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A Day at Corporate


Have you ever had a sales person set up a client visit at your corporate headquarters?

The agenda usually involves the company president, the head of technology, one or more product managers, the head of support and services. And of course, the sales rep needs each of these people to attend the full day session just in case. The product managers certainly need to be there to make sure nobody makes any claims that must be supported elsewhere—such as the demo or on the ever-changing product roadmap; you need to make sure nobody is making any promises the products can’t keep.

Sometimes the sales team organizes this type of agenda at the client’s location so you can add in travel costs too.

For many organizations, every major deal involves this type of client visit. The cost of such a program is staggering. Just add up the daily salaries of these people plus the cost of travel—not to mention the opportunity cost—and you’re talking about a very expensive cost of sale, so you better win it!

“Every major deal.”

Whenever you say “every major deal” it’s time to set up a program—one that’s consistent, repeatable, and cost-effective. Sounds like you need to treat customer visits like a marketing program.

“A Day at Corporate”

Analyzing the win and loss patterns at one company revealed that many deals were being lost during the software demo. The technology failed or the sales engineer wasn’t prepared or the demo didn’t address the client’s pressing needs. Further, every win involved clients meeting the company president. The product marketing team realized that demos and client visits went hand-in-hand and created “a day at corporate.”

Presentations and meeting logistics were prepared in advance. They followed a standard agenda so every team member knew when they needed and what they would say.

  • 09:00 The president on the vision for the company
  • 10:00 The CTO on technology directions
  • 11:00 The VP of product management on portfolio strategies
  • 12:00 lunch
  • 13:00 product demo by the corporate demo team
  • 15:30 next steps and action planning with the sales team

 The sales team would offer to pay for the clients to travel to the corporate office rather than fly the executive team to the client’s location. After all, they were already paying for someone to travel somewhere.

Because the agenda was planned well in advance, each executive was in the meeting for less than an hour instead of having the executive team tied up all day. An email went out to the participants with a calendar invitation so it was just a regular meeting blocked on their calendars.

For every major sale, the sales team simply contacted product marketing with a client name and date to kick off the logistics. Consistent. Repeatable. Measured. Effective.

The corporate demo room

Demos were so common for this software that Marketing set up a dedicated demo room. Organized around a large conference table, the room had HUGE displays—after all, a 70-inch display can now be purchased for about $1200. Of course it helped that some of the software screens were gorgeous. Many buyers walked in the room and said, “Yes, this is exactly what I want!” Before they’d even seen the demo.

The “demo guy” was responsible for all the technology as well as having the room ready at all times. At midnight, a ‘cron’ ran to restore the demo database back to its “normal” state—automatically deleting any residue from the last demo session. No client names, no funny product names. No “Mickey Mouse” or “Yoyodyne” or “ACME.” The demo system had both the current release and the next release installed so clients could see the next generation that was planned.

Lessons learned

Focus on scenarios, not features. Great demos are oriented around specific customer scenarios. Don’t just throw out a bunch of features that are great. Features are like PowerPoint slides—one slide isn’t a presentation; one feature is not a demo.

Don’t use the demo room as a meeting room. The demo room is a huge temptation for others to use as a lunch room or meeting room. Yes, your company should have lots of meeting rooms; this isn’t one of them. You don’t want to have a client walk in to find yesterday’s lunch leftovers.

Action planning drives to the next steps. The key to a Day at Corporate session is to impress clients with your stability; we have the people, process, and products to be a preferred vendor. Now what? “What are our next steps to get you to your goals?”

I like to use a wonderful technique I call “Better start yesterday.” Start from the client’s stated end-point—“You said you wanted to be in production by April”—and then work backward from there. Block out the time necessary for purchasing, installing, training, and production roll-out, and you’ll realize you’ll need to start last week to achieve the client’s goals, which are usually aggressive. A sales or services leader will be able to finesse this technique better than a typical sales rep.

Analyzing the results of customer interviews gives you insights on product, promotion, and selling. Look for areas where a consistent and repeatable program will meet or exceed the needs of clients and sales teams while optimizing corporate time and resources.

Periodic retrospectives, such as analyzing wins and losses, are key tools in your product playbook—a collection of workshops, tools, and templates to ensure your team is systematic in their methods and consistent in their deliverables.

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