I often get the question from inquiring minds, “What is Sandler Enterprise Selling?”. But before the question can be addressed, a broader one must be considered. “What exactly is enterprise selling itself?”. Interesting. At Sandler, we believe strongly in the concept of pain. One of our most iconic quotes is, “No pain, no sale”. How true. And in selling, while we typically think of pain in terms of the prospect, as sales teams, we stare down the demon as well. So, we define enterprise selling in terms of the unique pains and challenges faced by organizations selling to and serving large accounts as opposed to small and medium-sized businesses – SMB’s. And while many pains apply, our definition focuses on what we believe are the eight most harrowing.
First, extended sales cycles. In selling to SMB’s, deals are often consummated in days, weeks, maybe a month or two. With large accounts, seasons can pass in sales cycles. Months and often years go by. And as time transpires, doubt, frustration and risk expand for selling teams. Effective sales organizations that follow quality processes have an advantage, for sure. But time remains a daunting challenge.
Next is the focus on business value. With SMB’s, sales are often decided based on price, features or benefits. With large accounts, though, it’s all about value – value in the eyes of the account. You must clearly understand your solution, what it will actually do for the account, how it will specifically deliver benefit and just how that benefit will be measured. What it is, what it does, how it benefits and how it’s measured – the customized value proposition. This mantra must drive your focus throughout the pursuit and stay top of mind well after the business is won.
Then, competition. With SMB’s, you certainly knock heads with tough competitors on occasion. But in the enterprise world, sophisticated competitors are ubiquitous. Competitors you need to account for, keenly understanding their business models, strategies and offerings. But even more, you must know the value propositions they’ll likely bring against you in specific deals. That’s right – their what it is, what it does, how it benefits and how it’s measured. In the dark of the night, every cat’s a leopard. It’s your job to turn on the lights.
With smaller accounts, you often have the luxury of dealing directly with the ultimate decision-maker, the president or owner of the firm. In the enterprise world, you face wide buyer networks assembling individuals with diverse frames of reference from Purchasing, Finance, Accounting, Legal and other areas. And while this functional diversity is complex enough, you need also to understand the behavioral profile of not one individual, but the likely behavioral characteristics of all individuals in the major account network and how they interact. Challenging indeed.
Then, while cost of sale is an important consideration in deals of any size, enterprise pursuits up the ante significantly. The president of a Texas firm once told me, “When we decide to pursue a deal, it costs us $40,000. Win or lose, $40,000”. A huge number, of course, but this speaks only to the financial costs. What about your people, your most precious resources? When they’re assigned to an enterprise pursuit, other initiatives are delayed or stopped altogether. And if you decide to water down your efforts to pursue complex deals with less than 100% of your energy, you’ll face sophisticated competitors who are all-in, insuring your demise.
With SMB’s, the decision structures are typically clear and straightforward. With major accounts, the complexities can be overwhelming. You must consider intricacies regarding quotas and set-asides favoring certain bidding firms. And key factors such as ISO 9000, Six Sigma or required certifications. Such items complicate deals immensely, demanding your excellence in research, knowledge and application. In these areas, what you don’t know can cripple your Go/No-Go decision processes and ultimately prove to be the reason for a loss.
And what about team selling? Of course, that’s not a challenge. It’s a powerful enabler, often the reason you win deals, isn’t it? In a perfect world, perhaps. But try to implement team selling effectively in a big pursuit. Regardless of your organization’s executive or cultural commitment to “Everybody Sells”, the reality is that fortifying your pursuit team with highly effective functional colleagues from throughout your organization is easier said than done. Martialing the right resources to develop, propose and present the best solution for a prospect account, sound strategy that it is, can be very difficult to implement.
And last, as opposed to the straightforward nature of SMB targets, enterprise accounts bring great complexities through their diversified nature and expansive footprints. You face organizations with corporate family trees of sister companies, parents, subsidiaries, consortiums and business partners that must be considered. And almost always, your prospects are global entities embedded with the complications of geography, language, logistics, laws and so much more.
In the end, it’s really all about pain. If you don’t clearly understand and address the customized pains of the accounts in the deals you pursue, you will not win. No pain, no sale. And success in enterprise selling demands that you strategically overcome those unique pains that challenge your every move. Yes, pain really does cut both ways. But through teamwork and client focus, you can master it on both sides of the selling equation. Master it and win.