The Ultimate Guide to Enterprise B2B Sales

What is enterprise B2B sales?

For whatever reason, sales teams love fishing analogies. Most B2B sales teams subsist on a regular catch of small to medium-sized prospects. Some hunt whales – prospects many times larger than their own organization. And then there are the B2B enterprise sales – teams that stake everything on global companies the size of supertankers.

Winning an enterprise B2B sales deal can be a career-making achievement. But it’s a multi-year, deeply complex, high-risk endeavor for both sides with no guarantee of success.

The rewards are worth it: a deeply profitable, scalable, and long-lasting relationship with one of the world’s biggest companies. But getting it right is as complex as you’d imagine (possibly more). Enterprise B2B sales follow a different set of rules. This is a guide to help you take your enterprise B2B sales skills to the next level.

Enterprise B2B sales vs. SMB sales

First, let’s get the Gartner definitions out of the way:

Small business: <100 employees, up to £50m annual revenue
Medium business 100-999 employees, up to $1bn annual revenue
Enterprise: >1000 employees, over $1bn in annual revenue

Look at those numbers. Selling to an enterprise using SMB tactics is like trying to drive a Formula 1 car with a regular driving licence. Ambitious, sure but a totally separate skillset in practice.

The key differences between enterprise and SMB B2B sales are:

  1. Longer sales cycles – deals can take around a year or longer to close in some cases.
  2. Larger contracts – for example, the average contract value for SaaS enterprise companies is over $100,000.
  3. Multiple stakeholders – it’s more important to understand the key influencers and decision-makers and get buy-in from them. According to Gartner, 6 to 10 decision makers are involved in B2B enterprise buying decisions.
  4. Higher risk – organizations have a lot more revenue to lose in an enterprise sale.
  5. Higher volatility – enterprises have a larger pool of competitors trying to sell to them, so you need a dedicated team of sales experts to pull these off!

What is the enterprise B2B sales funnel?

The stages of the enterprise B2B sales funnel are similar to the steps of a standard B2B sales funnel, with some crucial differences.

Awareness and Interest stages:

Trying to attract and qualify enterprise prospects at the Awareness and Interest stages is a daunting task if you’re used to dealing with SMBs. They’re much larger beasts, with a vast number of internal contacts and stakeholders, and much more multifaceted needs.

There’s also a lot more competition in this field; a lot of your competitors also look to capture these big names. And why not, they’re profitable catches.

You need to understand what makes effective enterprise lead generation, so let’s look at some things you should consider when you prospect an enterprise.

1. Focus on the fit, not the fame. 
It’s tempting to go for the biggest fish right off the bat, but just like in SMB sales, you won’t move them very far down the funnel if your businesses aren’t on the same page.

Don’t get blinded by potential. Pursuing an enterprise client could take years of effort and dedicated resources. It’s the worst time to compromise in your ideal criteria – keep your own needs in sharp focus when you prospect potential enterprises. How closely do they match? What is their forecasted growth? What is their likely budget? Are they working with any of your competitors?

Once you narrow down your list of enterprises to ones that match your criteria, you increase your likelihood of moving them down the funnel.

2. Know the pain points
Enterprise B2B pain points are very different from SMBs. Xerox conducted a study to determine what the business priorities and pain points were for SMBs. They found that larger issues like business growth and productivity were the top two pain points for SMBs. Whereas for enterprises facing more lengthy sales cycles, low ROI, accountability, profit margins and poor data reporting are among the highest pain points.

3. Map the account
Before you try to catch a large enterprise, you need to build a picture of what their organization looks like. When you understand the inner workings of a company, this will help your sales reps navigate the selling process more easily. For example, find out if they are centralized around a specific region or decentralized and spread out business units over multiple countries.

To succeed in enterprise B2B sales, you’re going to have to speak to a lot of contacts in a lot of different roles across the organization. Being able to see where everyone is before you make contact is vital so you know who your point of contact is, who they report to and their level of influence in the company.

4. Target lower down the organizational chart
The sheer size of enterprise B2B prospects makes it hard to build good insight into the day-to-day experiences and pain points. One tactic that makes it easier is to target employees further down the organizational hierarchy.

They can tell you the issues with the current software they use and business challenges they’d like to solve. You can then use this information later down the funnel when making sales calls to decision-makers as pain points your solution will target.

Use multiple different channels to prospect multiple lower-down contacts at this stage, the more you can find out the better.

5. Prospect geographically
As mentioned above, B2B enterprises typically hire over 1,000 people. It’s very likely that they’ll be spread out over different locations, and it’s also very likely that each of those locations may have control of their own budgets and software.

Target as many of these locations as you can with prospecting tools, and start to build relationships. The more openings you make into an enterprise company the more your offering will be talked about within the organisation.

6. Stay active
It’s much harder to grab the attention of B2B enterprises than SMBs. To make sure you get your foot in the door, you need your activity levels to be consistently high across as many channels as possible.

There’s such a large amount of information to gather about these companies (including the tech they use, the problems they have with it, and their organizational structure) from a large number of contacts. It’s not a job you can afford to slack on!

Decision Stage:

This is the stage of the funnel where you’ll want to give your enterprise B2B prospect all the information they need before making a decision to purchase. It’s where you address any objections, compare alternative solutions, and explore your differentiation.

It’s almost certain your enterprise prospect will be in contact with sales reps from your competitors, so making a good impression, and showing why your brand is unique at this stage is crucial.

With a B2B enterprise, the main difference is that you’re going to have to educate multiple contacts and stakeholders throughout the company, who will have a lot of diverse questions.

When managing enterprise B2B sales calls, you need to take this into account.

Know the purpose of each call
Coherence is a vital ingredient of successful enterprise B2B sales. You need to build a clear picture of how every stakeholder’s input connects into a single story. Every call needs a clearly defined agenda that builds on your previous conversations – with everyone from mid level employees to CEOs and decision makers.

For example, your first call with your first point of contact might be a discovery call to determine pain points, whereas a call with the head of software will be a call to discuss the benefits of your offering over their existing tools.

Without this in place, the complex web of sales calls will get confusing to follow and you will end up going into the wrong kind of calls at the wrong time.

Work as a team
It’s simply impossible for a single sales rep to keep up with all the manner of sales calls you will make at this stage of the B2B enterprise funnel.

Enterprise contacts may also end up discussing your brand and offering with different people within your company, so your message needs to be rehearsed, and your records of previous calls need to be easily accessible and legible.

Promoting teamwork across your organization, such as defining roles, and even rewarding good examples of teamwork can help this along.

Go further to build relationships
If an enterprise company you’re selling to is far larger than your own, it’s even more important to establish your offering as credible, and reliable. The best way to do this? Build better and more trusting relationships.

A tried and tested method of doing this is making an effort to talk about things other than the sale. Ask well-thought-out personal questions (within reason) and show a willingness to get to know your contacts, as well as their business.

This goes a long way to differentiating yourself from competitors, as remembering personal details will not go unnoticed.

Closing a B2B enterprise sale worth $100,000 is always going to be a different challenge than closing an SMB deal worth $10,000.

If you’ve done your job right so far, you’ll have recognized your buyer’s needs and organizational structure, researched their industry and their pain points, worked out your contacts and who the decision-makers are, tailored your offering to resolve their pain points and educated them on how they will benefit from it.

But even with all this work, enterprise prospects still hold most of the leverage when it comes to closing the deal.

The key thing to consider at this stage is to remember they are interested for a reason and stand your ground. It can be tempting to fluctuate wildly to their demands on price offerings just to win their business.

It’s important to come into negotiations with a clear and well-researched pricing guide that represents the value that you will bring to their enterprise. If they lose sight of that value, don’t be afraid to remind them.

Once you know the extra considerations for moving a B2B enterprise through the funnel, it’s equally important to have an idea of the best marketing tactics to use along the way.

The best channels for enterprise B2B sales

To get your brand in front of a large enterprise in the first place, you’re going to need to know where they spend their time. That means focusing your efforts on the right channels, so you’ve got some brand equity to leverage when it comes time to make first contact. So where do you start?

Enterprises (especially large SaaS ones) get 26% of their traffic from search engines. So organic search is important because enterprises will have very specific software solutions in mind for their business needs, and owning the right SEO keywords will help them find your brand faster.

However, if you’re selling to a very niche B2B market, you may find this less effective. The more niche the market, the less people are likely to be searching for it and you may be better off using direct marketing or ABM strategies instead of ranking for SEO.

2. Paid social ads on LinkedIn

Paid social is a great way to cast a wide net in the hope of catching a big fish. It can be very effective, but using the wrong channel can mean you’re more likely to haul up a soggy boot than a whale.

To find large B2B enterprises, LinkedIn is the place to sell. 40% of B2B marketers say that LinkedIn is the most effective channel for driving high-quality leads.

Brands have a 33% increase in purchase intent from paid social ads on LinkedIn, and 4 out of 5 people on LinkedIn “drive business decisions”.

Is enterprise B2B sales right for your business?

Enterprise B2B sales is not for the sales teams without the means to execute it themselves.

At the end of the day, the choice between selling to B2B enterprises or SMBs comes down to your offering, your market fit and your commercial goals.

You may be able to target both enterprise and SMB markets. Many companies that have the staff, resources, and capital sell to each other with two different sales teams and approaches.

But apart from those broad considerations, what are some sharper questions to inform your choice before you get into the world of enterprise B2B sales? Think about:

What are your capital requirements?
Still need to raise some capital? This might make the preliminary stages of enterprise sales difficult if you don’t already have a large enterprise onboarded. However, everyone needs to start somewhere, and if your offering is suited for enterprise companies, once you onboard one, the next one will be easier.

Are you well enough connected?
To deal with the long sales cycle, you need access to senior salespeople able to pursue complex and prolonged direct or channel sales approaches.

Are you well-staffed?
You also need enough skilled members on your team to be in contact with multiple stakeholders in the business at once.

Are you prepared to improve your offering?
After you get feedback on what your enterprise prospect is looking for exactly in their solution, you must be prepared to incorporate that into your solution.

Do you have a solid pricing strategy?
Underpriced offerings lower their perceived value, which will impact your ability to close deals.

Transform your approach to Enterprise B2B Sales

So how can you adopt an enterprise B2B sales approach that feeds your sales success?

At Concentrix, we use our experience, reach and modern sales expertise to create lasting value for the world’s most exciting companies.

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