Does your software product or service rely on an expensive, complicated proof of concept in the selling cycle? Here’s why you might be doing it all wrong.
There’s no question a relevant demo accelerates a sale, but a demo increasingly means something other than a PoC. The world is different from a few decades ago, when software was all proprietary, so proofs of concept were a key sales tactic. Now, many opensource and SaaS alternatives are readily available for most product categories, giving prospects much more control and information during the buying cycle at lower cost and effort.
If they opt for opensource, they can satisfy themselves of product functionality by examining the source code. They can install their own PoC if they want. In many cases they can find canned AMI images for EC2 or similar and get a trial going in a single click.
But most importantly, there’s usually a highly visible user community that serves as a giant collection of success stories. Nobody needs a PoC when they can read about their peers’ experiences online with use cases that are similar to their own. It’s magical if your prospects can read online about use cases, scaling challenges met and solved, sharp edges, scripts, tweaks, tips and tricks. This can take the shape of social media, of a forum, of Stack Exchange discussions and blog posts.
SaaS products often need a different approach: demos. At VividCortex , for example, we do demos twice in a typical sales cycle. Our first demo is a screenshare of VividCortex monitoring our own production databases (we drink our own champagne). It amazes prospects how fast we can get query insights about a large cluster of machines. This demo usually leads to a free trial. The friction for this trial is incredibly low; we’ve worked hard to make our agents trivial to deploy. The second demo comes about a week into the trial, when we show people what VividCortex reveals about their databases’ performance and behavior. This rarely fails to impress people, since there are no solutions on the market that provide anything close to the level of visibility we do.
Prospects want to be assured of two things before investing time and effort, even if they have significant pain:
- The software is production-ready.1
- The software is a good solution for their specific use case.
Whether it’s opensource with canned VM or AMI images, examining online discussions on an active community of users sharing their experiences, or a low-friction demo and trial process, the traditional PoC is dead for all but extreme cases.
If you’re selling a solution that requires a traditional PoC, what can you do? I suggest considering whether you could level the playing field by decreasing the unfair advantage opensource or SaaS options have over you. Adopt some of their tactics if you can: create free downloadables, demo videos, a forum, etc. If you can’t make it easy at all, your solution is likely a nonstarter in today’s hypercompetitive world.
If you’re starting out, you might consider going opensource or SaaS from the beginning. The availability of opensource and SaaS options makes your proprietary software dreams a lot harder to pull off.
Opensource and SaaS are hard businesses to run, too, but that’s the point: you do the work, not prospects. Make it easy on prospects and you’ll win. That’s what your competitors are doing.
Originally published at Proof-of-Concept Selling Is Dead
- I wrote recently about what makes a database / RDBMS mature and production-ready. [return]