What is a Proof of Concept in Enterprise Sales?

A Proof of Concept (POC) can help establish trust with enterprise businesses and quickly turn buyers into paying customers when run smoothly.


A proof of concept (POC) in enterprise sales demonstrates how a product or service solves a prospect's problem or meets their needs. It accelerates the sales process, which can last from six to 18 months in enterprise settings, while adding value, building trust, and enabling the buyer to make an informed decision.

A well-executed POC strategy benefits both vendors and buyers in several ways. It offers vendors a way to showcase their solution’s capabilities in a real-world scenario, differentiating them from competitors and potentially shortening the sales cycle. For buyers, a POC reduces investment risk by allowing them to see the product in action and assess its effectiveness in solving their specific problems.

In this article, we’ll explore the purpose of a proof of concept, how to craft a winning strategy, and how to convert an enterprise prospect into a customer using a POC. 

The Purpose of a POC (Proof of Concept)

The enterprise sales process is complex, often involving six to 10 decision makers. This means reps have to illustrate the value of their solution not to one, but multiple people — all with different motivations. Coordinating and addressing the diverse concerns of such a varied group is challenging, as each stakeholder likely has different priorities, objections, and criteria for success. 

A POC helps bridge this gap by offering buyers the opportunity to try the product or service for a limited time and verify that it meets their unique needs. During the pilot program or trial period, stakeholders can assess the solution's functionality, usability, performance, and ROI.

This is important because there are various challenges faced by enterprise buyers when evaluating new tech. These challenges include: 

  • Finding value for multiple stakeholders: The number one challenge reps face in B2B sales is “their inability to communicate value differentiation.” This is further exacerbated in enterprise scenarios where there are so many hands in the pot. That’s why one of the biggest hurdles enterprise buyers face when evaluating new technologies is making sure the solution ticks the boxes of their fellow decision makers. 
  • Complicated procurement and legal processes: Enterprise buyers often deal with intricate procurement and legal procedures. This means navigating through detailed contracts, obtaining multiple approvals, and ensuring compliance with internal policies. These steps can slow down the buying process and require extensive coordination across various departments.
  • Compatibility with existing systems: Making sure that new technology integrates smoothly with existing systems is a major challenge. Enterprises have established infrastructures that new solutions must fit into without causing disruptions. 
  • Security and compliance: Enterprises must adhere to strict security standards and regulatory requirements. Evaluating new tech involves thorough security audits to verify the solution meets compliance standards, which is time consuming but essential. 
  • Return on investment: Demonstrating the financial benefits of new technology is a key priority for enterprise organizations, considering both direct and indirect costs. This involves projecting cost savings, efficiency gains, and revenue growth to validate whether the juice is worth the squeeze. 

With a strategic, well-executed POC in place, reps can build trust with their prospects, and other stakeholders involved in the deal cycle. 

Crafting a Winning POC Strategy

Now that you understand the importance of building a POC strategy, let’s discuss how to craft one that will win over prospects. 

A winning POC strategy: 

  1. Defines success criteria 
  2. Uses the Sandbox Program
  3. Focuses on cross-functional collaboration 

In this section, we’ll explore each element in detail, providing you with the insights needed to build an effective proof of concept strategy. 

Defining Success Criteria

The first step is to set clear goals and metrics for the POC. This involves outlining exactly what your prospects want or need to achieve in order to move forward with your solution. In other words, the question you want to answer is: What is my prospect’s success criteria for this POC?

Examples of success criteria in POCs include: 

  • Cost savings: This entails the actual cost the organization can save either directly or indirectly via the solution. Examples include reduced employee or customer churn rates, more efficient resource allocation, or decreased operational expenses.
  • Revenue growth: This measures the financial impact of the solution on the organization’s bottom line. Examples include increasing the average deal size and improving sales conversion rates. 
  • User acceptance: This evaluates how well the solution is received by its intended users. Examples include achieving a high percentage of active users within the first month, receiving positive user feedback and high satisfaction ratings, or requiring minimal training time to get users up to speed.
  • Efficiency gains: This focuses on improving the productivity and effectiveness of the organization’s operations. Examples include automating repetitive manual tasks, reducing the time needed to complete routine processes, or streamlining workflows to eliminate unnecessary steps.
  • Customer satisfaction: This measures how the solution impacts the experiences and perceptions of the organization's customers. Examples include faster response times to customer inquiries, higher customer satisfaction survey scores, or an increased net promoter score (NPS).

Introducing the Sandbox

A sandbox is a mirrored environment where a product or service can be tested without affecting actual operations. Using sandboxes provides an easy, risk-free way for enterprise organizations to validate the proof of concept for the solutions they’re evaluating.

Sandboxes offer several benefits, including:

  • Secure testing environments: Sandboxes duplicate the environment they’re testing without impacting live operations. This allows stakeholders to avoid system errors or failures while assessing whether the solution does what it promises.
  • Easy deployment: Sandboxes enable organizations to quickly set up and test new solutions. The ease of deployment accelerates the testing process, allowing for rapid feedback and adjustments.
  • Hands-on experience: A sandbox simulates real-world conditions without the associated risks. As a result, enterprise prospects can see how the technology performs under various scenarios, making sure it checks all the necessary boxes.
  • Quicker evaluation: Sandboxes allow for faster evaluation of new solutions by providing an isolated environment where tests can be run without delay. This speed helps enterprises make informed decisions more quickly.
  • Cost efficiency: By testing in a sandbox, enterprises can avoid the high costs associated with errors or failures in the live environment. This careful evaluation ensures the chosen solution is reliable and effective before full-scale deployment.

Cross-functional collaboration

  • When it comes to building a winning POC, cross-functional collaboration is essential. Doing so keeps all stakeholders — sellers, buyers, and the responsible teams — on the same page throughout the sales cycle. This collaboration also leads to a better understanding of the pain points or challenges the prospect is trying to solve, allowing for a more cohesive product showcase. 
  • The role of the sales reps is to showcase the value of the solution they’re selling. To be successful, the seller needs to have a granular understanding of the buyer’s needs so they can customize the POC accordingly. Buyers will collaborate with the sellers by outlining their goals, challenges, and expectations, and will also provide feedback throughout the process.
  • Typically, the seller leads the project, but various other teams such as product managers and solution specialists will also assist. Teams responsible for execution, like developers, engineers, and project managers, are also heavily involved in the POC. These individuals build, test, and refine the solution based on internal and external feedback. 
  • One of the best ways to manage the POC is by multithreading. This means involving multiple teams and departments to work on different aspects of the POC simultaneously. Internal stakeholders such as developers, solution consultants, product managers, and support personnel work alongside sellers to customize the solution to meet the buyer’s needs. This creates a highly personalized POC experience which increases buy-in and facilitates a thorough evaluation of the solution. 

Executing a Flawless POC

A well-executed POC demonstrates the value of your solution, builds trust with the buyer, and sets the stage for a successful sale. When the process is rushed, important details can be overlooked, leading to a less than stellar buyer experience, and ultimately a lost deal. 

Here’s how to execute a flawless POC: 

Pre-POC Prep

Before going from A to Z, you need to move from A to B. In a POC, this begins by meeting with the buyer to understand their specific needs and objectives. What problem do they want to solve, and how can your solution help? These are questions you will need to ask and answer.

Once you have an in-depth understanding of what your buyer hopes to accomplish, you can collaborate with your internal teams, including solutions engineers and pre-sales teams, to customize the POC to the buyer’s requirements.

Pro-tip: Make sure that all technical and logistical aspects are in place before starting the POC. This preparation will create a smooth and effective POC experience.

During the POC

Have you ever tried a new technology only to run into an issue and were unable to access support? Talk about frustrating. During the POC, be prepared to address any issues or challenges that arise promptly. Quick problem-solving can make a significant difference in the buyer's experience. Have your technical support team ready and available to tackle any unexpected issues that may arise. This readiness helps maintain the flow of the POC while building trust and confidence in your solution.

Also, keep a close eye on the performance of the POC. Regular monitoring allows you to identify and resolve issues swiftly. Maintain an open line of communication with the buyer throughout the process. Gather feedback and make necessary adjustments to verify the solution meets their expectations. 

Post-POC Analysis

The last thing you want after the trial period or pilot program ends is for your prospect to feel uncertain about the value of your solution. To avoid this, create a presentation that summarizes the benefits and wins demonstrated during the POC. The goal is to illustrate how the solution met the buyer’s needs, reinforcing the value of your solution. 

In addition, address any concerns or gaps that came up during the POC. You want your buyer to know that all their needs will be met now and in the future. Doing this will reassure your buyer that they won’t be left without help if something goes wrong after implementation. 

Converting the POC to Paying Customer

A Mutual Action Plan, also known as a MAP, is a shared document that outlines how a selling and buying organization will solve a problem together. It guides buyers and sellers through the next steps, including clear timelines, responsibilities, and milestones. As a result, both parties can move through every stage of the sales process without missing any important steps or key information along the way. 

From discovery to onboarding and setup, MAPs enable seamless and efficient communication and deal progression. They help anticipate potential challenges so reps can plan accordingly, which minimizes the risk of unexpected disruptions. 

If you’re ready to leverage the power of MAPs to convert POC prospects into customers, download our Mutual Action Plan template. It’s customizable to your needs and will help you create a clear, structured roadmap for collaboration.


In conclusion, a well-structured POC is an invaluable tool in enterprise sales, particularly when paired with a Mutual Action Plan. By taking this strategic approach, sellers can demonstrate the effectiveness of their solution while aligning with the buyer’s specific needs. By implementing a POC into the sales process, sellers can build trust with buyers, shorten the sales cycle, and win more deals.