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.

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.

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.
  • Thinking about buying an iPhone?



    Apple is almost sure to release a new iPhone (or two) within the next 60 days. There are some excellent rumors floating around right now that could mean some great choices for consumers:

    1. It is widely expected that the iPhone 5 is coming to town. We don’t know what it will looks like, or what new features it will have, but there are two theories. One is that it will be a marginal update similar to the update from 3G to 3GS (call it 4S) where all they do is up the processor and improve the camera. The other theory calls for a redesigned body shape and other goodies.
    2. The Wall Street Journal – who tends to have solid sources – reported today that the iPhone 5 is coming to Sprint. This is cool because not only does it give consumers another choice, but Sprint has had a tendency to be more generous with their data plans than what AT&T and Verizon are currently offering.
    3. Reuters – who can be hit or miss – is saying that Apple may offer a cheaper iPhone 4 model, with only 8 GBs of storage. To me, this is a fascinating move, and could be evidence of Apple living up to Tim Cooks promise that the iPhone would not be “just for the rich“. This could be a fabulous phone at a very reasonable price.
    The moral of the story is, now is a terrible time to buy a new iPhone. Even if it’s free.

    Copying Features

    John Gruber, quoting Paul Thurrott

    On iOS 5:

    Best features were literally copied from other mobile platforms.


    One could argue that these are purposefully antagonistic ways of saying these things. Or, perhaps better said, purposefully belittling.

    I can see why, from a tech pundit’s point of view, that “literally copied” is meant to have a punitive sting. However, these “copied” features are a big win for Apple. The iPhone has been in the lead in so many competitive areas (app store, ease of use, ecosystem integration, best “under finger” experience etc). However, some consumers have been hesitant to choose iPhone because of a specific advantage of a competitor.

    For example, some people consider BBM the key feature of a BlackBerry. As of iOS 5, the “iOS doesn’t have it” argument is gone. The only thing left is what iPhone does better. Same with notifications and Android, which Jonathan Geller thinks Apple did better than Android.

    Buyers now have all the reasons to choose the iPhone that they had before – AND they have no reason to buy any competitor.

    About the only gripe left is Flash, but mostly from Mossberg.

    If only iCould love iCloud

    From Josh Topolsky’s editorial today regarding Apple’s cloud strategy

    While competitors like Google and Microsoft continue to pursue a strategy of “you everywhere” with front-facing web products that allow you to create and collaborate with nothing more than a connection and relatively modern browser, Apple seems to be moving almost backwards. Sure, syncing our devices is clearly an important and yet-to-be-solved problem, but Cupertino isn’t just improving sync across devices. It also seems to be concluding that it can’t — or won’t — compete on the web, and I think that’s a mistake.

    I appreciate Topolsky’s desire for more and better from Apple, but I am concerned about the realization of what he is really asking for. If he is taking Google and Microsoft to be Apple’s competitors, I think it is worth noting that

    • Google’s business model, and by extension goals, are different that Apple’s. Remember, if you don’t pay for it, you are the product.
    • Microsoft’s business model (or lack thereof) shows that they may not understand how to make money from the web.
    When Steve Jobs talked about a “go-to-market strategy” for TV, it helped to remind me that aside from being a perfectionist, he is also a brilliant strategist. Apple’s cloud strategy supports their revenue stream, and so does Google’s. I think that for Topolsky to say that it is a mistake for Apple to follow the same strategic vector is hard to justify from a business perspective, because Apple is killing it.
    One commenter may have hit it when they wrote:
    The issue I have with this [article], is it’s clouded by what [Josh] wants out of Cloud services, and not what can be done with it…I would rip Apple for doing what they entend to do poorly, and not for not doing what you wanted them to do

    Things I love about the Salt Lake City Airport

    People hate airports. Too many negative associations I guess. But let me tell you, I like the Salt Lake Airport. I have been flying a lot lately, and sometimes small things can make a big difference. Here are some examples.

    You get to the parking lot entrance and there is an automated ticket system that allows you to put in your credit card. Then it let’s you in and you don’t have to take a ticket. When you leave, you put in the same credit card and it remembers you and charges the correct amount. Then it just prints a receipt for you. It is so nice to not have that little ticket that you are so worried about losing, and not have to interact with a booth worker.

    Then there is the parking lot. Very neatly organized, and with a shuttle that comes frequently to clearly marked stops. They even provide little cards for you to remember where you parked. I don’t use this myself, but it is nice to know that someone thought through it.

    There are two terminals. If you fly Delta, you are in terminal 2, if not, you are terminal 1. Maybe I am just an idiot, but have a hard time riding the shuttles or trains at airports and trying to know where to get off among the many stops with the many different, but similar sounding, names.

    The craziest, and perhaps most delightful part of the airport is security. No joke. Its not that security itself is fun. It sucks everywhere. But they do a great job in Salt Lake. When the line is busy, they add staff. Amazing. They have staff members that come down the line and tell you if the lines are shorter in a different line, and how long the line will take. It’s the little things.

    Free Wi-Fi. Can you believe that in 2011, there are major airports without Wi-Fi or that make you pay for it? Really? Atlanta, I’m looking at you. Thank you Salt Lake for realizing what a time killer airports are and how much free Wi-F helps.

    Also, it’s not really the airport itself that I can thank for this, but all of the travelers that come to Salt Lake for the skiing. When you come with your giant duffles full of ski gear, and have to check your bags, it make my trip past the counter with my preprinted boarding pass very satisfying.

    The airport also has this great waiting lot for people that cone to pick up passengers on arriving flights. There are big electronic boards that give the flight statuses so you know when to drive up to the terminal area. Love it!

    I know there are other airports that do great thing. I am just glad that ol’ SLC is one of them.