How Hunters closes deals without a POC

Case Study

Author: Barry Mueller
Last updated: Published:
Hanan Levin

Barry Mueller: The session that we're about to go now is how Hunters closes deals without a POC. So Hanan is VP Sales at Hunters. It's a super interesting very specific use case that actually Hanan has been with Demostack and using some tools like that we'll be able to talk about right now.

So yeah really enjoyed that session on storytelling in cyber and really excited for this session now with Hanan. So let me just go over the bio for Hanan. It's awesome. So it's definitely interesting. Hanan has over 20 years of experience in creating and selling innovative enterprise cyber solutions.

Prior to his role as VP sales at Hunters. Hannan served as VP products Illusive, which was acquired by Proofpoint, and at ForeScout Hanan was part of the early team at Check Point. So Hanan’s used to the cybersecurity world and he developed Firewall One, VPN one and Provider one. I'm sure many of the participants here have even used some of those products. Hanan also served as a major in the Israeli Air Force.

Hanan, welcome. Thank you for coming in. Thank you,

Hanan Levin: Barry for hosting me.

Barry Mueller: Yeah, no, absolutely. It's really our pleasure. So Hanan, let's start. Just tell us a bit about Hunters. I gave an intro about you, but Hunters is a cybersecurity company. Maybe you could tell us about what Hunters does.

Hanan Levin: Yeah, sure, happy to. Hi everyone. Big crowd today. I'll share with you a little bit about Hunters. Hunters is a Cyber company founded in Israel some five years ago. And what we do at Hunters is we provide an automated, SOC platform that is taking the entire SOC, SOC security operation center to a next level a cloud based solution that is based on a lot of automation added to that SOC processes from collecting very large amounts of data in an automatic fashion, normalizing them to a similar set, storing them in a single place and running a lot of queries from different types to eventually conclude if there is a potential threat or an actual threat going on.

In the organization based solely upon the data that is collected. So a lot of non-trivial correlations. Ai, machine learning and a lot of exciting stuff that we're doing. We are selling to companies large and medium in North America, Northern Europe, and APAC.

And that's pretty much it. We are a 150 employees company. Round C, company very strong investors. And that's pretty much our profile as a company.

Barry Mueller: Yeah. Okay. Thanks. I can tell you that even though your team is 150, you're making a lot more noise than 150, so congrats on that. And thanks again, Hanan. I wanted to give a special shout out to Hanan who had a busy night and he made room and time for us. So I really appreciate that on a personal level. So thank you.

4 Cyber POC Challenges

So let's go straight into the big questions before we go into the solutions on how you do your POC or how you do it without a POC. I wanted to actually understand what are the challenges specifically with Hunters on a POC, but I'm sure that you have seen some of these challenges with POCs at other cyber companies.

Hanan Levin: Yeah. I mean, in every company there is a different challenge, I guess when it comes to POC. The thing is that, in every single company I work with, a POC was involved. It became a standard thing that people want to check the goods before they actually make use of it, and definitely pay and get in contractual agreement.

And I think that when it comes to Hunters, the biggest challenge in the POC apart, the standard challenges are clear, right? It takes time. There is an investment and there's also risk involved et cetera resources, investment, all that. I think with Hunters, a specific challenge is the initial steps of ingesting a lot of data.

So I'll give you an example. The Hunter solution as mentioned is running on a cloud environment. So essentially we need to stream data from an organization environment. Think about the bank or a large insurance company, retail company that has a lot of data sources relevant to security.

Some of them on cloud, some of them on different cloud platforms. Some of them are on premise, some of them running on applications. In their IT environment, a lot of places, and we need to stream all that into the Hunter's platform, which is based on the cloud. And usually it's let's say Amazon Cloud for example that creates some friction because every environment is slightly different.

And even if your product works 100% smooth, as we try to make it smooth there can be some blockage from internal and moving of the data for example, like firewalls. And other I would say restrictions from moving from A to B just to protect the organization. And then we need to walk through that, that creates some friction.

And that's one of the challenges that we have. And that's, I would say, a big challenge because it's a critical moment in time. I consider the initial steps with a customer. It's like you date a girl and the first date, when you step into the coffee shop, restaurant, whatever you're meeting him or her, that's the minutes that you can actually do.

You actually create the initial impression and you have only one chance to do that. And once we do a POC and things are not working, even if it's not because of the platform, because of the solution you're trying to sell, the perception is that it doesn't work smoothly. And that's baggage that you'd rather avoid.

So that's, to me, like this is very holy and very sacred. Like the first steps, hours, days, weeks with a customer are super important.

Barry Mueller: Yeah, no, that makes a ton of sense. It's that first impression. Exactly. I think it's interesting that even if it's not your fault, like their firewall or that they just are very busy and they can't connect something, even if it takes them 10 minutes, it could delay the velocity of the sales cycle by weeks, it seems.

Is that a correct assessment?

Hanan Levin: Yeah. In large environments, if you think of a large bank that is highly, it's a highly complex environment, it can take weeks.

Barry Mueller: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So okay. So for a first challenge we have is that dependency and the impact of that is sales velocity.

And I bet that happens to many cyber companies that need time for data. So either or need data to build that data. So either analyzing their site or actually being able to connect to the data that's needed. The second challenge I think that could be interesting to talk about with, and this relates to every company that does POCs.

It's not just cyber, but every company has resources. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about that with SEs and presales on your team.

Allocating presales and SE resources

Hanan Levin: Yeah, sure. presales is a very expensive resource, not because of the cost, because you it's always you're always in shortage with presales resources.

So it's, it's something that you treat as a re expensive resource that you want to manage very carefully each POC. Yeah. To be honest, like again, in my experience, even beyond others, I don't remember more than a few POC that went smooth from soup to nuts.

It just doesn't happen. There are always challenges. Every environment is different as mentioned, and then presales need to step in and obviously it's their job. But if you can improve and save even, one day, one hour, one week from a POC. That goes a long way in, in releasing and repurposing the presales team to other jobs.

They can juggle more POCs, they can do other things that they do. They can support the sales team in acquiring new deals bringing them to POC or converting from a POC. So it's clear that, the less issues you have, the less need to involve the presales and really let them crack and solve problems in real time, the better off you are as a company.

Barry Mueller: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. A lot of our listeners today are in presales, so I'm sure that they appreciate that notion that they're viewed. The expense is their actual time. Any other challenges specifically to Hunters and a POC?

Hanan Levin: Yeah. I think that because we are running on a cloud environment, there is a cost attached to that as well.

Running a POC costs us. It's fine, it's part of the business model, but the longer the POC runs the higher the cost is. And vice versa. And the last thing I would mention is that all the things we talked about boils down to risk versus opportunity. So for me, getting into POC is very exciting.

I look at the opportunity, if you win the POC, we move forward. We won the deal. But there is also a risk of not winning the POC, of not getting a good first impression of getting a friction, of exhausting the ease of failing to deliver a lot of things, not meeting the customer experience and the customer expectation.

And that's what I call a deal risk. And it's right there in the POC and the more we mitigate that, the better off we are running our business.

Barry Mueller: Yeah, no, that makes a ton of sense. So clearly there's a lot of challenges with running that POC whether it be at Hunters, whether it be at a cyber company, whether it be at any company including Demostack.

Are Cyber POCs worth the challenges?

There are risks of sales velocity, of cost, of resources, and that first impression. I love that piece of it. So with all of these costs that go into a POC are they actually bringing as much value as we believe our customers? When people are signing up for POCs, are our prospects getting what they are even looking for?

Are we giving them even more than they're expecting?

Hanan Levin: Yeah. I mean it's a tricky one. Look, POCs are here to stay and we can't avoid it. The question whether or not it brings value to a customer it's almost a psychological question, right? Because they want to see stuff there, the success criteria, but it's more about, okay, I've done my homework, I've gone through the checklist, and I've vetted this and I know I've seen it working, and I feel more comfortable.

I feel more responsible and I've done my job. Whether a success in a POC indicates a success in the project, it's a good indication, but it's not enough. Like you can have a great POC. Not naming names I've seen great POCs, I know companies who are excelling in a POC show, but then failing to deliver.

So it's a good question whether or not POC is the best vehicle. But I think for now, it's like the, it's like the standard, the factor standard for evaluating solutions whether POCs can be managed in a better way. Sure. But I think that's part of the things we're gonna talk about today, I hope.

Barry Mueller: Yeah. I think let's start talking about them now. So we mentioned that POCs are here to stay, but we also think that there could be a different way. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what this other way is and your experience of that experience.

Hanan Levin: Yeah. So I think I think when I look back what drove us to look at the POC was all the reasons we talked about, but something else that we haven't discussed yet and is important to mention sales cycle in our world, in, in the cyber domain are normally, I'm generalizing across the industry, six to nine months, obviously depends geographies, vertical size organization, but roughly it's six to nine months.

It's a lot of time. Especially when there are deals that can go over a year. And we were scratching our head and saying, okay, how can we expedite that to have a deal that is less than six months? In fact, I challenged my team by asking them, "Okay, I want to close it within a quarter, how do we do that?"

And now you look at the POC, that takes a month, and if you do like the preparation and then the wrap up and the staff can take a little longer. And if you have hiccups and unexpected stuff it can easily take two months in an extreme case. And that's eating the entire quarter already.

So it's impossible to close the deal. Like you can't close the deal with running the rest of it, like legal procurement, privacy, the entire negotiation doesn't work in a month. So we were scratching our heads trying to minimize the POC duration and then we came up with something we called an express POC.

How do you create an Express POC?

Express POC is obviously based on a Demostack environment like a sandbox environment, a controlled environment. And then we've built a complete I would say simulation of a POC inside that controlled environment. So when a customer actually accesses this environment, he gets a complete guided tour journey, experience, whatever you want, call it feel at home almost.

As if he is in his own environment. It's not one-to-one. But definitely we made sure that he sees similar things. It's not his own data. We're not streaming his own data. We are using baked data that we put there, but looks very real. And we let it run for a week or two. We were, no, we were not, we didn't know what to expect, but it turns out that quite a few customers went that direction.

So we offer that as our lead option. And then obviously you can have a full POC.

Barry Mueller: Yeah, no, that makes sense. I'm gonna double click on this. And this isn't, wasn't in our prep doc, but I think you can handle it. So we talked about POC people really, it's kinda like the psychological piece, like a checkoff, like it's even a trust issue it seems and it helps resolve and create trust.

A Demostack sandbox environment that simulates Hunters isn't on their actual data, right? They're not connecting anything. Where does that mean that we don't act, that some companies don't need as much trust, that they just wanna play with it, that they just wanna get their hands dirty?

What's the psychology here? And this is, I'm asking you not not to offer something specifically for you to say about them. It's like I'm asking you 'cause I'm genuinely curious on how this is effective and how it's working.

Hanan Levin: No, totally. I'm totally with you and I was curious as well as we were. We were all here to be curious to see if that works.

And, the first one, we actually took it. And the second one and the one following I would act, we were actually pleasantly surprised.

I think part of the reason is because, look, at the end of the day, if you can see similar data to yourself being analyzed and correlated in a smart way.

The interface is the same interface, so it is just seeing different pieces of data. So some people have to see it in their own environment, in their own data. That's the majority by the way. And especially, I don't know a single bank or insurance company or a large retail that would go that way.

Unlikely, but the broader SMB market, like the mid-size, small size for sure, and tech companies would go for it because they are, tech companies, cloud companies, they understand technology, they understand it's easier for them to accept that notion. There are other considerations. I'll give you an example.

We had one of our customers, I think it was the first one who asked us, okay, I need to get the closure very quickly on this project. How can we do it quickly? And then we came up with this concept and he says, okay, so there is another drive, which is time. And if someone really wants to get things going that's a good approach.

Another approach is when we ease that transition, we say, okay, you can start with this express option. And if you still feel you're not completely convinced or anymore, we can go the full Monte, right? I can tell you, I. That none of our customers who went through the demo environment actually asked to move to a real environment. Zero.

Barry Mueller: Love that. I think it's super interesting. I think this use case is very interesting. I think yeah it's interesting that people, I to your point before you said you aren't gonna name names, but there's a company that does POCs and then they can't execute. I feel like people have been burned also by that, or they've done a full eight week POC or, and then it, when it actually goes into the real product, it still doesn't work.

It doesn't work. So even a POC isn't real to an extent. And so if someone's been burnt by that, they understand that, I guess also. So there's that lack of trust, maybe even for the POC and I think that last point of. Speed. Also super important. Sometimes you need to have, if you have a budget and you need to close it before the end of Q3 and you only have three weeks to buy, then it's a win-win for both teams.

And it's nice that people have this trust and that I feel like they, it's like a mirror. They see themselves enough in that product and that POC that they can relate to it, then I think it makes sense that it would work. To your point, I'm gonna read a question from the audience.

It's possible you already answered it but let's read it from four minutes ago, from Devin Domingo. Hey Devin. So how do you find the best way to position the express POC? Sometimes we find customers have success criteria to get their hands on integrating their data or playing with a backend experience.

How do you handle those objections?

Positioning and Objection Handling

Hanan Levin: So I think the best way is just to offer it as an option, as a recommended option that reduces load, reduces time. And quite honestly, when you think about it, you experience almost the same. You have almost the same experience as a, as the real thing. It's just not with your own data.

So yeah, if you wanna see it on your own data, that's fine. I would just say that some of the success criteria, usually in POC, definitely in cyber are let's be honest, I mean in cyber security, when someone deploy a solution, a detection solution like ours what he really expects to see is us finding the next attack.

Show me a threat, show me an attack that I wasn't aware of before. I want to find the attackers up inside my organization. I want to find the attacks that are going on right now, but chances are in most POCs that I've seen that you don't find attackers in a one week, two weeks, one month POC because just timing the attack to that time.

And so it's unrealistic. So you're gonna see pieces of your data correlating together and that I can show you with other pieces of data that are similar exactly in the format to your own data. So we can rationalize that and explain it. And again, not everyone would take it and it's fine.

Definitely not if you're a large organization, but enough organizations will take it and that would reduce the load from your. From your system, from your team, from your processes and that's enough. Like you don't need everyone to use it actually.

Barry Mueller: I think that's a good point.

Meaning if you're, the goal is still that first experience. First impression. So if your goal is just to remove the p o c, then that could be a bad impression if they want that p o c. I think that's a really good point. And some tactics, and we mentioned before speed velocity I think could also be part of handling those objections.

POCs take 50% less time

Barry Mueller: We're running out of time, so I'm just gonna go rapid fire. How does this help, and I think you mentioned this, how does this help with sales velocity? The express POC.

Hanan Levin: We cut it in half that organization, that I told you about the first one, we closed it in less than a quarter, like within a quarter, three months, which was like the deal before that, the average that the record was, six months, or something like that.

So we cut it in half.

Barry Mueller: Amazing! presales resources. How does this impact those?

Hanan Levin: They don't need to tackle real time stuff in the middle of their night or weekend or in general. It's all baked, it's all clear. They love it.

Barry Mueller: Cool. And cloud savings we mentioned before, but we can summarize.

Hanan Levin: Yeah. Cloud is not our biggest concern, the saving, but obviously it's a marginal saving and it's always nice, but I wouldn't say that like a huge driver. Yeah. It's nice, but it's not like a huge thing.

Barry Mueller: Yeah. No, that makes sense. I've seen, and there's new software these days, like the finops we've seen, so I guess that would fall under that.

For a finops person, it might be nice to have, but usually those are at larger companies. Okay, cool. I think we can summarize. So Demostack’s Sandbox helps with sales velocity, cuts in hats in some best case scenarios, which is really incredible that it saves precious time.

For SEs we mentioned we also not working weekends, which is definitely even the best time. But also for them to focus on other POCs and other deals, it reduces friction and risk and ensures that first good impression. And without the cloud costs again, cloud calls aren't everything, but if it does add up with, I know that Hunters, there's lots of POCs 'cause they're such an incredible company.

So I'm sure it saves up for all those POCs.

Reducing risk with Demostack

Hanan Levin: Let me just add two things. Okay. That I just realized I didn't add. I think that from customer experience it's like an effective, super focused, highly controlled POC journey. There are zero surprises and that goes to reducing risk. And another thing that is very important is that it helps you move faster than your competitor.

And that also is very important when you try to win deals in a highly competitive environment.

Barry Mueller: Yeah, no, absolutely. Hanan we could probably talk about this for a few more hours and some of the other use cases, I'm Demostack helps with the live call with, there's a tour on Hunter's website.

I recommend anyone to look at to check up the tour and so yeah, it's amazing to be partners with you and your team. We're looking forward to keeping that relationship strong. Thanks again for your time. And also I wanted to thank all the participants that have been with us this whole session.

We're looking forward to also staying in touch and thank you for all your questions and we really appreciate everyone being involved with this incredible evening of cyber storytelling and cyber from the live call to before the call to the sandbox. Thank you everyone.

Tell us about yourself

Tell us about yourself so we can show you a demo on the first call

Hand holding screenshots of an application