Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see — Benjamin Franklin
If you work in a software company and you constantly do product presentations, you know that live demos are key for the success of your business. It’s rare, if not impossible, that you will be able to close a deal without showing your software in action.
However, no demo is equal to another considering that there are always some distinctive peculiarities: every prospect is unique, use-cases have to be contextualized for every specific customer and, most important, your audience will be different all the time.
I believe that there is one common factor that drives the success of a product presentation:
The ability of the presenter to show in action what his/her words are describing.
In a rapidly changing environment where a short time to market is a success factor for every company, I think that proof of concepts (POCs) are the best instruments that Product and Presales managers have to build credibility and establish a good relationship with their customers.
I believe that POCs are beneficial to every business from three different points of view:
- Explain where you are
- Explain where you could be
- Explain where you are going
Where You Are
The more you can show every single functionality of your product, the more effective your pitch will resound.
Create POCs to explain to your customers what you can do today.
I have been in presentations that felt like a boxing game:
“Can you do this?” “yes”
open the software, show the functionality… first punch taken.
“Can you do that?” “yes”
a couple of clicks and there it goes… second punch taken.
“Can please show me how you would do this?” “yes”
a few more clicks and the feature is shown… third punch taken.
No more questions to ask, the customers are exhausted and they leave with the impression that your software can do whatever they are looking for.
The time you spent analyzing your product, preparing and improving your presentation, it is comparable to the time spent by a boxer jumping the rope.
The POCs are your gloves so they better be in a great shape and ready to punch back.
Where You Could Be
Generally speaking, you are going at a higher pace than your customers.
You conceive features, you build enhancements but none of them have your latest release in production… 😞
Create POCs to upsell your products, promote upgrade programs or sell additional professional services.
Tease your customers with live examples of what your software can do, promote innovative ideas, be a product evangelist showing your latest and coolest functionalities.
Another important consideration should be done considering the role you play for the other colleagues inside your organization.
POCs are very useful for whoever works on the product but does not have wide vision of its usage in a real production environment.
Think about customer support, quality assurance and sometimes even your developers. Unfortunately — and wrongly — often their managers do not provide them with the entire picture and, they make them focus just on their daily tasks. Your ability to internally showcase your products and prototypes can mitigate this problem.
I have the habit of recording videos of my latest demos and experiments and sharing them internally on our corporate channels. 15 mins, 30 mins at max. Enough for every person behind the success of the product to acknowledge his/her work and be proud of it.
Where You Are Going
In your customer portfolio, you will always have some pioneers that will challenge you asking you about the latest technology trends (e.g. blockchain or streaming services).
Take advantage of their curiosity. Use their know-how. Ask them what they would like to achieve with this technology. Then, go back to your office and start to create the related prototype.
The POC will demonstrate that the decision to buy your product was and, still is, visionary.
Imagine the sense of wonder your customers will have when they see the ideas, they were just able to imagine, in action.
This inevitably creates a bond between you and them.
Trust will increase, collaboration will flourish and your products will improve.
This work is also beneficial for the Product Office department.
Often, ideas that I develop stay dormant for some time. Then, they suddenly become “hot” if a customer asks about them or if they can fill a gap in the product roadmap.
However, the process to evolve a prototype into a product is not trivial.
The effort and the time you spent to conceive your POC will positively impact your time-to-market as you will be dealing with something familiar and already tamed.
I firmly believe that investing in prototyping ideas is key for the success of a product company.
As surrealist artists, presales and product managers must bring to life unique and uncommon imaginaries, allowing their products to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality” — Andre Breton.