How Software Companies Can Target and Sell to Large Enterprises

February 18, 2022
Contributor: Laura Higley

Selling software to large enterprises requires a more tailored approach than selling to other businesses. Here's how you can master it.

Many software vendors intending to sell to big companies think that enterprise sales are only reserved for large corporations; however, that is not the case. A good deal of big companies select large and small software providers alike to source products or services that fit their needs. 

Large enterprises often look for new suppliers or vendors, so sales managers at software companies must learn how to target, sell and market to giants. Sales leaders can increase their sellers' odds of closing high-quality, low-regret deals by 157% by just making their customers feel more confident, per Gartner research.

In this article, we share insights into how you can target large corporations and strategize to start selling your software products to big companies.

What is enterprise sales?

Enterprise sales — also known as complex sales — refers to selling software solutions and services to large-scale businesses. This type of sales typically involves a high degree of complexity due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including C-level executives, in purchasing decisions.

How marketing mix plays a vital role in enterprise sales

A strong marketing mix increases sales opportunities by helping sellers get information into the hands of decision-makers who have the power to make a purchase. To successfully sell a product or service, vendors should have the right marketing mix in place. It could include promotional activities, pricing, product design and distribution.

4 Ps of Marketing

Building trust in marketing mix modeling (MMM) increases the overall effectiveness of marketing analytics and boosts marketing ROI, per Gartner research (full report available to clients).

Is enterprise sales right for your software company?

In the enterprise world, customers are usually big companies with longer sales cycles, larger buying teams and fewer prospects to go after. Since enterprise sales involve deals for large-scale corporate solutions that sometimes take months to close, they come with their own set of risks; a few are discussed below. 

Three key factors influencing your decision to sell to enterprises:
  • Longer sales cycles: Enterprise sales usually have a longer sales cycle, which can complicate forecast accuracy. Only 53% of sales leaders are successful at forecasting the progress of a longer, more variable deal through the pipeline, according to Gartner research (full report available to clients).
  • Fewer target prospects: While targeting big companies, software providers narrow down the prospects they believe will be the best fit for their products or services. This helps improve win rates by focusing less on the number of prospects and more on delivering greater value during specific account interactions.
  • Larger buying teams: Enterprise sales require more teamwork because vendors sell to larger organizations with multiple decision-makers. A larger decision-making group makes it more difficult to communicate and convey value propositions to the appropriate people.

Three types of sales models to target enterprise prospects

As a software vendor, you can use any one or a combination of these four sales models to target and sell to an enterprise client.

1. Direct sales

To sell to enterprise customers, it's not necessary to have a large sales team or expensive marketing campaigns. Leverage emerging trends in direct software selling, which offer the benefits of in-person interactions and lower distribution costs along with the ability to target and sell globally.

Key benefits:

  • No intermediaries to deal with
  • Larger profit margin
  • Increased awareness and visibility
  • Lower overhead expenses

2. Land and expand

If you have an excellent product or service to offer to large companies but don’t know how to reach them, adopt the land-and-expand sales model. It's a growth-driving sales strategy that involves landing a customer first with a small deal and gradually expanding to a big one.

Key benefits:

  • Higher cross-sell and upsell rates
  • Better customer expansion and retention
  • More customer touchpoints 
  • Shorter conversion time frame
  • Healthy, long-term relationship with customers

Gartner finds that land-and-expand strategies that encourage user involvement have spurred a renewed focus on retaining customers (full report available to clients).

3. Freemium

To address enterprise software needs, most vendors create a free trial option. Free trials allow your potential customers to interact with your product or service before purchasing it while also giving you time to see how successful your software will be in a large-enterprise environment.

Key benefits:

  • Larger user base
  • No usage barrier
  • Lower acquisition cost

Freemium and free trial programs as a customer acquisition strategy will increase by 14% between now and 2025, according to Gartner research (full report available to clients).

Build a winning enterprise sales team to scale quickly

As a software company, you should have the right mix of people in your sales team to target enterprise prospects successfully. A successful enterprise sales team includes members that focus on strategy, marketing and development.

An ideal enterprise sales team comprises:
  • Sales director: To lead the sales team and combine all relevant sales channels to cater to large enterprises effectively.
  • Marketing leader: To craft a clear marketing strategy that aligns with buyers' needs and demands.
  • Account executive: To maintain relationships with influencers and key decision-makers of organizations for desired outcomes.
  • Content strategist: To create quality content that has a business purpose but is also easy to understand for prospects.
  • Customer service manager: To focus on providing a superior customer experience and maximizing the adoption of products or services.

Five tips to target and sell to large enterprises

When targeting larger companies, it's important to understand what makes them tick. Discussed below are five key tips for selling to enterprise prospects:

1. Highlight the value of your offering

Large businesses are often willing to buy products that improve efficiency. Your product could be efficient as well as time- and money-saving, but what's more important is to propagate how it will benefit large enterprises. Focus on highlighting business benefits first and technical features later.

2. Be proactive in sharing information with prospects

Large businesses are not likely to come knocking on your door unless you have an effective way of letting them know what you have to offer. Make sure reviews and other information about your product are readily available, especially unique benefits and how they would impact a prospect’s specific business.

3. Don't try to sell to everyone

Sometimes, it’s better to have a small number of large customers than a large number of small customers. There are several advantages of having a few key accounts: ease of accountability, product customization and quality of service each client receives, among others. This strategy makes it easier to get access to or referrals within the client company.

4. Promote your product where customers will see it

Leverage all possible digital channels to reach your prospects. If you're a small software company, consider partnering with larger vendors who want to resell your product and send their staff or an authorized reseller to market it to large companies.

5. Be patient; it takes time to build rapport

Big companies often have slow procurement cycles and complicated deal-making processes. It can take up to six months from the first contact with an enterprise prospect until a sale is finalized. Be patient and take regular follow-ups; these will improve your chances of success.

Measuring the success of selling to large enterprises

Analyze and quantify all the stages in your sales workflow. Determine when, where and how prospects engage with your product to create a complete picture of what success looks like. This process will help you identify if you need to measure things differently for each level of engagement or opportunity size.

Measure your success the right way with these metrics:
  • Sales process metrics: Track qualified prospects that you are following up with every day/week by tracking activities such as email follow-ups and phone calls. Create a customer-aligned sales approach to simplify the buying process.
  • Customer satisfaction indicators: By gauging customer satisfaction, you can determine if customers find your product valuable during and after the purchasing process.
  • Sales cycle length: To know how long each stage of the sales cycle takes, track where prospects are in their buying journey so you can follow up at the appropriate time.
  • Marketing ROI: The ROI of your marketing initiatives is reflected in the number of conversions from prospects who have interacted with your brand through any channel, including social media, website or content download.
  • Market penetration rate: Track how many new customers your company is bringing in as well as track existing accounts to find out how loyal they are to your brand.

In summary

It's a tough world out there for those managing high-value accounts, as large enterprises are not easy to sell to. They have many specific requirements to be met for a software purchase. The tips and strategies shared in this post will help you think differently about approaching this lucrative market segment, getting your product in front of prospects and, eventually, succeeding at enterprise sales.

Connect with in-market software buyers around the globe with Gartner Digital Markets’ all-encompassing suite of marketing services here.

Laura Higley

Laura Higley is a Senior Business Development Executive for Strategic Accounts at Gartner Digital Markets, where she leads sales operations for large enterprise customers. Laura is a New Jersey native who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing management from Virginia Tech. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn.

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