Here’s Why

Suggested as a postscript to “Use E-Mail Like a Walkie-Talkie Not a Bullhorn” by Brad Pierce (@learningloving). Here is a longer excerpt for context but the entire article is worth reading.

In technology, when we find a problem with a product, we pursue its root cause. What’s really making this happen? Then we fix the root cause. We know we could just tinker with things so the symptoms stop appearing, but without getting at what’s really wrong, it’s only a matter of time before the problem shows up again.

Same thing applies here. When we’re trying to listen, we could count to seven before speaking or remind ourselves not to interrupt, but those are just symptoms. Becoming a better listener requires taking a deeper dive into the problem. We need to get at the root cause.

Why don’t we listen well? The person we’re listening to isn’t important. Change that perspective, and you fix the problem.

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“The true characteristic of genius–without despising rules, it knows when and how to break them.”
William Ellery Channing

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“Bold action coupled with frank expression has inadvertently launched many a deeply felt entrepreneurial career.”
Sean Murphy

A wry observation I made in “Life Is Too Short.” Probably inspired as much by personal experience as anything else.

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“Ideas often flash across our minds more complete than we could make them after much labour.”
La Rochefoucauld

h/t @LaRochefoucau1d

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“There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.”
Jeff Bezos in his announcement on buying the Washington Post

More context:

“There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.”

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“I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened.”
Mark Twain

Update Sat-Nov-21-2015: Garson O’Toole (“The Quote Investigator”) looked into this in October 2o15 and found that there was no evidence Twain ever said this and it was attributed to him but derived from these four lines written “In the 1830s the influential English writer and poet Martin Farquhar Tupper released “Proverbial Philosophy”, a popular work published in many editions during the ensuing decades. Here are the first four lines of the work titled “Of Anticipation”: [bold added]

“Thou hast seen many sorrows, travel-stained pilgrim of the world,
But that which hath vexed thee most, hath been the looking for evil;
And though calamities have crossed thee, and misery been heaped on thy head,
Yet ills that never happened, have chiefly made thee wretched.”
Martin Farquhar Tupper  in “Of Anticipation” collected in “Proverbial Philosophy

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“The value of culture is its effect on character. It avails nothing unless it ennoble and strengthens that. Its use is for life. Its aim is not beauty, but goodness.”
Somerset Maugham

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“When two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as he wants to be seen, and each man as he really is.”
Michael de Saintamo

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“Success always obsoletes the very behavior that achieved it.”
Peter Drucker in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, and Practices

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“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”
Pierre de Coubertin

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“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Bruce Lee

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“Solvency First, Consistency Second, Growth Third”
Rob Saric in “Startups Are Hard

More context:

2. Solvency First, Consistency Second, Growth Third
If you don’t have enough money to survive you die. […] focus on ‘Minimum Viable Cash flow (MVC)’. Once you determine what the MVC is for both you and your team, work towards achieving that by whatever means you can. Consistency allows for predictability and the more predictable your business (‘X inputs results in Y outputs’) the faster you’ll grow.

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“To teach is to learn twice.”
Joseph Joubert

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“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
Henry David Thoreau

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“Genius unexerted is no more genius than a bushel of acorns is a forest of oaks.”
Henry Ward Beecher

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“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”
George Eliot in “Impressions of Theophrastus Such” (1879)

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“I’m always looking to vector in on a problem from multiple directions and perspectives, and that includes process. This means chewing on lots of different ideas, mashing them up, and keeping what works.”
Giff Constable (@giffco) in “The Point of Stupid Buzzwords

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“Solve real problems that people will pay for where you add unique value.”
Sean Murphy

I used as title for “Solve Real Problems That People Will Pay For Where You Add Unique Value.” h/t Brad Pierce for a tweet on @learningloving that reminded me of this.

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“The two most fundamental strategic choices are deciding where to play and how to win.”
Roger L. Martin in “Why Most CEOs are Bad at Strategy

More context

The two most fundamental strategic choices are deciding where to play and how to win. These two decisions–in what areas will the company compete, and on what basis will it do so–are the critical one-two punch to generate strategic advantage. However, they can’t be considered independently or sequentially. In a great strategy, your where-to-play and how-to-win choices fit together and reinforce one another.

In “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” Martin, writing with A. G. Lafley, offers two slightly different definitions of strategy:

“A strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of five choices: a winning aspiration, where to play, how to win, core capabilities, and management systems.”

and

“A strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of where-to-play, how-to-win, core capability, and management system choices that uniquely meet a consumer’s needs, creating competitive advantage and superior value for a business.”

h/t Matt Wensing “Why Most CEOs are Bad at Strategy”

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“There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start.” Charles Baudelaire

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“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order that is not yet understood.”
Henry Miller

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“Innovation opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze.”
Peter Drucker

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“The direction worth going in isn’t up, down, forward, or backward. It’s towards. And beyond.”
Umair Haque (@umairh)

Part of a five tweet series on finding your direction:

  1. The direction worth going in isn’t up, down, forward, or backward. It’s towards. And beyond.
  2. To find your direction, look inside. Not outside.
  3. Tear up the map and throw it away. You can’t use a map if you’re already lost .

  4. Get lost if you want to be found.
  5. You can calculate the best direction with your mind. But you can only find the right direction with your heart.

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“True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.”
Louis Nizer

According to Quoteyard this appears in “Reflections without mirrors an autobiography of the mind” (1978) by Louis Nizer on page 94, but there is an earlier citation to “The Ministers manual: a study and pulpit guide: Volume 38 (1962)” by Gerard Benjamin Fleet Hallock on  page 61.

Q: How Do You Iterate An MVP So That It’s “Good Enough For Government Work”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, skmurphy

Q: I am part of a hardware/embedded device startup working on our MVP. We want to develop a minimum product to cut our initial development costs and iterate scientifically through experimentation.  My concern is that State governments are my primary customer type and their buying model is to do a pilot project and then write what is essentially a white paper that specifies the product features tested and results achieved. This becomes the spec for future purchases.

Their approach doesn’t lend itself to iteration. I could certainly iterate after the fact, but then its too late: the papers out and their opinion is public. How can we take an MVP approach to product creation when our customer is a department? 

From your description of the situation your customer wants to buy an “off the shelf” device that has a fixed specification. They are not interested in supporting you to iterate or evolve your product except on what is probably a one to three year procurement cycle. You can still build an MVP but if you are entering an established market where the requirements are well understood you will need to satisfy most if not all of their expectations to be viable with your first offering.

Different agencies work in different ways. I am working with a team that is “selling” a hardware MVP to a group at the National Institute of Health (NIH) who understands that we are operating in an area of rapidly evolving requirements and that no viable alternative is available today. In this situation they are much more willing to fund a sequence of prototypes that can be used to address an increasing amount of the total problem.

You need to align your product development and customer engagement strategies with how the customer wants to buy.

Customer development is designed for early markets with high uncertainty or mature markets where there is an opportunity to segment ‘overserved’ customers of existing products. Where requirements are not changing–e.g. customers are well served by current status quo–and uncertainty is low it’s normally difficult for a startup to find a niche unless it can segment or discover a new category of customers for an existing product.

One good book on doing hardware MVP’s where a large firm is the target customer is “The Fail Proof Enterprise” by Bob Thomas.

SKMurphy Subscription Options

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

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First Major Website Upgrade In 7 years

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Open SignWelcome to our first major re-design in almost seven years. Things are a little wider now, posts should look better on tablets and smartphones, and the audio and video should all play on them as well. Please leave a comment or contact us if you have any problems or suggestions.

We want to thank Dave Horner of Silicon Ridge for all of his assistance and support over the last seven years helping us to launch a WordPress based site and to continue to offer suggestions and technical assistance in maintaining and improving it.

Photo Credit: Max Murphy

Robert Felten Software Recognized by EE Times

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Clients in the News

Robert Felten LogoWe are excited to see Robert Felten’s recent project, GUI for a flash drive, featured in EE Times. Robert Felten Software provides Software Development Consulting and Contracting. He specializes in Qt/C++ GUI and embedded software.

See the Rick Merritt’s round up of the Flash Memory Summit at “Slideshow: Flash Innovators Flood Show

Robert is a new client, we are excited to see his expertise recognized.

Source: EE Times

Source: EE Times

Capturing Intellectual Property Workshop: Saturday Oct-19-2013

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in First Office, Legal Issues

Every once in awhile we find great workshops that are open to all size companies.  Bill Meade’s “Capturing Intellectual Property” is one such workshop.  His hands-on workshop will cover:

  • What is intellectual property (IP)
  • The forms and functions of legal IP protections
  • The IP system and its functioning (on one slide)
  • Capturing an invention
  • Checking the invention for enablement
  • How to capture invention if you work in a big company

Who should attend:

  1. Engineers who have never filled out an invention disclosure form.
  2. Section managers/Scrum Masters who are interested in learning what types and quantities of IP they should be seeing from their product development efforts.
  3. Patent agents and attorneys who are not “seeing enough” IP from their project teams and would like to capture more.

Bill Meade is an intellectual property consultant at BasicIP.   In addition to capturing inventions, Bill has substantial experience in disclosure evaluation, IP portfolio management, business side of litigating patents, and licensing patents.

Register NowSaturday, October 19, 2013
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PDT)
Sunnyvale, CA

College vs. Startup

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Some thoughts on college vs. startups, the panels are sliced up from http://www.xkcd.com/557/ which is a dream that I still have. I find it a marker for being under pressure.

Projects Due Today 5PM...I didn't know we had one! College

  • clear assignments
  • clear deadlines
  • clear feedback (grades)
I don't think I have been attending. I must have forgotten I had this class Startup

  • high uncertainty and ambiguity
  • prospects “give assignments” but may not pay (“fail you”) even if you deliver
  • teamwork needed to create value
OK, I am gonna fail. I thought I had finished my requirements already. Will this hold me back? College

  • very few instances where teamwork is rewarded
  • world resets every ten to thirteen weeks (new quarter/semester)
  • only evaluated by a few professors at any given time
I remember graduating. What the hell is going on? Startup

  • world may reset on a pivot but the fewer the better
  • in conversation with many potential customers and partners
  • many prospects will “fail” you without explanation
  • students who focused on pleasing the professor may find themselves adrift in a startup
(Awakens in bed) Life

  • connect with your higher purpose, grades and money are a means not an end
  • if you stop learning after you leave college you won’t succeed as an entrepreneur
  • family and friends whither when neglected, but it can take a while to comprehend
Fun Fact: Decades From Now You Will Still Be Having This Dream

Use E-Mail Like a Walkie-Talkie, Not A Bullhorn

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Consulting Business, Customer Development, skmurphy

I don’t think it’s a new trend but one new service that I recently signed up for asked me to take a short survey about how I felt about their product and what I planned to do. They E-Mailed it from a “no-reply” email address and I realized that an answer I had stuffed into the “Any Other Comments” box would make for a good short blog post.

Please don’t e-mail me from a “no-reply” address: if you don’t want a real conversation, or even an e-mail exchange, I don’t have the sense you are interested in a business relationship. If you only want me to answer your multiple choice survey questions and are not interested in my questions I think you are limiting how much you can learn from a real interaction.

While the 2 minute explainer video is helpful what I would find more useful–and what’s missing from your site–are real examples: please offer more examples of example configurations and more customer stories about how they used your product to change their business. Since I am a consultant I would find stories from other consultants particularly helpful.

You have sent me a number of reminders and updates in the last three weeks, included this latest that links to an automated survey. But none of them come from a named person or an e-mail address that can be replied to. While I can appreciate this is very efficient for you it may not be having the effect you are hoping for.

Your approach reminds me of when I was a child playing with walkie-talkies and someone in the group would keep their thumb on the transmit switch the entire time they held the handset. Although the rest of us got a running account of what he thought and was doing, there was no way to have a conversation.


Update Aug-8-2013: Brad Pierce (@learningloving) e-mailed a response this morning:

Hi Sean,
See “We’re Terrible Listeners — And Here’s Why” by Susan de la Vergne; her conclusion: “Why don’t we listen well? The person we’re listening to isn’t important. Change that perspective, and you fix the problem.”

And the corollary is true, when you don’t listen, or worse remove the possibility for listening, you communicate to the other person that they are not important. Here are the last three paragraphs from We’re Terrible Listeners — And Here’s Why by Susan de la Vergne

In technology, when we find a problem with a product, we pursue its root cause. What’s really making this happen? Then we fix the root cause. We know we could just tinker with things so the symptoms stop appearing, but without getting at what’s really wrong, it’s only a matter of time before the problem shows up again.

Same thing applies here. When we’re trying to listen, we could count to seven before speaking or remind ourselves not to interrupt, but those are just symptoms. Becoming a better listener requires taking a deeper dive into the problem. We need to get at the root cause.

Why don’t we listen well? The person we’re listening to isn’t important. Change that perspective, and you fix the problem.

The Lego Box Presentation Method

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy

I respect your time so I will keep this short.

In two minutes I can explain why  getting to the point immediately in a presentation or demo to an individual or small group is good for not only the survival but also the growth of your business. It’s the approach least likely to waste your time or theirs, and the most likely to start a serious conversation that can form the basis for a new business relationship.

If you communicate the key points first your audience is much better equipped to process the details: this means that they are more likely to understand you, believe you, and do business with you.

This matches the way the brain works. In “Brain Rules” author John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, cites cognitive research results that demonstrate that the brain processes meaning before details. He advises:

“Don’t start with the details. Start with the key ideas, and in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions.”

What are two key points to communicate?

  • First, that you will repay a few minutes of their attention with information that is relevant to their situation and actionable.
  • Second, how your offering will help them address a critical business issue–and result in more revenue, more profit, or reduced risk.

If you present the meaning first, you will naturally adopt the other person’s point of view and you will be much less likely to overwhelm them because you are presenting your ideas in a way that is most easily processed.

Why is this hard to do? Because we like to save the best for last.

Whether it’s the punch line to a joke or the identity of the killer in a whodunit, we like to withhold the key piece of information that organizes and make sense of everything else that has been said.

But this is a match to the wrong presentation format for the story you want to tell.

Instead think about the Lego box photo, the first thing that you see on a store shelf or on Amazon.com. Lego has a well-known brand name, founded in 1932 and still privately held, it has produced more than 400 billion toy bricks.

Star Fighter MVPThe company puts the most important information first on the box. A photo of the Lego Star Wars x-Wing Starfighter provides a clear context to the prospective parent buyer or a child who is building a birthday wish list.

The first thing you see after you open the Starfighter box is 560 multi-colored pieces and a collegiate dictionary-size book of assembly directions.  It’s obvious why the company does not put these images on the box.

Two final examples.

  • A cooking show will start with a shot of the final dish, for example barbecue spare ribs for your next cookout. Because we eat with our eyes first, this may entice  you to continue watching to learn how to prepare the ribs.
  • A newspaper prints headlines in large type, and the gist of the story in the first sentence, so that you can decide whether or not to read the whole article.

Why should your presentation be any different?


Michelle.McIntyreMichelle McIntyre (@FromMichelle) contributed to this blog post. She is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications, a public relations consulting firm serving small businesses and software start-ups in the U.S. and Europe. McIntyre has won 10 awards in the past two decades in her career at IBM and three public relations firms including Global Fluency, parent company of the Chief Marketing Officer Council.

If You Knew How Hard a Startup Would Be

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, skmurphy

A new startup is often driven by a desire for autonomy, self-expression, and lifelong learning. Or it’s a creative solution to a lack of alternatives. Albert Hirschman observed that “creativity always comes as a surprise to us” which led him to suggest “the only we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task.” If you knew how many times a startup require would require a creative solution–if you knew how hard a startup would be–you might pick an easier path. 

Set Your PowerPoints on Stun

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, Events, skmurphy

Q: I didn’t get any questions at the end of a recent demo. The audience was quiet and respectful and our point of contact said “It’s an interesting product, you’ve given us a lot to think about.” But it’s been two weeks and I haven’t had any response to my two follow up e-mails and a voicemail.

A: It’s very likely that they felt your product was not a fit with their needs and being polite was the fastest way to get you out of the room. Avoid the temptation to demo to early by first getting agreement on what the key business is that they are looking for help on and then clarifying what are two or three capabilities they believe they need to address their needs. A crisp presentation that demonstrates those capabilities–and only those capabilities–should lead to a longer conversation.

Q: I didn’t get any questions during a recent demo, and two of the key audience members spent a lot of time e-mailing on a tablet or texting on a phone. What can I do when a prospects starts to multi-task?

A: If you have a whiteboard or flip chart ask them to sketch an answer to a question. If you open with a very brief intro that confirms their critical business issue and the capabilities they are looking for it’s less likely they will tune you out.

If you are not sure what business challenge they are looking for help with open with some questions of them about what they are using now, what their current workflow looks like, and where they are looking for help. Diagnose before you prescribe and you should be able to get their attention. If that does not work then you may be a “check in the box” that they have talked to enough vendors (also know as “column fodder” where they can compare your offering to several others including their first choice).

Another alternative for a large group is to offer a menu of features or capabilities and ask for a show of hands to prioritize what you should show first.

If it’s a senior person or decision maker who is tuning you out, you need to engage them. If it’s only one person in a group of five or six and everyone else is engaged I would not be as concerned. They may either be bored (in which case engaging them will help) or worried about another situation (sick child, major service outage, urgent text from their boss) in which case they may need to leave.


We partner with Peter Cohan to bring an open enrollment version of his “Great Demo!” workshop to Silicon Valley several times a year. The next “Great Demo!” workshop is October 9-10, 2013.

Core Seminar & Advanced Topics
October 9 & 10, 2013
Cost: $930 (Before Sep-8: $895)
Eventbrite - Great Demo! Workshop on Oct 9 & 10, 2013

Where: Moorpark Hotel, 4241 Moorpark Ave, San Jose CA 95129

For out of town attendees: The Moorpark is located 400 feet from the Saratoga Ave exit on Hwy 280, about 7 miles from San Jose Airport and 35 miles from San Francisco Airport Hotels Near Great Demo! Workshop

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