There are huge differences when you are a startup selling to another startup, a small company, a mid size, or a Fortune 1000 company.
Startup to startup is generally very straight forward – neither have that much to lose and are willing to take risks, decision makers are easily accessible, it is usually a win/win, little regulatory and legal restrictions. But as you move up the scale, each sale gets exponentially harder and the payoff is that much greater. A $50k annual contract is a rounding error to a Fortune 1000, but closing the deal is not easy.
- Find an inside connection. Like raising financing, you need an advocate to help socialize and support your product. You may also need a shepherd, someone who can guide you thru and review/audit processes. Work your network to find a potential user of your product.
- Position your product to be additive rather than a replacement. There are politics, allocated budgets, existing systems and integrations, and people involved with any product decision, so be an advocate rather than an adversary.
Let’s say you developed a new enterprise content management system (CMS). Your target list of potential customers probably already have a CMS. It may be WordPress supported by WordPress VIP or Adobe’s Experience Manager. Chances are, they have integrations of all sorts with internal tools like PIMs and DAMs and external services like SalesForce or MailChimp. It’s nearly impossible for an upstart to come in a ask a company to rip out years of work. Instead add value to the existing ecosystem and fill in the gaps. For a CMS, that maybe a better user interface for content creation – drag and drop elements, responsive design, and multi screen previews. Get a toehold to being with.
- Prepare for a long sales process. Large companies make decisions by consensus and are risk averse. There technology reviews, contract reviews and vendor on boarding. You also need to prove that you have longevity. No one wants to risk investing in a company or product that won’t be around after a few years.
- Prepared to customize your product to their needs. There is a school of thought that says you should find a client to fund the development of your product. It is sound advice unless the client has very specific needs and nuances that will derail you off your product roadmap.