I was watching a demo recently where the presenter executed one of the longest Terrible Tabs Demo Death Marches I’ve seen (and SADest examples, where SAD = Stunningly Awful Demo). No fewer than 11 (eleven!) tabs were explored, one after another after another after another after…

The demo was recorded with the prospect players in individual video panes, so I was able to watch their expressions during the course of the agonizing journey. It looked very much like what might take place for a group of people embarking on a long, uphill, slogging hike…

At the first tab, they were watching and listening with comparatively neutral faces. The presenter consumed about 6 or 7 minutes completing this first tab and then, without any summary or pause, moved immediately to the second tab.

I glanced at the audience panes and noted a slight, but distinctive eye-roll from the prospect key contact, a manager. You could tell the group was already experiencing some discomfort as the climb progressed.

The presenter didn’t appear to detect this subtle warning and continued with the second tab, consuming another 6 or 7 minutes. Sweat was now appearing, metaphorically, as the team toiled up the trail…

As the presenter entered the third tab, there were visible signs of strain (and, likely, audible sighs, as well). The route was getting hot and dusty, and the prospect players were clearly becoming tired. Another 6+ minutes of uphill strain commenced!

By the fourth tab, you could see participants glancing at their watches and likely counting the remaining tabs, “Ohhhhh, no… There are 7 tabs left – how much longer will this go on?” The summit was not even in view at this point!

You could almost hear them calculating, “Let’s see, at 6 or 7 minutes for each tab – that means we have something like 45 more minutes to go, just for this part of the demo. Ugh!”

A note: There were no pauses, no intros, no summaries from the presenter. No communication of business value and no discussion of what problems could be addressed. When the presenter occasionally asked, “Any questions so far?” The responses were “Nope…” initially, followed by silence as the excursion progressed. It was just feature after feature, a steady slog up a steepening slope!

It was also clear that many of the audience members had “checked-out” and were doing email or other activities, based on what I could see in the individual panes. The presenter was oblivious and continued to march up the trail, ignoring the fact that that everyone else had abandoned the journey!

I wish this story has a happy ending, but it doesn’t. The ever-upwards demo expedition consumed over an hour and a half of everyone’s time (both vendor and prospect) – and it was positioned as an overview demo. 

As the meeting drew to a close, the salesperson (who had apparently headed to the bar while the hike took place, as there wasn’t a word heard from that party during the trudge) suggested next steps, saying, “Let’s organize a deep dive demo for you…”

The manager, metaphorically painfully peeling off trail-torn hiking boots and examining blistered feet responded, “We’ll let you know…”

Imagine if someone took you out for a long, sweat-soaked hike that lacked any rewards: no views, no streams, no picturesque mountains, no swimming-hole; just a long, hot dusty trail. What would you think about pursuing another, likely harder trek?

Victims of Momentum

After reviewing the demo, I contacted the presenter and asked, “Why did you walk through those tabs one after another?”

The response was, “We’ve always done it that way! That’s what I was taught; that’s our standard demo. We are actually certified only after we prove that we can deliver the demo that way…”

Clearly, just because you’ve always done something one way for years doesn’t mean it is the best way! (“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”)

As humans, we are victims of momentum. We tend to do things the same way, over and over, unless we are given a shove in a new direction. 

A Shove or Two

First, show the rewards your software offers. In terms of a hike, wouldn’t you want to see some sweeping views, or beautiful meadows, or wildlife or similar? What would be the equivalent deliverables your software provides? 

Perhaps, before dragging the prospect onto the trail, perhaps a bit of discovery would be in order: “Dear Prospect, what are your objectives for this outing? What are you hoping to achieve?” Then, you’ll be able to align the journey with the prospect’s desires and constraints.

If you’ve been unable to do discovery before this demo meeting, consider presenting a Vision Generation Demo. This wonderful approach satisfies the prospect’s desire to see what’s possible while moving into a discovery conversation. It’s like showing the prospect a brochure of the available hikes with their various features and destinations, followed by a discussion of the options, before hitting the trail!

Next, before presenting a mountain of tabs, ask yourself if your prospect is interested in exploring the details of each one. It is quite possible that they may already be satisfied, and you don’t need to take them on a long, painful hike. Even better, ask the prospect!

Alternatively, consider using the tabs as a Menu, offering your prospect the choice of which tabs are most important or interesting to them.

In summary, if you are also leading your prospects on Terrible Tabs Demo Death Marches, consider this as a gentle, but firm shove towards a more productive route!

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