How SaaS Sales Leaders Can Speed Up Enterprise Deals

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As 2021 draws to a close, it is hard to believe that another (pandemic-y) year is behind us.  I’m really passionate about the topic in this particular newsletter (enterprise sales), but before we get to the interview - On behalf of SAAS NORTH NOW, SAAS NORTH Conference, Cube Business Media and L-SPARK - I’d like to thank our community for the immense support we’ve received this year. Our newsletter readership continues to grow and after transitioning to online events in 2020, we are thrilled to have hosted our first in person SAAS NORTH since 2019 this past November!  If you missed it, you can check out the photo album here. It was ELECTRIC!

Next year’s calendar is busy with spring events including Tech Talent North and – both coming to Vancouver in early March.

Now – onto the good stuff:  A lot of startups want big enterprise deals, but few can wait the months it takes for them to close. Justin Beals knows this problem well as a SaaS founder that sells to enterprises, and has come up with a few solutions. Speaking with SAAS NORTH ahead of his conference talk, Justin shared his tips for how SaaS sales leaders can speed up enterprise deals.

Key takeaways: 

  • Selling into the enterprise requires three levels of trust: the salesperson, the product, and the organization.
  • The two biggest delays in enterprise deals are legal review and security review.
  • To speed up the process, set up credibility markers ahead of time and preempt common concerns so prospective customers know you understand them and take their needs seriously.

We’ll see you back here in January – Happy Holidays!

Tequity leads in achieving premium outcomes for Enterprise B2B SaaS companies in strategic merger and acquisition transactions. 

Enterprises can take a long time to sign a contract, but startups don’t have a lot of time. Yet if you pressure an enterprise customer, they can (and often will) walk away. For Justin Beals, the co-founder and CEO of security compliance company Strike Graph, the answer is to anticipate the sales motions and have resources at the ready.

Speaking with SAAS NORTH ahead of his conference talk, Justin shared the sales strategies he uses to quickly build trust in order to speed up big enterprise deals.

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The three pillars of trust

Justin said the average enterprise deal takes about nine months from a verbal “yes” to a signed contract, but 18-24 months is not uncommon. Any sales rep trying to speed up the process needs to build up their level of trust with prospects.

“One of the aspects making sales work is trust,” said Justin. “It’s hard to get a buyer to buy if they can’t trust the solution, even if you’re the only product in the marketplace that does what you claim.”

A sales call is the initial trust builder, acting as the tip of the spear that can help you close a deal. But a salesperson alone is not enough. According to Justin, there are three layers of building trust in a sales context.

1. The salesperson: A salesperson breeds trust by having in-depth knowledge of the product, understanding a potential customer’s problems, and clearly articulating how their product is the solution the potential customer needs.

2. The product: Beyond proving the features work as claimed, the real question about the product is how data will be handled. In a world of increasing cyber attacks, companies need to know a third party vendor can be trusted to keep information secure.

3. The organization: How a solution gets built is an organization-wide decision, said Justin. With that in mind, a huge part of trust is how the organization itself operates: training employees on privacy standards, employees being kind to one another and to third parties, and leadership treating employees well with high quality HR and intellectual property practices.

“Even if you have a winning solution, trust is critical to reduce the time between a verbal yes to a signed contract,” said Justin.

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The two biggest blockers to enterprise deals (and how to unblock them)

Two major hurdles cause the 9-24 month closing process in enterprise sales: legal review and security review. Here’s what Justin said companies should think about putting in place to speed up both processes without making an enterprise client feel uncomfortable or breaking trust.

1. Legal review and contracts

Don’t overreach: Justin said Strike Graph used to ask for a lot of data in the hopes that new analyses would lead to new products but realized this was a huge hurdle for enterprises to overcome. Now he only asks for data that’s absolutely essential to deliver on their current solution.

Write communications so buyer-side legal teams will understand them: Every company has its own terminology and jargon. In all communications, make sure you explain your terminology in plain language so a buyer-side legal team can understand what you mean easily and without needing to book multiple revision meetings.

Hold yourself to the same standards you hold buyers: Show equality in the standards you set so buyers know they are entering a partnership.

Aim for consistency with other SaaS contracts: If you have access to other SaaS contracts, for example from an investor with a large portfolio, take a look at their clauses and try to remain as consistent as possible so your contract doesn’t stick out and raise red flags.

Be specific with every ask and provide context: If you need specific things, ask for them. But be very clear what you need and why you need it so buyer-side legal teams can understand the context behind the ask.

2. Security review

Proactively share policy documentation: As soon as you have a verbal yes from a prospect, send your policy documentation to their procurement teams to pass along to the security team. This shows you have your stuff in order and aren’t afraid to stand behind your policies, which helps build trust.

Pre-empt concerns with credibility markers: Certifications like ISO 27001 require annual renewal, but you can share the single certification across all prospects, so the return on investment is worth it compared to individual reviews with each prospect.

Do routine reviews by yourself and share the results: If you notice that every client is asking for the same kind of test (for example, penetration testing), conduct your own routine assessments and share the results. A prospect may still want to do a bit of additional testing, but your pre-emptive test should speed up the process.

Leverage a third-party to attest that you are following security best practices: If your company is following best practices already, it might be worth it to have a third party assess your actions and give you a rubber stamp of approval.

Potentially waiting years to close a deal is annoying at best, but the reality is enterprise deals will take time to manifest. Accelerating deals is a matter of building trust in every way possible. But beyond that, it’s about polite persistence. Luckily, sales reps are trained well on persistence.

Throughout both these reviews, speed also comes from the sales rep kindly but regularly following up. Sometimes a delay is people simply getting busy, so staying on top of the prospect teams (within reason) is an easy way to speed things up.

“It’s the same as you did for the champion that gave you the verbal yes in the first place,” said Justin.

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