Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Demo From Hades: This Is What Happens When You Take Your Eye Off Your Opponent


We have all done it. The seasoned of us, have committed it more often.

Twenty minutes of hell demonstrating the greatest contribution to office productivity and flubbing up every, single thing.

Face Plant. Flame out. Bunkered. Epic Fail.

It wasn't the machine's fault, matter of fact, the Edgeline was in great shape, the best ever; someone even cleaned the chassis. Trays were set correctly, scanning worked, print driver installed and at the ready.

So I couldn't blame the machine.

The MPS pre-work had been established; study conducted, and the decision for the copiers had been wrestled away from purchasing and handed over to IT.

The small fleet of Xerox's were old, over sold and the leases up.

My proposal made sense, didn't grow into a 10 pound, thousand page monstrosity and even included Visio flowcharts. Cool.

The prospects approval process had been defined, documented and we were are track. The Economic, and Technical influencers identified and covered.

I had a Coach and End-Users interviewed. As a final stage, my coach was bringing the last remaining end-user to our offices so she could just take a "quick" peek at the Edgeline.

Can you see this train wreck coming?

To be certain, I am not the best at "the demo" - and I think those who are, commit way too much time, standing at the machine, learning the myriad of never used functions.

I loathe copier training disguised as "sales" training - you know the ones - all speeds and feeds and why this guy's toner is more round than that one's...gag.

But also, I have demo'd Oces with cold cans of Coca Cola in them. I have run dozens of Edgelines with the doors open - if you've never seen it, it is glorious.

I've scanned coffee stained UPS Red shipping tickets through many Canon ADF's and received 99% hit OCR rates.

Who hasn't had a toner bottle explode while showing how "easy it is" to replace?

Yes, I have even "made up" a flip-chart presentation while that damn space shuttle icon prepared for and finally launched(Konica/Minolta) because some goody-goody, decided to power down the unit 10 minutes before my client arrived.

And the ultimate bar story - I have demo'd a machine that had no power; I just used the word "imagine" a great deal.

So yeah, I can dance through most anything. Most.

But I prefer to have all the variables nailed down. Like, what kind of documents will be copied, are there any specific functions to be reviewed, will you ever need heavier bond?

Are you printing .PDF's, and if so, can you send me a file ahead of the demo, so we can be prepared? And what about envelopes?

Do you need and will you need to see 11x17, in color?

Stuff like that. The boring, mundane, bland, everyday functions that a copier should be able to perform. The simple things.

The dark partner of concern shuddered my foundation of confidence when I saw her meaty hand clutching the manila folder of documents. Her heels clicking across our reception area tile like the ticking of some angry clock. Oh boy.

But I thought to myself, "Should be no problem...they print more then copy...".

Well, she pulled out a full color, highly detailed, 11x17 map - generated from a older inkjet - .BMP, not even .PDF.

My question to her was why would you ever copy something like this, if you cold print it ? Don't you receive these documents (hard copy, bound, site survey's and maps) in electronic form?

Mind you, I recognized the engineering company who generated the document. The same company I sold a few wide format devices and a color Canon unit to three years ago.

The Canon came with E*Copy Desktop. And I remember spending an hour showing them how to assemble multi-page .PDF documents so they could email final reports to their clients, saving thousands on courier charges. I knew that she had the report in digital form.

"No", her response.

"So, you dismantle the report, scan them and then make copies ? Is that the process?

"Yes", her response.

I know, logic does not apply, but it didn't matter. This is how she does it now, and this is the process she wants to see my machine perform.

My weakness - my unit scans at 600 dpi, and outputs 1200 so the output was clearly sub-standard. I had to agree.

Oh, and sometimes, they need to duplex 11x17, at the machine and hate the speed of their existing Xerox.

Carefully explaining how the Edgeline applies ink, reads the surface of the paper and either re-applies ink with another pass or runs the sheet around again, until the ink is dry - this makes the speed of output decrease but insures a higher quality.

She wasn't having any of it.

The scan quality sucked, and the speed slowed to an unbearable crawl. Game, set, match, I took five in the back.

The Postmortem - "Somebody Call Dexter, we got blood here..."

What did we learn?

Know what the heck you are getting into before you get into it. More importantly, MPS is a big deal, a compelling argument, but when it gets right down to it, it's the basics that either make or break you - always has been, always will be.

Remember the basics.

Hey, this isn't easy, if it were, your manager would still be in sales.

Keep getting up and keep selling.


  1. Excellent story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mike -

    Thanks for reading, keep coming back!

  3. The story would be funny if it happened less often.

    When Ross Perot was running for President he used to say "The Devil is in the details" and it's sooooo true. However I think anyone who has sold has a story quite similar to this one.

    I had a sort os "Reverse" version in that I was convinced all was lost as the color unit I was about to Demo colors had shifted as a result of an evening thunder storm and with the customer coming into the show room I had no time to Calibrate.

    So off we go, we load the files she brought and I send the first few to print and thinking "OK I'm toast now"!!! Well doesn't she take one look and goes "OH WOW this is terrific color how soon can we get one".

    OK so the God and Goddess of all things toner based smiled upon me. Far to often they frown.

  4. This post is great and I love the story. I believe that sales is the ultimate story-telling profession. You can never truly understand the actions and thought process of human beings until you have been a Sales Associate. The job creates such amazing and humorous stories as time passes and gives you the ultimate people and verbal skills. This blog reminds me of all the twisting and turning that the job requires and all the creativity that you must use in order for a successful sale.

  5. This story is funny because it does happen all the time - not continually with each selling professional but as an aggregate.

    It happens and there are more: cold calls gone wild, messed up training, goofy installs, service technicians trying to sell Filipino knock-off's, clients tossing cookies during a first meeting...ride alongs from hell...

    on and on and on...

    it's called, Life.

  6. There is nothing worse than that particular moment in the demo when you know that you're absolutely effed. Nothing... worse.

  7. God, I thought I was the only one this happens to. It was quite a funny story. At least you knew you had one going south quickly. How about the ones who say, "Great, I'll take 5, send me the lease papers" and then deathly silence from them forever. That heppened recently. Leaves you scratching your head about what could have happened.