Running a POC or POV

Navigating the Proof Phase: POC, POV, and Pilot Explained

Proving your technology delivers on its promises is essential in any sales process. While referenceable customers and detailed case studies are valuable, sometimes you need to run a specific proof phase. This can be confusing, especially when it comes to understanding Proof of Concept (POC), Proof of Value (POV), and Pilot. How do you determine which method suits your customer’s needs and ensures they receive the value required to succeed? Choosing the wrong option can delay or even derail a deal. Let’s break down each option to help you make the right choice.

Proof of Concept (POC): Testing Feasibility

A Proof of Concept is a small-scale experiment designed to test the feasibility of a solution. This method is typically used for very new technologies where customers might be skeptical about whether the technology will actually work.

Purpose: Validate the basic functionality and feasibility of a new technology. Approach: Conducted in a limited environment with specific tests tailored to the customer. When to Use: Ideal for innovative or unproven technologies where there’s uncertainty about effectiveness.

Proof of Value (POV): Demonstrating Value

A Proof of Value is all about showing the tangible benefits of your solution in a controlled setting specific to the customer. To run a successful POV, you need a thorough discovery process to understand the customer’s challenges and the costs associated with those problems.

Purpose: Prove the solution’s value in addressing specific customer challenges. Approach: Run in a controlled environment with predefined metrics and outcomes. When to Use: Best for technologies that need to demonstrate clear ROI or specific benefits.

Pilot: Real-World Validation

A Pilot is a comprehensive, real-world trial that involves actual production deployment. This method is used when you’re ready to commit to a more extensive trial and demonstrate the solution’s impact in a live environment.

Purpose: Validate the solution’s performance in a real-world setting. Approach: An in-depth, extended trial often tied to a contract, suitable for complex solutions. When to Use: Ideal for mature technologies where a full-scale test is needed before a broader rollout.

How to Choose the Right Approach for Your Proof Phase

Choosing the right proof method for your technology solution can make or break a deal. But how do you determine which approach is best? It all comes down to several key factors: where you are in the sales cycle, the maturity of your technology, the customer’s knowledge of your solution, the size of the opportunity, and how quickly a decision is needed.

Factors to Consider:

  • Sales Cycle Stage: Most sales cycles are better suited for Proof of Value (POV) or Pilot phases.
  • Technology Maturity: Use POCs for new or emerging technologies. POVs and Pilots are more appropriate for mature solutions.
  • Customer Knowledge: Educated customers might prefer a POV to see concrete benefits, while less informed customers might need a POC to understand the basics.
  • Opportunity Size: Larger opportunities might warrant a more thorough evaluation through a Pilot.
  • Decision Urgency: Quick decisions are better served by shorter POCs or POVs.

Cost and Duration

  • POC and POV: Usually free of charge and relatively short-term, provided the process is managed correctly.
  • Pilot: Typically a paid engagement, requiring a contract and lasting several months.

Early Sales Cycle: Avoiding Premature Proofs

To run any type of proof, you need something tangible to prove. This means it’s usually not advisable to start these processes too early in the sales cycle. Some companies might offer an early POC, but this often turns into a mere show-and-tell session—a fishing expedition rather than a focused proof phase. Instead, opt for a well-structured demo to drive the discussion around customer needs.

Proof of Concept (POC): Educating and Testing

When to Use: Ideal for new or immature technologies. Purpose: Educate the customer and demonstrate how the solution can benefit their business. Caution: Avoid running a POC too early, as you may end up duplicating efforts with a second POC later.

Proof of Value (POV): Demonstrating Impact

When to Use: For well-defined technologies and markets. Purpose: Prove the solution’s value in addressing specific customer challenges. Preparation: Conduct a detailed discovery process and workshops to identify required capabilities, including your key differentiators.

Pilots: Real-World Validation

Pilots come into play in two different scenarios:

  1. Product Led Growth (PLG) Companies: Offering a free 14-day or 1-month trial to hook the customer. This is effective as long as the customer actively engages with the solution. Ensure you follow up with trial participants to maximize value.

  2. Complex Solutions: When an extended period is needed due to integration or business process changes. This type of pilot is usually a chargeable item to cover costs and requires a contract. It typically happens at the end of the sales cycle.

Best Practices for a Successful Proof Phase

Navigating the proof phase of a sales cycle can be tricky, but following best practices ensures a smooth and effective process. The key is clear communication and alignment among all stakeholders. It’s not just about testing the technology; it’s about demonstrating tangible business value. Here’s how to do it right:

1. Prioritize Communication

Effective communication is the backbone of any successful proof phase. Align all stakeholders, set clear expectations from the outset, and continuously review the results. This keeps everyone on the same page and ensures the process runs smoothly.

2. Understand the Customer’s Pain Points

Too often, salespeople jump straight to offering a POC without fully understanding the customer’s business pain points. This approach is counterproductive and wastes valuable time and resources. Instead, invest time in discovering what the customer truly needs and then demonstrate how your solution addresses those needs.

3. Push Back on Unnecessary POCs

When a customer requests a POC to test system integration, consider pushing back. Use reference sites to prove integration capabilities and scalability. Alternatively, incorporate integration demonstrations into a POV. This approach saves time and avoids unnecessary steps.

4. Control Product Complexity

Product complexity can derail a proof cycle. A well-controlled POV focuses on the customer’s specific needs. Agree on a list of test cases upfront and avoid letting additional requirements creep in just because the customer sees something intriguing. Stick to the agreed scope to maintain the decision timeline and ensure the process stays on track.

5. Avoid Extended Trials

Long trials can turn into de facto subscriptions without proper contracts. Limit trials to 3-4 months and ensure they are charged and contracted accordingly. This approach not only keeps the process manageable but also contributes to driving recurring revenue.

6. Leverage the Full Team

A successful proof phase requires the collective effort of your entire team. Engage Account Executives, Sales Engineers, Services, and Customer Success teams. Each plays a critical role in demonstrating the value of your solution and ensuring the customer’s needs are met.

By carefully selecting and managing the proof method, you can effectively demonstrate the value of your technology, streamline the sales process, and ensure customer satisfaction. Remember, it’s not just about proving the technology works—it’s about showing how it solves real business problems and drives value for your customers.

If you want to discuss how to improve the proof phase in your sales cycle then get in touch :

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