Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Can Proofs of Concept Shorten Sales Cycles?

Image courtesy of cooldesign - FreeDigitalPhotos.net ID-100266058.jpg
This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally posted on LinkedIn.

Recently I was asked about my experience using proofs of concept to shorten the sales cycle of complex solution sales engagements. And the audience was surprised to hear that, in my experience, while proofs of concept should increase the win rate, they may actually stretch the sales cycle of a specific deal, rather than shorten it!

And yet, it is possible for proofs of concept to shorten the overall sales cycle in complex solution sales engagements, when they are part of a wider solution showcase program.

A Layered Approach to Your Solution Showcase Program


In order to balance your ability to shorten the sales cycle and cover specific customer scenarios, it is best to devise a layered approach to your solution showcase program, where commonly asked scenarios can be readily demonstrated, while highly-customized scenarios requiring additional time can be built as needed.

The layered approach could look something like this, when organized by turnaround time:
  • Readily available (within minutes or hours): “self-service” resources like documented findings from prior proofs of concept, pre-recorded demos or mock-up proofs of concept, individualized cloud based demos, and other similar resources.
  • Available within days: “presenter led” canned demos of a pre-defined set of use cases, which can be selected from a “demo menu”.
  • Available within weeks: “configured for purpose” engagements using either parametrized demos based on a pre-defined set of configurable use cases, or customizable proofs of concept based on a list of predefined test scenarios.
  • Available within months: “built for purpose” engagements, where a fully customized proof of concept is built from the ground up to simulate key customer environment characteristics and requirements, where a previously agreed upon custom set of test cases defines the scope of the engagement.

Continually Shortening Turnaround Times


No matter how mature your solution showcase program, it is important to make sure the necessary “triggers” are in place to identify areas of improvement. In the context of this article, improvements to a solution showcase program mean keeping the Pareto (80-20) rule in mind, and making sure that over time, regularly requested tasks are packaged and can be available within shorter turnaround times.

For example, built for purpose engagements should be continuously assessed, leading to the creation of new configured for purpose predefined test scenarios, presenter led demo menus, and even self-service resources.

Use Your Solution Showcase Program to Shorten Sales Cycles


As you fine tune your solution showcase program, it is critical to make sure the sales teams are making the most of it. When the goal is to shorten sales cycles, a good approach is to partner with the sales team and review the customer requirements (or objections to purchase) and identify the solution showcase resources which address these requirements within the shortest turnaround, starting with self-service resources all the way to built for purpose engagements.

For example, this might mean looking for ways to re-direct a customized proof of concept towards a mix of resources more readily available, like previous proof of concept findings of similar use cases, and canned demos. After which, re-assessing customer objections might lead to a reduced scope of the customized proof of concept, or even no need for it at all!

In the end, decreasing overall turnaround times of solution showcase resources will lead to shorter sales cycles, while still leveraging proof of concept to increase the win rate of complex solution sales engagements.

In your experience, do proofs of concepts shorten the sales cycle? Is your solution showcase program continually evolving? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.


(Image courtesy of cooldesign -FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Post updated Feb/11/2015)