What is a proof of concept and will it boost your sales?

Craig Mathewson

Posted on: November 15, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Category: B2B Sales

What is a Proof of Concept and will it boost your sales?

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The term Proof of Concept (POC) emerged from the strategies of SaaS sales teams.

Typically, it involved pre-sales professionals leading, managing, and driving a sale through a demo that left the account executive to step in and close the deal. 

Recently, however, new terms have emerged alongside POC, such as Proof of Value (POV), pilot, guided trial, and workshop.

Let’s look at what each of these is and determine the things that your pre-sales and sales teams can do to realise more revenue within the middle of your sales funnel. 

The test drive

In many ways the POC is simply a prospect taking a test drive of a product in their own environment. 

Sellers rely on pre-sales professionals to manage this test – and, in recent years, where free self-service accounts are available or some sections of the market expect hands-on support over several months, evaluations have taken on a variety of different forms.

The guided trial

This is where a prospect can easily onboard onto the product and pre-sales seek to highlight specific features to move the sale on. 

  • Length: 15 to 30 days 
  • Cost to seller: Low 
  • Likely deal size: Low 
  • Target company: SME

The workshop 

This is where the pre-sales’ role is much more consultative as they try to better understand required use cases so a clear value proposition can be presented. It is more suited to complex products and calls for more discovery time with the prospect.

  • Length: 15 to 45 days 
  • Cost to seller: Low to medium
  • Likely deal size: Low to medium 
  • Target company: SME to commercial 

POC and POV 

Proof of concept and proof of value are actually used interchangeably. They refer to a much more technical sale where the prospect needs to gain a deep understanding of how the product can meet the needs of their business. 

  • Length: 30 to 45 days
  • Cost to seller: Medium 
  • Likely deal size: Medium to high
  • Target company: Commercial to enterprise 


Pilots indicate an even more complex sales cycle where value needs to be established in a compelling way. Pilots are only used for high-value opportunities in key accounts, as they represent a big investment from the seller. 

  • Length: 45 to 90 days 
  • Cost to seller: High 
  • Likely deal size: High to very high 
  • Target company: Enterprise to global account

4 ways to win deals with Proof of Concept 

While each of the evaluations above differ in many ways, there are similar ways you can make each more effective.

Understand your prospect’s pain

Prior to any POC you need to ensure that you fully understand the prospect’s use cases and needs. The best way to do this is to explore the prospect’s desired business outcomes – this will allow you to map how the product can best meet their requirements. 

Find out what success looks like to your prospect

It is important that everyone agrees on the evaluation criteria that will be used for your POC. What you are putting in place is an informal contract that states that if you deliver on the success criteria, the buyer agrees to take the sale forward. 

Make sure mission creep and date creep do not come into play – set some firm dates on the POC.

You are actually driving the test drive!

The POC needs driving by the seller as well as test driving by the buyer. You need to rally the right internal people to win over the buyer and act as the buyer’s advocate within your product team. Make sure you also hold everyone to account for carrying out next steps and to stick to the timeline.

Focus on value

Your buyer is not purchasing features – they are buying on value. Some of this comes from the product but some of it also comes from the trust you can impart that technical requirements and key business objectives will be met. 

If your solution lacks certain features to meet the prospect’s needs, ensure that you clearly demarcate what are ‘must-haves’ and what are ‘added bonuses’.

Wins kick in at the middle of the funnel

The POC, if handled well, can offer a great way to effectively manage the middle-of-the-funnel stage of the sales cycle.

Despite the nuances and variety of POCs now available, the consistent result of any POC is that it can greatly influence the number of deals signed.

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