(Sales) Book Review: Demonstrating to Win! by Robert Riefstahl

Last week I purchased Demonstrating to Win!: An Indispensable Guide to Demonstrating Software. Now this book has more to do with tactics on putting on a brilliant dog-n-pony show then it does with influence or persuasion. Nonetheless I thought it worth reviewing for my readers who sell software or sell high-tech products for that matter.

Riefstahl’s book is a great overview of the dos and don’ts of doing a software demonstration. As a past software engineer who’s had to do them, I found his ideas, strategies and stories to be right on the money. I felt transported back to those good ole days of lugging around a computer and a projector that weighed over 50lbs at the time. I know, I’m dating myself! 🙂

In the opening chapter the author asks a key question, “What’s an effective demonstration?” He answers the question by first defining what it isn’t; a data dump of features. Riefstahl understands that too often engineers, technicians or geeks for that matter are product narcissist; they’re in love with their own product. The problem? They assume everyone they show the product (software) to will feel the same way. That erroneous assumption has killed many software sales presentations.

Reifstahl provides a few simple to use worksheets throughout the book to help prepare and guide the presenter before the day of the presentation. A ‘Demonstration Attendee Checklist’ form that you can use forces you to really ask:

1) Who are the people who will be attending the software presentation?
2) What are their primary responsibilities?
3) And what 3 things of interest would they like to see in the presentation?

One of the most important concepts introduced in the book is that of ‘Bridge-Building’ (i.e., bridging the mental gap between how your prospect performs their job today and how they’ll perform it using your software in the future). This is my opinion is the number one reason many people don’t buy software. Fear of not knowing how a new software package is going to work out is often the cause of why many companies who know they need to change won’t change.

The key to selling software, aside from doing what the prospect needs today and tomorrow, is to give them the comfort level that the implementation and change-over won’t be as tough as they’re imagining it to be. In Chapter 3 the author discusses different strategies for building trust, diffusing anxiety and breaking down resistance.

In Chapter 4 titled “The Demo Crime Files”, Riefstahl outlines and describes 28 mistakes most software presenters make that can cause a sale to go south and ideas on how to overcome them in future presentations. Don’t be surprised in you find yourself saying what I caught myself saying, “Yep, that happened to me also!”

Lastly, Riefstahl has some great stories about his personal experiences which give color and shape to many of the ideas he professes in his book. If you’re an engineer, technician or self-proclaimed geek who works with salespeople and are required to do software presentations, I highly recommend this book.

Victor Antonio, Sales Influence


Consumers Choice Award Presentation Pictures (Dallas, Texas)

I was invited to speak at the Consumers Choice Awards for Business Excellence in Dallas, Texas. Here are come pictures from the event. A special thank you to Dr Jeff Chernoff and Ann Ross 🙂 For more information on CCA go to http://www.ConsumersChoiceAward.

Sales Influence Moment #15 – Discounting Rounded Numbers

We’ve all heard this phrase, “Look, just give me a nice round figure and let’s go from there.” Should you?

When putting a proposal together and you’ve rolled up the final price, should it be a rounded number or a ‘wierd’ number? Check out what this study has to say about using ’rounded numbers’.

Finding the right price point to sell your item at can be a tricky thing. You first have to make sure the price is competitive. Second, you need to make sure you don’t cut your pricing too deep and end up losing money in the deal. And lastly, you know the buyer is going to want to negotiate your price down in order to feel as though they’ve gotten a great deal. The latter issue is one that we most often find ourselves in. Everyone wants to negotiate better price. The question is, ‘How do we stop price point erosion?’

When selling a product or service, salespeople have a sliding scale that runs from the ideal sale price to the point-of-no-return (PONR) price. As salespeople, what you need to do is slow price point erosion during the negotiation process so you end up closer to the ideal sale price and stay as far away as possible from the PONR price. How do you do that?

I came across a study done by University of Florida professor Chris Janiszewski and Dan Uy that might help.

In the past, studies have shown that the first price you hear or are exposed to becomes an anchor or point of reference in deciding what you are willing to pay for an item. Janiszewski and Uy took a closer look at this exposure to initial pricing and asked themselves how this initial price point influenced bidding behavior. More specifically, they wanted to know whether a round number versus a non-round number was more susceptible to price point erosion.

In one particular test, the students were given the retail price of HD Plasma TV and then asked to guess the wholesale price of the item. One group was told the retail price was $5,000 and another group was given a retail price of $4,988. After tallying the results, the group with the $5,000 price tag guessed much lower wholesale prices then the group at the $4,998 price.

Another study done over a five year period found that houses listed at $500,000 got lower closing prices than those listed at $494,500.

Further studies confirmed Janiszewski and Uy’s suspicion. Prices with round numbers produce lower bids. People have a tendency to discount an item more if the number is round. Simply put, people will round down (i.e., negotiate down) farther when the product is priced with a round number.

How can this help you?

In sales, when submitting a Request for Proposal (RFP) or presenting the client with a price, it may be wise to keep this study in mind. For example, instead of submitting a starting price of $50,000, you may want to price your product or service at $49,900. Instead of a starting price of $200, you may want to price it at $197. This way the client’s counter price will be higher than if you had used a round number. Get the idea?

The rule-of-thumb here is to stay away from pricing an item, your anchor price, with a round number if you want to avoid price point erosion. For those of you living on the razor’s edge of slim margins, this study is welcomed news that I thought you might find useful.

Keynote Speech in Tampa, Florida (May 22, 2010 with 6,000 folks)

May 22, 2010 commencement keynote in Tampa, Florida. I had a chance to stop by and see some family the night before…that was nice! I added some pics at the end.

Sales Influence Moment #14 – Using Visuals to Close More Deals!

The study mentioned in this video was published in 1988 by MH Gonzales, E. Aronson and M. Costanzo; ‘Increasing the effectiveness of energy auditors’.

Tip: Malcolm Gladwell’s Book ‘Outlier’

If you really, I mean really want to know why some people succeed and others fail, then read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outlier. While I enjoyed The Tipping Point and Blink, I found Outlier to be the most insightful and practical.

Oops! An Embarrassing Speaking Moment

The event I was speaking at can be seen at Sales Influence Moment #13.