We’re rolling into the third session in this series on Enterprise Selling.  If you’re catching this series now, make sure to click below and check out the earlier articles. There are some really valuable concepts that kind of form the foundation of everything we’ll be talking about going forward.  So, feel free to check those out and come back to this article if you need to.  And remember to leave any comments below, questions, whatever you have. I’m here to help and I’ll reply to each and everyone as soon as I can.

This series was made with professional speakers in mind. My proven system for Enterprise Selling will change the way you think about scaling your online knowledge business. So let’s get right into one of the core principles of Enterprise Selling… the Buyer.

I learned a long time ago that you don’t just create a product in a bubble, then bring it to market and cross your fingers that you got it right. It typically doesn’t work.

This was a hard lesson for me to understand because my business was selling technology products, not content. You have a team of product managers, business analysts and software engineers. They are paid a lot because they know how to deliver value to your market. So it’s easy to fall into this trap.

And, in somewhat the same way, as a subject matter expert, you are also getting paid because you have an expertise in a certain space.  Asking your clients and prospects what you should give them next is just not a natural instinct.  Knowing your market intimately and conversing with them regularly about your product is critical to your success.  Whatever that product may be.

In the next article, I’m going to dive deeper into a very cool strategy to learn more from your clients and prospects. This is so you can build the product they already want instead of guessing and hoping you got it right. So make sure you keep your eye out for that one.

But first, and even more importantly, we need to be really clear on the difference between an enterprise buyer and your typical retail prospect. This is so important to grasp if you are just getting started in the enterprise market. But it’s also a good refresher even for those of us who have been selling to enterprise for years.

It’s a different lens through which you look at your sales and communications process. As many of you already know, a lot of my content is very technical stuff. But this article is all about core business principles. I want you to understand how an enterprise executive differs from a small business owner.

So, a little background here first.  As I mentioned in an earlier article, I built my first business on enterprise selling. I wouldn’t have been able to compete in the competitive software space without financing or some anchor enterprise clients. I had already raised a little bit of money early on in my business. But it was so time-consuming and it’s a very difficult sales job.

So after raising just over half a million dollars, I realized I didn’t like the idea that I had not actually generated any meaningful revenues yet. And, I kind of felt like I was always making excuses for this.

So I decided to spend the same amount of time on sales that I was spending on raising money.  I had a strong network at that point and good brand presence.  But nothing close to what you would need to impress an enterprise. And that’s when I put the very first iteration of my Enterprise Selling program into practice.

So these strategies and the resources I’m sharing with you now are actually very similar to the original blueprint. I followed this blueprint to build a successful multimillion-dollar software company. We run systems for huge clients like Bank of America, United Health, AARP and Lincoln Financial.

Then I went on to teach these same concepts to our top content providers and they’re all doing it as well.  And some of them have gone on to create even greater successes and bigger numbers than even we have!

So this system works, and you can implement it too. But, it begins with understanding the enterprise buyer.

Here’s what my experience is…  There are three core concerns in a buyer’s mind. Whether they’re enterprise or retail, big or small. It’s NEED, COST, and TIMING. Think about that…

  1. In any selling situation, you first have to communicate the business case that establishes a relatable NEED that you can satisfy.
  2. Next, it comes to COST. How much budget do they have and what’s the ROI you can deliver?
  3. And TIMING is one part knowing when to make the sale and the other part creating a sense of urgency to buy.

So Need, Cost, and Timing are there in any selling situation, but the way your buyer looks at these concerns is dependent on who they are and the constraints they’ve got to work with.

A retail prospect is typically a small business owner or high-ranking executive at a small to medium sized company. You can easily create a persuasive need and relate it to them specifically. After all, you’re an entrepreneur as well. We get each other. You understand the pain points and your online course gives your prospect a shot at resolving them within a reasonable cost. And that cost is fairly easy to get approved, but it is coming right out of that small business owners pocket, so there’s some emotional attachment to those dollars. And timing in the small business world is typically ASAP. Get me results yesterday and I’ll be happy. They just need to generate meaningful revenue and earnings fast, and if your content can help, then they’ll give it a shot.

Now in the enterprise world, this is so different. First, you don’t present the need to them. They request it from you. In fact, enterprises have an acronym for this that many of us have heard far too many times and it strikes fear into all of us. The RFP—or a Request for Proposal. This is short for, we get paid to know what we want, and your sales job is to either check the box or not. There’s very little creativity allowed here.

See, the deal is, you can’t really convince an enterprise manager or executive that your content is the one thing that will increase their revenues and earnings. Every vendor wishes they could make that case. But we can rarely take full credit for any increase in productivity. Trust me, there’s a lot of vendors lined up with their hands out when numbers are up. And each one of us is claiming it’s all because of me.

At the end of the day, what motivates an enterprise manager or executive most is advancing their career. If they can show they make an impact spending their budget wisely, they are on the right track. And when they make too many wrong calls, that track doesn’t look so good anymore. So, understand they can be a little risk averse because their livelihood is on the line if too many vendors fail them. Align your sales approach with this motivation unique to an enterprise buyer, and you’ll create a much stronger connection.

And then there’s cost. In most cases, a home office executive at a large company has little to no emotional attachment to the actual dollars. It’s not really their money after all… not in the way it would be for a small business owner of course. They have a budget and they’ve got to spend it. In fact, if they don’t use it, they lose it. So in some ways, reducing your price for them doesn’t really help them at all. You may even be helping them to spend less money next year. And that’s not the ideal goal for any of us, is it?

And finally, Timing. Enterprise buyers typically follow a purchasing cycle. You need to know when budget season is and when it’s closing. Because it doesn’t matter how awesome your product is or perfectly suited to their needs. If the budget is already allocated somewhere else, it’s not coming to you. But… time it right, be the one vendor in front of that enterprise buyer at the appropriate time, and they’ll give you a serious look.  This is where a strategy of cascading pilots comes into play and will make an awesome impact in this area of your business.  Field Champions and Cascading Pilots are two strategies I adopted years ago to support my own enterprise selling and it changed my business. We’ll dive deep into these concepts in later articles.

For now, it’s most important to just recognize the differences between enterprise and retail buyers. You should also become very conscious to how you can adapt your sales style to accommodate these unique differentiators.


Author: Jon Tota

Over the past two decades, Jon Tota has established himself as a pioneer in online education for corporate training. He began his career on Wall Street in sales and technology positions at PaineWebber and UBS. Then after years as a business analyst to some of the largest firms in financial services, Jon co-founded Edulence in 2002 to develop online training solutions for corporate educators.

Edulence’s Knowledgelink platform has become a leader in cloud-based eLearning, offering the premier network connecting experts with enterprise learners. Jon is now focused on discovering the best experts and helping them turn their knowledge into a subscription business.