Very often as sales engineers we are tasked to help the customer with assistance during a proof of concept engagement, however, these types of projects can present different types of challenges. Ultimately, every SE’s goal should be to help the customer gain a high level of comfort with the solution, meet their requirements, educate them and if possible, discuss the considerations for the real deployment. Given the limited time and resources involved in a proof of concept, how we can delight our customers and meet their needs?
In my experience, a successful engagement of this nature begins with understanding the customer’s definition of a PoC; believe it or not, expectations vary greatly between solution providers and end customers. A “PoC” could be as simple as an extended demonstration of the solution that is held at the provider’s facilities, or a production pilot that aside from demonstrating the feasibility of the solution, has to meet production-grade requirements such as the integration with operation components. The former, in my opinion, does not meet the dictionary definition of a PoC, but the latter, since it can evolve to be a production-grade installation, becomes a challenging proposition, especially for a company that sells integration services. All this variability, coupled with the fact that each technology presents different degrees of challenge and that a PoC is an audition not only for the solution set, but also for the service provider, stresses the need to communicate effectively and document expectations early. Aside from not understanding or setting the proper expectations, some of the common PoC engagement pitfalls are: