Here’s What You Need to Sell Your SaaS Product to Enterprise Customers
For SaaS companies, the allure of the enterprise customer is pretty strong. The prestige of a big logo alone can boost your brand’s credibility and provide powerful social proof. And because enterprise customers typically stick around longer, they lower your overall churn risk. Plus, enterprise customers usually spend more—on support, seats, usage, integrations, etc. The LTV of an enterprise customer can be extraordinarily high, making the extra effort to land them well worth it.
But as wonderful as selling into enterprise accounts is, it can pull you in a million different directions with new types of requests and requirements. It’s hard to parse what enterprise SaaS buyers want, versus what they actually require. And making decisions about how far you should go to support the enterprise can be gut-wrenching. Often, you are faced with a choice between veering off your product development roadmap to drop everything in support of an enterprise customer’s demands or losing their account (which could hit your revenue churn number in a painful way).
To cut out some of that gut-wrenching guesswork, here’s a checklist of the key considerations enterprise customers have when choosing a SaaS company, so you can go into your relationship with an enterprise customer prepared for their unique needs.
Rigorous security requirements
New rules about personal data regulation, or GDPR, have changed the way we think about data nearly overnight. As consumers become more anxious about data, GDPR compliance is at the top of the list for enterprise companies right now, and if you don’t have it, your product likely won’t even be considered.
And as data breaches continue to cause massive headaches for brands around the globe, meeting rigorous security requirements is also crucial. Every large organization has their own requirements, so while you can generally standardize with a set of security features, there will always be an odd, one-off requirement or hoop to jump through to land an enterprise customer.
Be prepared to receive 600-question security assessments routinely. Consider who in your organization will be point to collect responses and manage that process. I like to use a contracts and compliance manager for this critical responsibility.
According to a recent study by MuleSoft, 52% of SaaS vendors report that over half of their customers require integration, and 87% viewed integration as a major hurdle in the sales process.
Let those stats sink in and then consider that those stats are especially relevant to enterprise customers, who have lots of software and need it all to work together.
Enterprise customers will want to know you have standard integrations with their tech stack, and they may also need custom integrations, or at least an API option, as well. They will expect you to have experts to work on the integrations with them, as they won’t want to self-navigate through it. Your team needs to offer outstanding support during the integration process to prove your value to an enterprise company.
Reliability, disaster recovery and business continuity
It’s easy to tout your brand’s reliability in a sales pitch, but in practice, that might not actually be the case. A recent study found that over a quarter of IT professionals claimed to meet service availability despite having no data to back up those claims. And a third of those respondents reported an outage in the past three months.
Reliable uptime, disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) are crucial aspects of relationship management with enterprise customers, who tend to view a lot of their software as “critical” and will want to know you have a reliable uptime track record and the systems in place for disaster recovery and business continuity. Often, you will be required to actually show them a sanitized copy of your DR and BC plans during the procurement process.
Documented SLAs, usually with some sort of credits that are applied if you don’t meet the SLA will go a long way toward winning customers who expect attentive service and around-the-clock support. What happens if you do go down? How fast will you respond to an outage, and how quickly will you resolve it? Enterprise customers tend to want these answers in writing, in their contracts, including credits for significant outages.
Don’t let this one scare you away though. It’s easy to say, “we don’t have those things, so it’s pointless to try to win enterprise deals,” but that’s not the right approach to take. Document what you can actually provide (there are lots of templates for BC and DR plans online) and be forthright about it. Many enterprise customers want to know the plans exist, and are less concerned with the details of your actual target recovery time, etc.
Enterprise customers generally require account management that goes beyond the typical customer success paradigm of an SMB SaaS product. Knowing your customer and the level of interaction they prefer is key. Some enterprise companies would like to hear from vendors frequently, while others “dread that recurring invitation to lunch,” according to a poll of enterprise companies by Sapphire Ventures that included SaaS decision makers from Pandora and the San Francisco Giants.
Whether your enterprise customer wants monthly check-ins or once a year catch-ups after the onboarding process, they absolutely want their money’s worth from your product, especially when it comes to easy adoption by a wide variety of roles and experience levels inside the organization. In a similar vein, when they do need you, enterprise companies also expect great support options and training as well.
Enterprise companies bring prestige as well as business, but reeling in a big fish requires more work than scooping up tadpoles. Enterprise companies often have much bigger demands than SMBs, and working to meet those demands before you even go after an enterprise customer can make your SaaS product stand out and help you through a speedy procurement process.
Ambition co-founder Brian Trautschold shares the ideas he’s used with his own sales team.
Enterprise sales requires an entirely different level of experience and skillset to be successful. As a startup, you can’t afford to dive into the deep end without knowing how to swim.