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If you have more than one person on your team, then you have a communication problem. I know that this sounds extreme, but it’s true.

I originally published this on LinkedIn and at

I work in a small team for a non-profit where we’re building a SaaS application for education in the health professions community–doctors, nurses, pharmacy students, etc. We sit within proximity of one another in the office, so we have a good working relationship.

You may be in sight of each other, but it does not mean you’re in sync–no boy band jokes, please.

Stupid-Simple Communication

I was reminded of the value of communication a few months ago when I was on a call with a prospect doing a demo. We hadn’t told the team about our demo with a new potential customer that day. We paid for that slight omission.

If you have ever had to demo software of any type (web-based software, desktop, or mobile), then you will likely relate to the story I am about to share. Our introductions, slide presentation, and discussion all were going well with this prospect. They were buying what we were selling that morning.

As you might expect, their team was asking all the right questions. We are a seasoned team. Software demos are not our “first rodeo” even though this is a new concept to market. Personally, I’d already shown off our software three other times in the last week to prospects. I’m feeling confident at this point.

We even did a dry-run before we jumped on the call with them to make sure that everything was in working order. It was. We were showing our SaaS in all its glory.

Nothing on the Hook

The login and first user story go off without a hitch. We demonstrate our unique push technology for alerting that we had discussed. We proceed to other user stories and experience a little twinge of latency, but all is well in demo-land. Then it happens.

If you are like many software businesses that sell P2P (person to person–I don’t like the B2B, B2C, B2G, etc. conventions because decisions typically happen between people not entities), then you are likely to put an excellent “hook” in your demonstration. The goal of the “hook” is to “wow!” your prospect in a way they may not have seen in other applications (Michael Hyatt talks about the “wow-factor” in his book Platform)…and we were driving towards that moment. Click.



Nothing happens. Latency maybe? We wait. We wait. Nothing.

The room goes dark, and nighttime is suddenly upon us. Maybe not that dramatic. We have entered “demo hell.” An alert pops up on the screen to notify us that the servers are down. All subsequent login reattempts fail. The next 60 seconds were excruciating. Truly painful.

The only way to get out of this purgatory of “demo-hellness” was to leave it behind. We moved on to our discussion by quickly quitting the demo and talking about what should have happened.

Communication Breakdown

Sometimes you need to leave your SaaS behind. In this case, there was no diagnosing our way out of the situation. We could either awkwardly wait it out or move on. We chose the later.

As I mentioned, it was not a bad call with a great prospect for our SaaS software. We ended up having another very engaging discussion after our failure to hook them with the great feature. In fact, the call went well over the hour that we had originally planned with this potential customer. Not a bad day.

In doing our post-mortem and discussing our mishap with the project manager, I discovered where we had failed. We had a lapse in communication that could have cost us an opportunity.

That morning the lead engineer and the project manager communicated with all our existing stakeholders, users, and even put up notices on our production environment that we needed to do a needed security patch that would require taking down the servers for an hour.

It appeared they had informed everyone. Except, they failed to tell me, the web software product manager, the head of product development and our product owner of the impending downtime. We, on the other hand, did not tell them of our demo. Classic “Fail” for both groups.


No matter what size your SaaS organization is, you need to communicate better intra-team for important activities. My first thought was, “When do we ever take down the servers at 11 am?” Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I was wrong.

Our prospecting call turned out okay because we were far enough into our demo before we got the boot. Don’t get the boot. Communicate.

As trivial as it might seem that you are doing a demo on a typical weekday morning as you have done hundreds of times before, you might want to let someone in engineering know–even if that “group” is your co-founder(s) or a couple of teammates.

How well does your team do communicating? What tools or tips have you found to stop from getting the boot?

Share below in the comments. We’ll all get a kick out of it.

Brian Stout
Tech Product Leader
Follow me on Twitter: @thinkstout


Hawaii Board MeetingBonus: Get Away Now

I get wrapped around the axel a lot. Like A LOT. It is not altogether awful to get stuck sometimes on the right things. My bad habit is that I don’t take enough time away with my wife, kids, and family–in fact, I have been on the losing end of vacation policies that are use-it-or-lose-it too many times in my career.

My bad habit is that I don’t take enough time away with my wife, kids, and family–in fact, I have been on the losing end of vacation policies that are use-it-or-lose-it too many times in my career.

No winners there–me, family, or business.

The tranquil picture of the surfers in Hawaii is a good reminder that we have to get away–whatever that means for you. In 2013, it was a trip to Hawaii for our honeymoon and a board meeting. Maybe for you, it is a fishing trip.

Some of my favorites memories are fishing trips with my dad, friends, and family over the years. My bride and I are getting away soon. Yes, please!

Be grateful for your SaaS when it works as excepted, but don’t let missteps hurl you into dark waters.  Enjoy the entire journey. Unwrap from the everyday grind and get hooked. Everyone wins!

You have a lot of options. Thanks for your time today!

Where are you going next? What does your perfect getaway look like?