Why POC Management is Essential for the Technical Win

David McCulley
Co-Founder, EVP of PreSales

Learn what a good POC management process looks like and why generic office software can no longer keep pace with the modern sales operation.

Why POC Management is Essential for the Technical Win

A Proof of Concept (POC) is a series of steps you must go through where your customers say the product does what it is supposed to do technically, aligns with business challenges and the solution will solve a problem. 

Over the years, POCs have garnered many names, but whether your organization refers to this process as a Proof of Concept (POC), Proof of Value (POV), advanced demo, pilot, evaluation or technical validation, the fact remains, management of the POC process is of utmost importance when it comes to achieving technical wins, and technical wins are your only bridge to revenue. 

Unfortunately, the POC process comes with its own set of challenges. One of the main issues is a POC requires excellent organization, time management and communication skills. But, many SEs, although very intelligent and technical, struggle with the "soft skills" required  to manage the POC efficiently. 

An even bigger problem presales leaders face is that all the critical deal intelligence needed to drive the POC to a technical win is spread across disparate systems or exists only in the mind of their sales engineers. This forces leaders to play a guessing game and manage the process with low-quality data. 

So what does a good POC management process look like? A good POC management process provides clarity and properly sets up the prerequisites and expectations for your customers.

You want to be able to tell the customer, here's the plan, here are the problems, here's the success criteria test plan, and when we complete these things and achieve technical validation, we hope to move forward on the opportunity. 

We believe a solid setup and structure will help minimize delays and increase the likelihood a POC finishes on time, which also increases the probability of winning the deal. 

However, the process and structure must be clearly defined and repeatable to drive performance consistently.  

Traditional Office Tools Don't Provide Visibility 

When we do initial sales planning with sales engineering managers, we ask questions like:

  • How many POCs can your team manage at a given time?
  • How long is your average POC timeframe? 
  • What's your average POC technical win rate? 
  • What is your POC technical win rate to opportunity win rate? 

The reality is that many executives don't have these numbers because most organizations use traditional office tools like Word documents and Excel spreadsheets to manage POCs.

And because all the critical deal information is scattered amongst different documents and environments, there's no automated signaling to give insight on what sales engineers need help, which POCs are falling behind or which ones are unhealthy. 

Without this much-needed visibility, leaders are prevented from catching problems early enough to make informed decisions. 

Opportunity Cost of Unqualified Deals

There is an enormous opportunity cost for an SE working a poorly qualified deal. A 45, 60 or 90-day POC takes a vast amount of technical resources, and you can't get back the time an SE wastes on an opportunity that is not well qualified. 

Additionally, when a sales rep hands over an unqualified deal and the SE never had a legitimate chance to get a technical win, it helps to foster a negative team dynamic. At the end of the POC process, the sales rep thinks poorly of the SE, and the SE loses trust in the sales rep; this negative feedback loop creates an unhealthy culture and toxicity between teams. 

Hitting the Number

The deals sales reps forecast is often thrust in at the end of the quarter. For example, the deals in Q3 will be forecast in the last week of September. If you have something simple as a two-week slippage in the evaluation, it pushes the deal out by two weeks. As a result, the deal is pushed into the next quarter. 

We call this opportunity encroachment when the evaluation end date slips to the point where it encroaches on the opportunity close date.

But what if you could get a signal that the deal has slipped by two weeks automatically? Wouldn't it be helpful to receive an early alert to review a deal that may need to be pushed off the commit list? Otherwise, the deal doesn't come in, you miss forecasts and it reflects poorly on the sales team and the entire organization. 

There are many benefits to good POC management, including better visibility, customer engagement and team dynamics, but at the end of the day, it is about getting technical wins and hitting your numbers.

POCs Don't Have To Be A Pain 

Provarity integrates with your CRM to provide new functionality so that you have ultimate visibility into the status of all your POCs.

And the lack of control, insights and structure that currently makes POCs a laborious process is all provided in a project management framework your SEs want to live in daily.