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Whiteboard every time

whiteboard presentingGeeky types (of which I am one) often debate the pros and cons of software tools. No more so than when it comes to presentation software. Powerpoint is so omnipresent that the word is now almost interchangeable with “presentation” e.g. “She came in and gave a Powerpoint”. However younger, more creative and frankly better-looking folks trumpet the benefits of Keynote when it comes to winning that advertising account. Meantime at the bleeding edge those in the know may use Prezi with its hypnotic, swirling transformations.

Despite my geeky tendencies I suggest that the best tool for sales presentations is a good old fashioned whiteboard. Let me explain why.

Should you be presenting at all?

As we are often reminded, we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that ratio. Our most important goal is to understand the needs of the customer so that we can figure out if/how we can help them. Too often I’ve seen sales and marketing people arrive, exchange pleasantries and then launch with relish into an hour long Powerpoint presentation on how great their company is. Telling isn’t selling.

But I’ve got to tell them something at some point!

Sure you do. At some point the customer will ask you about your company and products. The whole idea is to have a two-way conversation with them, so you can’t keep asking questions forever. It’s not the Spanish Inquisition! But you don’t have to do this as a major presentation. You can tell them the relevant facts about your company and products face-to-face and leave them with the collateral material to back that up.

So where does the whiteboard come in?

The whiteboard is excellent to help test your understanding of the customer’s problem/opportunity and how you can help them. If you start sketching this out on the whiteboard the customer will immediately start correcting you, filling in the gaps and giving you feedback. When you start drawing in how your product can help the effect is more immediate, obvious and relevant. It’s not unusual for a customer to grab a marker and join you… suddenly you’re working together!

Why else?

  • It’s spontaneous and enthusiastic so breaks up and enlivens what might
    otherwise be a dull meeting
  • Once you stand up and grab the marker you are in charge!
  • It’s reliable. As long as there’s ink in the pens (keep one in your bag) a whiteboard can’t crash! We’ve all suffered from computer woes when presenting like this unfortunate TED presenter.
  • There are no distracting special effects. Prezi is a very cool tool, but I often wonder if people are concentrating on the zooming and whirling effects rather than the message.
  • You get to show your competence and understanding of their requirements. Any fool can read from a ppt slide

So it may not be right for every situation, but next time you get the chance leap to your feet and start “talking and chalking”.

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It’ll be alright on the night… the art of the demo

It’ll be alright on the night…
Being in tech sales has certain pluses and minuses. One of the pluses is that you get to see lots of cool technology before the guy on the street. One of the minuses is that you sometimes get to demo to state-of-the-art stuff before all of the wrinkles have been ironed-out.
If has a pound (or even dollar) for every time I’d sat in a customer meeting trying to divert attention while an applications engineer colleague desperately tried to get a piece of kit to work I’d be a rich man.
Although to a certain extent this comes with the territory there are some things you can do to minimise your chances of embarrassment…
Don’t just do a demo because you can. This is a “throw it at the wall” and see what sticks strategy. Have a very clear understanding of what the customer needs, what you want to show them and how this will advance the sale.
As the old British Army adage says “Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. Do a dry run before the customer meeting. Do this far enough in advance of the customer meeting that you can fix any problems that you might find. In the dry run replicate exactly what you are going to show the customer.
If you have one, take a spare. If the demo is a really important one (for instance you are going to be on stage at a major trade show) send the spare via a different route. That way if your luggage gets lost or stolen you aren’t left empty-handed.
Take all the hardware you will need. If you rely on hooking-up to a piece of customer equipment it might not work the way you expect.
Don’t let anyone else tinker with your equipment! I can recall several demos where the apps engineer to have to stop and hacek for 10 minutes because someone else had used the machine and changed the Unix directory structure.
Be open with the customer about the state of the product. Better to explain in advance that they are really lucky to be seeing something hot out of the labs… but it’s not quite there yet, than to give them the impression it’s tried and tested… and then watch it fall over.
Get feedback from the customer as you go along…
“Is that useful to you?”,
“Does that explain how you would implement feature xyz in your abc?”
“Is that enough performance for you application?”.
Try and get feedback on other demos they may have seen from competitors. Be subtle… ask how yours shapes-up, not for exact data on your competition.
If the customer doesn’t seem to be liking something ask them why. It might be something that you can easily rectify or a simple misunderstanding.
So good luck with your product demos. I guess demos really act as accelerators of the sales process. Done correctly it can move you quickly to a close, done badly it you can move you quickly back to thebeginning.

Preparing for the big demo

Preparing for the big demo

Preparing for the big demo

Preparing for the big demo

Being in tech sales has certain pluses and minuses. One of the pluses is that you get to see lots of cool technology before the guy on the street. One of the minuses is that you sometimes get to demo state-of-the-art stuff before all of the wrinkles have been ironed-out.

If I had a pound (or dollar) for every time I’d sat in a customer meeting trying to divert attention while an applications engineer colleague desperately tried to get a piece of kit to work I’d be a rich man.

Although to a certain extent this comes with the territory there are some things you can do to minimise your chances of embarrassment…

    • Don’t just do a demo because you can. That would be a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” strategy. Have a very clear understanding of what the customer needs, what you want to show them and how this will advance the sale.
    • As the old British Army adage says “Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. Do a dry run before the customer meeting. Do this far enough in advance of the customer meeting that you can fix any problems that you might find. In the dry run replicate exactly what you are going to show the customer.
    • If you have one, take a spare. If the demo is a really important one (for instance you are going to be on stage at a major trade show) send the spare via a different route. That way if your luggage gets lost or stolen you aren’t left empty-handed.
    • Take all the hardware you will need. If you rely on hooking-up to a piece of customer equipment it might not work the way you expect.
    • Don’t let anyone else tinker with your equipment! I can recall several demos where an apps engineer had to stop and hack for 10 minutes because someone else had used the machine and changed the Unix directory structure.
    • Be open with the customer about the state of the product. Better to explain in advance that they are really lucky to be seeing something hot out of the labs… but it’s not quite there yet, than to give them the impression it’s tried and tested… and then watch it fall over.
    • Get feedback from the customer as you go along…

“Is that useful to you?”,
“Does that explain how you would implement feature xyz in your abc?”
“Is that enough performance for you application?”.

  • Try and get feedback on other demos they may have seen from competitors. Be subtle… ask how yours shapes-up, not for exact data on your competition.
  • If the customer doesn’t seem to be liking something ask them why. It might be something that you can easily rectify or a simple misunderstanding.

So good luck with your product demos. I guess demos really act as accelerators of the sales process. Done correctly it can move you quickly to a close, done badly it you can move you quickly back to the beginning.

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