5 Challenges You Face While Selling Enterprise Tech Products
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The first set of sales inquiries for any entrepreneur come from friends, family members, and ex-colleagues. Being small outfits, start-ups end up getting a lot of business from other start-ups and small and medium businesses (SMBs). While selling to SMB customers has its own benefits, every start-up operating in the B2B space aspires to win large contracts from enterprise-class customers to grow faster.
However, it may not always be easy for start-ups to break into the enterprise accounts. Selling to enterprise clients is fraught with a range of challenges—especially, if your expertise lies in IT solutions and services. Let’s examine some of these challenges in detail.
1) Long sales cycles
As an entrepreneur selling to SMB customers, you are used to your clients taking quick purchase decisions. In an SMB firm, it is usually the owner or the company CEO who takes IT buying decisions. Quick decisions also mean quick sales and correspondingly fewer challenges with respect to working capital for the IT entrepreneur. The scenario, however, is different with large companies. Large enterprises are highly process driven. Every small spending decision is required to pass through a long chain of hierarchy necessitating a buy-in not only from the top management but also from the cross-function teams such as IT, procurement, finance, marketing, etc.
2) No one-size-fits-all
You just got your two sales pitch opportunities. After rigorously following up on leads, and multiple calls to IT team members of various companies, two enterprises have asked you to present your case. The CIO, CTO and all the senior IT leaders will be attending your presentation. What will you do? Now, here is a trap. IT start-ups chasing large enterprise accounts tend to commit a common mistake: they make exactly the same pitch to all potential customers.
While your product offering may be the same, every enterprise is unique in terms of its buying patterns as well as usage. In fact, your pitch should come at the fag-end of your continuous engagement. The phase when you are still chasing a lead is the best time to research about the company you wish to target. Examine the technology deployment trends in the industry that your potential customer belongs to. Read white papers, case studies, solution reviews, and comparison charts relevant to that industry.
Try to strike short conversations during your telephonic follow-ups with IT team members of that company. Figure out why they want to invest in technology in the first place. What are their specific technology goals that are tied to their business goals (or challenges)? Understand their individual needs and prepare your pitch accordingly. Preparing a separate solution strategy outline for different clients is another must for selling successfully in the enterprise space.
3) Implementation takes longer than sales
Strict process-orientation is tied not only to sales decisions but nearly every important decision of an enterprise. To implement an IT project, the CIO’s office has to navigate through a complex web of rules and roles involving chief risk officer, legal and compliance heads, chief procurement officer, multiple business heads, user champions, and remote employees, besides the chief finance officer.
As enterprises take a long time to deploy IT solutions, their gestation periods—time needed for a technology solution to start showing results—too are long. A proof of concept (PoC), followed by reviews (at times re-budgeting) and phased out implementation is the long drawn-out process followed by enterprises. Your work-in-progress tag may remain active for many projects for a long time. Establishing credibility in the enterprise space, therefore, requires patience.
4) Enterprise security readiness is uncompromising
Being process-driven, every enterprise pays meticulous attention to CSR—no, not that CSR. It is Compliance, Security and Risk. Check whether your solution meets the prerequisite standards when it comes to these three parameters.
Does your solution incorporate or work with industry-standard security solutions and frameworks? Enterprises have an uncompromising attitude to vendors whose solutions may fail even on one parameter of security readiness. At another level, can your people understand the nitty-gritty of regulations related to your customer’s industry? This may include the laws related to your potential customer’s business (pertaining to your technology). Similarly, on a softer note, assess whether your people have the ability to speak the language that your client’s risk officer wants to hear.
5) Customisation is a must
Selling a standard solution may perhaps work in a small business set-up where IT procurement is tactical in nature. That is rarely the case with enterprises. As a vendor partner selling to large corporates, necessitates that you customize your solutions to suit the specific needs of your client.
An enterprise may have a host of third party tools and a large legacy application in in place. Your solution should integrate seamlessly with the pre-existing systems without causing conflict or latency. Another success ingredient in this case is your people-readiness. Are your people equipped with necessary qualifications and experience to build customisations without glitches?
6) Think like a CIO
Lastly, as an IT entrepreneur, you should also look at one more capability: thinking like a CIO. Enterprises rarely buy technology as a quick-fix. Their view to IT investment is strategic in nature—always. They will not touch a solution that does not have a long term road map. So as the first step, check and validate whether your solution is geared to provide adequate level of scalability to the client organisation.
As the next step, also look at your own firm’s long term growth plan and vision. Enterprises look for vendors they can comfortably partner with for several years. Building a trust that encourages your enterprise clients to engage with you in a long term relationship only can help you succeed in your enterprise-sales adventure.