Sales Success is Like Star Trek: It’s All About the Enterprise

by: Erika Ghose

Eldar Sadikov, Jetlore Co-founder & CEO, a StartX company, shares his insights and expertise in lower-velocity, higher-price-point enterprise sales with the StartX community.

According to Sadikov, enterprise sales are particularly important for early-stage B2B and B2B2C start-ups not only because of revenue impact, but also because, “the insights you’re going to gain during the sales process are going to be super instrumental in shaping the product you’re actually building.”

Early-stage start-ups almost without exception find enterprise sales to be their most vexing and intimidating challenge. But Eldar has found a few tried-and-true steps that can help supercharge your customer learnings and also help you close your first deals. We have summarized them into the following top five enterprise tactics:

1. When it comes to your first customer, it’s never too early to sell. Regardless of whether or not your product has been built or whether there’s even a UI designed it’s never too early to sell. Anyone who’s gone through the process knows that enterprise sales take a very long time. So start early. Not only do you need to fully gain an understanding of the customer’s world, but the customer needs time to bond with you and understand your product’s benefit.

2. It’s okay to have your first customer define your requirements and scope. Your relationship with your first customer can absolutely be that of a close design partner: the input and feedback that you receive from your first customer is crucially helpful. So it’s really key that you find the right first customer. Survey the possible universe of customers for your product and identify those that would be most impactful for your business. After doing this, define what the high-level needs might be for those customers’ business.

3. Once you find your target company, find your champion. A champion is the person from your target customer who’s going to help you sell your product within their company. Generally, these are people who work for the top layers of the marketing or product organizations. When reaching out to a potential champion, don’t introduce yourself at first as a potential vendor. Instead, start by positioning yourself as someone who’s interested in gaining an understanding of the customer’s business.

4. When closing the deal, make sure to clearly articulate what the next steps will look like. Customers always need to understand what internal resources they’ll need to push a pilot forward in-house in order to be successful. You’ll also have to clearly outline what the deliverables for the initial pilot will look like. In addition, make sure to clearly identify how many months the pilot will last, how much money the customer should expect to spend, what resources are involved, and who those resources might be. Most importantly, make sure to define the criteria for success. This allows you to work toward a specific set of goals, and also clearly illustrates to the customer the success of a project once it’s complete.

5. Target innovators as early customers. After you’ve driven your first customer to success, what does your second customer look like? Your second customer will ideally be similar to your first one. But… try to pick someone in the same space as your first customer, but not someone who’s a direct competitor. Eldar recommends finding customers who view your first customer(s) as an innovator. This can then be an advantageous relationship for both parties: Some customers innovate more easily and other need help innovating, and you get another party to help validate and build on your value proposition. By starting with well known innovative companies, you can point to them as successful early adopters for other companies to emulate.

Candidly, selling to enterprises — particularly large ones — can be a frustrating and lengthy experience. But these are just the customers who give a young start-up the greatest possible payoff: the highest quality product input, the highest quality product validation, and the highest-quality product revenue. The effort expended on enterprise sales can be deeply rewarding. And just remember that with each sale, the next one will definitely get a little bit easier.

About Jetlore: Jetlore helps e-commerce companies and online retailers discover customer interests and deliver real-time ranked and curated product collections adapted for every customer in email, onsite, and mobile contexts. Jetlore currently delivers content into tens of millions of customer interactions per day for global retailers like eBay, One King’s Lane, PayPal, Linio, and more.

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