Lessons from Enterprise Client Acquisition : Vagueness around Pricing/SLAs/Deliverable kills it all

Catering to enterprises has never given an entrepreneur a celebrity-like feeling opposed to when in the consumer Internet section. Although a prime reason for a B2B’s non-viral nature lies in its fundamental business model- they only cater to enterprises and not the mass; there’s an eternal issue that startups have scratched their heads for since the inception of this model- how exactly do these small guys acquire customers?

 There are some significantly sorrowful things about enterprise client acquisition scenario :

  1. You just don’t know how many companies can be your target– Let’s be realistic. Despite all the targeting and segmentation efforts and all those biz fundamentals, its easy to get paralyzed while expanding your target market. This is especially true for horizontal offerings that span across verticals and where use cases are invented on the fly from client requirements.
  2. Pull is not good enough– Sales cycles are pretty long and closing a deal tests all your patience and peace of mind. A bigger problem is that you cannot estimate the length of your sales cycle since each customer is different and they’re mostly beating around the bush. And if you’re small, you probably haven’t gathered the guts to say “I’ve had enough!”.
  3. Big guys mostly like to deal with other big guys– A common sense approach after launch is to attack your existing network. But a common sense point to be noted is that the person on the other side is just an individual representing a big firm. So ultimately the whole deal goes back into the hands of a biggie and then oops! slips off…

Here are a few takeaways from our experience with the above points at PromptCloud while we sail the same boat.

  1. Build a client base from small guys like you– Small guys will understand you better and you’ll not be wasting time convincing them that you’ll not die before they do. Moreover your business model doesn’t need to change and you’re fulfilling needs of anyone who comes your way. And not to forget the learnings you’re left with, irrespective of dealing with firms big or small.
    Caution– this is just a preliminary approach and does not necessarily mean you should continue catering to small firms because at some point esp. in a service model, they’re just overheads.
  1. Branding via Word of Mouth– All of us know it. You just have to let your product/service quality speak for itself if someone has already heard about you instead of taking it up from square one. So do not hesitate to spread the word where you have a chance and let it play the game of randomness and coincidences apart from approaching it in a targeted way using referrals, press and social media esp. LinkedIn.
  2. SEO is the meat– All of us hate unsolicited emails or calls. So call of the hour is inbound. It’s not just about ranking high on search engines but ranking high sensibly. It’s common to open hit#1 and be disappointed to only notice keywords that don’t serve anything (how much can a Google algo do?). SEO bolsters your brand and there’s definitely an impression made when you pop up in all related searches in addition to sounding useful. The best part here though is that leads that come on their own are more qualified to convert than those you reach out to.
  3. Vagueness kills it all– DO NOT be vague about any of these- deliverables, price, SLA’s. These are things that should be told about upfront to avoid wasting both parties’ time. Customers want to set expectations and move from there as much as you’d not like to be misunderstood and later lose them out.
  4. Be open for pilots– It’s always a smart move to invest in a free pilot because a) you’re giving a platform to your prospect to validate your product and b) action speaks louder than words in those outbound calls. Even the worst case (when the prospect doesn’t convert) isn’t as worse here because it’s magical how your knowledge base from a pilot you did for a prospect may be a year ago ends up being reused for a new prospect. On a side note, most of PromptCloud’s first meetings with leads have been after they were impressed with the POC. And better, we had to answer fewer or rather different questions and got rid of all the “salesy” talks.
  5. Give long-term contracts a thought– Long-term contracts as well as annual billing plans make sense for most B2B’s who cater to the same set of customers regularly. It creates some affinity within the customer base for your product/service in addition to keeping those cash flows moving.

Note- As evident as it could be, all the points listed here are valid only if you clearly understand the problem you’re solving and have validated your product-market fit through multiple use cases.

What are your thoughts?

[Guest article contributed by Arpan Jha of PromptCloud Team.]

[Note from NextBigWhat Team: If you are a B2B startup willing to share your experience, insights – do write to us.]

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