12 Steps to a Successful Proof of Concept - Part 1

There are two parts to every business. You already have a lot of blood, sweat and tears poured into developing a new technology. Now, you have to sell it. But selling new technology is often easier than it sounds. You need a way to change how customers think about technology and convince them to embrace your new product. Installing a proof of concept at a customer site is a tool commonly used to remove obstacles to the sales process and help the customer gain the confidence he needs to buy the product.

Over the years, I have demonstrated consistent success with proof of concepts with a variety of technologies. Additionally, I have trained sales engineers who struggle and turned them into consistent performers. The key to this success is incorporating these twelve steps into every proof of concept.

I have broken down these twelve steps into three articles. The first article shows you how to establish a framework for consistently implementing proof of concepts for your customer. The second article will discuss how to properly set the stage for your proof of concept. And the third article discusses how to put on a show that gives you the best chances for advancing the sales process.

Step 1: Understand the Goals

There are two ways to look at the goals associated with any proof of concept. Your goals are to educate the customer and eliminate any objections associated with your solution that might block a sale. The customer needs to determine two things. First, your product has to prove that it can deliver the savings that your sales team promised. Then, you have to demonstrate that your product works in a manner that meets their operational guidelines.

Step 2: Limit the Scope

Step 2 compares our goals with our solution. What we want to do is define a bare bones installation of our solution that allows you to meet everybody’s goals. You want to know exactly the type of hardware and software you will require. Additionally, you need to understand what other components you need in order to have a successful installation.

Step 3: Develop a Standard Routine

When you get in front of your customer, you will only have a few hours to impart as much information as you can to your customer. You need to develop a demonstration and training routine that will quickly educate them and answer the most common questions. This routine needs to be more than just a training course. This is your opportunity to tell your customers how you want them to use your solution and drop a lot of hints about the functionality you want them to see.

When the time comes to deliver this presentation, you do not want to sound like you are reading from cue cards. You need to come across very natural. It should sound relaxed, like you are having a casual conversation. This will help get your customers to talk with you when you are onsite.

All of these steps take place before you ever make contact with a customer. So, you can take your time to get it right. The next article of this series will discuss how to take these steps and prepare for going onsite to perform a proof of concept for a customer.


Andy Piper is the author of Enterprise Readiness 101 and the founder of www.enterprise-readiness.com. For over ten years, he has worked with enterprise companies. He has developed applications and implemented solutions as a systems engineer. He spent several years at Microsoft as a sales engineer. Since 2004, Andy has been a product manager for different start up organizations such as Ardence and most recently Casenet.

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