Every aspect of sales has its own unique challenges — and this is especially true if you’re targeting the enterprise. Think about some of the massive, global companies, including those that have been around for 50 or 100 years. How these organizations think about time and investment is vastly different than, of course, a startup or small business. So, if you hope to sell to these large companies, you must understand their way of thinking and adapt your approach.

After many years of focusing on large companies, here are several key insights I’ve learned to help navigate the world of enterprise sales.

There are two primary types of sales: product and solution. For the enterprise, solution selling is not as cut-and-dried as a product sale, where there might be just one product with one person, or a few people at most, making decisions. Increasingly the enterprise is buying products even without a human involved, via ecommerce. So, if you’re an enterprise salesperson, you’re more than likely selling solutions. In a solution sale, there are many, many stakeholders. And, as expectations and needs change over time, the more stakeholders you’re going to have. Some will have metrics they want to hit while others will have portfolio or architecture concerns. It’s your job to satisfy them all.

It’s OK to have a primary contact, but you also need to explain to him or her that you need to involve others in the organization. You will want to embrace a multitude of stakeholders. When you begin to seek them out, you must find out what makes everybody’s bell ring and what they’re looking to achieve. Always keep a constant line of communication with your main contact so they know you will always detail others’ motivations, challenges, and feedback. Maintaining this open dialogue throughout all the stakeholders is crucial. It helps to engender buy-in as time goes on.

Sales cycles for the enterprise can range from 6–12 months at the fastest on down to even 3–4 years. If you really want to unpack the enterprise, you have to take on their view of timing. These companies think about time and scale in terms of decades. You can have the best pricing strategy in the world or offer the most value. But it really comes down to trust and a committed relationship over time.

One of the core factors to my team’s success is that we are authentic and not just there to do demos or speak about differentiation. The enterprise is in it for the long haul — and your customer needs a deep relationship with you. Your time and investment in building trust will pay dividends as you weather the storms of a long sales cycle.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about price and product. There’s a reason that people will answer your call or call you back. You really have to care about solving an enterprise’s problem. When you put their challenges at the center of your focus and provide real solutions, you’ll start to develop aligning interests. You have to take not only an interest in their business and problems, but also in the people. As you truly look out for your clients’ best interests — like you would for friends or family — you’ll eventually end up solving your own challenge as well: achieving your sales goals.

So, if you hope to sell to these large companies, you must understand their way of thinking and adapt your approach.”

Warren Wick | Senior Vice President, Enterprise Sales, Salesforce
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