A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Winning Sales POC

min read
May 17, 2024

Looking to increase your technical win rate? You need to bridge the gap between highlighting product features in your demo and delivering real-world value to your prospects. 

That’s where a Sales Proof of Concept (POC) comes in. A successful POC in sales demonstrates the practical value and feasibility of your product to potential customers. This shift from passive observation to active engagement builds trust and confidence.

What Does POC Mean in Sales?

A Proof of Concept is a scaled-down trial to validate your product before full deployment. It helps stakeholders assess the solution's feasibility and potential. Think of it as a hands-on trial run that allows prospects to experience your product or service firsthand.

Benefits of Sales POC

By offering an immersive experience, a Sales POC can effectively demonstrate how your offering addresses their specific needs.

1. Demonstrate Value: A Sales POC lets your prospects try out your product or service themselves. This shows them how it works and how it can benefit them.

2. Test Technical Feasibility: It helps your prospects understand your product's technical execution. They’ll get clarity on the required tech stack and additional resources.

3. Builds Buyer Confidence: By implementing the concept on a trial basis before full deployment, it addresses uncertainty and doubt in your customer’s minds.

4. Facilitates Decision-Making: It empowers prospects to make informed decisions by offering them insights into how the solution would work in their business context.

How to Build a Winning Sales POC?

Phase 1: Pre-POC Planning

Before starting a Sales POC, it's crucial to plan everything carefully to achieve your sales objective.

1. Define Your Sales Objectives

This means outlining what you want your prospects to achieve by the end of the POC to move forward with a long-term contract. The objective can be demonstrating specific product features, demonstrating ROI, or showcasing integration capabilities to your prospect.

2. Understand Your Customer’s Pain Points

An in-depth analysis will allow you to tailor the POC to the customer's unique challenges and desired outcomes. This involves more than just listening to customer success calls—you have to actively engage with the prospect, ask probing questions, and truly grasp their pain points.

Your customer pain points can vary based on their role and industry. A SaaS startup will often use email marketing software very differently than an e-commerce or a live commerce brand. They even differ in technical capabilities and the way their marketing teams are structured. For example, a live commerce brand engages with its customers in real-time and addresses their needs more directly, which is very different from other brands.

3. Selecting the Right Participants

Engaging the right stakeholders early on is essential for several reasons. First, it helps ensure alignment between your solution and the customer's needs and goals. Second, it allows you to address any concerns or objections the buying committee may have upfront, increasing the likelihood of buy-in during later stages. 

This is particularly important in enterprise sales where perhaps the marketing team will use your product but they will need buy-in from their data security head and maybe the analytics head.

By involving key stakeholders from the outset, you also demonstrate your commitment to understanding their requirements and working collaboratively to find the best solution. 

Phase 2: The POC Process

Once the objectives are clearly defined in the pre-POC planning phase, the actual execution of the Sales POC begins. This phase involves a series of steps aimed at demonstrating the solution's value and feasibility to the prospect.

1. Establishing the Success Criteria

You should establish clear success criteria upfront to ensure the POC's effectiveness. These criteria should be aligned with the predefined objectives and should be measurable and attainable. Your POC success criteria should also reflect the expectations of all buying committee members.

Examples of POC success criteria include achieving specific performance benchmarks (e.g. response time), user adoption rates (e.g., percentage of users actively using the product), and integration success (e.g. seamless integration with the prospect’s existing tech stack).

2. Tailored Demonstration

Beyond mere features, buyers seek a compelling purchasing journey, This increases their trust in the seller and confidence in the product's ability to meet their technical needs and business goals. Pre-sales efforts must demonstrate consistent short and long-term value delivery.

Make sure your presentation covers the problem, solution, and test results. Your demo should highlight unique product attributes, particularly those setting you apart from competitors and offering exclusive capabilities. 

You should customize the demo to highlight how the solution can solve the prospect's specific challenges. For example, a sales head would use your CRM to track the performance of his team. While a marketing head would use it to ascertain the quality of his email campaigns. A technical head would be more interested in knowing how the CRM integrates with the current tech stack. So your demo will depend on who you are pitching to.

While addressing prospect needs, you should also distinguish between “essential” and “desirable” features to avoid cognitive overload.

3. Collaboration and Feedback

Open communication and gathering feedback from the customer throughout the POC are essential for refining it and ensuring alignment with the prospect's expectations. Don't assume silence during the POC means everything's smooth sailing. Reach out proactively to ensure the client isn't struggling silently.

You should set up regular check-in calls and send them personalized emails to share updates. You should also make adjustments based on their feedback. This will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. 

Involving the customer in the feedback process fosters a sense of ownership and strengthens the relationship between the sales team and the prospect.

Phase 3: Post-POC Follow-up 

The post-POC follow-up is crucial. In this phase, you can convert the positive momentum generated until phase 2 into a successful business outcome.

1. POC Results Analysis

Now that your Sales POC is complete, it's time to dig into the data. Analyze the metrics and identify any key insights or trends. We recommend creating visual aids like graphs or charts to present the data effectively.

2. Leveraging Success

Once you've analyzed the results, it's time to leverage your success. Put together a comprehensive report highlighting the key findings and how they directly addressed our customer's pain points. Make sure to emphasize any significant improvements or achievements observed during the POC. Realisation does a good job of demonstrating ROI for a Danish multi-brand fashion group, DK Company. 

3. Building a Winning Business Case Using Sales POC

With your insights in hand, you can now craft a compelling business case. Outline the tangible benefits of our solution and demonstrate how it aligns with the client's goals. Don’t forget to include examples of how similar clients have benefited from our solution in the past. 

By clearly explaining the benefits and how much return on investment (ROI) the prospect can expect, you're showing them how the solution can make a real difference to their business. This helps them see why investing in your solution is worth it!

Plus, a business case study will also look great on your website blog.

4. Negotiation & Closing

Adjust your offer based on what you learned from the Sales POC. This shows you're flexible and focused on meeting the customer's needs. For example, if the POC revealed a feature the customer really wants, be willing to negotiate on price to close the deal.

And of course, you'll want to keep the lines of communication open with the client to address any final concerns and ensure a smooth closing process.

Types of POCs in Sales 

In sales, there are different ways to show how a product or service works before someone buys it. This flexibility helps meet the needs of different customers. 

Self-Service POCs

Self-service POCs are ideal for products that are easy to use and require minimal guidance. Customers can explore the product independently, often through free trials or demo versions, allowing them to experience its functionality firsthand before making a purchasing decision. 

An example would be software platforms like Canva which offer free trials.

Guided POCs

Guided POCs involve direct involvement from sales engineers who guide customers through the demonstration process. This approach is beneficial for products that require more explanation or customization to showcase their full potential effectively. 

As an example, Salesforce offers guided POCs, where sales specialists walk you through a tailored demo.

A more efficient approach to scaling guided POCs is by leveraging interactive demo software such as Storylane. This platform enables the creation of customized demos in sandbox environments, empowering prospects to engage directly with your product. 

Storylane is user-friendly and supports various capture formats, including video/screenshots and HTML. Plus, it provides detailed analytics to track prospect engagement levels effectively. 

Full-Scale Pilot Programs

Full-scale pilot programs are suited for complex solutions that require extensive integration or implementation. They involve a small-scale deployment of the entire product, allowing customers to closely interact with it and assess its suitability for their specific requirements before committing to a full rollout. 

These would be beneficial for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system like SAP.

Common Sales POC Pitfalls

In conclusion, creating successful Sales POCs requires strategic careful planning and execution.  Your objective is to showcase how your solution addresses the customer's pain points and delivers tangible value. Before we wrap up, let’s discuss a few more common pitfalls to avoid during the POC process.

Unclear Objectives

One of the most significant pitfalls in executing a Sales POC is embarking without clearly defined objectives. Without well-articulated goals, the POC lacks direction and may fail to deliver tangible results. Unclear objectives can lead to a mismatch between customer expectations and the demonstrated capabilities of the product or service, resulting in a loss of sales.

Scope Creep

Scope creep occurs when the scope of the POC expands beyond its initial boundaries, often due to additional feature requests or unforeseen requirements. This can derail the POC by stretching resources, increasing timelines, and reducing focus on key objectives. 

To manage scope effectively, it's crucial to establish clear boundaries from the outset and prioritize features based on their alignment with the predefined goals.

Lack of Customer Engagement

A lack of customer engagement throughout the POC process can significantly undermine its success. Without active involvement from the customer, there's a risk of misalignment between their expectations and the delivered solution.

It's essential to encourage customer feedback and address any hesitations or roadblocks promptly to keep the customer invested in the POC's outcomes.

Poor Communication

Clear and consistent communication is paramount at every stage of the POC journey. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and ultimately, a breakdown in trust between the sales team and the customer. 

From pre-planning discussions to post-POC follow-up, maintaining open lines of communication ensures that all stakeholders are aligned. Try to set up a regular communication cadence at the beginning and follow up with emails.

Sales POC FAQs

1. What does a Sales POC stand for? 

POC stands for "Proof of Concept." It's like a hands-on trial to show if an idea or a product works before fully committing to it.

2. What is the difference between a Sales proof of concept, prototype, and MVP? 

POC shows if an idea can work. A prototype is a basic version of the final product. An MVP is the simplest version of a product that still solves the main problem for customers.

3. What is the difference between a proof of concept and a pilot? 

While a POC examines the feasibility of an idea, a pilot assesses its real-world functionality and effectiveness on a small scale before broader implementation.

4. What is a Sales POC example? 

A POC, or Proof of Concept, is like a test or trial for a new product or service. For example, if you've come up with a new app that helps people track their daily exercise. Before asking the prospects to buy it, you might do a POC where you let them try it out for a short time. 

5. What are POC success criteria?  

POC success criteria are the benchmarks used to evaluate the effectiveness of the test. These criteria vary depending on the project but typically revolve around validating key objectives and performance indicators.

"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."

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