Highlights from a Wed-Nov-29-2017 panel of sales experts on how effective discovery conversations lead to more effective demos: Richard Smith of Refract, Peter Cohan of Second Derivative and author of “Great Demo,” Brian Geery of SalesNv and author of “How to Demonstrate Software So People Buy It,” and Warren Gouws of SumTotal Systems.
Theresa and I attended the JPK Group Product Intelligence and Experience Summit in San Francisco, March 15-16, 2017. I gave a talk on “Extracting Insights from A Competitor’s Software Demo.” Here is my de-brief from the event.
Edited remarks from a presentation at the Silicon Valley Society for Competitive Analysis on Tue-May-24 on “Extracting Insights From A Competitor’s Software Demo.”
“The Fish and the Bait” is a 1921 Safed the Sage story by William Eleazar Barton originally publish in April 14, 1921 in the Advance.
I am giving a talk on “Extracting Competitive Insights from Software Demos: Crafting and Refining Your Company’s Message Through the Analysis of a Competitor’s Demo” at the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Society for Competitive Intelligence (SCIP) Tue-May-24 at 6PM.
I have learned the hard way whenever I wish for smarter prospects it means I need to improve my presentation, demo, or proposal: whatever it is that I have offered them that they didn’t understand, or believe, or decide to act on.
After every Great Demo! workshop we follow up with every participant to learn
- What results have you observed from applying the Great Demo! method so far?
- Do you have any success stories to report or share?
- Are there any questions you’d like to have addressed regarding the methods or concepts? Have you encountered situations where you’d like additional help or recommendations?
Abigail Miller, a Pre-Sales IT Consultant with Agfa Healthcare, a workshop in May of 2015 and wrote this email in reply:
SKMurphy August 2015 Newsletter
This blog post summarizes our August newsletter, “Strategies for a Winning Sales Presentation.” You can subscribe to the monthly SKMurphy newsletter using the form at the right
Strategies for a Winning Sales Presentation
We’ve all seen it–people listening to a sales presentation, eyes glazed over and their minds wandering anywhere but on what the speaker is saying. As an entrepreneur, whether you’re selling yourself or your products and services, it’s critical to avoid the missteps that put prospects to sleep and kill the deal.
The last chapter in Theodore Zeldin‘s “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives” lists 36 topics for conversation. I have selected thirteen I think would lead to a serious conversation between entrepreneurs and listed them below (retaining their original number) along with some additional commentary.
My interview with Gabriel Weinberg was originally published Sep-8-2010. He was doing research for what became his fantastic book Traction. We talked for the better part of an hour and a half and I can remember he kept returning in different ways to what was needed to close your first dozen enterprise customers.
He recently reorganized his site and made a fresh start on his blog. I have made some small formatting changes and added links to other blog posts I have written since the interview that elaborate on some of the points that I made. This content was originally at http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2010/09/sean-murphy-on-the-first-1-6-enterprise-customers.html.
Q: In your blog post “Four Presentation Traps to Avoid” (which drew on Mike Monteiro’s “13 Ways Designers Screw Up a Client Presentation” which I found overall to be very valuable) you highlighted his item 4 “Not setting the stage properly” which ends with “Start the meeting by thanking them for their time.”
I feel this puts you below the prospect or customer as a supplicant. Your time is just as valuable. It’s a minor thing but I suggest “I’m glad we could all find the time to meet today.” or something that puts you at least level with who you are presenting to in terms of the value of your time.
Mike Monteiro offered “13 Ways Designers Screw Up a Client Presentation–And One Weird Trick” in a Sep-13-2014 blog post: many of these are also applicable to entrepreneurs making presentations to prospects. The whole article is worth reading, here are my top four presentation traps to avoid from his list (I have retained Monteiro’s numbering scheme).
Here are ten tips for managing new product demos to prospects. While it’s always a good idea to preview inside the team and perhaps call in some favors for “friendly fire” review, at some point you have to bite the bullet and start giving new product demos to prospects. Here are my top ten tips (or lessons learned) for a new product demo:
The best demo–a Great Demo!--is a conversations driven by mutual curiosity. Your goal is to learn more about a prospect’s current situation and needs while they want to learn more about your product and services and how you can help them.
“Before I demo to you, why don’t you demo to me what you are currently using?”
If a customer has an existing software system, this can be a wonderful way to understand the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in their current system–particularly from the customer’s point of view. They’ll tell you what they like, what they hate, what’s missing and a range of other delightful Discovery information.
Additionally, this also inverts the traditional process of the vendor presenting to the customer, to one of the customer presenting to the vendor–an experience often remembered by the customer as remarkable and interestingly different!
Q: My research focused on the assessment of atherosclerosis in coronary arteries using Computed Tomography examinations as the imaging modality. I have looked at various aspects of atherosclerosis such as volume scores, automatic extraction of anatomical structures, plaque detection, dual energy CT and plaque distribution patterns. I am new to the lean innovation methods and am having difficulty applying methods like minimum viable product (MVP) in my industry, medical imaging, which is heavily regulated. I cannot see how to do incremental updates given the level of regulatory sign-off required.
We have worked with a number of medical instrument and “medical workflow” startups who face this challenge in different ways. And our work on the BeamWise team has led to a number of conversations with medical imaging and instrumentation companies developing new products.
Lean Innovation: Established Firms Vs. Startups
An established firm with existing customers should invest effort in instrumenting current offerings to get a better handle on actual use and duty cycle, and allow the technicians/researchers/doctors to provide feedback in context (at point of care or point of use) for shortcomings or issues. More simply, take a hard look at how folks are using your current product before proposing something new.
Startups need to separate the challenges of image collection from the usability. For new modalities of image collection you need to work with research groups to be able to get access to tissue samples or live subjects depending upon your application. Often a veterinary or agricultural application is an easier way in than aiming directly at human subject applications, once you have established the usefulness finding teams that want to work with you on human subjects becomes easier. If your primary worry (or innovation) is more about usability or image presentation then you can work from “canned” image data sets and pay technicians, researchers, or doctors to take part in feedback sessions where they interact with the images produced (perhaps in the context of your user interface) and give you feedback.
Net net, even though the final configuration is subject to rigorous review you can find ways to test different critical aspects of your product and iterate without having to get final approval.
Consider Attending Great Demo Workshop
You might also consider our October 15-16 “Great Demo” workshop, a number of medical imaging firms have attended over the years and have found that Peter Cohan offered a number of valuable insights they were able to incorporate into their discovery conversations and demos of new products.
- Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/
great-demo-workshop-on- october-15-16-2014- registration-8886962143
- Briefing on Great Demo methodology Recap of How to Give a Great Demo
You are also welcome to schedule a no cost office hours session if you want to talk further and have us help you design some experiments to move your MVP forward.
Managing key commitments to customers is essential to closing deals and preventing churn. Getting a customer the correct answer to a question is a critical sales and support skill: the first step is to write down the question when you don’t know the answer.
Write Down Key Commitments
My second “real job” was doing pre and post sales support at a software startup. I had been hired at the same time as an older and more experienced engineer and after about two weeks on the job he took me aside and advised, “buy a notebook and write down any commitments you make and any questions you promise to get answers for.” He was about eight years older so I figured his memory had started to go. Also, he was not my boss. I ignored him.
Within about six weeks I had missed a few deliveries on promised items or answers and it was clear that I had mis-assessed. So I started to carry a lab notebook and write down summaries of every conversation. I included details to jog my memory like date, time, location, attendees and highlighted any commitments I made or answers that I promised.
I learned that the act of writing down a commitment in front of the customer and then replaying it for confirmation underscored that I was actually listening. At the end of the meeting I would summarize all of my commitments (or “action items”) and any questions I needed to research for a final check.
Write Down Key Questions
Later I learned a technique called “the parking lot” where you write down on a flip chart or white board any questions you that either want to defer to later in conversation or you need to research. I then discovered that once I started to hold myself accountable in a public way in a meeting I could also include commitments that others had made or questions that they had promised to research in my closing summary and now we were all jointly accountable.
There is a strong temptation to avoid saying “I don’t know” and to guess at an answer or to provide a partial answer. For complex technical questions, answers that you may score as “mostly correct” tend to be rated as “you wasted my time with a wrong answer” by the customer.
In particular in a pre-sales situation saying “I don’t know, let me get back to you this afternoon (or tomorrow or next week depending upon urgency and complexity)” makes your other answers more credible because you have shown that you are willing to admit when you don’t know.
In my next job I was surprised when my boss’ boss would say, “I don’t know” clearly and frequently and I came to appreciate that “I don’t know” is actually an answer that is a hallmark of expertise. Experts know where their knowledge ends and are willing to label speculation as speculation so as not to intentionally mislead.
Some Refinements For Remote Meetings
- In a Skype session I take notes of what the other person is saying in the text chat. This demonstrates that I am actually listening and allows them to correct something I have gotten wrong or to add a key point that I didn’t include in my notes. When the session is done I have already documented it and had it reviewed by the other attendees so I can mail out the transcript if I am pressed for time, or take 10-30 minutes refine and summarize in addition to providing my raw notes.
- The option for shared note taking by contributing to the chat also encourages the other participants to add their own notes. If many people are on the call the text chat can also allow one or more chat-based conversations to proceed in parallel.
- You can also run a separate chat window just for your team so that you have a back channel to enable better coordination. Be careful you are typing public notes in the public chat and private notes in the private chat. Typing a public note in the private chat has an effect similar to waiting for an answer after you commented when your mike is mute. Typing a private note in the public window can be much more problematic – don’t write anything you would not want disclosed accidentally.
- Shared note taking works if you want to use Google Docs or Primary Pad or another shared edit platform that allows for realtime update by multiple people.
- In a webinar or screen sharing session open a Notepad or Word Doc or text file and type your “parking lot” notes into it as you are walking through a presentation or demo. As you go back you can turn them into strikethrough text or put an [x] in the front of each item as you complete it. You are left with a set of action items you can then confirm need to be address–and by when–for all parties as appropriate.
Related Blog Posts
- Are You Using a Realtime Shared Document Editing Tools? Let’s Compare Notes
- The Benefits of Collaborative Writing, Interviewing, and Improvisation
- Debugging Teams/Meetings: Start With Goals & Roles
- Social Software Speeds Team Decision Making
- Three Features for a webinar or conference call
- How Do Blogs and Wikis Help Me Collaborate With My Customers?
- Presales Anxiety: Not Knowing All of the Answers by Peter Cohan
- Updated Conference Call Meeting Tips by Nancy White
- Using the Parking Lot by Rick Brenner
- Meeting Tools: Using the Issue Bin by Kevin Eikenberry
- Conference call practices to generate knowledge and record learning by John D. Smith and Shawn Callahan
- Combining Conference Call With a Wiki by Shawn Callahan
- A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy by Clay Shirky
(in particular in Part Two: Why Now starting at “I’ll start a conference call.”)
- Project Management for Work that Matters by Seth Godin
Distinguish tools vs. methods vs. policies. Tools that support a range of methods and policies are much more useful a and much more likely to get used.