Last weekend I was reading a fabulous article by Roman Stanek on which he presented a series of arguments that demonstrate that, despite movements like the consumerization of IT, enterprise software remains very old school. When debating about the article with a colleague, we found ourselves having a very interesting discussions about the hidden factors that still cause enterprises to resist revolutionary movements like the consumerization of the enterprise. Among those factors, there is one that enterprise software startups almost always managed to ignore: in the enterprise, users are not necessarily the buyers.
The intrinsic characteristics of the enterprise software sales model represents a major difference about the acquisition and monetization process between enterprise and consumer software technologies. In the enterprise, software products are typically either targeting hundreds or thousands of users or providing important infrastructure functionalities that will be used by dozens of applications. Either case is sufficient for enterprise software products to be subjected to various approval and compliance processes that go well beyond the acceptance of the initial users.
Why is this important?
Well, as an enterprise software startup, you need to understand the dynamics of enterprise software sales models and surround your product with the right sales models that help it navigate the technology acquisition processes in the enterprise. Here are a few suggestion I found useful:
- Find a champion: The most important aspect of an enterprise software sales process is to find the right people within your customer’s organization that are so in love with your product that they are willing to champion it’s adoption within the enterprise.
- Give your champion incentives and ammunitions to sale your product”: Now that you’ve found your champion, you need to offer him the right materials, tools, incentives and other elements so he/she can be effective socializing your product within the enterprise.
- Reduce friction: As a principle, enterprises tend to resist disruptive changes. If you have the option, make sure your product is easy to acquire in a non-invasive mode.
- Speak at different levels: Sales processes in the enterprise involve people that are not the target audience of your product. Regardless of whether you are selling to developers, IT Pros, marketing, etc make sure you can present the value proposition of your technology from different standpoints like executive, technical or sales that are easily understandable by the different groups in the enterprise.
- Be patient: Selling to enterprises is a bit of a chess game, you have to stay patient and make the right moves at the right time.