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3 min read

Discovery On-The-Fly, Uncovering the Underknown

Discovery On-The-Fly, Uncovering the Underknown

Ever have a runaway demoEver Have a Runaway Demo?

Your salesperson, Emma, has a “hot lead.” Kristian, the prospect and a company executive, wants to make a decision quickly and needs a demo “right away.” Emma presses Kristian to provide time to perform a formal discovery so she can get input from other stakeholders. Kristian asserts, “You don’t need to do that. I have a list of requirements from them, and we don’t have time for a bunch of interviews. That would take weeks. Why don’t you get your demo expert to provide us with an overview and we will guide him or her from there?” Emma accepts Kristian’s request, convinces her to send the list of requirements, and sets up the demo for the next business day.

Emma reaches out to her pre-sales manager who tasks Luca to perform the demo. Luca gets the list of requirements from Emma and spends thirty minutes preparing for the demo. Luca starts with an overview and is quickly cut off by Kristian. “We’ve seen all of this in your YouTube videos. We need to ask our questions.” From here the demo devolves into a train wreck of disjointed demands and reactive demo responses.

Each of the four stakeholders that Kristian invited pepper Luca with random questions. Luca tries his best to react and answer every question with demos of features. At the end of the demo, Emma asks for next steps and Kristian says, “To be honest, I’m not sure you’re a fit. It doesn’t do everything we need it to do and your software appears too complex.” Ouch…

The Problems

Being responsive to a demanding buyer is an admirable quality within certain parameters. However, when someone like Kristian insists that they have all you need to perform a demo to multiple stakeholders, you should go in assuming that there is an abundance of Underknown information.

In the scenario above the prospect presented a list of requirements that they believed was complete. You know better. Some of the stakeholders never turned in their list. Others began adding to the list during the demo. You were not able to build a relationship ahead of the demo to understand each stakeholder’s personality and priorities. And, their list didn’t contain the forward-thinking innovations the solution could provide. There is simply no substitute for a thorough discovery but that’s not realistic in many of today’s buyer-driven sales processes.

The Realities

There used to be a time when your salesperson would simply say “no” to this type of request from this demanding buyer. Those days went away with flip-phones. Buyers have more power than ever before, they’re more informed, and they buy solutions for their businesses, modeling the same behavior they exhibit when they purchase expensive consumer products. They research things themselves and make quick, emotional decisions.

The Solutions

Try asking prospects for something in return for skipping your discovery and moving right into a demo.

  • Remind your salesperson that pushing back is an option, even if 90% of customers say, “No.” If it works 10% of the time, that’s a 10% improvement.

  • Take the requirements list and generate a list of clarification questions wherever you see gray areas of needs. Send that directly to the contact and ask for clarification ahead of the demo. That alone may prompt them to have a call with you for Discovery to uncover the underknown. At a minimum, it will set the expectations that you will begin the session with questions that require clarifications before you demo.

  • Enter the demo with a plan that best highlights the flow of your software. If appropriate, “James Bond” them (a 2Win! demo technique). Show a specific function with a benefit directed at the executive stakeholder but, only if you are confident that it is relevant and will resonate. Then pause, present an agenda of how you will address their requirements, and stick with your plan.

  • After presenting your agenda, perform your Discovery on-the-fly. Ask questions so you have the clarification you need ahead of a demo topic. We offer training on how to accomplish this without disrupting the flow of the demo or test the patience of the stakeholders. Uncover the underknown for that topic, perform a Tell-Show-Tell of that topic and move on to the next topic. As for direct feedback at the end of each demo topic. Verify that it met their expectations and ask them acknowledge the benefit. Then rinse and repeat.

  • After you have demonstrated that you’re being responsive to their needs, begin performing discovery-on-the-fly of your key differentiators and advanced features. Once you’ve established relevance, blow their socks off with those key capabilities by connecting the demo to what you just learned moments earlier and continue doing this throughout the demo. Some “self-proclaimed” experts will tell you always “demo the last thing first”. When information is “underknown” and the prospect comes to a demo with a list of demands, doing so can be a huge mistake and massive risk. The prospect will immediately become frustrated with your lack of respect for their requests and you’ll lose them from the outset.


Understanding the underknown in high-pressure, demanding situations is the cornerstone to a successful demo when the stakeholders disallow discovery or when your discovery is underknown. When you’re in that situation, be firm, be patient, and follow a process. You can’t always prevent demonstrating against the underknown but, you can still manage a win with these simple tips.