Do you work for an organisation that offers a free trial? Do you get customers that want to try the product before committing to it? Are you selling a SaaS product?
If so, you will end up doing a proof of concepts on a regular basis.
Proof of concepts (POCs) are a vital part of the sales ecology and often make or break great deals. While each organisation has it's own way of running POCs, there is a fundamental structure that can be followed to ensure POCs are a success.
POC's can be categorised into 4 major stages.
Hopefully you have already done a good job of getting the business case from the prospect and have now identified that they are ideal candidates for a POC.
In this stage of the POC you will have to work with the prospect and identify if your product is a good fit for their organisation. You need to make sure that you understand the following:
Roadblocks that might cause the POC to fail
Work with the evaluating team and understand if here are any potential road blocks in the POC.
For example, you could start a POC with the prospect and he could come back to you saying that their team is now on vacation and they will have to come back to you to complete the POC. A gap in the POC is as good as starting from scratch and might lead to unwanted delays. Similarly if you start a weak POC where the customer's real pain points are not understood, you will end up doing a feature talk with them which is not a good place to be in.
Must haves from the solution
We have seen many a POC fall flat because the prospect is left to discover shortcomings in the product. These shortcomings might not always be important to the prospect but sometimes the shortcomings are vital to their product adoption. Which means all the effort spent in the POC goes for a toss.
Our advice: Have a clear conversation with the prospect and understand if there are must haves that they need from the solution. If you cannot provide them with the must haves, do not shy away from telling the prospect that you are missing the said features.
Let the prospect then acknowledge that they are still interested in pursuing the POC fully understanding certain critical features are missing.
Better to hear a quick no, avoid the slow no.
Seriousness/urgency involved in the POC
A POC costs a prospect $0, whereas it is a cost to your company. Resources used aside, your time is also money. So don't let the prospect start a POC and then run it for weeks on end. There should be a clear idea as to where your prospect is going.
It usually surprises sales individuals when we tell them: "You can deny a prospect a POC if they are not serious about it." . Let that sink in for a moment.
Yes! You are in your right to deny a POC if you feel the prospect is just wasting your time.
Identify (measurable) goals
So you have identified a prospect that needs to do a POC. The next step is getting your prospect to agree goals that can be measured and hence you can demonstrate the value of your offering.
For example: "I want my sales team to make more money." is a goal but is hardly a goal that you can measure and then celebrate.
A better goal will be "I want my sales team to generate 1.5x more revenue in the next 6 months." This is a measurable goal and one that will demonstrate the effectiveness of your services or product.
By setting measurable goals you leave no room for interpretation when it comes to the success of your POC with the prospect. The best way to work with your prospects is to put in place a mutual success plan.
Once you fill out the plan and get your customer to agree to it. We will talk about the effectiveness of a mutual success plan and using it in detail in a future blog post.
Once you have agreed on the way forward, it is important to monitor the POC's progress. The standard and highly effective way to do this is to involve a pre-sales team member who will assist the prospect with technical queries and also make sure that the POC remains on track.
A major reason for POCs failing is that sales individuals usually switch off once the POC has started and are more than happy to just jump on a call by the end of the POC. As a sales individual it is your job to make sure the prospect's POC is on track and (if needed) setup multiple meetings with the prospect during the course of the POC.
The smart way of monitoring a POC is to invest in customer health tracking tools that allow you to define milestones in a POC and also inform you when the prospect's interest in the POC is declining.
If you have executed all the steps right so far, it is time to wrap up the POC and deliver your results to the prospect.
Your prospect might not always understand what your offering has done for them. It is vital to collect all your results and present them to the prospect.
Do not throw statistics out there, deliver your results in an effective format that shows value as opposed to just slide deck full of stats.
Bad delivery method: Our analysis shows that you made $5,000 more last quarter due to our software.
Good delivery method: Our analysis shows that you had a 10% increase in sales last quarter. Not only did you make $5,000 more last quarter but if we continue using our software you should see an overall growth of 25% this year. In effect, you will make $100,000 more this year without having to invest in ramping up your sales team.
Notice how the pitch not only talks about now but the future and also the benefit of sticking with the software. You can only truly deliver option 2 when you have understood the business pain of the prospect and this is where building a great business case is so important.
If you nail everything we have described so far, there is very little chance of the sale not going through. Best of luck and feel free to tweet to us on @insideselling if you need help with any of these steps.