Tag Archives: Rock-Stars

Oh the Places You’ll Go

At a recent team meeting, I conducted a brainstorming session about where you can go from the Pre-Sales role in your career.

What would you think of someone who was…

Self-motivated, decisive, skilled at presenting, loved to learn something new, knew customers, listened well, understood a variety of industries, sought solutions to problems, was skilled at managing projects, dealing with situations, and enjoyed thinking, writing, and managing their own time?

Would you think Sales? Executive Leadership? How about Marketing Communications, Product Management or a People Manager?  Why not Business Operations, Strategic Alliances, Industry Expert or a Global Account Manager?  Getting outside our own little world, wouldn’t such a person make a great entrepreneur, politician, parent, writer or keynote speaker?

Pre-Sales demands a broad and deep set of interpersonal, business, and organizational skills.  Doing this job is a non-stop professional skills exercise program.

We all knew people within our own organization who had passed through this role to become anything from demonstration technical support to members of the board.  And many who had stayed right where they were, because that’s where the action was.

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Five Minute Demo

From way outside the enterprise software space, here is a pair of demonstrations we can learn from.

I would buy this product based on this fundamentally sound,* informative, and compelling demonstration:**

Let’s dissect it just a little:

  • A quick “hello, here’s what we’re going to be talking about”
  • Brief demo on his own terms of the product to give us a taste
  • Educational review of the major features, and what it does
  • Deeper demo showing the real use cases we care about and the resulting variety and power of the product we care about
  • Brief summary, praise, and call to action

There was joy and enthusiasm on the part of the presenter from the opening seconds, and he showed us enough to let our imaginations fill in the rest.  Wouldn’t you love to be able to coax your own sounds out of this unit?  Don’t you want to discover what else it can do?

I wouldn’t buy this product based on this rambling checklist:***

Let’s rip it apart:

  • Hello, here’s what we’re going to talk about
  • Tangential, distracting story
  • Long technical feature-function training course
  • More features and functions
  • Even more features and functions
  • Ineffective and out of place cross-selling pitch
  • Finally, demo!  …Well, ten seconds of demo, then back to the training class and another cross-selling pitch
  • Ten seconds of demo, thirty seconds of explanation; repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Thanks for watching, for more information go to the website

There was no joy on the part of the presenter.  Does he even like playing guitar?  Nothing was left to the imagination, no stone left unturned, and you walk away thinking “that’s all it does.”

* Sure, it could have used a little more editing and another draft.
** I did, actually.
*** From the manufacturer’s rep!
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Your Competition is out there

On YouTube, actually.

While your engagements will keep you busy discovering, preparing, presenting, and following up, it’s a good practice to check out your competition once in a while.

Watch their demos.  Take notes.  Observe what they say versus what they show.  They reveal an awful lot about themselves in a few short minutes.*  See if you can duplicate their use cases with your solutions.

Your customers are watching these demos too**, so you’d better be familiar with the expectations they’ll have of you.  These demos are the table-stakes in the game.  The better ones will set the competitive bar.  Match the competition’s bid, raise ’em, and call.

You should be knowledgeable enough of your competition to do a better job positioning their solutions than they would.

Because you’re the best.

*Or longer.  Customer conference keynotes, training classes, customer stories, future visions, press releases, and more are available to you within a few clicks.
** When your prospective customer searches for videos about your solution, what will they find?
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Imagine the following phrases uttered in a customer engagement:

“Most companies I see…”

“Jump in! This is for you!”

(While snapping fingers) “Very, very quick.”

“Everyone loves the mobility.  It’s fantastic.”

Customer: “Our biggest issue has always been data gathering.”  Response, without missing a beat, “Well, let’s talk about that then.”

“This is something new and cool.”

“When our customers have needs, we move quickly.”

“I want to tell you a secret.  Can I tell you a secret?”

When you get the opportunity to watch a peer present, take it.  And take notes.  All of these gems* were dug up in a single morning’s demo.

*Regardless of solution-space or industry, phrases like this are examples of the highest level of professionalism in any demonstration of technology.  What customer (or sales rep, our other audience) wouldn’t be thrilled to conduct a conversation in this manner?
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Inner Monologue

Experience has taught me to listen to my experience.

When faced with different situations, my inner monologue* kicks in and starts feeding me nuggets of advice:

  • You’ve done this before
  • Don’t stress- you can’t know what’s going to happen in this meeting
  • Trust in your teammates in the room
  • Qualify that question, don’t answer it right away
  • Pounce! Now!  Close it!
  • Step in and save this
  • You know more about this one than they do
  • They know more about this one than you do
  • I never thought of it that way
  • It’s okay to be wrong on this one
  • You’re giving them a lot of information, building on credibility
  • It’s not about you

Listen to the advice your inner monologue feeds you.  You’ve spent years developing it.

*It’s not a dialogue- I don’t converse with it, I listen to it.

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Cost Savings

We all travel.  Now and again we’re challenged to save costs.  I did some brainstorming and here are some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Bring a bus.  It’s much more fuel efficient per-person to use a bus.
  • Double-shot for only a dollar more costs less than two single-shots.
  • Use your children as cheap resources for keying demo data.  Not everyone can do this, of course, but it’s another good reason to adopt.  And the schools will take care of them pretty much the rest of the time.
  • Don’t key in demo data.  It’s Widgets for John Smith at Acme Corp and you’ve got a demo for every customer regardless of industry.
  • Use your competition’s free version of their CRM product to keep your sales teams up to date.
  • Visit two clients on the same day in the same city on one business trip.  Nah, that’s too much coordination.
  • A simple rhyme: Red eye flights save a hotel night.
  • Staying with relatives (even distant ones) makes trips that much more exciting.
  • Roommates. It could lead to something special.
  • Skip breakfast.  Oh, wait, we do that anyway.  No cost savings there.  Wait!  Skip lunch too!
  • If you insist on breakfast, just walk on into a Hampton Inn or Fairfield Suites like you own the place- grab some food and coffee and Sit down.  You don’t actually have to stay there.  I mean, stay at the Marriott and eat at the Fairfield. The omelets at Embassy Suites are cooked to order!
  • I’ve noticed the price of coffee is inversely related to its quality:
    • Starbucks: $4.00- bitter
    • Dunkin Donuts- $2.25 and a way of life
    • MacDonald’s Newman’s Own: Tasty and hot (but not too hot) off the $1.00 value meal and quick at the drive-thru
    • Best deal:  64 ounce Big-Gulp of Mountain Dew at 7-11:  89
  • Buzz cuts save on shampoo.
  • Shampoo is also available for free in most hotels.  Steal it from housekeeping’s carts and stuff your bags.  Oh, wait, that’s a home expense saving tip.  Well, since we’re off topic anyway… dogs can be washed with free hotel shampoo.
  • Pay in Euros.  That’s one of those currency conversion economics things.
  • Post-its are cheaper than note-pads and quicker than power-points.  Ask to use the customer’s Post-its and raid their office supply cabinet when their back is turned.  See, now we’re saving travel and office expenses.
  • Take audience outside to point out your cloud solutions.  Most effective on a rainy day.  Saves development costs.  You can also take advantage of that shampoo.
  • Charge the audience admission.  I mean, we’re entertaining, right?  Why should travel be a cost center?  Make it a profit center!  Pass the hat around in the middle of the demo.
  • Wait a few months to submit expense reports.
  • Book travel to other departments’ cost-centers.
    • This will also improve gross margin on sales and thereby increase commissions.
  • Reduce cost of expense processing by outsourcing it to another country while simultaneously making the process more tedious for highly compensated employees by having them scan their receipts into PDF documents and then upload them into expense automation software rather than jamming the receipts into a prepaid envelope for interns to sort through.  Apparently the cost of a stamp is greater than the cost of half an hour spent taping, scanning, saving, file-moving, and uploading.  What?  I’m supposed to do that on my own time?
  • Just have payroll reject every 15th expense line item.  Often, those who submit them won’t notice.  If they do notice, it’s too much effort to resubmit the report and they let it go.
  • Leave the sales reps at home.  They’re just taking up space and buying dinner anyway.


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Speed dating

This is when it all comes together.

I have 44 minutes, a cryptic spreadsheet of 40 requirements, a briefing, and some customer knowledge to work with.

I’m going to mix it all together with some eggs, a demo, and a fresh powerpoint and bake a demo cake.

This is fun!

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That’s his prerogative

When all the preparation is done, when all the stories are prepared, when all the data is set for stunning execution, it’s still the prerogative of the key customer in the audience to say something like…

“I don’t need to see the whole day-in-the-life demo and how a user goes about creating this or that- I just have a few key questions.”

That’s his prerogative, and it’s an invitation to step up and play some tough one-on-one.

It’s just you and him.  You’re ready.  It’s what you’ve really been preparing for.  Knock him out with all you’ve got.

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Drummers Wanted

The “Rock Band” video game can teach you to drum. It gives you a real-world challenge and you have to apply real drumming techniques to succeed.  With repetition, your skills increase and you learn to play the drums.

Conversely,  “Rock Band” cannot teach you how to play guitar.  It gives you watered down challenges and you can get away with a simplified technique.  It’s superficial.

In the world of Pre-Sales, one road helps you develop an in-depth understanding of business over time.  The other leads to a career in marketing.

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“Good luck with that”

Have you ever shared a dream or a goal with someone to have them respond, “good luck with that?”

What fatalism. How cynical.

Prove them wrong.

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