Create a ‘permissionless’ pilot program that drives sales and delights customers


I’ve noticed a new pattern that’s enabling startups to close big contracts, fast.

These founders and early employees are successfully inverting the entire traditional, notoriously slow enterprise sales cycle by shifting the customer’s “wow moment” from the end of the sales cycle to the very beginning. Let’s explore the world of “permissionless” pilots.

It’s generally accepted that the faster your product can deliver that “wow” feeling to customers, the better. But today, far too many products take forever to deliver that moment. Enterprise sales happen through a long slog of sales calls, procurement, contract negotiation, and technical integration.

Those all occur before a prospect can experience that wow moment and believe with confidence that a product will work for their use case. Candidly it’s a miracle any enterprise sales close at all.

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Image Credits: Jake Jolis

The catch-22: “I’ll give you my data once I know it works on my data”

There’s a reason for this. In enterprise software, products generally require your customer’s data to work. What about doing demos with fake dummy data? That’s like watching someone else drive a car at the dealership. It’s a lot more exciting to test drive it yourself.

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Image Credits: Jake Jolis

But most prospects don’t give away their employer’s data until they’re convinced it’ll be worth their while. Getting the green light to share or integrate company data with a third party involves jumping through hoops. Prospects must spend social capital along the way, first to secure internal political support, then to navigate formal approvals.

On the other hand, rarely do customers really get to “wow!” before they’ve seen your product used in their own specific context — that is, with their very own data. You’ve got yourself a catch-22.

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Image Credits: Jake Jolis

To break out of this vicious cycle, let’s instead imagine if your product could show a customer exactly what the experience would look and feel like when used on their own data, in their context, before they spent any time on sales calls, procurement, legal, integration, and so on. That would change everything. . . .

Enter the permissionless pilot

This is where the permissionless pilot comes in. It’s a cheat code that sets the customer time-to-value to zero. It’s your tool to overcome customer skepticism, and to do so immediately.

The permissionless pilot is a product demo that uses public, customer-specific data to instantly deliver the ‘wow!’ moment.

With the permissionless pilot, you shift your prospect’s wow moment from the end of the sales process to the very beginning, to the same instant they first hear of your product. You don’t need them to agree or configure anything before the demo just works, hence “permissionless.”

So what is it? The permissionless pilot is a product demo that uses public, customer-specific data to instantly deliver the wow moment.

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Image Credits: Jake Jolis

How to create a permissionless pilot

The three basic steps to a permissionless pilot are:



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