Alice’s guide to software demonstrations

It’s a little known fact that Alice in Wonderland has valuable advice to offer software vendors. I know that software didn’t exist when Lewis Carroll penned his masterpiece but such is the value of his work that it transcends time. It really doesn’t matter whether you are peddling software to support client services or fundraising, Alice has some words of wisdom for you.

#1: ‘What is the use of a book without pictures?’

It continues to amaze me that software vendors fail to take notice of one of Alice’s most famous pieces of advice. Think about it for a moment. You’re demonstrating software to service providers or fundraisers. Let’s take the first category. Whether they be social workers, psychologists, OTs, physiotherapists or speech pathologists – all are a long way from database programmers. The second lot are even worse. Fundraisers. Marketers. You would have to be akin to the footman, which Alice describes so delicately as ‘perfectly idiotic’, to even consider submitting a software tender proposal to a marketer without pictures! And yet, alas, the custom of 20 page data specifications rambling on about PCI, XL7, SOAP, XML etc persists.

#2: ‘Please mind what you’re doing’

If you thought leaving out the pictures was bad, then paying no attention to details is worse! Whether it’s a $20,000 sale or a $200,000 sale, I think software salesmen would do well to get the Not for Profit’s name right. Moreover, take the 2 minutes and google the business before you come in and assume you know what the Organisation does. How silly do you look presenting to the Free the Flamingo Foundation assuming that it rescues birds from fisherman instead of from a harsh and long life as a croquet mallet for the queen? When I select a software supplier, I want them to have an eye for detail. If they cannot even get the basics right in their pitch, then why should I be confident their software is going to adequately support the Organisation’s services or fundraising/marketing efforts?

#3: ‘Say what you mean’

Another persistent habit of software vendors is to fail to ‘say what you mean.’ They arrive with their very familiar software program and proceed to talk of Cases, Categories, Activity Codes, Campaign Codes, Profiles and Internal Referrals. These may be entirely unfamiliar to the nonprofit customer sitting in the room, or worse, mean a different thing in their existing software. So please do us a favour and stop talking about ‘cases’ and say what you mean!

#4: ‘Mean what you say’

Not all software vendors are insincere. This one is reserved for the previously mentioned piranhas who have been placed on a strict tofu and lemon curd diet for the week prior to the demonstration.

I consider myself a pragmatic idealist. Whenever I’ve come across any supplier for the Not for Profit industry my philosophy has been simple: I know you need that you’re in business and need to make a profit but ‘fair play with the cake.’ (Yes, another Alice-ism. I do love my Alice in Wonderland.) If you sit there and tell me that you’re going to HALVE the price because you’re so philanthropic well, I’m going to think you’re full of… ahem… jam! (The closest thing to an expletive I can locate in Alice)

#5: ‘Curtesy while you’re thinking of what to say, it saves time.’

I couldn’t resist adding this last piece of Alice wisdom. I thought the idea of software salesmen performing the curtesy mid-powerpoint slide was hilarous and had to include it. Well, some of them want to be paid almost $2,000 a day. For that kind of money, I think they should treat me like royalty!


Posted on July 10, 2011, in Fundraising, Not for Profit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post, thescroobiouspip! If I can add a couple of Alice-ism suggestions:

    1) “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. Mmm, yes, so If you’re going to tell me such things then try to make them at least vaguely plausible. How many times have I heard a software salesperson tell me how simple something is or that their software can definitely do something when, well, let’s just say the Red Queen might be saying something about ‘off’ and ‘head’…

    2) “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to run to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” I know salespeople can’t tell you that you need to work really hard to get the new database working and that to make it do anything truly effective will need more time even after you go-live, but I am sure that we have all felt like Alice doing this.

    (I have also seen Tweedledum and Tweedledee do a demo some years ago but I can’t tell you who they were without getting sued…)

    Keep up the great blog!


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