Repeat After Me, A Pilot Is A Yes, Not A No
Unless your service is real cheap or has little impact on business process, you’re going to end up running a pilot program before they adopt your solution across their organization.
Many sales people resent pilots, but a good pilot is the best possible thing for a successful long term sale. You just need to control it so your customer reaches the correct outcome.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO
Cultivate an end-user champion ASAP
Assuming the decision maker is going to request a pilot anyway, you should get there first and ask for someone internal to evaluate your service upfront. You’re showing you understand good evaluation process, and you get hands-on access to influence the evaluator.
Make sure to account for this effort in your sales lifecycle and expected Customer Acquisition Cost, and be prepared with a separate presentation for your pilot person explaining the benefit your solution will deliver at a makes-your-job-easier-day-to-day level.
Use their KPIs, not yours
Ask the manager how their personal job performance is evaluated, then define the pilot’s performance in those terms. For the end-user listen for (a) parts of their jobs that they like doing and wish they had more time for and (b) parts they don’t like that have nothing to do with your solution. Then figure out how to claim that your solution gives them more time to do that bigger value-add work. This way your solution is freeing them up to be even more invaluable, not replacing them or making them expendable.
In both cases, get explicit agreement upfront: if we achieve this target, we’re moving forward.
Ready Phase II
Before you start the pilot, present a seamless pilot-to-full-deployment roadmap with milestones, pricing, stakeholder sign-off requirements and dates.
If they won’t commit to the roadmap (assuming milestones are met), then consider walking away and focusing on a stronger prospect.
Don’t give it away for free
Discounts are fine, but resist the temptation to give away the pilot for free. With a free pilot, the prospect has nothing invested and they’re much more likely to blow it off. The pilot result will be “it didn’t do much” because they didn’t put anything into it.
This is good stuff…
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