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Enterprise sales is not actually about selling, it’s about earning the right to move to the next step of the process, until you run out of steps.

Enterprise sales is the term used to describe selling a high-end product or service to large or complex businesses. These sales cycles tend to be long, complex, and high in value, but also high in risk – and are regarded by many as the the most difficult challenge of all for sales professionals.

Follow these 4 quick tips and you may just land the catch of your life!

#1 Sell to the people, not the company

We’re all familiar with the term Business-to-Business (or B2B) sales. It’s a term that’s used so frequently, you may never have stopped to examine what it actually means, and ask yourself the question: “When does a business ever buy from another business?”  The answer is never, and that’s the reason the term B2B is such a fallacy. The term I like to use is Person-to-Person (or P2P). That’s one of the keys to really understanding enterprise sales.

Anyone you’re hoping to sell to in a large organisation will have picked up plenty of bumps, bruises, and failed projects along their road to the position of decision maker. They’ll most likely be cautious, risk-averse, and looking at the ‘whole product’ rather than just the widget. What do I mean by whole product?

  • They’ll want to understand who your other customers are, so they can peer review your solution and get some social proof of your reliability
  • They’ll want to see the whites of the eyes of your team and ask themselves: What would these people actually be like to work with?
  • They’ll certainly want to understand your financials, your future product roadmap, and your management team’s commitment to delivering customer value.

In reality a company is really a collection of many different people, with many different opinions, agendas, and personal biases. Selling to ‘the company’ is a waste of time and effort. Cultivating relationships with individuals inside the company, understanding what is important to them (personally and professionally), and finding ways to provide value at every step, is the way to win.

You should start by interacting with the people you know or may have come into contact with, and then build on those relationships. Find out what they care about and the problems they are trying to solve. It’s likely that these individuals will later become your champions for closing a sale.

#2 Know your customer

These days, with all the information available at our fingertips through platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and their company website, there is no excuse for not knowing a lot about your customer and their company before you open the conversation for the first time.

When you do talk to a prospective customer, it’s important to understand how decisions are made in their organisation. Do they prefer:

  1. A formal tendering process, with multiple vendors, lots of probity and a shortlist of 2 for negotiation purposes
  2. Are they more hierarchical, with a member of the senior executive team responsible for making the buying decision
  3. Or perhaps they like to buy via consensus, with lots of feedback and input from the user community, to ensure good change management

Whatever their preferred decision-making process, take it from me that in the enterprise sales world, you will never be selling to just one person … in fact, more often than not, you’ll be selling to lots of different people and you’ll need at least some of those people to then sell internally on your behalf. Understanding the chain of command is critical, to progressing an enterprise sale.

The quality, depth, and frequency of your discovery process is critical in executing an enterprise sale and every piece of knowledge you find may well play a role in helping you to tailor and contextualise your offering to your client.

#3 Change your intention

When you get up every morning and you’re confronted by your monthly quota or annual sales target, the tendency is to focus all of your actions and thoughts on making sales. Unfortunately this is one of the least-effective ways to achieve sales success, particularly in the enterprise sales space. Why? Because if you’re focused on making sales then you’re focused internally, you’re constrained in your curiosity, and closed off to ideas or information that won’t help you close the deal in the short term.

Take it from me, your prospective customer couldn’t care less about you making a sale. Their motivations are often focused on solving a burning business problem or delivering a better outcome for their internal stakeholder or external customers. In some cases their motivations may be a little bit more personally driven, to advance their careers or address a business issue that has been impacting them directly. Over the past 20 years I’ve seen customers motivated to act by a wide variety of different factors, but I’ve yet to meet one whose motivation was to ensure that a salesperson hit their sales target!

Customers can always tell what your intention is, and if your intention doesn’t match theirs, you won’t earn the right to progress to the next stage of the discussion, it’s as simple as that. So don’t try to sell. Instead:

  • Be a resource
  • Be helpful
  • Be up front about everything your potential customer needs to know, be it positive or negative
  • Listen closely to the problem and figure out how your company can offer a solution
  • Be ready to face the fact that your product or service may not be the solution. Being ready to walk away will remove any tendency to push and may even contribute to a strange phenomenon, where the customer starts to sell you
  • Most important of all, be yourself, because above all else prospective customers are buying you, before they ever buy what you’re selling.

Conquering enterprise sales

Selling at the enterprise level is difficult, it requires preparation, persistence, and a commitment to helping solve the customer’s issue at all costs. Success, if it comes at all, will rarely come quickly. Bigger businesses tend to move more slowly and are often risk-averse. But if you follow these steps, enterprise sales may not feel quite so daunting and you’ll increase your success rate significantly. Just remember the golden rule: Enterprise sales is not actually about selling, its about earning the right to move to the next step of the process, until you run out of steps.

Cian McLoughlin is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Rebirth of the Salesman, a regular keynote speaker at sales kick-off’s around the world and one of the Top 50 Sales bloggers in the world for the past 2 years. He is a passionate proponent of an ethical, honest and authentic approach to sales. His company, Trinity Perspectives, is committed to helping sales organizations unlock the latent potential of their customers’ insights with their Win Loss Analysis and Sales Transformation services. To read more of Cian’s sales articles visit www.trinityperspectives.com.au/blog

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