How many times have you agreed to a meeting to learn more about a company, technology or product, or stopped at a technology trade show to see a demo? Hundreds? Thousands?
There’s always a moment after the meeting or demo has kicked off - there’s a natural pause, the momentum shifts and now its over to the ‘explainer’ to launch into presentation, pitch, or demo….
…and you immediately categorize them into one of a few ‘stock’ categories of ‘bad demo behavior’, if you stick around at all.
See if you recognize these ‘stock characters’ from the technology world:
Mr. Roboto has standard patter they run through - and it’s the same time, every time - whether the audience is 1 or 100, a customer with a big wallet and immediate need or a disinterested bystander. Mr. Roboto has boiled out any creativity and inspiration about what they’re presenting into a formula, a canned script that they never deviate from. They speak an exact amount of words from a script to generate a desired result - thinking that x amount of demos equals y number of customer engagements and sales - but their connect rate is awful.
And any sales or product management leadership that puts up with this is likely to try to ‘fix’ the sad connect rate and lack of interested customers with MORE canned demos, MORE pitches, anything to fill that funnel with more useless chaff.
Some of these ‘spoken patters’ are extremely polished and rehearsed to make the carnival patter just so - but the fact remains - a canned, robotic pitch tells you volumes about what is not in the script - that they, and by extension their entire company could care less about what they’re doing, the product or service they’re talking about, and could care less about you, the customer. You too, Dear Customer, are just a tick in a formula to them, a squiggle on their ‘up and to the right’ sales projection funnel.
Next up is ‘Mr. Phlegmatic’ - often a ‘familiar face’ from having done technology demos over the years at technology trade events, or the ‘tech guy’ rolled out in front of the customer to discuss technology as part of the sales process by a large regional sales team.
Mr. Phlegmatic gets the cue - and goes into a dispirited wheeze about the technology that they’ve clearly given one million times. They may be really intelligent, and know the material cold, but its too cold. In a ‘so anyway we have this thing and it does this buzzword thing, and yeah’ tone they drone on for their allotted minutes like a party balloon losing air.
Its a mystery why the ‘so anyway’ tech demo is seen so often - and all I’ve ever figured out is that the deliverer thinks that they are ‘cool’ - cool to be so bored about the technology or product they’re working on. So cool, that they must be the tech world equivalent of Jimmy Page, effortlessly doing the work of two guitarists in the world’s greatest rock n roll band.
This isn’t cool - its a disservice to everyone - their technology, their company, and your precious time.
Another stock character you’ll see is ‘Mr. Square Peg’ - where a technology or product is pitched the same way to every kind of customer every time.
The most notorious examples are IT companies that want to sell their ‘hot technology’ to media and entertainment thinking that it will be so easy! They salivate at the thought of getting those world-famous brand logos on their trophy webpage. How hard could it be?
But what actually happens is that they signal to those world-famous technology lifestyle brands that they really don’t understand them. They didn’t take the time to think through what the customer actually needs, what their industry and customer pain-points are and how they could actually use their technology. And above all, they didn’t frame it in language and context that the customer lives in every day. This is the clearest sign to these customers that ‘you don’t get it’ and are not worth their precious time.
And yet these square pegs wonder why they never get very far in their meetings and sales process - why they don’t connect with these customers. It is no exaggeration that several very large companies have burnt millions and millions of dollars spinning up huge sales teams to ‘attack the media and entertainment segment’ with nothing to show but a reputation for ‘picking up the bar tab.’
Each of these problems have a slightly different cure - yet they all involve a commitment to thinking deeply about what your company and product offer - and how the customer can use it to solve real challenges they face.
So if you see yourself or your company in any of these ‘stock characters’ here’s how to address them and leap miles ahead of your competition:
Mr. Roboto knows the steps to delivering a good demo - but completely fails to connect with the audience! To get the audience to care, to get your demo to stand out, you need to sense the mood of the audience and get in front of it and lead it. Deliver with a slightly higher energy than theirs to start off, and get them involved quickly - ‘okay - who’s heard of x? How many hands?’ ‘Ok cool! Now whats the biggest challenge you face with y?’
Build energy along the way and make it fun! You’ll still cover all the parts of your demo, you just may have to do them in a different order, speed up parts that the audience is already familiar with (while still landing those critical anchor points), then give more time to the parts that really grab interest and are relevant. Weave everything into your ‘build to inevitable conclusion’ process and set the stage for ‘next steps.’
Do this and you can be sure that you’ll not only have a well-thought out pitch, but you can deliver it engagingly and make the most of every customer opportunity.
Mr. Phlegmatic was surely excited by their technology at one time and will need some peer-review and coaching to re-discover it and communicate it engagingly to customers again.
Here again, during a presentation, take the time to develop a human connection, gauge the customer energy level and receptiveness and present the technology without leaping to any assumptions about what the customer thinks or knows. Ask questions, confirm that what you’re presenting is landing, and help the customer along to your ‘inevitable conclusion’ that maps to their needs.
Above all, see everything through their eyes, and don’t assume whats interesting to you is whats interesting to them. In this case its not just energy that has to be led, but the customer’s appreciation and comprehension of what you have and how it would apply to their needs. Then hand the discussion back off to the product or sales team who will take it from there with a natural sense of momentum, and everyone wins!
Of the three, Mr. Square Peg has the most work to do - and there’s no shortcut to some hard work:
Talk to EVERYONE in your organization that talks to a customer. Sales? What do you hear? Support? What are the complaints and questions? Tear into the results and start to build up the different customer profiles.
Talk to CUSTOMERS. If you don’t have experts to guide your product marketing and technical sales into a new market to speed up this process - you need to completely immerse yourself in the customer’s world. This will take some time and cannot be tied to a sales number yet. Talk to customers and don’t make it part of a sales call. Network, build connections, get to know them any and every way you can. Offer to buy them lunch or dinner just to get to know what their work is, what their challenges are. Tag along on a sales or engineering call and soak in the customer environment. Pay attention to what makes them annoyed in their day, what keeps them up at night, what they’d want to do if they had more time in the day or more resources.
Then and only then is it time to share your findings with your product teams and leadership and hammer out how you can truly help these new customers. Build out the customer profiles you have, mapping what you have, to what each customer profile needs. If you do this you’re ready for the next steps - messaging and positioning and a real go-to-market plan. The way you describe and ‘pitch’ your solution will change dramatically and finally fit how the customers wants to be marketed and sold to.
Yes, there are teachable formulas to delivering a killer presentation, properly guiding a sales engagement and filling a sales funnel with excited customers that ‘get’ what you do and exactly why they need it. If you follow the steps above you’ll avoid the three most common ‘stock character’ tropes of the technology world, and truly connect with and understand your customers better than ever before. Above all, you’ll finally be making the most of every presentation, pitch, and sales engagement.
Have you seen these ‘stock characters’ in the wild? What other ‘stock characters’ do you see?