Selling consulting services to enterprise companies: 8 methods to break into enterprise sales
Ready to boldly go where no consulting firm has gone before?
Whether you’re a firm with various consultants or you’re a solo consultant offering services to companies, it can be daunting to reach out to large companies and sell to them.
As a consultant, sales probably isn’t your strong suit. And selling anything to an enterprise company is a complex process that takes time and effort.
So, how can you get started? How can you convince an enterprise business that they need your consulting services?
Let’s discuss 8 methods your consulting firm can use to sell services to enterprise companies:
1. Start mid-market and work your way up
Enterprise companies are typically wary of purchasing from small businesses. They want to make sure you can deliver on your promises before they commit.
That’s why it’s essential to build up a solid reputation before diving into enterprise sales.
New consulting businesses without clients will have a much harder time breaking into the big league than consultants who have gained some momentum with medium-sized businesses.
So, take some time to build a reputation. Deliver on your promises for smaller businesses, and work your way up to the bigger clients you’re dreaming about.
2. Build your ideal customer profile
No matter who you’re selling to, it’s absolutely essential to build clear, effective customer profiles.
This is your window into the minds of your customers. If you do it right, you’ll know exactly who you’re selling to, what their goals are, what motivates them, and what pain points will push them to purchase.
Conducting interviews with your main market will help you get a clear picture of the buyer. This is an essential part of breaking into enterprise sales. You can ask questions such as:
- Whose responsibility is it to search for new service vendors at your company?
- Who needs to sign off on a deal before it’s complete?
- What’s your biggest challenge right now (related to the services you provide)?
- Has your company ever worked with a [type of consultant] before? How was the experience?
- Who has the final word on whether or not to purchase?
If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to create your own ideal customer profile, check out Profiler: Ideal Customer Profile Kit. This interactive guide includes sample interview questions based on your industry, customer profile examples and templates, and a checklist to create a truly effective ICP.
3. Include profiles for all the stakeholders involved in purchasing
Top-level executives could be super psyched to start using your services. But if they simply push that down to the people below them, (people who aren’t excited about what you’re offering), the deal could quickly fall flat.
That’s what happened to me in my first foray into enterprise sales. You can read more about how I almost closed Google, Oracle, and Intuit (then lost them all), but suffice it to say that I was not ready to sell to all the stakeholders.
So, inside your ideal customer profile, build profiles for the individuals you’ll need to get on board. This normally includes:
- The end-user: Who is actually using your services? Who will you be consulting with directly?
- The economic buyer: This is the person who controls the funds for a department or branch. You need this person to be on board because they’re the ones with the cash.
- The executive buyer: This could be the CEO, CFO, or some other executive who deals directly with what you’re selling.
Each of these individuals has different motivations and pain points, meaning you’ll need to work with each one to show the value they can receive by using your services.
For example, let’s say you offer management coaching. You’ll need to convince the executive that your services can benefit their company as a whole. The economic buyer must be convinced of the ROI they’ll see from what they’re spending. And the end-user, the individuals you’ll be coaching, must be convinced that your services can make their jobs easier or improve their chances of a raise or promotion.
By including all stakeholders in your customer profiles, you’ll know exactly who you need to sell to, and what will motivate them to purchase your services.
4. Learn to expect and accept long sales cycles
Enterprise sales is not a 300-meter sprint. Many times it’s more like a marathon. (And sometimes it’s an ultra-marathon.)
When you’re starting out in enterprise sales, don’t be surprised if it takes you 6 to 18 months to close a deal. That's why complex sales methodologies like Miller Heiman Strategic Selling for example have been developed: they'll provide some structure and framework to manage a long-winded sales process.
The sooner you accept the long sales cycle, the better you’ll be able to handle it when it comes. Expecting a longer amount of time to close will save you frustration and will help you forecast more accurately. I've seen my share of sales teams that ran out of cash when trying to sell to enterprise customers simply because they underestimated the time it would take to close an enterprise deal.
5. Let them guide you through the virtual close
Each enterprise company has its own particular process. And, depending on the type of consulting services you’re offering, various approvals may be required from different departments, contracts and agreements may need to be signed, and so forth.
Don’t let these delay an already long sales process.
When you feel like you’ve convinced the exec and are ready to get closing, it’s time to have them walk you through what I like to call the virtual close.
The key here is asking the right questions. Start with something like: “What steps are we going to take together to make you a customer of our services?”
The prospect will respond with some ideas, but they likely won’t tell you the whole process in one go.
So, ask again: “Once we’ve done these things, are we ready to start? Or are there other things we need to finish?”
As you keep asking questions like these, the prospect will guide you through a virtual map of their buying process. By the end of this conversation, you’ll know exactly what steps need to be taken, what approvals you need to get, and what contracts need to be signed before you can start delivering your consulting services.
6. Get necessary approvals in parallel with your sales process
So, you’re already tired of the long sales process for enterprise companies (and you haven’t even gotten started yet).
It’s time to use the information you gathered when building your customer profiles and completing the virtual close to shorten that purchase process.
Many times, the approvals, agreements, signatures, and other steps that need to be taken can be done parallel to each other.
For example, let’s say you’ve pretty much sold the executive, but you need to get approval from stakeholders. After that, their legal department will need to approve the purchase. Then, the procurement officer needs to sign off. Then, a non-compete agreement will need to be signed. And the list goes on.
Once you know the steps that need to be taken, offer to start working on these steps in parallel.
That way, while you’re schmoozing the stakeholders, their legal department is already scanning through the contract and adding their adjustments, the proposal is already going to the procurement department for sign-off, and any agreements that must be signed are already being drawn up.
After going through this process a few times, you’ll probably see patterns in how enterprise companies run their purchase process. When you have a clear understanding of this, you can adjust your own sales process to match.
For example, you could adapt the sales pipeline in your CRM to match the steps you’ll need to take to close an enterprise deal. All you need is a CRM that allows you to customize your pipeline stages, like Close.
7. Build an army of internal champions
Obviously, getting the main decision-maker on board is crucial to the sale. But don’t forget about the power of internal champions.
Whether you work from the top down (starting with C-level execs) or from the bottom up (starting with end-users), it’s worth the effort to build an army of internal champions who are excited about your services.
In fact, if you don’t, the deal you thought you thought you just closed could go up in smoke.
Remember: Everyone matters. If you sell management coaching services, talk to those individual managers that you’ll be coaching. Get them excited about your services. When you sell consulting services to a large business, you’ll probably be dealing more with individual workers on different teams than with the execs. So, make sure those individuals are ready and excited to sign off on the deal too.
Getting these internal champions will build a solid foundation for a sale. But it gets better: If these people are already excited about using your expertise in their work, they’ll probably have more success with your consulting services.
And the more successful your customers are, the happier they’ll be with your services. This is the next step towards building a reputation as a successful enterprise consultant.
8. Base your pricing on the value they receive, not the hours you spend
The way you charge enterprise customers for your services can also impact whether or not they see the value in what you offer.
Price by the hour and you'll be viewed as a commodity. Instead, keep clients laser-focused on the lasting value you create, and bill based on the scope of work and end results.
So, during the sales process, ask questions that highlight the value of your services, such as:
- What would be the consequences of not dealing with these issues?
- How much would it cost you NOT to fix the problems you’re currently facing?
Based on past experience, you can judge more or less the ROI that clients will receive from your services. Using that number to calculate your pricing, you help prospects to see you as a valuable tool that will bring real benefits to their company.
Break into the world of enterprise consulting with the right tools
Are you ready to step into a new world and start consulting to enterprise companies? While it may seem daunting, with the right tools you can break into the exclusive world and drive more revenue to your consulting firm.
The first step is always identifying who your ideal enterprise customer is so you can tailor your offer to match their needs, and sell to them in the most effective way possible. When selling to enterprises, you can't afford a spray and pray approach. You need to be very intentional and deliberate even from your initial outreach on.
That's what Profiler, the Ideal Customer Profile Kit will help you do: Laser-focus on those enterprise companies that are best suited to buy from you.