Top 5 Differences Between a POC and a Demo 

Chayanika Sen
min read
September 7, 2023

“POCs consume a lot of money in both physical assets and sales resources. The processes are very lengthy and complex in scope. This ultimately creates long and expensive sales cycles. The goal is to only pick the well-qualified winners to run them through the technical validation gauntlet,” presales professional David McCulley mentions in a LinkedIn article.

Does that answer your question? Maybe not well enough. Fret not, we’re here to explain the why, the how and whether that statement does in fact make sense. And if yes, then what’s our next best option? 

How do we provide a POC without actually doing a POC? Hint: you can. Read more to find out how. But first, let’s get into the nitty gritty of what a POC and a demo is, and how they’re different. 

What is a Proof of Concept (POC)?

Consider ‘Proof of Concept’ as an extended trial. When a prospective customer has already seen a demo and wants to test drive the tool in a non-production environment for a longer period of time, they may request a POC. A POC gives the prospect a deeper understanding of how to use the product, how easy or complex it is to use it, explore what the features of the product are, confirm whether it could solve their problems and check if there are financial gains at the end of this tunnel.

A proof of concept may range between 30 and 45 days and comes with some cost for the seller. Usually, commercial and enterprise-level businesses request a POC.  Most SaaS brands offer a paid POC to ensure the prospect is thoroughly invested during the POC time period. 

What is a Sales Demo?

A product or a sales demo is a presentation of your product or service to a prospect on the various use cases, features and value of the product. Your sales ops executive, or an account executive runs the demo to try and solve the prospect’s problems by showcasing the product live or sharing an interactive demo of the product, or through presentations.

These 15-minute-to-1-hour demos usually are either the first or second call salespeople have with the prospect and can happen over video call or in-person meeting. 

The faster you can get the prospect excited about a particular feature, the faster you can close the deal. 

POC Vs Sales Demo

While a sales demo showcases the overall features and functionality of the tool, proof of concept goes further. It calls for the actual implementation of the product for the prospect. It aims to show the key features and how they can impact the business process of the prospect. 

For example, if you’re using a sales engagement tool, you want to see what the workflow of setting up a sales cadence looks like or how it will look to manage multiple stakeholders.

When a POC is carefully developed addressing the prospect's pain points, it can serve as the technical proof and help all the key stakeholders make an informed decision on whether the purchase would be a good investment. 

A POC also serves as a great opportunity to collect feedback on the technical gaps your product may be experiencing. 

So, which one to choose? A sales demo or a POC? In this section, we will discuss the top five differences between the two to help you make an informed decision. 

How is a POC Different from Sales Demos? 

Demo vs. POC: A demo differs from a proof of concept since the former is a presentation, whereas the latter is the actual implementation. A demo is somewhat similar to an informational video, which involves sharing information with people about a product or service in a more relaxed setting. 

A POC focuses more on testing the viability of a particular piece of technology by building something that demonstrates how it works. For example, consider the situation of buying a car. A demo is a salesperson explaining the car's features, whereas POC is taking a test drive to experience the features and evaluate whether the car fits your desires or not. To get into further detail, here’s a breakdown of how POC is different from a demo: 

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How Does it Work for POC?

Understand the prospect’s pain points

Once the prospect is done with the demo and has reached a proof of concept stage, the AEs need to understand the prospective customer's requirements and the desired outcome before presenting the real-world applications of the product.

As Freddy Jose Mangum mentions, “To understand the prospect’s desired outcome probe to understand their pain points and then map them to the product features that can exactly solve the pain points.”

Know that probing is a continuous process and the better you’re aware of the prospect’s problem, the better you will be able to map the problem to your solutions which can then lead to higher win rates.

Agree on the outcome

Once the prospect and the sales team collaboratively agree on the outcome, the vendor's sales team will plan the POC execution. The POC involves creating a detailed project plan, allocating resources, and determining its timeline. Here’s what a Reddit user has to say:

Screenshot from a Reddit user on what to include in a POC kickoff call

Implement the solution

The vendor's technical team configures the SaaS solution according to the customer's needs. It may involve customizing the solution, integrating it with the prospect’s existing systems, and configuring relevant settings and parameters to match their everyday workflow.

Gather user feedback

The sales team needs to stay in constant touch with the prospect throughout the POC period to ensure it’s meeting the objective that was initially agreed upon. Gathering valuable feedback from the prospect and passing it on to the development team, can also help improve the product and fix the gaps.

Pro tip: Sign an agreement on the success criteria before implementing POC.

How Does it Work for Demos?

Gather information about the prospective customer

Before the demo, it's crucial to gather information about the prospect's pain points, goals, and specific requirements.

Create a customized sales demo

Based on the gathered information, the salesperson prepares a customized demo highlighting the most relevant features and benefits of the SaaS solution.

Success Criteria

What is the success criteria for POCs?

Jumping into a POC without clear success criteria can be a recipe for disaster because POC takes a longer time, is resource-intensive, and still might not close the deal. So, before conducting a POC define your success criteria. For most SaaS sales teams it means to increase the win rates. To see an increase in the win rates, you need to design your POC in a way that meets the prospect’s objectives.

As Jeff Blake mentions in the Success podcast 

“The POC has to tell the customer why your solution will help them and that we’re here to validate the technology. Salespeople need to focus more on the problem and how the prospect can overcome them. For example, if the prospect is experiencing downtime, you want to ask some very pointed questions like ‘does an hour of downtime cost your business?’”

Gather all the information and then map it back to your solution stating how much cost they can save directly and indirectly by implementing your solution. When you do that you are bound to see an increased win rate from your POC. 

What is the success criteria for a sales demo?

The best way to measure the success rate for a sale demo is to look for metrics like how many deals you are able to close without moving to a PoC, how many follow-up calls you have received, and how many people engaged with your demo - like demo engagement metrics, 

To improve your close rates, focus on creating killer demo scripts, doing enough research on the prospect before the demo so that you can offer a customized solution, and sharing demo leave-behinds that prospects can use to convince other stakeholders internally.

Pros and Cons of Each

Pros of Sales Demo

  • Sales demos can be tailored to the prospect’s needs. For example, if a prospect has mentioned website downtime causing revenue loss as one of their pain points, a demo can be customized to showcase how certain features of the product can help the prospect reduce their downtime and improve revenue significantly.
  • An interactive sales demo built on a platform like Storylane can be highly engaging as it allows the prospect to click through the demo themselves and focus on what interests them.

And here’s what a Reddit user has to say about guided sales demos.

A screenshot of a Reddit user sharing their experience of giving prospects a self-guided product demo. 
  • As you can share personalized demos with the prospects, you empower your champions to get buy-ins from decision-makers easily —- thus effective sales demos help in shortening the sales cycle.

Cons of Sales Demo

  • Some products can be too complex to explain over a sales demo in a short span of time. 

Pros of POC

  • A sales POC can build trust and credibility if the POC is carefully executed. You can do so by arranging a demonstration of functionality and how it impacts the prospect's challenges. If you can showcase how the product can deal with issues of the prospect, you have already done half the job. 
  • A sales POC helps the prospect calculate the feasibility, cost, and return on investment of the product effectively and validates the concept of the product. Hence facilitating the internal decision making process.
  • If you’re going into a pricing discussion before the POC is done, you may end up creating a lesser-value deal. But when you could show them how the product is going to solve their problems, during the POC, you’re likely to close a higher value deal.

Cons of POC

  • POCs can be expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive if you need to allocate a resource to handhold the prospect during the process, customize your solutions, go through an iterative development process and integrate with the prospect’s existing system. Thus, it can only be affordable for businesses that have larger deal sizes. 
  • A successful POC might not guarantee a sale. In spite of spending time and resources, the prospect may still choose to move on.
Demo POC
Short and focuses on highlighting the features available on the product Involves experiencing the features of the product at the prospect’s own free time
Only explains how the features will help the prospects Proves how your product helps in real-time under particular requirements
It doesn’t demand any commitment or money from both the parties It demands money, time, and other commitment from both the parties
Demos take very less time to make and can be implemented within minutes. Value is presented within a shorter time frame POCs have longer time periods, and results can take months to bear fruit
It either helps in closing the deal or moves the prospects to the next stage The chance of closing the deal is high compared to the demo, as it involves testing the product

Here’s why you should choose an interactive demo

Now that we’ve seen the differences between POCs and demos, we know clearly which one’s the winner. But here’s more reasons why interactive demos are the way to go: 

1. Become product-led

With an interactive product demo, you let your end-users experience the product. By embedding your interactive product tour on the website, you attract tons of individual end-users to a product. They also aim to reduce customer acquisition costs by empowering users to find and adopt your product independently. You can reduce Time to Value, i.e., a customer's time to gain value from your product. The longer it takes, customers won't hesitate to look for options.

2. Drive quality leads to pipeline

Lead generation is more than just a simple equation of input = output. As much as driving leads to your pipeline is difficult, you really cannot be sure if it's a high-quality lead. If you build an interactive product demo, you can add it to your marketing website and then the possibility of your user becoming a highly qualified lead increases when they touch, feel, and interact with your product.

3. Allow buyers to self-explore products to be less frustrated

I vividly remember a project from high school where we had to pitch a product to the class. I chose a camera to enact an ad for it. RIP to my advertisement skills. But my friend chose to bake cupcakes on the spot and let the class try it out. The kids went luminous! There’s a stark difference when you make your prospects touch and feel the product. An interactive product demo gives a comprehensive idea of your product. You can even let them interact with your product and understand what works for them. Your customer is less frustrated, and you are happier. 

Interactive product demos are less frustrating

4. Gain analytics and track interactions for retargeting

From the interactive product demos shared, you can track the behavior based on clicks. It is also easy to track the time spent on specific pages to know where prospects spend more time and where they bounce off. You can identify who is viewing your product demos and plan how to move them to the next stage of your pipeline. If they become inactive, you can trigger follow-up actions to pursue them via email or retargeted ads. ‍

5. Personalize your product

Do us a favor and check your inbox. What is the one thing that stands out? Everything is addressed to you. Do you really respond to emails, SMS alerts, and requests that say 'Hey,' 'Sir,' 'Ma'am,' 'Dear'? No! You will look for the unsubscribe button or select spam without thinking twice. That's it! You will end up as a SPAM if you don't personalize.

Create Interactive Demos for Your Prospects

Now that we know that POCs can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and yet might not guarantee a sale, businesses need to start considering scalable solutions to showcase value fast. 

To begin with, you can use an interactive product demo created on Storylane.

Storylane lets you create guided customized demos in sandbox-like environments so that the prospect can toy around with the product in their environment without entering a POC. The benefits? See for yourselves 👇

Want to know more? Experience the tool now!

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."
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"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."


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