Peter Cohan

How Would You Feel If…? A Hospital Example of Daily-use vs. Set-up Mode

Imagine you go to the hospital emergency room because you think you may have broken a bone in your arm…

You arrive and:

  • The ER admissions person greets you, but then takes you through a presentation of how the hospital was built, where the funding came from, the key leadership, some of their famous customers, and their locations around the country…
  • After 15 minutes, he finally goes through the forms.
  • (Your arm hurts more and is swelling…)

After finally being admitted, you are taken to the X-Ray Department, where:

  • The ER nurse describes how to set up the X-Ray apparatus and the other imaging equipment, then discusses the network requirements and infrastructure needed to move high resolution images throughout the hospital, followed by showing you many of the nuances of the Department’s new equipment…
  • After 20 minutes, she then runs the scans.
  • (Your arm has gotten really large and hurts very, very much…)

You are taken to a room and are told that a doctor will be with you shortly.  She enters, says hello, and:

  • She logs into the hospital Electronic Health Records system, noting how easy it is set up a new doctor in the system with all of the required documentation, including current (and future) training status, specialties, hours, patients, tasks and current appointments for the day.  She shows how to add new info to the doctor’s record and how to set up a series of appointments for the next week.  She offers comments about how privacy and security are paramount and are maintained in the system, and shows how two-factor authentication works. 
  • After 25 minutes, she locates your record and reviews the completed X-Ray scans.  She concludes that you have a broken arm that needs to be set.
  • (Your arm is huge and has gone numb…)

The doctor leaves the room, noting that a nurse will be in shortly to bandage, splint and put a cast on your arm.  A few minutes later, he enters and:

  • He describes the history of bandaging, splints and casts, from medieval times to the present, followed by detailing the chemistry of how casts are formed, noting the impact of temperature, humidity and air pressure on the resulting plaster.  He then reviews the options for mixing the plaster, depending on the expected duration of use, the size and location of the cast, and finally whether the cast will be expected to support no use, occasional use, or light-continual use.
  • 30 minute later, he mixes and sets the cast on your arm.
  • (Which still hurts like hoo-ha, but the pain medication portion of this story will come another time…)

So:  How is this experience different from a demo where the presenter shows “Set-up Mode” functionality for each module, before getting to “Daily-use Mode” operation? 

For solutions on how and when to present Set-up Mode vs. Daily-use Mode, see my article

Rescue – From the Tyranny of Traditional Demos

Ask yourself:

·      Have you ever felt like you have far too much to show in a demo – and insufficient time to show it? 
·      Have you ever said, “I’d like this to be interactive…” but you don’t get many questions?
·      And when you ask, “Any questions so far?” you hear, “Nope, we’re good…”
·      Have you even run out of time before you got to the best stuff?
·      Have you ever felt like your audience just didn’t “get it”?

You are likely suffering from the tyranny, the terror, and the trap of traditional demos.

The Tyranny

Traditional demos force us to present as much as we can in the allotted time.  We talk rapidly, mouse vigorously and cover as much demo territory as we can.  There is so much to show – and an hour is simply not enough time…

And it gets worse with each new release – all of those new capabilities to highlight!

The Terror

Has this ever happened?

“I promised them an overview demo…” reports the salesperson, “…and it’s a huge opportunity!”

We respond, “What do we know about the customer?”

“They are really interested…” is the response, “and they need to see a demo right away!”

We jump onto a web session and start our demo, only to realize that the customer is completely unfamiliar with our offerings and we know very little about them…  We pump up the energy in our delivery to try to connect with the audience, but they aren’t very responsive…

It feels like the more we show, the less they respond – we’ve entered terrifying territory – a place without time or dimension – we’ve entered The Traditional Demo Zone…!

The Traditional Trap

When a demo is first created for a new product, it is typically short and well-focused – there’s simply not that much to show.  With each successive release, demos get longer as new capabilities and workflows are added. 

Don’t we want to show the new stuff that’s just been released?  Don’t we want to show the latest and greatest?  Oh, and the slightly older stuff is also good, and the earlier stuff has some really cool capabilities and…

Release after release, year after year, our demos grow inexorably…!  And what fit nicely into an hour originally couldn’t possibly be done in an hour – so now we’ll do an hour-long overview and then schedule a deep dive…

But wait, there’s more terror in this trap…

Each time we hear a question that is asked by more than one customer, what do we do?  We add the answer to that question to our growing talk-track.  Not only do we need to cover more features and functions, but we also need to address all the questions we’ve heard more than once. 

We’re trapped!  There’s just too much to demo to do it well…!

And Our Customers’ Perceptions?

What about our customers – what are they thinking during these demos? 

“Wow – this looks really complicated…”
“This is more than we need…”
 “Where is this going…?”
“I just got lost – what are they talking about now?”
“Hmmm – just got a text I need to respond to…”
“And might as well check email…”
“Did they just ask us something?  Must have missed it…”
“Is this an hour meeting?”
“I wonder what I’ll have for lunch…”

Oh-oh…  And what are they saying after the demo, when we (the vendor) are gone?

“Well, that’s an hour I’ll never get back…”
“They don’t understand our business at all…”
“I got completely lost…”
“It looked really complicated and confusing…”
“Who invited those guys in…?”

Not good.  How did we get into this predicament?  We built traditional demos, that’s how…

The Traditional Approach to Building the Traditional Demo

The customary approach for creating demos is to outline a long story – “end-to-end” – designed to cover all of the workflows and capabilities, using a handful of fictional characters to tie things together.  Demos become training sessions, describing how to navigate the interface, how to customize for specific user types, how to set up forms, dashboards, create and edit records, enter and update supplementary data, walk through multiple interrelated workflows and (eventually) customize and run reports.  Very little is left out – “we need to communicate the full value of our offering…”

Intricate interdependencies seek to link disparate parts of the demo together:

We say, “Remember the record that we created for ‘Jane’ an hour ago?” 

Customer thinks, “Nope…”

We plunge on, “Now we’ll show how to take that information and edit it as Jane’s manager Jack and then pass it on to John and Jill in marketing and accounting…”

Customer is checking phone…

We say, “There are several ways you can do this…”

Customer wonders, “Is there a way out of this room?”

These demos often show multiple ways to accomplish individual tasks (why would a user want to see anything but the fastest possible way?).  Traditional demos attempt to show way too much – and strangely, not enough of what the customer actually wants to see. 

Wasted Time, Wasted Demos

And it gets worse…!  In theory, the more demos we do, the bigger the pipeline, correct?  Well, in theory…

But let’s examine.  How many demos that we deliver we know were simply a waste of time?  25%?  33%?  50%?  (Please don’t say more than 50% - that’s simply too painful…)

So we do more and more and more demos to try to fill the pipeline.  And the faster we go, the behinder we get (to paraphrase Lewis Carroll).  Our true productivity is frankly pretty poor – but it is not our fault!  (Or is it, at least partly?)

We are caught in the terrible, tyrannical trap of traditional demos.  There must be a way out…!

A Refreshing Approach – and Rescue

First, let’s invest a few healthy minutes in doing Discovery, before offering any substantive demo.  That alone would be a huge improvement…

But our sales colleague said they want a demo right away…!  We understand that – but let’s push back, gently but firmly, and use part of that “overview demo” meeting to do enough Discovery to enable a focused, customer-centric demo to be put together. 

Let’s stop guessing.  Let’s stop assuming that one demo fits all users.

Let’s use the Menu Approach to help our customer understand what high-level solutions are possible and enable them to self-qualify by letting them choose the Menu items of most interest to them.

Once they’ve selected a few topics, we’ll share brief Vision Generation Demos to provide our customer with a vision of what is possible – and to enable the Discovery conversation to take place.

And during our Discovery conversation, we provided some intriguing insights that lead to capabilities competitively biased in our favor.  Now we’ve got what we need to put together a truly Great Demo!

We know what Specific Capabilities we need to show in the demo – so we can leave out everything else that is not of interest to the customer – how refreshing!

We know what key deliverables the customer wants to consume – so we show those right up front, to engage our customer and begin a real conversation – and make our demo truly interactive.  How wonderful!

By knowing what is important for the various players, we can manage questions to avoid being dragged down rabbit holes or get lost in the weeds.  How delightful!

And we can organize our demo in accord with the relative importance and availability of the key players, engaging executive first, then middle managers, staffer/users and ultimately administrators and super-users.  How elegant!

Now our demos are crisp, prospects’ needs are clearly addressed, and the sales process moves forward productively.  And we’ve reduced the number of wasted demos substantially.  How productive!

And our lives take a pleasant turn for the better, as well – and since we do many fewer wasted demos, we have more time to prepare for the demos that really matter.  Rescue is at hand!

Excelsior!  Forward!  Banish the Traditional Demo Tyranny!

If you seek liberation from the tyranny of traditional demos, consider making a change.  And not a small, incremental, get-a-little-bit-better-but-still-do-largely-the-same-things change – make a real change.  A step change – a substantive change that will likely change your life…

Throw off the shackles of the old traditional approach – embrace a new, delightfully effective approach to creating and delivering demos. 

When you do, you’ll hear your customers say to you, “Wow – that was a Great Demo!”

Copyright © 2018 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

For information on Great Demo! Workshops, as well as more articles on demonstration effectiveness skills and methods, visit our website at  For demo tips, best practices, tools and techniques, join the Great Demo! LinkedIn Group.

Stunningly Awful Sales Outcomes – the Opportunity That Just Wouldn’t Close

Getting Critical Dates from prospects is very often neglected, but is surprisingly significant…  There are typically three reasons why a sales opportunity goes to “No Decision”:

  1. Customer agrees there is a problem, but doesn’t perceive it as Critical
  2. Customer doesn’t see the Value
  3. There is no Critical Date by when a solution needs to be in place (from the customer’s viewpoint)

Let’s look at number 3…  Far too often, customers just can’t seem to “pull the trigger” and make the purchase.  Let’s explore…

We ask, “Isn’t the problem important for you to solve?”  Customer responds, “Oh yes…!”

We ask and note, “Don’t you see the value – and that you are losing more and more of that value every day…”  Customer sighs and says, “Oh yes, the value is terrific – and I hate losing that value every day…!”

We then ask, “Then what is holding you back from making the purchase?”  Customer responds, “I don’t know…!”

They agree the problem is huge, they see the value, but they just can’t take that one additional step to make the purchase.  Why?  People are willing to live with the hell that they know – forever – unless they have a Critical Date or Event that forces them to make the change and implement.  (Anyone ever procrastinate writing a college or university paper until juuuuuuust before the deadline?)

Sadly, most sales teams think in terms of their own quarter-ends as the “Critical Date” – and it is a Critical Date, but for the sales team, not the customer!

During Discovery, ask if the customer has a date by when they need to have a solution in place (and why).  Here are a few Critical Dates and Events could serve as examples for discussion:

  • Any major changes in your business expected in the near future – acquisitions, divestitures, new building, a move, reorganization or major new hires or retires?
  • Any compliance or regulatory events on the near horizon – audits, compliance reports, new regulations going into place?
  • End of life or end of support for existing software or equipment?
  • End of your fiscal year or quarter?
  • Does your budget go away if not spent by a date?
  • Project deadline?
  • New project expected?
  • Kickoff or quarterly meeting?
  • Selling season(s) – e.g., Summer Holidays, Halloween, Winter Holidays?
  • Tax season?
  • Board meeting?

Critical Dates can be hard to get if you haven’t made it a habit in your Discovery conversations…  

When speaking with my prospects for Great Demo! Workshops, once a customer sounds like he/she is seriously interested in a session, I’ll ask something like, “Do you have any plans to have the team together in the next few months – for example, for a sales kickoff meeting, quarterly inquisition, or similar event?”  This helps to precipitate the customer’s thinking about when specifically to schedule a session.  I’ll note that “other customers in similar situations added a day or two to their meeting plan – which saved them substantial travel costs, since the flights would already have been in the plan for the original meeting…”

Based on the nature of your customer’s business, you might suggest a few of these and see if there is a reaction.  What you’d like to hear would be, “Oh yeah – I hadn’t thought of this in terms of BLANK – great suggestion!”  At which point you’d gently (but firmly) pursue it…

Any other suggestions?

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