As a sales manager I have been involved in lots of PoC projects, usually with Flowmon business partners - which have been irreplaceable (Flowmon is a 100% channel company - see our channel partner program). I am happy Flowmon is not afraid of competing with other vendors in POCs and has been very successful. But POCs are not just about a superior product. So, what lessons have been learned? I have made a short list of five things worth keeping in mind when executing proof of concept projects.
1 Do not underestimate the initial phase
Recognizing customer requirements is essential when establishing a PoC campaign. This step though is often neglected which usually harms the entire PoC process. In the worst-case scenario it leads to brand damage and wasting time of the stakeholders involved - customer, partner, vendor. What is my advice? Do not collect information only from the customer. Understand their needs and suggest a proper solution for their pains. Nothing more. Do not force the customer to evaluate a solution they do not need. Is customer looking for network monitoring solution, behavior anomaly detection technology, application performance monitoring or DDoS protection? Be to the point and clarify everything - from Flowmon use-cases, compatibility, performance and sizing. If you are not sure about something, Flowmon support is ready to help you.
Figure 1: Five Steps of PoC Process
2 Make sure the right people are involved
After the initial phase is the time to kick things off. The expected outcomes, evaluation forms and time schedules are set. The trickiest part of this phase is to make sure the customer will commit someone who will play with the solution. When you have spent hours on recognizing customer requirements and setting the goals and planning, it is always a pity to have no one in place who has the time for proper testing.
3 Be in constant contact
The sales person must be in constant contact with the customer during the PoC. Even during the testing/engineering phase you should know what is happening. Help the customer to explore Flowmon. When something is not working properly, investigate. Misunderstandings always show up when negotiating the contract.
4 Interpret the results of PoC correctly
The results of the PoC are a crucial part of the decision making process. As mentioned above, every misunderstanding will appear during contract negotiation. So be thorough. Do not just present the results of the PoC. Show the customer how different people in the organisation can benefit from Flowmon. Prepare outputs both for management and technicians.
5 It is not only the solution that is tested
Of course the solution is a crucial part of the PoC. But it is not only the product that is being tested. The customer needs to be sure they are working with a reliable and professional partner. Show your skills, be proactive and have everything under control.
It is always difficult to compare solutions from different vendors. Websites and available resources sometimes provide exaggerated information about the functionality and benefits of a particular product. As a result, the real use-cases and benefits then remain unclear. Feedback from many customers says that PoC is the most precise way for comparing vendors and unearthing the truth. And even though the method is resource consuming, in the long run, money will be saved.