Let’s be honest—selling into enterprise clients can be a daunting endeavor, but one that can equally have big rewards. While an enterprise sale can take upwards of 18 months to be realized, it has the opportunity to bring annual recurring revenues, brand name clients to establish credibility, and demonstrated product-market fit for potential investors. 

The first step in landing the big enterprise deal is to truly understand the people within the organization and their key decision factors. You need to gain an in-depth understanding of their pain points, objectives, and decision-making process. Equally important is demonstrating the value of your solution by connecting with your buyers. 

To set yourself up for success selling into enterprises you need to:

  • Gain empathy
  • Know your personas
  • Leverage use cases to demonstrate value

Gain empathy

Too often founders are enamored with showcasing features or technology, and they lose sight of the humans involved. The foundation of any effective enterprise sales process is a deep understanding of the wants and needs of those you are selling to.  You need to be acutely aware of their goals and pain points, and how your solution enables or addresses them. You also need to know what influences their decisions. To gain empathy, you need to engage your prospects by asking open-ended questions about their roles, day in a life, challenges, and opportunities. 

Before and during conversations with prospects, ask yourself:

  • What do they say, feel, think, and do?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What excites them?
  • What does an average day look like for them?
  • What influence do they have in decision making?

Know your personas

Once you’ve gained empathy, the next step is tailoring your communication and engagement with prospects throughout the sales process. One of my favorite ways to do this is to build a strategy leveraging personas. Personas are used to help ensure we engage and connect with our audience, whether they are the key buyer in the sales process or a day-to-day user of our products. Personas can be used to reflect back to prospects that you understand what’s important to them. 

What is a persona?

  • A persona represents a cluster of individuals who exhibit similar behavioral patterns.
  • These behavioral patterns effect everything from how they make decisions, to what they need or want to know, how they feel, and their use and expectations of technology.
  • Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a persona regardless of typical demographics, job title, role, type of organization or size.
  • Personas synthesize the insights gained through empathy and seek to bring to life the people in the enterprise who derive the value of your solution.
  • Make sure you have an understanding of the differences between a user persona, the one who actually uses your product or service and a buyer persona, which is one who derives the economic benefit of the product or service.

Example persona: Let me introduce you to Barbara, an example persona. Barbara is your typical executive in wealth management. She may be the head of wealth at a large enterprise or RIA, or could be a firm owner. You can see from her quote, she’s focused on the business growth and being client focused. If you’re selling to Barbara, these characteristics can help personalize your engagement to help connect with her as a buyer or user of your products and services.

sample persona

Leveraging use cases to demonstrate value

Now that you’ve gained empathy and crafted personas that reflect your potential buyers and users, the next step is to bring to life the value your solution. Taking a use-case approach can help shift the conversation from technology features to business value. By leveraging your personas within the context of a business-driven use case, you connect with the audience on their terms and make the business value come to life.

How to leverage use cases:

  • Demonstrate your understanding of where your product or service fits within the “day-in-the-life” of your target user and how your solution brings value.
  • Clearly articulate if your product or service replaces existing capabilities or augments them. Does your solution reduce costs, simplify the experience, or augment with greater capabilities?
  • Demonstrate a “before vs. after” example of how your solution solves challenges or addresses unmet needs of your target user. Make the “after” realistic, but equally compelling.
  • Share success stories with tangible, measurable outcomes driving home how your solution makes a difference for clients you work with who had similar goals or challenges as your prospect.

Learning and applying insights

Each prospect opportunity and step in the enterprise sales process is learning. Learning about your prospects, hearing feedback on your product or service, and gaining insight into the decision drivers. Applying that learning through empathy, personas, and business-driven use cases that connect with your prospects can help to take the first step in landing the enterprise deal.

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SEI Ventures team: Russ Kliman and Jennifer Ciotti