Discovery and Demos Across the Technology Adoption Curve – Part 2: Encountering the Edge - Great Demo

Discovery and Demos Across the Technology Adoption Curve – Part 2: Encountering the Edge

Discovery and Demos Across the Technology Adoption Curve – Part 2

Discovery and Demos Across the Technology Adoption Curve – Part 2

Encountering the Edge Or Why Don’t They Get It?

(A Never Stop Learning! Article)


What’s in This Article for You?

  • Insights and guidance beyond Part 1.
  • How to determine when you are on the edge of the Chasm.
  • How to make the transition from Innovators and Early Adopters to the Majority



You can’t show a solution to someone who doesn’t perceive they have a problem.


Are They Stupid?

Have you ever presented a demo to a prospect who doesn’t seem to understand what you are offering them? Have you ever felt like the prospect just didn’t “get it”? They didn’t appear to have a clue as to what earth-shattering, game-changing, paradigm-shifting, mind-blowing, disruptive breakthrough you’d just shown them.

Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Are they stupid or what?”

You are not alone! You are likely dealing with new groups of buyers: The Early and Late Majority. Prepare to change your tactics!


But Things Were Going So Well…

Here’s what often happens: Your company creates a revolutionary new offering that will change the world (for the better, of course!). You show it in early demos to like-minded people who get really excited about it. They see the promise; they visualize the future; they perceive the amazing solutions it can provide to their organization; they envision a broad range of applications and implementations.

They “get it.”

Even better, they buy it. And they are willing to forgive its lack of maturity, its warts, blemishes, future promises, and all. They understand that it will grow and develop, and they are eager to enjoy the advantages of early adoption. You have your first happy customers for your new product. Congratulations!

You’re so excited, that you expand your marketing and sales campaigns to a broader population of targets (and begin dreaming of sales forecasts that need a log scale to plot!). You expect that these new prospects should be just as receptive as your earlier customers.

But they’re not.

You apply the same (minimal) discovery and show the same presentation and demo you did earlier, but these next rounds of prospects don’t become excited. They don’t say much of anything, in fact.

It is clear that they just don’t “get it.”

“Well,” you think, “maybe they didn’t understand how the technology works,” and move on to your next prospect. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the same thing repeats again. And again.

What’s happening? Can they all be that clueless?

You mutter to yourself, “They can’t all be that obtuse, can they?” Of course not! Perhaps a change in your approach is needed. (Note: I once worked with a CTO who was convinced that these Majority prospects were indeed clueless. He literally used to proclaim, “They’re just stupid!” as we left prospects’ meeting rooms, often within embarrassingly easy range of their hearing!)


Welcome to the Chasm

It’s time to dust off and re-read that Silicon Valley classic book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. Sure, you remember the various categories from the book: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.

Now, it’s time to pay attention to the important differences between some of these populations!

It is likely that your first few enthusiastic customers were Innovators or Early Adopters. They love your new technology; they understand what problems can be addressed and what solutions are enabled by your new offering. They are visionaries.

Interestingly and importantly, they understand this even though they were only shown the technology underpinning your product. They make the leap, by themselves, from seeing technology to visualizing the problems your new product can address, as well as the solutions it offers. This is what makes them Innovators and Early Adopters: They “get it”!

The reason you failed to connect with your next wave of prospects is that they are Early Majority or, even more challenging, Late Majority players. You’ve presented technology to people who, in many cases, don’t even know they have a problem. It’s not that they are stupid, they just don’t “get it” yet!

The Innovators and Early Adopters synthesized, on their own, both the problems that your new offering and technology address and the solutions that it enables. Majority players are unable to do this without help. They are not visionaries.

Example: In 1903, a banker cautioned a potential investor in Henry Ford’s automobile company saying, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty.” (That banker was clearly the south end of a horse proceeding in a northerly direction…!)

What’s your first step? Let them know they have a problem…


Why Are You Reaching for My Face?

Imagine you are sharing a meal with a friend, colleague, or family member and note that they have a bit of food stuck on their face, near their lips. It’s just hanging there! You watch, mesmerized, for a minute and then decide to help, as they clearly have no idea about the offending food fragment. Accordingly, you reach out with a napkin (or serviette) to remove it.

You see the problem that they didn’t even realize they have (a chunk of cheesecake on their cheek) and are offering a solution (removing the affronting bit of food). But they aren’t aware of the issue!

It is perfectly obvious to you, but it’s unclear to your partner why you are reaching towards their face with a napkin. Their first response will likely be confusion or concern! “What are you doing with that napkin…?”

On the other hand, if you first let them know they have a problem, then they will be much more willing to explore a solution:

“Um, Chelsea, you have some cheesecake on your cheek…”

“I do?” Chelsea dabs with her napkin, but misses….

“Sorry, Chelsea, but it’s still there – would you like me to wipe it off for you?”

“Yes, please…”

Problem recognized; solution accepted (gratefully!).

The same situation frequently exists with Majority prospects. They often don’t realize they have a problem, to start with. In many cases, the solution your offering provides solves a problem that they have been living with for years. They assume that life with this problem is simply status quo.

They are victims of momentum.

Example: At one point, New York City had over 100,000 horses producing over 2.5 million pounds of manure every day. That’s about the same weight as a herd of 2300 horses or 610 average cars. They had been living with that mess and stench for years. It was just the way things were done!

Typical discovery, presentations, and demos for new breakthrough products or from early-stage companies often assume that:

  1. The prospect knows that they have a problem.
  2. The prospect is interested in solving it.

That is the big disconnect. You show a terrific vision of a solution, but your prospect doesn’t understand the context. They’re thinking, “Why am I watching this? Where is this going?”

You are too far ahead of these folks. You need to go back one major step.


Step Zero: Let Them Know They Have a Problem

When presenting to Majority prospects, your first step is to let them know they have a problem, and then help them understand the value of solving it. A terrific way to do this is through the use of Informal Success Stories, often harvested from your interactions with your first few customers. These stories, used in Vision Generation Demos and Vision Reengineering discussions, are an effective solution. (See the Biased Questions topic in Doing Discovery and Chapter 11 Vision Generation Demos in Great Demo!)


Let’s say that you have a fabulous new offering that can find, aggregate, and deliver content from any electronic source directly into a web portal, and automatically organize the order of delivery by topic relevance. Furthermore, it can track the content each user consumes, including how long a user stays on any particular piece of content and how far into the content each user actually reads it. (BTW I’d love to have this capability – please let me know when it is ready!)

Sounds like a terrific piece of technology, right? Let’s explore what happens when you present the solution first vs presenting the problem first for Early and Late Majority players.

Here’s the Solution First Approach for Majority Prospects, that worked well for Innovators and Early Adopters – let’s say you are demonstrating your fabulous new tool to a VP of Sales prospect:

You say, “Look at this great tool… It just collected a pile of content from your corporate intranet and the external internet, organized it, sorted it according to relevance, and then presented it through this web portal. Really cool, huh?”

Your VP of Sales prospect says, “But I already use Google… Why would I want another Google-like tool?”

You think, “Clueless clone, you and your company are doomed to a dinosaur demise…!”

Next, here’s the Problem First Approach for Majority Prospects and, again, you are in a conversation with the VP of Sales:

You say, “Let me share how we helped other sales vice presidents achieve their quarterly and annual numbers…”

VP of Sales says, “I’m interested…!”

You continue, “Other sales VPs told us it was taking far too long to bring new hires up to speed. In many cases, it took months for new sales hires to become effective, yet these new hires were carrying the same quota as those who were already at full productivity. The result was that these sales VPs were frequently at risk of missing their numbers. How does this compare with your situation?”

VP of Sales says, “I’m in a very similar situation. We just hired twelve new sales staff and I assume that it’ll take months for them to become effective. And yes, they are carrying substantial quotas that most likely won’t be met.”

You say, “Well, the sales VPs we’ve worked with said that they wanted some way to pull together sales-relevant information, including situation and business information, sales tools, product information, and internal sales best practices. They said this information was scattered all throughout their companies and outside, as well. It was hard to bring it all together and even harder to organize it in context and present it in a logical order. These challenges made it tough for new hires to find what they needed, extending their onboarding time substantially.”

VP of Sales says, “Sadly, that sounds very familiar!”

You say, “Well, we provided those capabilities. Now, these sales VPs have reduced new hire onboarding time from months down to a few weeks, and they expect to achieve their quarterly and annual numbers with ease.”

Your VP of Sales prospect confirms, “Wow – it would be great to have that. What does it look like?”

You suggest, “Would you like to see a brief demo to give you an idea of how it could work for you?”

“Yes, please!”

You are now well along your way to securing your first Majority customer: Congratulations!


And the Moral Is…

You can’t show a solution to someone who doesn’t perceive they have a problem. Your first step when presenting your new offering to Majority prospects is to help them understand that they have a problem and that the problem is important and can be solved. Informal Success Stories, harvested from your Early Adopter or Innovator experiences, provide excellent material to draw from.

Make sure your prospects understand they have a problem and want to solve it before you offer a solution!


Copyright © 2008-2023 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

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

1 thought on “Discovery and Demos Across the Technology Adoption Curve – Part 2: Encountering the Edge”

  1. This is absolutely on point Peter!
    In fact – the solution you describe is Highspot! (Even down to the tracking)

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top