Inflection 6: How to Sell Enterprise SaaS Products (It’s Harder Than You Think)

Inflection 6: How to Sell Enterprise SaaS Products (It’s Harder Than You Think)

Dylan Touhey

This is the sixth post in my "Inflections" blog series where I lay down the hard truths and remedies for SaaS marketing.

One of the cool things about running a digital agency is that you get to see selling products from many different angles and markets. 

In the past few years, we've helped clients like Google sell to Fortune 500s (for their Wildfire social media software and their DoubleClick SEM management tools). One of the most common marketing challenges we see are enterprise software companies who have built an amazing product but have little adoption in their market.

In the past few years, we've worked with two companies (one with +40 million in funding) that have struggled to reach enterprise buyers. Money doesn't solve all marketing problems.  

Here are a few of the big insights we've learned about selling enterprise SaaS products. 

1. It takes much longer than you expect  

To be truthful, selling consumer products can be a lot more fun than products with large enterprise price tags. 

All the cool stuff you learn about—such as boosting conversion rates by running an A/B test, watching sales soar after you launch a creative email campaign, or using immediately boosting sales with a new video—they have faster results with small consumer products. For example, back before we started specializing in SaaS and tech, we worked with a large brand selling a $4.99 consumer app. It’s such a small purchase. If you have traffic and a recognized brand, it’s just about enticing the prospect and connecting emotionally with the audience. It's fun to sell their product and requires you to be playful and creative.  Enterprise is a much harder game. The research process for buying is very complex. They will find and compare you to your competitors. They will want to know about exact features, not just sales language.  

2. Give love to each stage of your funnel  

One of the impressive things about working with Google’s marketing department is how they dedicate equal attention to the different stages of their buying funnel. 

Over the last two years, we've been lucky enough to do quite a few projects for them. They hire us to create sizzle videos, selling the top-level features of the software and getting people interested in learning more. Even Google with all their fame and trust still needs to earn that first awareness click from the decision makers.  

They also hire us to create demo videos, helping prospects see exact features. These are packed with details. They show the integrations, case studies, and demonstrate the benefits instead of touting them. In this stage, we sell to the practitioners, showing them how the product will make their daily tasks easier.  

They also hire us to create social content (such as Google Wildfire’s social strategy videos) that are used to reinforce the purchase with existing customers and build loyalty.

Even after a customer has purchased, you need to reinforce their choice. Brands like Ford and GM are really good at this. They want a customer to be happy with their purchase and become an advocate for their brand. This not only ensures the customer will purchase again but also makes sure that the brand stays relevant to the community they are serving. With technology, you need to make sure that enterprise buyers still see you as the cutting edge solution especially as new competitors move in.  

With Google, every stage is mapped out and tackled systematically. This gives the prospect a complete journey—from hearing about the product from a press mention or blog post, to clicking the homepage, to building a case for buying the software to the c-suite. 

3. Sell to power   

It’s very hard to sell to both a marketing director and CTO at the same time. They have different pains they are trying to solve. Most importantly, they are judged by different criteria for being good at their jobs.  

People, especially in large organization, are self-motivated.  

Here’s a breakdown of different buyers and how you can influence them. 

The C-suite is searching for...  

In general, C-suite executives do not necessarily care about features and product capabilities—that’s the concern of practitioners, which we talk about next. The C-suite buyer typically cares about the following:

  • Driving rapid growth 
  • Finding technology to improve competitive differentiation 
  • Leveraging core assets to boost profits
  • Increasing overall sales and leads

Unlike practitioners who are motivated by specific features and product capabilities, the C-Suite audience generally need to hear a sales message that talks about the measurable financial value the product offers. It’s not that they don't care about features and benefits, but the solution needs to clearly connect and solve the daily goals and pressures they face (increasing growth, sales, and so on). 

The practitioner wants...  

Marketing managers, directors, and analysts are practitioners. As such, they are more interested in features and product capabilities as they are trying to picture how the product will practically fit into their work life. The practitioner typically cares about...

  • Simplifying complex tasks and minimizing work
  • Demonstrating their results to upper management
  • Product integrations, deep specs, and granular capabilities

For example, a web developer who needs to find a new shopping cart software would be absolutely interested in hearing that your ecommerce solution integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics. 

If the solution did not integrate, this would mean two weeks of changing tracking tags and setting up conversion funnels. 

This could be a deal-breaking feature, as they don't want to manually change tracking tags for the next two weeks. 

In contrast, the CTO is looking at the long-term. She doesn't necessarily care if the solution integrates with Google Analytics—she is willing to invest a few weeks of her development team’s time in changing tags if the solution has long-term ROI. 

If you want more advice on this topic, I recommend the book, Selling to Zebras. I've taken the idea of “selling to power” from there and seen their principles work very well in the real-world.