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Selling to the Enterprise

I've been selling to the Enterprise for many years. Here are a few things I learned from my successes and failures:

Create multiple touch points

My goal as sales was to create multiple touch points with the buying organization. Relying on a single point of contact, even if he or she are highly engaged, is very risky. In a big organization, people will usually have a limited point-of view and the picture you will get as a vendor is much more limited than that. I would always try to engage more people and more functions in the organization, that in the time of need I would be able to reach out and get more visibility and information. So, on top of the main point of contact, who might be a Project Manager or a business manager, I would obviously try to have a decision-maker as a point of contact, any other high-level manager, the legal team, the tech team, the security team, procurement, and more.

A good way to create these multiple touch points on the customer side is to bring multiple touch point on your side as well. For example, ask to engage the VP level because your C-level wants to have an intro call, or ask to have the IT/security team on a call with your SE to discuss some concerns, etc. This way, in the future, your C-level or SE will also have their point of contact on the other side and you can strategize the right communications approach.

Find a champion

Enterprise sales takes time. During that time, in addition to visibility which we mentioned above, you also need engagement. You want to make sure you find your champion and you work with them. If you don't find a champion on the other side, that is a red-flag for the sale and you should review if and how you want to proceed.

What is a champion? Someone who truly wants to buy, who is excited about solving the problem they have, that speaks and promotes the need in their organization and is engaged with you. Sales is a relationship between people and if you don't have a person on the other side who is committed as you, maybe the partnership isn't there.

A champion ensure you are focused and that the sale is on the right track. If you can't find a champion, maybe you don't really have a sale in hand.

Understand the buying process

Enterprises are big organizations with lots of moving parts and everything has a process in place. Understanding the buying process is key to make sure you know where you stand, you are not wasting time and you are able to speed things up.

If you sold to an enterprise before you already know what this process looks like in general, and I can testify that in many cases you might even know better than your actual buyer - the Project Manager or the Business Manager. You might know that Procurement will want to have their negotiation part in the deal, that Legal will come in after all the business terms are agreed and they will take time, that IT-Security will want to have their review, that a Business decision maker will have to sign off the budget, that the CFO might need to review as well if the deal is over a certain size and maybe more. A good thing to do together with your buyer is to ask questions and make sure the process is clear for everyone. For example, does this have an allocated budget already or is this just window-shopping at this point? Do we need IT review or approval on the technical aspects before we move on? Is there any Security review? If and when procurement are added to the discussion? How does the sign-off process look like? etc.

Prepare answers

We already said selling to the Enterprise is a long process and usually it involves several steps and checklists. The more you'll prepare yourself for these ahead of time, the higher chances you'll have and the faster you'll be able to close. For example, a Service Level Agreement (SLA), security questionnaire, Data Processing Agreement (DPA), A diagram or explanation of how your system will connect to their ecosystem, recommended implementation plan, ROI calculator, customer references, pricing proposal, your organization chart and point of contacts, and more.

You can chose to proactively provide these items to your buyer, or wait for them to ask them, but the most important thing is that you won't be surprised by the ask. In any case, letting the customer know that you have these handy also makes you look professional and that this isn't your first rodeo. Customers always like to feel like they are in safe hands.

Define goals and KPIs

A good practice is to clearly define together with the customer the goals and KPIs of what it is they are trying to achieve or solve by using your product. Creating or following a process, especially if you show data as part of it, can help you close and to retain the customer for the long run.

However, more than once I found that the customer actually cannot define their own goals and KPIs. This can be a good opportunity to be a trusted-advisor, prove your professionalism and bring from your experience to the table. In many cases the inability to define goals and KPIs is also an indicator whether you are talking to the right person or if they are truly ready to buy.

Lastly, here are a few more 'heads up' points about working with a large company:

If you are start-up or a small size company selling to an Enterprise, know that you are heading into an unequal relationship. If in a buyer-vendor relationship the scale usually tips to the buyer side, working with an Enterprise buyer really puts an angle to that scale! Large companies tend to think the world is their oyster and the smaller you are, the more they will try to take advantage of you.

Having said that, Large companies usually have the budget. If you are going to put the work in and they will try to take advantage of you, at least make sure you are getting paid.

If you are a start-up or a rather small organization with a start-up vibe and attitude, it means you are usually nimble and agile. In many cases the Enterprise is the exact opposite to that, and the people who work there and will be your day-to-day partners, know that as well. In many cases they know to appreciate these traits and you should definitely play that card.

And finally, a word of caution. Try not to be a one-customer company. You don't want to end up being or feeling like a small team inside your large customer, even if they pay well. It can be a real danger to your company.



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