Proof of concept best practice #4: Always set – and achieve – a schedule

April 21, 2014 § 2 Comments

In this next edition of my ongoing series on proof-of-concept (POC) best practices, I describe how important it is to create and then stick to a schedule for completing the POC.

For many vendors, the POC is the last step on the road to a deal. Hopefully, a contract has been placed in front of the customer, finances have been negotiated, and the implementation schedule has been set.

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many deals derailed by an endless POC. Sometimes this was because of technical challenges or general prospect inefficiencies, but there were also numerous cases of deliberate sabotage and foot-dragging by the prospect’s employees who were likely to be impacted by our solution. Whatever the cause, it’s extremely easy to lose momentum and have the POC stall. And when the higher-ups at the prospect check in, they’ll be dismayed to see that nothing is happening. This plants seeds of doubt in their minds, even if it’s not your fault.

Luckily, there are some pretty straightforward things you can do to keep the POC  – and the sale itself – moving forward on time:

  1. Define and communicate a schedule. Earlier I described how important it is to have a statement of work (SOW) for the POC. The same holds true regarding a schedule. Don’t forget to broadcast the schedule to everyone.
  2. Make your schedule aggressive. Try to overcome your natural tendency to allow plenty of time to complete your tasks. Instead, your goal should be to inject a sense of urgency into the POC process, with an achievable schedule that will require a significant effort from everyone that’s involved: POCs should feel frenetic, never leisurely.
  3. Break a highly complex, lengthy POC into smaller, separate targets. As you achieve each of these milestones, be sure to report on your progress to as wide an audience as possible: don’t let the prospect’s lower-level staff act as gatekeepers – or roadblocks – for your good news.

I’ve worked with quite a few technology companies to help optimize their technical sales processes. If you’d like to learn more, you can email me here.

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