How Can Tech Startups Sell to the Enterprise?
This is my site Written by Alora on September 21, 2010 – 10:39 am

I have a client who works in one of the nation’s least cutting edge industries. It’s not something that most people regard as terribly sexy, but it’s something that we all need. So, as a saleman, my client is constantly trying to find ways to jazz up his universe and introduce cool new technology into the mix — something that helps both the business and the customers.

Unfortunately, my client is constantly frustrated because the organization is slooooooooooooooow to consider new solutions, they are uncomfortable being disruptive, and they are highly adverse to risk. This means that of the dozens of items he proposes every year, they might act on one or two.

Where we have had success, though, is in the baby-step approach. As a group of entrepreneurs, my team is all about the big, crazy, disruptive plans to shake up the world. But that’s too radical for this client’s organization, so we have to find little ways to introduce change, and then let them grow into the possibilities over time. What’s key, though, is a very, very bland insertion strategy.

I was thinking about this when listening to the this great video clip from the Standford’s Entrepreneurship Corner. Liz Tinkham, a global manager at Accenture, discusses the danger most startups face when trying to sell to a large organization: “too sexy” usually means “too complicated.”

This is a great point, and ones that I often think that entrepreneurs will forget: enterprise clients come with baggage. They have legacy system baggage, contract baggage, relationship baggage and political baggage. So, to paraphrase a line from my favorite Broadway play of all time, you ‘need to find baggage that matches their’s.’

The question is, can you do that? And, if you can, do you want to? Most high tech entrepreneurs I know are out to shake things up. They have a vision and they tend to love disruption. That’s what makes them willing to forego a cubical and benefits package to ride off into the sunset alone.

Entrepreneurs have to ask themselves: Do I want or need to sell to large companies? If the answer is yes, then the next question is the one that Liz posits in the video: How do I tone down my product enough to be digestable for an organization that comes with a lot of baggage?

Of course, even if you can do that, you may decide you don’t want to. But once you figure that out, then you can build out a sales strategy that fits, instead of one that doesn’t.

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