Can a Kitchen Timer Improve Your Demo Skills?
Sales engineers face many obstacles when trying to win new business: Competitive tools, long buying cycles, lack of a prospect’s buying power in an organization, etc. You probably know how to prepare for those obstacles, but you might not realize that there’s an even bigger obstacle you’re competing with: Short attention spans. In a society where the majority of people are hyper-stimulated and over-caffeinated, it’s hard to keep anyone’s attention! This puts even more pressure on sales engineers to give succinct, targeted demos, before their prospects lose focus and stop actively listening. A modified version of the popular Pomodoro Technique can help you use psychological research to structure your sales demo to keep your audience engaged. Keep reading to learn how!
About the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system based on research that says people can, on average, pay attention to something for 25 minutes before losing focus. The method is named for a tomato-shaped timer that creator Francesco Cirillo used to block his time into 25-minute intervals (pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian).
In the Pomodoro Technique, you work in short, 25-minute intervals (called pomodoros), and take intentional breaks in between each interval. The idea behind the method is that taking short, scheduled breaks while working minimizes the loss of attention to the task at hand. I’m sure that we can all attest that frequent breaks improve our mental capacity and help us avoid burn out.
Using Pomodoro to Improve Your Demo Flow
Inspired by the Pomodoro Technique, this demo practice can help you keep your demo structured and your audience focused. I call it “chunking” your work.
Break Your Demo Into Chunks
The first step is to figure out how you want to break your demo up. Is it by role, by activity, by product? Whatever you decide, write down every chunk that you include in your demo.
Put Your Chunks in Order
Next, apply a sort of modified pomodoro technique during your demo. I say modified, because you probably need more than 2 distinct sections in a 60-minute demo – so instead of 25-minute intervals, you might use 10 or 15-minute intervals. Decide the order in which you’d like to present your chunks, and how much time you’ll need for each.
Plan (Mental) Breaks
Between each chunk, brainstorm ways that you can give your audience a mental break. I’m not talking about an actual break here (that would probably get annoying!) – in this practice, it’s more of a pause in activity.
This table shows ways that you can take a pause, and how each pause will enhance your audience’s experience.
Each of these pauses provides the audience with an opportunity to let everything they just heard sink in, while giving the presenter an opportunity to prepare for the next chunk. This helps both the presenter and their audience absorb information, stay engaged, and make the most of the demo time.
Taking breaks allows the brain to stay focused and keeps your audience engaged. In a study done by psychologists at the University of Illinois, researchers found that, “… heightened levels of vigilance can be maintained over prolonged periods of time with the use of brief, relatively rare and actively controlled disengagements from the vigilance task.” This means that as long as we take short, intentional breaks, we can keep our audiences engaged with our sales demos!
Want to Hone Your Demo Skills?
If you’re looking to drastically improve your demo skills in a short period of time, I highly encourage trying out a demo review! Demo reviews are great for sales engineers and sales engineering teams looking for intensive coaching and lasting results. Learn more about demo reviews here!