Your sales demo is boring. It doesn’t have to be.

Sales demos are almost always boring

You know your product. Even though the product is easy, you take the time to write the documentation to explain it. You spend a lot of time explaining it to people, like when you hire someone or bring on a new customer. You walk through the product and show what each feature does and talk about how customers get value out of it. This is called a training. Trainings are useful and important.

Then you get in front of a prospect and what do you do? You start explaining the product to them. You start training your prospect. How horrible. You can do better.

Think trailer, not training.

The best sales demos are like movie trailers. Movie trailers sell movies. Movies are the product. Your demo is not a movie, it’s a trailer. Trailers give the audience:

  • The basic premise, the conflict or question: man vs. nature, buddy-cop comedy romp, feel-good coming-of-age, “what if” dystopian future, etc.
  • The look and feel – dark, upbeat, fast-paced, contemplative, whimsical, inspiring
  • The main characters – the folks at the heart of the conflict, especially the protagonist
  • The cast – do I like these actresses and actors?

And perhaps most importantly, effective trailers leave the audience wanting more. Leaving stuff out, even some of the best moments, is the key. The best demos don’t end with a salesperson asking “did I cover everything?” They end with the prospect saying “I want to bring a friend to see this.”

Life is pain

Think about your prospect as the main character or protagonist of their own life story. They have some kind of conflict, pain, problem, goal or something. The demo should begin with a question that gets the prospect to clearly state their relevant pain/goal. Their pain is the conflict, and your product should be the resolution to that conflict. The whole thing should revolve around them, or they won’t pay attention.

You’re not too good for a script

This should go without saying, but it needs to be said: don’t just wing it. Create a script. Not just an outline, a real script. Spielberg uses them; you should too. It doesn’t mean you ever deliver it word-for-word but write it anyway. Here’s how to create your script.

1) Make a list of the points you want to make.

The best thing you can do to improve your demos is to decide what you are trying to prove. Put it in writing. Don’t start by thinking about what features you want to show. Instead, think about the attributes of the product you want the client to believe. Is it easy-to-use, flexible, compatible, powerful? Make your list short – just 3 or 4 things. These attributes may be the seemingly obvious essence of your product. They should be the attributes that differentiate you from your competitors,

2) List how you’ll prove your point with features

For each point, list the parts of the product you can show that prove the point

What features best prove the points you are trying to make? You don’t need to show every feature. In fact, don’t. Skip most things. Your audience is bright. They will figure it out.

What to cut

  • Don’t show obvious stuff. No one is excited about your date picker.
  • If you can’t “show” it, cut it. For features without a UI, either use a graphic or don’t talk about it. The audience only remembers what it sees.
  • Leave out the details of the features, unless they have serious sex-appeal. I know, I know, your team has worked incredibly hard on some feature that was extremely difficult and completely unsexy. Resist the urge to show it because it was hard.

3) Use Narratives to String together features

This is where you start to organize and order your demo. The natural tendency is to let the layout of the screen guide your demo. Instead, let the storyline drive. That means there will be some stuff on each screen that you don’t talk about. (Remember that’s a good thing.)

You’ll concentrate the power of your demo if you string together multiple features into a single narrative that allows a prospect to imagine their reality with your product. Take the list of features you created and compose a storyline that covers several features. Product Managers often use a User Story to communicate software goals to developers. Most user stories are composed using a template like this:

As a [type of user], I want [some goal] so that [some reason].

You can use this format as a perfect start to your narrative. You prove the point you defined in step 2, and show you understand the reason the feature exists. The only thing missing is the actual showing of the feature. Now you have a narrative template:

As a [type of user], when I [context], I want [some goal] so that [some reason]. Usually, when a [type of user] wants to _______, they have to _________. This is bad because [negative impact]. But with [product], they just [describe user actions for the feature].”

After creating each narrative, all you have to do is preface it with the point you want to make.

We’ve heard from [type of user] that [attribute] is very important to them because [reason]. So we made it very [attribute]. Let me show you one ways we did that. Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m a [type of user].

Then repeat the narrative template.

As a [type of user], when I [context] I want [some goal] so that [some reason]. Usually, when a [type of user] wants to [use case], they have to [current workflow]. This is bad because [negative impact]. But with [product], they just [describe user actions for the feature].

State the payoff:

So as you can see, the product is really [attribute], which means [impact].


The Point

We know that for teachers, if a product isn’t easy-to-use, it won’t get used. So we carefully removed steps, decision points, and complications from the teacher experience. For example, let me show you our grouping feature on the teacher dashboard. Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m a teacher.

The Narrative

As a teacher, when I’m in class, I want break my students into groups, based on their proficiency so that I can deliver content that is more appropriate for each group. Usually, I have to keep track of students progress in a spreadsheet and before class, I have to look over the list and divide the class into roughly equal groupings and print of the lists of names for each group. Then in class, I have to post these lists on the wall and ask the students to find their name on the list and report to their separate groups. It takes time out of my day and disrupts the class. But with Positive Learning, I log into my dashboard [show on screen] for a preview of the groups that the system has automatically recommended [intentionally not mentioning the other things on the screen]. If I don’t have any changes to make, I simply tell the students to begin their exercise in Positive Learning and the system automatically assigns each group the appropriate lesson for their level.

The Payoff 

So as you can see, by remove steps, decision points, and complications from the process of grouping students, teachers get their personal time back and their classroom runs more smoothly, without the usual disruption.

Make it an emotional experience.

When you focus on your prospect, make it all about them, and stop turning your demo into training, trying to train them, you can really touch their hearts. You can captivate their attention by giving them visions of a new reality with less pain. Give them just a taste of that new reality and they’ll be dying to come back for more.



Even better text shortcuts

The built in iOS/OS X keyboard shortcuts are pretty useful, allowing you to type something like “omw” and the system will turn it into “On my way!” By accident, I learned a great way to make this feature even more useful  using alternate characters.

If I wanted to create a shortcut for the name of my death metal band, Never-Never Land, I can create a shortcut that turns “ñn” into “Never-Never Land” (To type an alternate letter, you just have to press and hold a letter. This can turn your “n” into and “ñ” and so on).

The real beauty comes from the predictive keyboard features. If I just type “nn” the system will autocorrect the first “n” into an “ñ” and then instantly engage the shortcut and “Never-Never Land” will appear.

A faulty argument against Lightning

I have heard a few people say that the lightning port on the iPhone 5 was a bad strategic decision. The argument can be summarized by quoting David Pouge’s review.

Third, compatibility. The iPhone’s ubiquity has led to a universe of accessories that fit it. Walk into a hotel room, and there’s probably an iPhone connector built into the alarm clock.

If you had to write a term paper for this course, you might open with this argument: that in creating the new iPhone 5 ($200 with contract), Apple strengthened its first two advantages [design and superior components] — but handed its rivals the third one on a silver platter.

The problem with this argument is that if people were really so upset and went to the competition, they would still not be able to dock their phones in hotel rooms. They would still have to get adapters for their cars and sound systems.

Don’t get me wrong, not being able to plug my phone into my current car audio system is going to be a pain in my butt. I am not happy about that. It just isn’t a reason to choose a different phone.

How were my predictions?

I only scored 2 points this time. Here is the recap:

  • I said that Zach and Rene had most things pegged. They did. +1
  • No NFC +1
  • No iPad Mini +1
  • iPod touch +1
  • Old Model touch <$200 -1 (They just kept the $200 model at the same price and the new one becomes a premium choice.)
  • No “pipeline” comment -1
  • I got the “spirit” of the camera right, but it didn’t get 10 MP. +0
  • And the Front facing camera did get 720p. (Hooray!) +1
  • No iPhone 5 specific software feature. -1

This last point is the only thing that disappoints me about the iPhone 5. Don’t get me wrong, I am not disappointed by the phone. I am disappointed that I didn’t get a surprise at the announcement. Petty, I know. I am quite happy that my wife and friends on the 4S get to have all of the software features that iPhone 5 users will get.

Also, no luck on my bonus prediction. I thought AirPlay direct might be one of the ways they helped calm users disgruntled by the new port. Hopefully someday.

Hesitantly Predicting

With the iPhone announcement tomorrow, I feel I have to make some predictions. Trouble is, there have been so many leaks that it is almost certain what we are going to see from the iPhone.

Zach Epstein at BGR gives a great rundown of what to expect from the iPhone, and iMore’s Rene Ritchie’s description of the event is spot on. This leaves me precious little to predict. Nevertheless, I like to take a stab at these things, so I will venture a few:

  1. NFC will be a no-show. This goes against my earlier prediction, but the best sources are saying no.
  2. Unlike last year, this will not be the only fall event. There is too much coming for them to do it all in one shot. So I predict there will be no iPad mini at this event. Because we will see is a taller screen and a smaller dock connector on the iPhone, I predict they will announce a matching iPod touch. They will also send an old model iPod touch to a sub $200 price.
  3. I predict a line from Tim Cook at the end of the event that is something like “we are so excited about what is in the pipeline, and we can’t to talk to you more about it.” This is the signal that there will be another event, probably in October to announce the iPad mini.
  4. I don’t know what the specs will be, but I predict something like 10 MP rear camera. Just a nominal spec bump. I am going to guess a front facing camera with 720p video capture potential (just because I hope for it).
  5.  There is some software feature that will work with some new hardware piece that will surprise people. With the 3GS it was voice control. With the 4 it was FaceTime. With the 4S it was Siri. I don’t know what it will be, but it will make a great demo.

Bonus Prediction: The Telegraph ran an interesting story a while back about a feature potentially named “AirPlay Direct.” The speculated feature would allow an iOS device to send an AirPlay signal to a Wi-Fi enabled device without the need of a shared Wi-Fi network. This is the sort of feature that Apple would make hardware specific, even though the cynical would say it needn’t be. It sounds right to me, but I don’t know if it is coming yet.

Companies worth $1 trillion are suing others over Android’s alleged patent infringement

Foss Patents:

Android continues to be an IP infringement lawsuit magnet not just with respect to troll lawsuits (the trolls sue everyone including Apple) but, more importantly, lawsuits from large publicly-traded industry players.

Google’s usual experimental, bold, and haphazard approach to development usually does them a great deal of good. In the case of Android, their care free attitude may be its undoing. They don’t make a ton of money off of Android, and the legal costs are stacking up and could get even worse if/when they start losing.

(via Phillip Elmer-Dewitt)

Some quick predictions

Last year, when Apple announced iOS 5, Reminders was a new, included app. Everyone thought it was weird. There were already thousands of To Do apps in the app store, and while it brought location based reminders, it wasn’t particularly full featured. You couldn’t even sort reminders. It seemed very out of place.

Then they announced Siri.

Suddenly, reminders turned into a very helpful part of Siri. And Siri, as an interface, made much more sense for reminders, especially when it comes to adding location based reminders.

I felt that same out of place feeling about the Pass Book announcement. “All you pass in one place”? How many passes do they think I have? Scott Forstall already said they are making a Pass Kit API available for developers so they can add their own beautiful passes to the passbook, which is cool, but still seems to be missing something.

I predict that the next iPhone will have a new headline feature, which, like Siri did for Reminders, will make this app make sense: NFC enabled payments. I think Pass Book is going to be a mobile wallet, and the next iPhone will have allow you manage transactions. I think they will allow vendors (like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, JC Penny, or Home Depot) to create accounts that run through Apple’s ecosystem that allow customer so use their pass book to pay for their stuff. And I bet vendors and customers will love it.

One other small prediction: the next iPhone will get a bigger screen.

Others have guessed this change, but a moment of the keynote stood out to me. When Scott Forstall is talking about new Safari features (90:18), he says:

We’re also adding full-screen supports in landscape on the iPhone to take full advantage of the large retina display.

That word LARGE really stood out to me. I think it was a slip of the tongue. I could be reading into it, but I don’t see 1) why this feature is necessary in Safari with out a bigger phone and 2) why he would say that it is a “large” retina display, when iPhones today have the same size display that they have since 2007.

How were my predictions?

Tim Cook did MC +1 point
More video clips +1
More SVP time -1
Incredible numbers +1
The “one video” was the Grand Central Apple store +1
No talk of iBooks -1
iPad 3 it was not -1
Theme was “Post PC Revolution, not “high definition,” even though it did come up a lot -1
Retina, DPI +2
Front facing 720 Camera -1
Visual software from Apple (iPhoto) and Autodesk (Sketchbook) +1
I said

It will have the A6 chip “to power the amazing graphics” which will not be quad core.

So I was wrong about the name, right about the marketing message, and half right about the architecture. The processor itself is not quad-core, but the graphics processor is quad-core. So 0 Points.
Better back camera +1
No Accessory -1
1080p Apple TV +1
iCloud improvements like movies in iCloud +1

Rachael’s prediction, which I said was wrong actually came in the form of photo “beaming” between iOS devices in iPhoto, so +1 for Rachael, -1 for me.

So I get a total of 5 points. Unless you count the that I omitted mentioning 4G LTE. I should have guessed that. Not sure how good of a score it is, but I am glad to be in positive territory.

iPad 3 Predictions

Tim Cook will MC the event, and we will see more video clips and SVP stage time than Tim time. He will begin by rattling off some “incredible” numbers and stats from iPhone, Mac and Apple retail. At least 1 video will play. Then he will turn the attention to the iPad and talk about how it is revolutionizing the way we do stuff. He will recount the success of the iBooks platform and the recent adoption of text books and course publishing, and may even have some publishers there to talk about the awesome stuff they are doing. Then he will unveil the new iPad 3.

  • It will be called iPad 3.
  • The “theme” of the event will be high definition.
  • It will have a retina display. There will be a DPI number on a slide.
  • The body will be very similar if not identical. iPad 2 cases will fit it.
  • Expect a front facing HD video camera (720p) for HD FaceTime.
  • Some software that is visual in nature. I am thinking something like an image editor or painting app to show off the “just gorgeous” display.
  • It will have the A6 chip “to power the amazing graphics” which will not be quad core.
  • They will probably improve the camera on the back too.
  • There will be some accessory akin to the bumper and the smart cover, if not just a “Smart Cover 2” type product.
  • The bonus: A new HD-ier Apple TV with 1080p for displaying your beautiful iPad creations. There will also be some iCloud improvement in for the Apple TV, like movies on all your iOS devices or something.
  • Rachael’s prediction: some sort of real time file transfer procedure between iOS devices. Something like WebOS’s touch-to-share thing. (For the record, I think she is wrong.)
  • Post-Steve Prediction Follow Up

    I talked to Dane today and he gave me a lot of points for my predictions; probably more than I deserve. It has now been 6 months, and before I make another batch of iPad 3 predictions, I want to follow up on my last set.

  • Prediction1: “Tomorrow, the stock will take a hit.” Correct. Shares were down three dollars the following day, but the stock ended the week up $10 from the dip.
  • Prediction 2: The press event. Fail. Apple didn’t get to their holiday lineup announcement until October 4, the day before Steve Jobs actually passed away.
  • Prediction 3: “The stock will climb for the rest of the year.” Correct. There were some pretty crazy swings and Apple’s highest price wasn’t at the end of the year. However, it ended 2011 with an impressive price of $405, up 7.6% from the day of Steve’s resignation.
  • Prediction 4: iPhone 5 timing. Fail. Timing was wrong. The iPhone 5 was actually called the 4S and didn’t get released until October 14.
  • Prediction 5: “3 million during opening weekend.” Correct. They did sell 3 million. Then they sold 1 million more.
  • Prediction 6: Best Holiday quarter ever. Right in the ways that matter. The record were broken, in all categories except iPod. But the huge EPS beat makes up for it.
  • Prediction 7: New iPad. Almost nailed it. I was close enough to the 6 month mark to be satisfied. Now the question is, how stupid will it make it look competing tablets. Stay tuned for the answer to that.
  • Bonus Prediction 8: AAPL at $550 in Aug 2012. Undershot. We will have to wait and see what happens, but as of this writing, Apple is at $533 and has been on a relentless rise. I doubt it will be lower than $550 by August. But They have made it to most valuable company.