The Crisp Currency of Discovery Communication - A Never Stop Learning! Article - Great Demo

The Crisp Currency of Discovery Communication – A Never Stop Learning! Article

discovery communication

Have you ever heard this dialog before?

Salesperson: “I need you to do a demo tomorrow for ACME Corp – it’s a huge opportunity!”
Presales person: “What do we know about the prospect’s situation?”
Salesperson: “It’s a huge opportunity!”
Presales person: “…Sigh…”

Or this one?

Salesperson: “I need you to do a demo tomorrow for ACME Corp – it’s a huge opportunity!”
Presales person: “What do we know about the prospect’s situation?”
Salesperson: “Hmmm… There are some notes in the CRM system…”
A few moments later, after our presales person has found the record: “It only says, ‘It’s a huge opportunity!’”

What’s in This Article for You?

  • A sadly traditional challenge
  • What’s a Vision Generation Demo?
  • What’s an Informal Success Story?
  • An incredibly effective and efficient handoff
  • And another
  • And still another
  • And yet more!

No Disco No Demo?

Here’s another frequently played scene:

“I promised them a demo…” announces the salesperson.

“But we don’t have any discovery information,” complains the presales person, “What should I show them?”

“Just show them your standard overview demo…”

What is the result of this decision? Wasted time for all parties involved and an increasing likelihood of the opportunity being lost to a more competent competitor or vaporizing into a No Decision outcome.

Well, what if there were a way to satisfy all parties in this scenario?

  • The salesperson is excited about the opportunity and wants to move the sales process forward, and delivering a demo is a traditional first step.
  • The presales person also wants to see the opportunity convert to the next sales stage but knows that an overview demo is a recipe for disaster. Discovery is what is needed at this point.
  • And the prospect (let’s not forget about our prospect’s point of view!) wants to get a sense of what solutions to their problems are possible.

It seems like the ingredients in this recipe are not going to combine well and may result in some serious vendor-prospect indigestion! What’s an elegant and effective solution to this dilemma?

A Vision Generation Demo!

What’s a Vision Generation Demo?

It consists of two components:

  1. A relevant Informal Success Story (or use case) and;
  2. A few compelling screens from your software that summarize your solution.

And it goes like this:

Vendor (could be sales or presales, or both operating as a team): “Let me share how we’ve helped other organizations in potentially similar situations to yours address their challenges.”

The vendor rep shares the Informal Success Story briefly and then asks, “How does this compare with your situation?”

The prospect then provides some discovery information, following the format of the Informal Success Story as a template.

The vendor then asks, “Would you like to see an example or two of how our other customers have solved these problems?”

“Yes, please…!” responds the prospect.

The vendor then presents a few compelling software screens and asks for the prospect’s reaction: “Is this the kind of thing you have in mind?”

“Yes, that looks pretty good,” is the prospect’s reply. “I’d like to explore this further…”

“Great!” says the vendor rep. “Let’s invest a few minutes together to understand your situation in more depth. Then we’ll be able to put together a demo that matches your needs and avoid wasting any time.”

“Sounds good!” responds the prospect, and they move into a productive discovery conversation.

What’s just happened? All three parties have gotten what they want. Wow!

  1. The salesperson was able to provide a demo for the prospect and move the sales process forward.
  2. The presales person was able to deliver a demo and execute discovery.
  3. The prospect saw enough demos to satisfy their desires to get a sense of what’s possible.

It’s a win-win-win!

That’s a quick introduction to the Vision Generation Demo process (hey, that’s like a Vision Generation Demo of a Vision Generation Demo!). For the details, please grab a copy of Great Demo! (Third Edition) and consume Chapter 11. For guidance from an expert, enroll in a Great Demo! Workshop.

What’s an Informal Success Story?

An Informal Success Story is a high-probability use case, based on existing customers’ successful use of your offering, organized in a structured format:

Job Title and Industry:    For an individual or group sharing the same Job Title
Critical Business Issue:    This person’s or group’s top-level challenge, often best expressed as a quarterly, annual, or project-based goal or objective that was at risk
Problems/Reasons:          The “pain points”: What made it a problem, what made it hard to achieve the goal or objective, and how were they doing things prior to your solution?
Specific Capabilities:        The capabilities needed to solve their problem from the prospect’s perspective
Delta:                                   The value associated with making the change

Many of you will recognize that this is a Great Demo! Situation Slide (minus one or two important elements, yet completely sufficient for a Vision Generation Demo).

Intriguingly, Informal Success Stories in Situation Slide format represent one of the key examples of Situation Slides as the crisp currency of discovery information communication! Used in Vision Generation Demos, they represent completing the full cycle from prospect to customer and back to prospect.

Let’s take a closer look at this highly leveraged cycle and at the gains you and your organization can enjoy.

Capturing Discovery Information

Doing Discovery and Great Demo! practitioners know that a complete Situation Slide gives you the green light to move forward with a Technical Proof Demo. Your completed Situation Slides enable you to present the Specific Capabilities your prospect needs to solve their problems and accomplish their Critical Business Issues (CBIs). (Think in terms of a separate Situation Slide for each relevant prospect Job Title.)

Let me say that again, slightly differently (because it’s really important!): The list of Specific Capabilities tells you what to show in your demo and why they are important for your prospect. They provide the linkage to addressing your prospect’s CBIs and the associated value (the Delta). Moreover, the presence of concrete CBIs, Deltas, and Critical Dates on your Situation Slides reduces the likelihood (rather dramatically!) of No Decision outcomes.

Situation Slide format tells you what information needs to be discussed and captured during your discovery conversations. Here’s the full definition of the fields for discovery:

Job Title and Industry:    For an individual or group sharing the same Job Title
Critical Business Issue:    This person’s or group’s top-level challenge, often best expressed as a quarterly, annual, or project-based goal or objective that is at risk
Problems/Reasons:          The “pain points”: What makes it a problem today, what is making it hard to achieve the goal or objective, and how are they doing things today?
Specific Capabilities:        The capabilities needed to solve their problem from the prospect’s perspective
Delta:                                   The value associated with making the change
Critical Date / VRE:         A date by when your prospect needs to have a solution in place (and why, the driving force) / Value Realization Events (VREs) – the first few small (but significant) successes using the solution

(Note: A partially complete slide is an indication that “We need more information…!”)

While discovery can (and should!) go far beyond simply uncovering the elements in a Situation Slide, a completed Situation Slide represents the baseline information necessary to progress a sales cycle successfully. In many cases, it also signifies the visible tip of a much larger and deeper prospect information iceberg. (To explore that iceberg more completely, consume a copy of Doing Discovery. What you can’t see can hurt you!)

First Handoff

Now, let’s return to our sad example where our presales person notes, “There’s nothing in the CRM system on ACME, other than, ‘It’s a huge opportunity!’” In the best case, the presales person interviews their sales counterpart and is able to complete a Situation Slide satisfactorily.

Yeah, fat chance! Rarely happens. It’s possible, but unlikely.

Let’s explore a more likely approach…

Recognizing that they lack the necessary information, our sales and presales folks agree that the salesperson will do a Vision Generation Demo for the prospect as the first demo and execute enough discovery to fully complete a Situation Slide. This takes place successfully, and during that discussion, the salesperson also schedules a Technical Proof Demo for the prospect. What happens next?

Our salesperson provides that completed Situation Slide to our presales person who is, frankly, overjoyed at receiving everything needed to prepare the demo. There is a brief dialog between the two players consisting of a few questions, clarifications, and comments to ensure that all information is understood and correct.

What a delightful, effective, and efficient handoff! The crisp currency of discovery communication, the Situation Slide, has enjoyed its first exchange (it’s like money in the bank!).

What happens next?

Another Handoff (Or Two)

Let’s say the prospect, while highly impressed by the demo, requires an additional level of proof. They were a “burn victim” previously and need to see the vendor’s solution successfully operating in their unique environment to feel comfortable enough to proceed. The prospect requests a Proof of Concept (POC) as part of their buying process and the vendor agrees to pursue this.

To adequately support the POC, the presales person notes that two other vendor players need to be involved, both from presales. The first is a subject matter expert in the prospect’s discipline and the second is particularly skilled at managing POC processes.

What entity could be used to communicate the information needed to bring these two additional vendor staff up to speed? Oh, I don’t know, how about that crisp currency of discovery communication? Yes! That’s it!

The two additional vendor resources consume the Situation Slide and, after any necessary clarification, reach out to the prospect to discuss the Specific Capabilities to be tested and their associated success criteria. These are subsequently defined and agreed upon. The parties then move forward with the POC.

(Note that the sharing tool could be a CRM system that houses the Situation Slides, it could be a product like Homerun, Vivun, PreSkale, or similar, or it could even just be a simple file system. This is a case where the “what” is much more important than the “how”: I really don’t care what you use to store and access Situation Slides as long as you find a way to capture and share them effectively!).

So far, we’ve seen that same Situation Slide used to convey discovery, demo, and POC information from sales to presales, and within presales to other presales players. Interestingly, there were very few additions to the slide itself throughout this process; the slide enabled successful communication of the relevant data. A few conversations between team members served to fill in any gaps.

The POC went ahead smoothly and was a success, and the prospect moved forward with the purchase – congratulations! How can the Situation Slide be used beyond the sales process?

The Next Handoff – Professional Services

As soon as the sales and presales folks finished celebrating their closed business (with the prospect players, of course; it was a wonderful and festive dinner), they passed the Situation Slide to their Professional Services (PS) counterparts who would perform the implementation.

The Situation Slide provided the PS folks with an understanding of what needed to be configured, what training was required, and what data needed to be migrated to complete the implementation process. This was terrific but wait: There’s more!

A review of the VREs on the slide guided the PS team to focus their implementation efforts with the goal of enabling the customer to achieve their VREs with the highest probability of success and in the shortest possible timeframes. This meant that the customer was able to enjoy realizing value (hence the VRE name!) from the new system early on. In fact, the lead customer buyer was able to send a happy message to the balance of the buying team and management declaring that the new system was well on its way to becoming a major success! (What a change from being a burn victim previously).

(You can learn more about the enormously differentiating importance of VREs in the Doing Discovery book – I strongly recommend learning about VREs if you are unfamiliar!)

That Situation Slide is really getting around. It has progressed from sales to presales, presales to other presales, and now from the sales team to Professional Services, and that investment is generating appreciable interest. Who else could take advantage of this crisp currency next?

A Customer Success Success

Account and customer success managers (CSMs) are often tasked to secure renewals and, in many cases, to increase the footprint of their products in their customers. The CSMs at this vendor were absolutely delighted when they received and reviewed the Situation Slide, as it told them exactly what value the customer hoped to gain through the use of the new software. Even better, the CSMs were already working with the customer when the first few VREs were achieved (and another happy vendor-customer party took place to celebrate these early successes once more).

The CSM team then used the Situation Slide information to track the customer’s progress toward accomplishing the next set of VREs during their regular meetings. And because the customer had been enjoying value throughout that first year, there was no CSM panic as renewal time approached. In fact, the customer was so happy with their results so far that they committed to the renewal weeks before the actual renewal date and extended the term. That customer is now also serving as a reference for the vendor and has agreed to share their experiences at the next users’ group meeting.

Well, that Situation Slide is certainly generating an abundance of interest! Sales created it, presales consumed it twice, Professional Services leveraged its information, and now Customer Success has drawn from its ever-growing bank account. Who else might enjoy a bit of that dollar?

(“Pieces of Eight” were literally eight sections of Spanish Dollars from a few centuries ago. They were frequently divided into eight “bits,” from which we get that magical phrase, “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar…” etc.)

Marketing Moola

Wouldn’t it be a delight for marketers to know which capabilities of their software are used by their customers, for what reasons, and with what results? Yes, you betcha!

Situation Slides find their next application in the hands (and minds) of the marketing team, who seek to improve their marketing campaigns, lead generation results, collateral, customer references, and related. Situation Slides from successful customer implementations provide this information, enabling improved prospect targeting, website effectiveness, and superior sales support materials.

But wait: There’s more! “Sanitizing” (anonymizing) Situation Slides from happy, successful customers generate the Informal Success Stories that enabled that Vision Generation Demo waaaaay back at the beginning of this story. Congratulations! You are now able to start your own virtuous cycle of Situation Slide creation and use.

Is there anyone else who might reap additional Situation Slide rewards?

Investing in Development

Harvesting Specific Capability information from Situation Slides provides the development and product management teams with corroborative data on customer use.

Imagine the following discussion:

“Should this capability be enhanced?”

“Why, yes, it’s one of the key uses of the system and drivers of value for our customers.”

“How about this feature?”

“No, it doesn’t look like it is being used and there is no indication of any value derived from its use, so let’s not invest any more development calories in it.”

So, now we have seen our Situation Slide investment yield dividends across the vendor organization: Sales to presales, presales to other presales, sales team to Professional Services, PS to Customer Success, and now on to Marketing, product management, and development. Pretty impressive payback! Is there anyone else to consider?

Beyond the Vendor

Sure! Third parties, channel partners, resellers, and similar organizations represent bonus opportunities.

Do you need to bring a partner organization up to speed with a prospect opportunity? Provide that partner with the Situation Slide(s), then review and discuss. It’s a concise, effective way to get on the same page.

Do you sell via channel partners and/or resellers? Sanitized Situation Slides in the form of Informal Success Stories accelerate the channel’s ability to prospect, engage, and begin sales cycles. Prospect-specific Situation Slides can help fast-track VARs (Value Added Resellers) who pursue leads you’ve already engaged.

You Can Bank on It

Situation Slides are, indeed, the crisp currency of discovery communication. They are enormously enabling in beginning sales cycles, highly effective within sales cycles, and offer tremendous efficiencies during implementation and into early production use by your customers. Build up your Situation Slide bank account and enjoy the rewards of your investment!


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To learn the methods introduced above, consider enrolling in a Great Demo! Doing Discovery or Demonstration Skills Workshop. For more demo and discovery tips, best practices, tools, and techniques, explore our books, blog, and articles on the Resources pages of our website at and join the Great Demo! & Doing Discovery LinkedIn Group to learn from others and share your experiences.

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