Trouble Won the Business

signs read, "Subject to technical issues"

You never know what will tip the scale in your favor. Today’s talk is about a presentation I did that won the business because of technical problems.


Hello and welcome to my podcast. Today my talk is about when trouble won the business!

When I was the Product Manager for a software company, we received an invitation to demonstrate our product to a client. We had a new version of our flagship product, and it was hosted on our servers, instead of being installed on their servers, and the product was subscription-based instead of a perpetual license.

This was all very leading edge 15 years ago. 

Microsoft had reviewed our architecture. Gartner interviewed us and published an article about our innovative approach. I spoke at a Gartner conference about our product. We had worked with a person from Microsoft that was one of the original architects for Microsoft Outlook. I was invited to Microsoft’s launch of their new line of products and posed with Steve Ballmer for a photo-op.

It was all very exciting. But there were many quality problems, technical problems, and business problems that still needed to be resolved when we did our presentation. But we received a blessing in disguise.

A small team of us flew on our company’s private jet to the client’s site. We had decided to hold the presentation and demo in the client’s conference room. We had explained how we would demonstrate our product and had confirmed that they had adequate Internet bandwidth.

When we arrived, our client told us that so many people wanted to see the demo that the event had been moved to a local hotel. I was worried.

The first part of our presentation was the typical PowerPoint. Our client asked a few questions but just wanted us to move to the demo; this fell on my shoulders.

I had only had a few minutes to verify that I had Internet access since our client and we had moved, en mass, from the conference room to the hotel. Now came the decisive moment…and we failed.

The demo kept timing out and dropping the login session. It was a nightmare. Finally, the lead technical person and I started collaborating to solve the problem. It was simple. The hotel had horrid Internet. 

We thought the “easy” solution was to just move back to the client’s conference room, so we all packed up our stuff and went to the conference room.

Their tech plugged their computer into the network, and I tried to sign in. No luck. The tech and I picked ideas. We tried several things, but we could not reach our demo site. Finally, the tech remembered that their Internet access was blocked for web access. They used the internet to transfer files and such.

It took another department to make the firewall change. In our present world, firewall changes aren’t made ‘on-the-fly’ and usually take days to get all of the signoffs needed to facilitate the change. But back then, it took about 45 minutes.

Finally, we were ready to begin our demo, but the allotted time had almost run out. After I verified that the demo was mostly working, our salesperson took over and did a splendid job considering the state of our product and the client’s unstable Internet.

A few weeks later we learned that we won the business, not because they were impressed with the presentation or the demo but because they saw how well we had all worked together, and that’s what they based their decision on.

I learned to never assume that we’d lost a sale just because of some problems during a presentation. The most important goal of a sales presentation is to build a relationship with a prospective client and not to muscle through a lengthy slide deck.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay 


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