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  • Writer's pictureEric Doherty

Mastering the Art of POCs in B2B Tech Sales

A Comprehensive Guide to Bridging the Gap Between Discovery and Execution In the B2B technology landscape,

Proof of Concept (POC) trials serve as a pivotal juncture that can make or break a deal. While POCs offer a golden opportunity to demonstrate your solution's capabilities, they can also become resource-draining endeavours if not managed effectively. The secret to a successful POC lies in setting crystal-clear expectations right from the get-go.

I have run successful POCs for Hardware, Software for Networking, CyberSecurity, ITSM, Infrastructure, Compute, Storage and Platforms.

..........but they have not all gone well, mostly when I have rushed into it or not had a clear plan or objective and prospect "buy in".

Here is what I have learnt over my career so let's delve into the critical steps that can help you navigate this crucial stage seamlessly.

1. Transitioning from Basic Demos to Tailored Objectives

Demos are excellent for sparking interest, but they often fall short in addressing the unique challenges faced by a potential client. A generic demo can inadvertently lead to an unwieldy POC that lacks focus. To avoid this pitfall, your demo should transition into a customised presentation that zeroes in on the client's specific pain points and illustrates how your solution can alleviate them.

So, you can tailor your demo make sure you have asked the appropriate discovery questions I always a list of generic questions that are suitable for the target market and the technology I am representing. For example if I am presenting Network Management Software I would like to understand what is causing the prospect pain in the area, it could be the current solution can’t scale causing frustrations for the network management team.

2. The Indispensable Role of Deep-Dive Sessions

Before you even think about launching a POC, a thorough deep-dive session is non-negotiable. This is not merely a technical exercise but an opportunity to gain a holistic understanding of the client's needs and expectations. Key areas to explore include:

- Identifying the client's primary challenges.

- Understanding past solutions they've tried and why those didn't pan out.

- Clarifying their vision for a successful POC.

3. The Importance of BANT in the Buyer’s Journey

The BANT framework is invaluable for qualifying leads and should be emphasized throughout the POC process. Here's how:

Budget: Ensure there's a designated budget for the solution post-POC, which helps in filtering out non-serious inquiries.

Authority: Engage directly with the decision-makers. A POC greenlit by them has a higher likelihood of evolving into a full-fledged project.

Need: Reconfirm the specific challenges the client faces. Sometimes, what appears to be the problem may just be a symptom of a more complex issue. For example, if you are providing an email security solution and the prospect mentions they are experiencing too much spam it could be employee behaviour, inadequate existing security, compliance concerns or data leakage. It is up to you too find out so you can position the appropriate solution.

Timeframe: Establish well-defined timelines. A POC should be a quick sprint to the finish line, not an endless marathon. Adhering to realistic but tight timelines keeps everyone focused.

4. Crafting a Bulletproof Technical Requirements Checklist

A vague list of technical requirements can easily derail a POC. To counter this, develop a structured process for clients to articulate their needs:

- Create a standardised technical requirements template. This not only simplifies the process for the client but also ensures that you capture all essential data points.

- Collaboratively review these requirements to eliminate any ambiguities before the POC kicks off.

5. The Cornerstone of POCs: The Scope Agreement

Drafting a comprehensive POC scope agreement is crucial. This document should meticulously outline:

- The POC's objectives

- The Success Criteria

- Anticipated outcomes.

- Duration and key milestones.

- Data and resource requirements.

- Checkpoints for periodic review of progress.

Utilise a POC questionnaire specifically developed for your product to streamline this process.

N.B. I always employ a trial close here, the questions could be as simple as “ If we meet the success criteria will you purchase our product”.

You are entirely within your rights to ask for or provide a signed Memorandum of Understanding or a Letter of Intent if the POC is successful. Remember it costs your company time and effort to implement a POC, asking the qualifying questions will help you determine your efforts.

6. The Paramountcy of Effective Communication

Regular communication is the glue that holds the POC together. Scheduled check-ins during the POC phase can help ensure that both parties are aligned and offer opportunities for mid-course adjustments if needed.

7. The Post-POC Review: A Learning Opportunity

After each POC, conduct a review to identify:

- Successes and areas for celebration.

- Instances where the POC veered off the intended scope.

- Whether all technical requirements were met.

Use these insights as a springboard for ongoing refinement and improvement.

Wrapping Up

A well-orchestrated POC can serve as the catalyst that converts a prospect's interest into a solid, revenue-generating project. By meticulously planning the journey from the discovery phase to POC execution, you can ensure a streamlined, focused, and ultimately successful trial. The linchpin to this success is a combination of precise expectations, in-depth understanding, and consistent, open communication.

I make use of competitive battlecards to try and showcase the competitive differentiators I have during the process to position the technology as the winning solution. Check this blog for a free article on producing battlecards.

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