Tips To Finding Your First Enterprise Customer

What B2B founders need to know about securing and making the most of your first big corporate account.

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I recently had the honor of moderating a panel put on by the Canadian Women’s Network as part of it’s launch week activities. The Canadian Women’s Network was founded to support female founders, women in tech and female executives by build bridges between Silicon Valley and Canada to support business growth, drive economic value back to Canada, and strengthen their own personal and company profile. The event was held at The Vault, in the heart of SF which is a full stack innovation ecosystem and collaborative workspace.

The panel was on Finding Your First Enterprise Customer and how to leverage your network of investors, mentors and the media to land your first logo customer.

For Saas and B2B businesses in particular, landing an enterprise customer can have major implications for business, both success and as well as pitfalls, this panel dove deep into what it means to to land that marquis client, how to do it, and what it can mean for your business. Huge thanks to panelists May Habib, CEO & Founder of Qordoba,  Heather Kernahan, President North America, Hotwire PR, Michele Perras, Global Ecosystem, Pivotal Software and to Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley who put us all together and created an amazing lineup of incredible speakers and content.

What Is An Enterprise Customer?

It can be a well known F500 brand, such as Visa (Qordoba’s first enterprise customer) or it can also be a lesser known, yet still established business. The key is this is a brand that is taking a chance on your company, you are establishing a long term relationship with them, and these special customers will have a big impact on your business, so make sure they are also reference-able. Some additional points to consider related to reference-ablity and that you’ll want to make sure are part of contract negotiations:

  • Joint press release with quote from a senior executive
  • Logo usage across marketing channels (website, collateral)
  • Willingness to do public case study
  • Serve as a reference to future prospects
  • Willingness to speak to media and/ or at events on your behalf
  • Participate in product feedback

It’s a lot to ask of a company and you may not get it all, but doesn’t hurt to set expectations up front.. again look at this as a long term relationship that you will both benefit from. Benefits to your customer include being seen as a innovator in their industry, huge potential ROI from implementing your solution, and increased efficiencies to their internal processes and workflows.

How Do You Secure Your First Enterprise Customer?

  • Don’t be shy, if you have investors, they should also be heavily invested in your success, so leverage them for warm introductions to the folks on your target lists. Also look to mentors and your extended network, who should also be interested in seeing you succeed.
  • This goes without saying but should be reinforced. Do your homework, understand the trends impacting your industry and find anything you can related to the business strategy of your target. Stalk (in the friendliest of ways) key executives (such as the Chief Innovation Officer, CEO, CMO, etc) who are actively speaking about the company’s overarching strategy or being interviewed by the media and align your offering to resolve their biggest pain points.
  • Be persistent and patient, your champion is likely in meetings most of the day and these sales cycles take time so be sure to have a solid pipeline to keep the momentum.

Are You Are Enterprise Ready?

Securing a large enterprise win means taking additional considerations that you may not have thought through. Some other considerations include:

  • Be product ready – many large corporations require things such as audit rules, single sign on, new different feature sets, and extensive support. Make sure you have these standards built into your product as you pursue these larger deals.
  • Understand the process – the enterprise is much different animal than an SMB, there will be multiple stakeholders, a longer purchase cycle often involving their procurement and legal teams, so be sure you prepare in advance to overcome any obstacles that may arise in the process
  • Post sale is just as important. Enterprise customers require a mature support organization, ongoing SLAs (service level agreements), onsite integration and onboarding, make sure to consider the implications to your unit economics and be sure to track and model everything to understand the impact on your ATV.
  • Lawyer up, while you may already have a contract you are using, when negotiating with an enterprise customer, the “paper” will always be theirs, not yours. Make sure you have someone that can help you navigate these complicated contracts.
  • Resist urge to win at any cost, this means giving it all away. Once you’ve had success and are up for a renewal, be sure to build in pricing levers at that will enable you to charge more in the next years as you’ve proven your value.

Lastly, I’ll end on this awesome piece of advice that most founders, entrepreneurs and ambitious career women need to hear…

Act Famously!

What does this mean? It means finding your point of view. Try selecting a couple of topics that you are passionate about and that can relate to your business and get out there, whether that’s speaking at events and conferences, writing actively in social media and other channels, speaking to the media or anything that gets you and your company visibility…Go Do It!   

Act Famously!