Enterprise Sales Process: Closing Deals In Niche Markets

Closing an enterprise sale in a niche market follows the same sales funnel as any other deal, but a bit more fine tuned. It represents the culmination of ‘art’ and process, where the enterprise sales process is modified to better reflect the client’s unique and specific needs.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of it all, let’s first get into the definition of enterprise sales.

Table of Contents

What Is Enterprise Level Sales?

Enterprise sales, also known as complex sales, refer to the selling strategy used by large organizations involving long sales cycles, multiple decision-makers, and higher levels of risk. This contrasts with traditional sales, which typically are associated with shorter sales cycles, fewer stakeholders, and are managed by a sales and marketing department.

Related: Losing Big Deals? Fix These 5 Sales Process Fails

The Models of Enterprise Level Sales

There are three main models of Enterprise Level Sales:

  • Self sales
  • Transactional sales
  • Enterprise sales

Self Sales

This model is best for companies selling low-cost products where the cost to acquire a customer is similarly low. Examples include simple SaaS and or productized services, where customers signs up and buys on their own accord.

The benefit of the self sales model is that the company can refocus their efforts on other growth and business development initiatives outside of the sales process itself.

Enterprise Sales

Enterprise sales is often used by businesses with specialized or custom products with high price points that require more training and customer support. Enterprise sales are generally associated with a longer sales cycle.

Transactional Sales

Transactional sales somewhere in between self sales and enterprise sales. Companies using transactional sales models can stay flexible and allow customers to shop on their own, or ask customer support for assistance whenever they need.

Unlike the self sales model, volume in the the transactional sales model lower but with a higher price point, which is better suited toward well-established medium-sized businesses with more expensive products or services than companies that are just starting out.

How Do You Get Into Enterprise Level Sales?

There are several factors that one must consider before getting into enterprise-level sales, e.g:

  1. Security: Are all data fully protected and in compliance with privacy policies?
  2. Support: Is there access to customer support 24/7?
  3. Automation: Will it help cut back on time and expenses commonly incurred?
  4. Proof of returns: Is there evidence of returns from the use of this model?

With all these factors in mind, let’s look at some of the strategies you can apply when venturing into Enterprise Level Sales.

Calculate your total addressable market (TAM)

Your TAM is a term used to refer to the revenue opportunity available for a product or service. It helps businesses by giving an estimate of how their product will do when introduced into the market.

There are three approaches to calculate your TAM:

1. Top-down approach

This approach uses industry research and reports to identify the TAM. However, it does have its downsides; industry data may not always be up to date and accurate.

2. Bottom-up approach

This technique is based on the number of previous sales along with pricing data. First, multiply your average sales by the number of current customers. This will give you the annual contract value. After getting your ACV, multiply it by the total number of customers.

total addressable market for enterprise sales process

3. Value theory

The value theory is based on how much your customers value your product/service and are willing to pay for it.

Create a clear map of your organization

Having a clear organizational chart of who will be involved in sales, following up with your prospects, and associated departments such as marketing and customer success will help create clarity in your overall sales process. It also helps in evaluating progress since there are clear divisions of roles.

The role chart makes it easier for you to identify areas to improve and optimize.

Find accounts that best fit your product or service description

Since enterprise sales typically have a long sales cycle, you do not want to waste too much time on leads that won’t eventually become enterprise clients. For this reason, companies should take time to research their ICP( Ideal Customer Profile).

It will cut back on time and resources spent chasing after accounts and leads that won’t make it through the lead qualification process.

Research your ideal customer!

It is essential that you take time to study your ICP as well as emerging market trendsand developments. Be on the lookout for significant announcements, acquisitions, changes, and new businesses into the industry.

Expand your pipeline of ideal prospects

Getting a prospect to sign a deal is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s still more you need to work on as a sales representative. The idea isn’t just to get this one sale, but also to replicate and build on ongoing successes. It’s crucial for sales teams to follow up with clients. This secures the client’s loyalty, ensuring continued business between you both.

Stay on top of market trends and news. This will help you identify blind spots as well as areas that need improvement.

How Much Does an Enterprise Sales Rep Make?

According to Glassdoor, typical salaries of enterprise sales representatives range from $25,314 to $77,540. Enterprise selling is exceptionally lucrative, with sales reps earning an average pay of $42,428. On top of their base salaries, enterprise sales reps also have the potential to earn commissions and cash bonuses based on their performance.

Mastering The Enterprise Sales Cycle

Enterprise sales cycles are typically 7+ months and 6+ figure deals. It takes a concerted effort between the sales rep and the prospect to move the deal forward through multiple stakeholders and multiple stages. The emphasis on process becomes more important as the odds of closing the deal diminish.

The niche aspect comes into play because this type of sale also skews in the way of knowledge. Knowledge not in the sense of ‘What is it going to take to close this deal’ but rather:

“Do I know my prospects’ industry and business well enough to improve their business with my product?” 

If you’re able to confidently say “YES,” (and have a superior product), then the odds of closing the deal are stacked in your favor.

SMB Sales vs Enterprise Sales Process

enterprise sales definition vs smb

Deep knowledge and understanding of your prospects’ industry is the key difference between SMB sales, where you’re ‘churning and burning’ 10 demos a day, 5 days a week.

There’s already a movement towards personalization and relevance at scale, even at the small and medium size deals. In the niche enterprise space, this is an absolute must.

If the salesperson does not have an intimate knowledge and process to accompany the buyer along her journey, they are leaning towards failure.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to work for a few startups and win a few enterprise deals. I’ve seen the 1+ year, Fortune 50 sales cycles at my previous startup, to the current 7-8 month sales cycles in my current role.

To that point, I’ve been able to replicate my past experience into a new niche: logistics and shipping – and more specifically, sea port terminals and terminal operations.

Here are a few stats from my most recently won deal:

  • Sales Cycle: 6 months
  • Number of Touches: 45 touches
  • Contract Size: 5 years, high six figures
  • Length of Negotiation: 1 Month
  • Number of Decision Makers: 7 Decision Makers
  • Momentum Point: When we decided together to avoid the negotiation game and shake hands on the deal after our third on-site visit.
  • Deal Breaker: Sticker shock. We’re not the cheapest solution on the market and generally, you don’t want to be the economic choice. We prefaced our proposal stating that it was in fact, that, and worked with our champion to ensure a suitable price point prior to the final presentation with the rest of the decision-makers.

This leads us to what I feel is the most important part of any niche, enterprise sale. It happens before anything is even done. To me, it is knowing the full context of the deal – internal and external.

Note: This is also assuming that you have all A players on your team, with high emotional intelligence, who know how to execute.

[Tweet “Sales is a two way street – you need a seller AND a buyer to play ball.”]

If you don’t have the top product, then your overall win rate will generally be worse compared to the market leader.

enterprise selling

Four Rules of Enterprise Selling

Rule #1: Know Your Industry & Niche

Subscribe to your industry’s top publications and newsletters and devote 15-20 minutes to the ‘big picture’ of what’s happening across the industry as well as in the world of your prospects. Ask established players within the niche that are the most popular and read all of those.

Another way to get more insight into your industry is to stay abreast of emerging trends and new technologies. Make it your top priority to know what’s happening within the market; what new businesses have been established? What changes have taken place? Have any significant acquisitions taken place?

Helpful business journals and magazines that you can use include:

  1. Forbes
  2. Business Journals
  3. Marketing Science
  4. Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. Harvard Business Review

Rule #2: Know Your Customer Journey

smb vs enterprise customer journey

Source: Gainsight

Once you have identified your ICP, your sales team will have an easier time monitoring your customer journey. Sales reps get to understand the client’s needs and expectations and how best to meet them.

As I mentioned, the sales funnels are generally going to be the same. The enterprise sales cycle and funnel remain the same, but perhaps a face-to-face meeting is required where on a small to medium-sized deal, a web-conference may do.

Seek out fellow sales peers in your industry who can provide more context. Even better, explicitly ask one of your prospect’s influencers or decision-makers as early as possible.

In the maritime world, there’s only a handful of conferences that serve the entire industry. When it comes to the niche we cater to in seaport terminal operations, there’s only two major conferences that directly apply in the Terminal Operating world.

Rule #3: Know Your Champion

sales managers top qualities sales hacker

At the outset of any enterprise deal, is the champion. This is the individual selling your solution when you’re not there because the benefits of your product aligns with his or her role within the job that your product will be completing.

They often present themselves earlier on in the sales conversation and provide guidance throughout the life of the sales cycle. The internal buyer knowledge that she or he possesses and shares with you coupled with the proper processes that govern your own sales process creates ripe scenarios for success.

Rule #4: Establish Familiarity & Thought Leadership

Often, niche industries are served by just a handful of providers.

The smaller the pool of players within the niche, the greater the importance on relationships.

The greater the sales pro can be at building those relationships, the exponentially greater they can be compared to their sales peers within the niche.

Attend as many conferences as you can. Shell out cash to attend conferences where you know your target prospects will be.

Leverage business development to secure speaking engagements whenever possible and build relationships with organizers.

They can make valuable intros and point you in the right direction. Take notes on business cards at conferences and follow up consistently – even with non-ICP parties.

Related: How I Closed 50% More by Systematizing My Sales Follow-Up Process

One of the upsides of the maritime niche market is that you’ll end up seeing the same familiar faces speaking at conferences all around the world. We’ve been able to successfully present even at a very young stage and have established relationships with organizers as well.

Some Enterprise Sales Strategies to Use

Whatever style and methodology fits towards getting the prospect to confess their pain points, use it during your sales process and understand how deals get done on their side of the table.

Here are a few good ones I’d recommend:

RELATED: Check out more strategies in our Sales Methodology Blueprint article.

Build a deal map with your Champion and get confirmation and buy in from them at the outset. The more knowledge we have around the different stakeholders and departments, the better our odds are around addressing their needs and winning their buy-in.

Niches also lend themselves to variations in sales processes. In the niche we exist in, incumbent providers will typically require NDA’s before any buying conversation whatsoever is had. As a modern organization that is proud and confident in our product, that’s not how we operate. We are bending the norm within our niche.

Key Takeaways

  • Enterprise sales is largely governed by established processes and best practices that are permeated throughout the sales world through content, events, and our peers. It is not rocket science.
  • It is 90% process and 10% “art” – with the latter percentage remaining the leading indicator of success.  Despite being dominated by process, it is still extremely difficult to qualitatively grade that process outside of revenue and thus must be continually validated on the job.
  • Enterprise sales is an iterative process and must be fine-tuned over time. Depending on where that company exists – its life cycle stage as a company, product, market, region, timing, must be accounted for.
  • In closing the enterprise sale in a niche market, that fine-tuning and evolution must happen quickly, and often on the fly, to match the internal and external factors that govern the entire deal.

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