Lots of startups begin by selling to SMBs, but if you’re setting your sights on high growth, you’ll need to sell to large companies eventually. The sheer size of some of these prospects might make you sweat a little. But don’t worry, it’s not as scary or difficult as you think.
For this session, Lacey Bell, AVP Enterprise Sales & Digital Marketing at Adobe, Becky Brown, VP Marketing & Communications at Intel, and Rodman Likes, AVP Marketing and Cloud Sales at Adobe, chat with Gadi Shamia about the dos and don’ts of selling into the enterprise. For example, leaping over people to get to an executive-level decision maker isn’t always a good idea. If you do get to the right person, don’t overpromise just to impress; deliver what you say you will. It seems obvious, but most startups end up doing this, much in the same way they do with selling to large companies without doing the proper research beforehand.
Check out the full transcript below!
Gadi Shamia: Good afternoon to everyone. My name is Gadi Shamia. I’m the COO of Talkdesk. I think you heard the name a lot in the last few days. Talkdesk is a call center in the cloud. We sell to sales teams and SDR teams, sales teams and customer service teams. What else? One of the fastest SaaS growing companies in the valley and all this great stuff.
I’ve done my part, which is the only thing you’re going to hear about me and Talkdesk. Now we can talk about selling to the enterprise. This topic is pretty interesting because…let me try a quick show of hands. How many of you would prefer to sell one time one million dollar deal instead of 100 times $10,000 deal? Show of hands.
There are some crazy people in the room that still prefer to sell lots of small deals but most people will prefer to sell one million dollar deal instead of a hundred $10,000 deals. We all know why. It’s easier, it’s cheaper, it’s most cost effective.
We also know that most startups start with SMB. Because we have a limited amount of money, so we have to launch an MVP and the MVP is not enterprise grade the day we launch it. We have to sell to SMBs. We have to try on SMBs, but at some point in time we have to move upmarket.
Otherwise we deal with churn, we deal with monthly customers, we deal with “$10 per user per month is too expensive for me.” We have to go upmarket.
This entire session is going to be about going upmarket and how to actually sell in the enterprise. I have a pretty astonishing panel here that will do most of the talking. Don’t get used to me that much. Start from the left. Lacey Bell from Adobe, please introduce yourself.
Lacey Bell: Great, it’s working. At Lacey Bell, I actually run one of our enterprise sales teams and Adobe in the West. My background goes all the way back about 13 years working for Omniture, who was acquired by Adobe. I started as an account executive many years ago and then was promoted to become a leader about five years ago and have been one of the first women in both of those roles within Adobe.
An interesting, especially where I’m located from Utah. The demographic is kind of rare, to have women. I’ve had a very, very unique opportunity to bring a different side to the sales organization within Adobe. Happy to share some insights and expertise and have the fortunate privilege of selling and working with Becky and her team for many years.
The dynamic here is hopefully going to be interesting for you guys here.
Gadi: Lacey, before we jump into selling into the enterprise, one advice to the many men here about finding, hiring, and having great women in sales team. What would be your advice to whoever here running a company and want to have more women in their sales force?
Lacey: First would be to find a woman that…
Gadi: Find a woman, that’s a good one.
Lacey: …that are doing it well and allow them to be part of the panel for interviewing. There’s a lot of gut feelings and instincts that we can help identify those great women because there’s…The statistics say 17 percent of women are in the technology sales, so the rest are men. That’s a pretty staggering statistic.
We definitely need to do better at that. I would say bring a woman on the panel that is comfortable.
The other thing is make sure it’s somebody that’s kind of a chameleon that can really fit in, and work well with male peers, add value, and bring the unique aspects of a woman and the traits into the role that will really benefit the team and everyone around them and their customers. There’s a lot things like that.
Gadi: Rodman, how about you introduce yourself, too? Another Adobe colleague.
Rodman Likes: Thank you. Lacey and I are peers. I’m based in Denver, Colorado, and native of that fine state, so go Broncos for those of you who enjoyed the Super Bowl over the weekend.
I have the privilege of managing a team of named account managers who each have the entire marketing cloud portfolio within Adobe. We sell to our large strategic accounts from Colorado throughout the entire west.
I’ve been in enterprise sales for about 20 years. I spent a decade at BMC and CA. After that, decided it was time to cut loose from large enterprise game. I was the chief revenue officer for a startup. We’ll probably talk a little bit more about that later on, but ultimately scaled that business and we’re fortunate enough to sell it off. Then I spent a few years at Oracle prior to joining Adobe about a year ago.
Gadi: Thank you. Becky Brown from Intel.
Becky Brown: Hi, thanks. I am in our marketing organization. I run our digital and media, which is all of our paid advertising, and then all of our digital properties, so our websites, our social engagements. As part of that, because we use technology to help us manage our marketing efforts, I manage all of our marketing cloud, and all the capabilities that drive our marketing initiatives across Intel.
Gadi: Becky and Lacey have done it before, and practiced the dynamic between a buyer and a seller. I’m going to start with a warm up question and then I’m going to let you guys continue. But Becky, how do you like to be sold to as an executive in a very large enterprise company, Intel?
Becky: There’s a misconception that we either don’t like to or like to be sold to. The most important thing to think about people in my position is that we’re trying to solve really large business problems, and drive our business forward. Anything that comes in between that objective is distracting us, so having us talk to you about our business objectives, like, we’re a large company, you should go to our website or you should read our earnings announcement.
You can get all that stuff, it’s all online. Those kind of things, they’re distracting us in terms of driving the business. We have a very robust and a very integrated marketing stack. There’s close to 30 different SaaS based solutions that we need to manage the stack all the way from our DMP, to our CRM, to anything in between from a tag management solution, to the way that we do moderation and publishing.
There’s a lot of capabilities that we need to do to manage an enterprise wide website or social operations. For each one of those capabilities or marketing requirements that we have in terms of running that through technology because Intel knows best.
Like, why technology is so critical for us to be efficient is that we have a very disciplined approach to how we think about onboarding new capabilities, and we’re not just out getting sold to all the time.
We have things that go up for review, and when it’s up for review, it’s up for review. We sign a contract, and then we integrate that into our stack. Understanding our process, well our business first, but then understanding how you can fit into the process, and not making things up outside of it. If we’ve done, for example, a social listening RFP, and we have decided on which solution we’re going to go with, don’t bother talking to us because we’ve already done all the analysis.
There is not a lot of opportunity there. I’d say, find places where you are going to add value in our existing stack. You can do research. We talk about our stack all the time of what we already have, and that it is about good homework and adding value to our business.
Lacey: Am I supposed to add? What I would love to add is there is so much information out there. Not only in the general population, Google, investor reports, but also within Adobe, there are several different groups that have sold to Intel as an example. It’s important for you as account executives, as leaders of those folks to ensure that you’ve already done all the research you can internally.
Your account manager, everything that you can find out about Intel as an example, before you go in and try to position something, there is a lot of return on the respect and the time that we are respecting for them. Instead of Becky and her team having to continually repeat the goals and the needs and the challenges, use your own internal resources, reach out to your partners that work well with Intel.
As an example, again, I know this is a specific scenario, but think of it in your terms of your own customers that you’re chasing and check with the partners. For example, Deloitte has been instrumental for us over the years in helping us understand the underlying what’s going on within Intel, how can we help them?
This is a lot of time that I can save from Becky and her team for having to educate us, and we can show up and be meaningful, and take one hour instead of a whole day to do a session.
My feedback on that is definitely do your homework and be thinking outside of the box. Don’t just go to the channels that are available to the general public. Go to your resources, your network, your partners, etc., to get as much information as you can about what you think they’re trying to solve for, and what are the business objectives. Then we show up with an educated conversation and we are respectful of their time.
Gadi: Maybe what we can add is, what are the typical mistakes you see when you’re account executive go on a call with a large corporation then you sit there and listen to the call and you get really mad, like don’t say that, or say that. What are the typical mistakes you see in the sales process to a large company?
Lacey: I’ll say one thing real quick then it’s your turn.
Gadi: Don’t fight. Don’t fight.
Lacey: What other products do you use from Adobe?” That’s embarrassing.
Gadi: Why? OK, because you haven’t done your homework.
Rodman: You haven’t done your homework.
Lacey: Yes, and they should know that, that they should research that, and it’s very unprofessional. That probably is one of my biggest. Also, “What does your business do? Who’s your target market?” These kinds of questions that are so easy to find out on your own without having to ask the customer those things. Rodman, please.
Rodman: Becky can support this, or dispute it, but typically, in a large enterprise where it’s a very complex matrix organization, the days of one buyer gone.
There are multiple business units, multiple departments. Each have independent budgets that will allocate to a particular business project. It’s important that we use a value of selling, where we try to understand very quickly, who those power players are in the organization that will ultimately sign a check, or are part of the approval chain.
Becky: I’d like to add on to that because I think that’s a great point. People, because my team does manage all of our capabilities, which I am the decision maker, but that it’s advantageous to come to me directly, when that’s actually…I don’t work on some of the things intimately, my team does.
If you make that leap and you, either get on my calendar, or you have a friend of a friend that says, “Hey, will you do me a favor and meet with these people?” And I do, and then I’ve decided that, “Well I don’t think this is a fit.” You haven’t gone through the right process. You should use people in IT to help understand, and then you work with my team to understand what our process is.
It’s important to find out where the actual decision is made, and who owns the budget in that process, but it’s also important that as you manage with the large company, there’s a lot of different players that are part of that process, and you need to go through and work your way through, versus just saying, “Well, who’s the D?” Then try to do the selling to me.
That’s probably done you a disservice because if I’ve decided that I don’t think it’s a good fit, and then I find out that you’ve gone around and you’ve met with other people on my team when I’ve said I don’t think that it’s a good fit, then you’re really probably not going to get invited back in.
Lacey: Could I ask one question as a follow up? It actually is a question for myself. Hopefully, you guys will appreciate. At what point is it offensive when, let’s say, I’m the executive sponsor for your account, historically. I, technically, leap frog your team just to reach out and say, “Hey, Becky, let’s have a meeting,” or whatever the case may be.
Maybe we’re trying to move something along and we know you’re a big part of the decision but we circumvented the process. It’s very, very tempting to do that, to go ahead and just reach out to you. Obviously, it’s much worse coming from an account executive, rather than, hopefully, a somewhat peer executive sponsor.
At what point is that helpful, or detrimental, or what do you feel about that?
Becky: It would depend. There are what we call the center of gravities, where Adobe is clearly a very large part of our marketing stack, from our CRM to search, to some of the other capabilities, test and targets. We’re really integrated into Adobe.
Reaching out to me because we’ve got a lot of capabilities in house, that would be perfectly fine. We have that kind of relationship. Some of the other areas where it may not be clear, or it’s a smaller part, I think asking the people that work on it say these are the things, I think, that would be interesting for Becky.
When I meet with people and, let’s say they’re part of our stack, I’m looking for insights, and some thought leadership on what’s going on with the business, and you’re adding value to me, versus just telling me all the things that you’re doing with the capability that we have, because I could probably gotten that from my team.
If you’re really smart, and you’ve got thoughtfulness, and you’re doing something really innovative, I’ll meet with you any day. If you’re there just because you feel like you need to have a relationship with someone in the…like this, you don’t really need to do that to be successful, is what I’d say.
If you’re managing a big portion, we need to have frequent…let’s talk. Let’s make sure we meet. Let’s do quarterly business reviews. Let’s really treat it like a true partnership and relationship, but not all of them need that kind of, to that degree.
Gadi: Becky, this question, maybe, is for you, but then you are welcome, as representing large enterprise yourself, answer this question too. Adobe is a large company selling to another larger company, Intel. Everybody here is in a startup, and they would say, “How do I get to Intel? Would Intel even take a meeting with me?”
What would make a startup stand out so much that you will take a meeting with them?
Becky: It goes back to the capabilities. We have a really clear idea, and we’ve done a lot of analysis on the things where we have pockets that we’re not getting from large companies. I’ll give you an example.
Adobe has a very strong part of our stack. Oracle, because we use BlueKai as our DMP, and Eloqua, and then Salesforce as our CMM, and Google, to some degree, because some of the programmatic things that we’re doing, and from our meeting investment, those four companies are like centers of gravity.
There’s a lot of opportunity, with niche capabilities, that we can’t get from some of those centers of gravities today that make up the entire stack. Just because they don’t have the offerings, or maybe it’s not quite on their road map, just yet, and finding, figuring out where you fit, and what your differentiation is, you need to, as a company, understand before you come to us and talk about, how are you going to play with these massive, large companies?
What is your role? How are you going to integrate? If you can’t come with an integration plan on how you’re going to fit into these, those four centers of gravities, we’re not even interested in the conversation because we can’t manage all that integration on our own, and so you have to have partnerships with these large companies that are powering a significant part of the marketing stack, and then just really being clear on your role.
There’s tons, we use tons, like 20 probably, of startups and they’re very talented, really good, that help us with certain things, that I meet with regularly too because I think they’re model businesses. But if you get a little too ambitious and you’re going to try to solve the world, stick to really what your core strength is and integrate. That will be my big, huge…
Gadi: That was a great answer.
Lacey: Becky, just summarizing so that we can pass this on. Having, let’s say, a startup, being aware of the four pillars that you’re using and where there’s maybe some gaps that need to be filled and head on addressing, “Hey, I know you use Adobe and Salesforce, I respect that partnership. This is an area where we know that there’s a little bit of a hole. This is what we want to do to fill the hole. By the way, we are partnered and integrated.”
That’s the kind of conversation you’re interested in?
Becky: Exactly. I’ll give you a good example. We have a tool that we use to calendar to work with us on our editorial because we have a digital publishing system, we have all of our social platforms. It’s very hard for us to keep a calendar where you’re managing this in Excel. We use a company called Opal Moments. That’s a startup.
They met with us yesterday. We’re like, “You’re clear.” We have a publishing platform we use today to publish and we have a calendaring system today to calendar. They’re very clear about that. They have good partnerships with how are we going to work with our asset management system and how they’re going to integrate with these other partners.
They’re like, “No, we’re clear. This is exactly…We’re going to be the best at providing this capability for you. The best in class. And we’re very clear about that priority.”
Just coming to the table, in some cases, that’s going to be really successful versus…We already have a lot of… at least from an Intel perspective, some other companies might not be as mature but it’s already very robust. They’re very clear about the specific things that we need.
That’d just be my advice, to stick to your swim lanes, be very clear about your differentiation, come to the table with the ways you’re going to integrate with those centers of gravities with those four companies, understand their business, how you’re going to scale and support integration.
Gadi: And some humility, I guess. I would like to send a question to you, Rodman. Many people here started from SMB and mid market and SMB space in and mid market as a salesperson, you’re selling alone. You’re going to a customer, you’re doing the pitching, sometimes you have an SE helping you demo. By and large, you sell alone. The enterprise people usually sell in teams.
Can you talk more about that? How do you assemble a team? What’s the importance of coming to an enterprise opportunity with a team, how does a good team look like? What’s the role of the account executive in assembling and running this team?
Rodman: That’s a great question. Obviously, the larger the enterprise, the more complex that buying center is going to be. The role of that account executive is one of orchestration and quarterbacking of a lot of different resources that all may have different agendas at any given time.
We use a value account plan system, whereby anytime we have a meeting, we will de-brief as a team and there may be as few as 2 people, as many as 10 in any given meeting. We’re sharing notes and capturing the follow ups and the things that we heard our customers telling us that are pain points or business challenges and ensuring we have solid alignment back to those core business issues that we’re trying to solve.
There’ve been situations where we’ll come back and we’ll huddle and realize that we may not have the right solution that solves that customer’s pain point. It’s up to that account executive then to communicate that back to the customer and say we’re just not the right solution. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often but it is one of those things that does happen.
The primary role of that orchestrator is communication and ensuring that that broader extended team is all working well together to solve that customer’s challenge. As Becky mentioned, there’s a lot of different buying centers, a lot of different integration points that have to take place in order for these projects to go successfully. That’s the primary role of that account executive.
Gadi: Anyone want to add?
Lacey: I would just say, make sure that that account executive and then when you have a team and you’re fortunate enough to have a team that’s participating in these calls and in the process, the sales process, make sure everybody has their listening ears on, everybody is going to take a different take and maybe hopefully have a different lens of what’s being said and what the customer is trying to accomplish.
What are we really trying to get at and make sure that when we have these de-briefs with the team following these meetings that everybody says, “This is what I heard and this is what I heard and this is what I heard.” We really need to boil it down and figure out, what is the best solution? Maybe it’s not Adobe.
Maybe it’s just we’ve configured what we thought was the best stack for them and actually we missed over here. We need to shift a little bit and make sure that we’re truly addressing what is the underlying purpose for why they’re talking to us and why they’re asking us to hopefully solve some of their challenges.
It’s our job to decode that and really open our ears and listen and listen and listen to figure out what are the challenges and who are the stakeholders and they might all have different challenges and how do we address and make each of them feel happy about moving forward with us and working with us in a long term partnership and deploying one product or a stack of products.
That’s our job to make sure that we’ve leveraged that opportunity with a team sell approach to really listen and then pull the audience and say, “What are we doing? What do they need? What’s the core problem here?” They told us one thing but is it that or is there more to it? Those kinds of things.
It’s a big opportunity to have a lot of folks but the other point I would make is, make sure you have somebody that’s in charge of it. Becky doesn’t want to hear from eight different people neither does the rest of your team.
Let’s let someone always run lead but let’s make sure everybody has the opportunity to influence what we’re doing and how’s the sales cycle going and are we on the right track and have we addressed and have we provided ROI and is this something that you would invest in if you were Intel.
Rodman: Let me add to that real quick, if I may. We have a common selling platform that we leverage internally that all of the key stakeholders of people that are going to be touching the customer are trained on and certified on.
When we’re defining a business issue and looking for a solution to solve that business issue, the template and the resources that we leverage internally are consistent across the board regardless of your role within that account and that organization. I think that helps from a communication standpoint.
Gadi: I know that some of you are looking around, saying, “How do I do that? My company has 10 people all together. How do I bring 10 people to a meeting?” You can do a low key or low tech version of it with Evernote and having detailed notes before the meeting and having one designated person leading the chart. This person could be a founder. As long as this person is a designated lead.
If you don’t have the account executive, there can be the quarterback to sell to Intel, this is when a CEO or a founder is going to be the quarterback and you have somebody from product or maybe some from marketing that would be assembled for this specific role.
Don’t hesitate or say, “We don’t do it this way. We don’t send twenty people to a meeting.” You’ll be expected to have few people around the table and have intelligent answers. You fake it until you make it and some of the ways to fake it is just really good preparation and bringing the best people in your company because once you sell to Intel, you can sell to many other Intels.
The first one is going to be hard but then the next one will be easier.
We have about four minutes. Maybe one last question to you, Becky, and then we open up to the crowd. When was the last time you picked up a phone call or an email from an SDR and why?
Becky: No, I don’t think I’ve picked up…
Gadi: Cold call from anyone or email from anyone.
Becky: I don’t think I’ve ever done…No.
Gadi: You ever?
Gadi: No. All SDRs here, here’s your challenge. You’ll have to pick up the phone. I would like to open the floor for some questions. The three minutes we have left. We have here, two.
Audience Member: Hi, Becky. This question is for you. Thank you very much to the entire panel, by the way. Great session. If I have something, for instance, that I think would really be beneficial to your marketing team, in particular, it’s an integration with Eloqua, I’m not going to send you emails because that’s not going to work.
I’m not going to have SDRs call you, that’s not going to work. How do I get your attention on something that I think you would truly value?
Becky: We have a good process for finding things that we need. I would say, it’s easy to find who are people on my team. You can look through and see we’ve got a strong IT team. We talk on panels a lot. It’s relatively easy to get a hold of org charts, look at LinkedIn, find out who I’m connected to. You can kind of see what might be this person.
It’s a good investigative, who’s actually running…In our case, I have a capabilities team so I have somebody that is responsible for looking at some of those. If it’s a case, if it really truly is a really awesome Eloqua integration, I’d go to Eloqua because they were just explaining, they don’t have all of the solutions but they may say, “This is a really good one. You should go and talk to him.”
Those would be ways without trying to rummage your way around the organization on getting to the right person if you think we’ve got really something that can add value.
Lacey: I think she had one. Yeah.
Audience Member: Hi. Quick question. Do we gain brownie points by bringing our CEO to our meetings? Besides the value add. Of course, that’s number one.
Becky: Yes. Especially if you’re in a pitch. I don’t go to a lot of the pitches because it doesn’t make sense because if I can’t go to all of them, then I shouldn’t go to any of them. If I know that they’re bringing in the A team and I know they’re bringing the CEO in to come meet with us, I want them to know that this is a very important decision for us and I will go down and spend the time.
To me, it’s a commitment. That said, this account is important to us, I’m going to go down there and spend the quality time. So I’ll know that, hey, if we decide to go with this solution, I know that they’re going to support our business because they’ve made a commitment. They’ve shown us there is that commitment.
You shouldn’t cart your CEO around all the time but if you have strategic places where you think that some of the right people are going to be there and it’s a way to say, “Hey, these are some cool things. I know this person. We’ve done this in the past.” That definitely does add value.
Becky: The biggest thing is do what you say you’re going to do. I know that sounds like, “Yeah, OK,” but you’d be surprised. Most of you I know are startups. 90 percent of the startups we work with over promise. It’s just a nature of, you’re very ambitious but you can’t over promise to us because we take those road maps that you give us and we plan resources to them.
When we see the changes that are going to happen, I have IT resources, I have development resources. I have everybody planned out.
We’re managing this massive operation. If you say you’re going to deliver in Q2, you’ve got to deliver in Q2. Be thoughtful about your commitments, because it isn’t a good strategy to over commit and under deliver, because we’ll turn that business around faster than you’re able to make any of those changes. There’s no room for that kind of…We just can’t work that way.
Gadi: I talked with a VP of sales in a SaaS company now public and his first week on a job was talking with a customer where two employees got fired in IT because his company over promised something that was not delivered. There are consequences. It’s a very good point about over promising and under delivering.
Audience Member: Hi. When we’re selling to technology companies that are quite large, like yours, we sometimes run into the make or buy argument, that they have the developers and resources to make a product similar to ours, even though that’s not a great idea. What are some of the best strategies you’ve seen to overcome that argument, obviously for the startup side?
Becky: I’ll let them answer, because we’re in…it’s a buy. There’s way too many SaaS based solutions today that…our role is to integrate and drive scale to the company. We’re not interested right now in making things in house anymore.
Rodman: Yeah, we overcome that objective oftentimes with just the fact that we invest so much money in development and innovation and to hand that core competency over to that potential customer, that’s just not something they’re going to focus on.
Lacey: Yeah, it’s our core business and your core business is not that. We encourage them to realize the opportunity cost of building versus buying, and those resources could be dedicated to your technology and what you’re selling and what you’re trying to build as an organization, and leave the things that we are good at to us.
It’s a good way of handling it and you get a little bit of pushback from maybe some of the IT folks or that group. Because they want to control the world. But if they can understand that pure opportunity, that my time will be lessened, I will be opened up to being able to progress in our own technology in a much quicker fashion and be able to try to go from startup to so forth and so on and beyond.
If you’re wasting time trying to build things that Adobe’s been doing for 13 years, it’s just going to distract from your business.
Gadi: We have time for one last question.
Audience Member: It’s a question beyond the initial sale. Adobe and Intel are actually two of our biggest customers. You guys guide our product in a big way. How do we make sure that we’re still on the right track and that we’re keeping up with what you guys need and we’re actually getting the input at all the levels that we need to in order to develop…?
Becky: Are you going to tell us what company you’re with?
Audience Member: What’s that?
Becky: What company are you with?
Audience Member: GridBuddy. We make the account planning solution that Adobe uses.
For every product within Adobe and there’s quite a few, there’s customers of all shapes and sizes that are allowed to…we fly them to the headquarters on a quarterly basis and we ask them for their input and their feedback and make sure that we’re getting, what are the feet on the street saying and what do they need? What’s really going to make an impact to our customers?
Allowing the customers to be a part of that board and sponsoring and paying for the cost of all of that is well worthwhile, because that’s how we get most of our innovation and good ideas.
Rodman: And you’re likely selling to Sales Enablement and they’re ultimately not the end user. You’d need to actually go to the source for some of that feedback in order to make your product better and stickier.
Gadi: Thank you very much.
Gadi Thank you, Becky.
Becky: Thank you.
Gadi: Thank you, Rodman.
Rodman: Thank you.
Gadi: Nice to meet you.
Transcription by CastingWords