Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Words tell, demos sell

Back when I was in a business development role I learnt that the most effective way to sell an idea was to demonstrate it. You can put together an entire library of PowerPoint slides but that won’t win over a skeptical customer the way five minutes in front of a physical mock-up can.

I was reminded of this recently while plowing through a stack of proposals for an inspection system. Every integrator told me that they could do the job. Most of them told me how they’d do the job, but not one showed me that they could do it. Not one invited me out to his facility for a demo, set up a WebEx meeting or even posted a movie on YouTube.

Would that convince you to spend a six figure sum? It certainly doesn’t convince me.

To the same point, there was a piece in the May Photonics Spectra about how to win SBIR funding. (SBIR, or Small Business Innovation Research, awards are funding from the US government intended to help small companies do clever new things.) One of the “Lessons learned” by a company that has been successful with the SBIR program, and especially with moving into a second round or phase of funding, was to deliver more than paper at the end of Phase 1. To quote from the article, “… we actually build hardware … [because when] … they see it, and they want a few.”

In other words, don’t tell, show.

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