Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData (which demoed during the Oct 2012 NYETM), just wrote a great guest post on TechCrunch titled “Forget Virality, Selling Enterprise Software Is Still Old School.”
Here is an excerpt from the post. I’d recommend reading it in full here.
6 REQUIREMENTS OF ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE SALES SUCCESS
1. Have a significant, monetizable value proposition. Getting people to use something is different from getting them to pay for something. From the beginning, your offering has to be something that people find so valuable that they’ll pay for it, not just play with it. Yammer, the enterprise social platform, had plenty of penetration, but it was not fundamentally connected with the business systems people used every day to do work. The company was sold to Microsoft, which could bundle Yammer’s capabilities into its Office suite and exploit its significant presence in enterprises.
2. Sell the way the enterprise buys. Selling to the front office can be on an inbound basis, with relatively horizontal, lightweight, consumer-like pitches. The problem is, you’ll find that some serious company – Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft – already owns most of the desktop. Enterprise IT is used to provide significant, detailed explanations of functionality on an outbound sales basis. That means real salespeople burning real shoe leather. If you want to upsell, you’ll probably have to up-staff.
3. Meet enterprise requirements. Your technology will need to satisfy all of the enterprise’s requirements for the “-ilities”: scalability, reliability, security, availability, and so on. Enterprise IT wants to know that the software can integrate with long-established systems of record. Be prepared to answer questions about single sign-on, uptime, firewalls, recovery-time objectives, service-level agreements, and failover.
4. Focus on targeted value scenarios or first go vertical. Because of the “crowded shelf” in the front office, your technology stands the best chance of getting an initial enterprise sales bump if it can solve a deep and irksome process problem that is a known issue across industries, or only applies to one industry. Enterprise IT often won’t buy from companies that haven’t already sold to quite a few of their peers, but you have to start somewhere. Your “land and expand” strategy might do best by starting with a nettlesome issue, deep in the weeds.
5. Have some patience. We like to say, “selling to the consumer is about selling positive emotions. Selling to the enterprise is about suppressing negative emotions.” Enterprise IT is not a culture of early adopters. “Ain’t it cool?” is not enough. Enterprise IT sales cycles are often months long and you should prepare to be met with skepticism. Consumers usually ask, “Is it awesome?” “How much does it cost?” Enterprise IT asks, “What if it doesn’t work? Will I get fired?”
6. Establish a control point. With enterprise IT, being the first to market is not always the winning scenario. What’s more important is having a gambit that puts your technology’s hooks in an organization’s fabric – a “control point” of sorts. Your technology has to have some aspect that will prevent customers from moving to the nearest competitor tomorrow. Salesforce and LinkedIn sell dozens of products based on their control of customer data, which can be aggregated and, importantly, monetized, because they reveal important trends in business. Yammer’s control point was its community of thousands of people in an organization, which made it difficult to replace, though ultimately, it could not capitalize on that proposition alone.