Who needs a proof of concept?

The past week I had several conversations about the good and the bad of ‘Proof of Concepts (PoCs).’

PoC’s have their place and are hard to avoid unless you have grown beyond a certain threshold – for example, younger startups with zero references.

But beyond that, to me, Proof of Concept is an excuse. Here’s why:

If our value proposition were clear and credible, our newfound customers wouldn’t have doubts. Instead, they’d sign and get going.
That means – it’s crystal clear from their end what their requirements are in terms of scope and outcomes.
It’s clear from our end what value they can expect and when.

But more often than not, this is not clear.
We use the proof of concept to take shortcuts.
Just look around you – examples everywhere.

The most obvious examples come from the fact we bring ‘solutions to market in search of a problem.’ Blockchain has become famous for it. For years, this market thrived on PoCs. It was (for good reasons from the customer side) all about ‘tire-kicking.’ Virtually nothing came from it.

But customers are misusing the PoC as well to add another layer of risk mitigation in situations where it’s not needed at all.

The same can be said for the vendor side. Far too many are thinking, ‘As long as the customer starts a proof of concept, we’re fine.’

It made me wonder: What advantage would it give if we’d engineer the PoC out of existence in our business? What if we didn’t need to deal with the ‘excuse’ anymore?

I’ve heard some inspiring examples from the Tech-CEOs I work with.

One of them, a vendor from Israel, has stopped all POCs and replaced them with ‘Production Pilot.’ This means the customer is signing for an entire year but has an exit option after three months should the solution not work as promised.

Another example came from Senzing, who automated the POC out of existence. When I recently talked with Jeff Jonas, their CEO, he mentioned this:

“When COVID hit the market, companies had a lot of downward revenue pressure and tried hard to take costs out. So even though that was the main value proposition of our product, they won’t spend money on testing this for six months through a PoC.
So we doubled down our investment in helping organizations accelerate their journey with us from trust to discovery, try and buy. This enabled us to turn a 6-month PoC into a 6-hour PoC – and it made us a stronger company altogether. And honestly, that investment, say it was a half million, pays itself back probably every two months now.”

The key takeaway: Don’t give in to taking shortcuts. They help nobody.

If we can take the Proof of Concepts out of the process, we’d speed up Sales, return value faster, turn more customers into advocates, and become a stronger company altogether.

That starts by clarifying three things:

  1. Is what you offer of high value to your ideal customer?
  2. Is the problem you solve urgent to them / high on their priority list
  3. Are you exceeding expectations in the way you help them solve this problem?

If any of these three questions is a ‘no’ – keep working on it.
Be remarkable

About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.