Successful Enterprise Sales

Originally posted on 12/4/19

Collin Gutman is a Co-Founder and Partner at SaaS Ventures, with over a decade of cumulative experience as both an investor and a startup founder. Prior to founding SaaS Ventures, Collin co-founded Acceleprise, the world’s first pure enterprise tech accelerator. Collin also has been an entrepreneur, having founded WorkAmerica, a social impact workforce development startup. Collin holds a BA cum laude from Yale University, and is an avid DC sports fan.

A strong enterprise sales organization is more specialized than it ever has been. There are now six different components and pieces of the value chain — it’s not just sales and customer service. Generally, and especially at an early-stage startup, the lines between these blur — and one person can wear multiple hats. But here’s a quick primer to how to think about each of the functions, their responsibilities and where their lines tend to lie.

Marketing — Solely responsible for lead generation. Planning relevant trade shows, running digital or print ad campaigns, and any other types of lead generation activities a company may run (webinars, speaking engagements, etc) falls under marketing’s purview (with the exception of SDRs, left out of this analysis for now). Once a lead is generated, it becomes sales’ purview. Marketing is usually measured on number of leads that sales deems a qualified lead (SQL or SAL), and the cost per lead.

Business Development — This is usually utilized as a euphemism for sales, but is in fact a very different function. Business development usually handles channel partnerships, reseller agreements and other types of indirect revenue driving activities. Business development reps have a different close cycle and a different type of revenue, and need to be quota-ed and managed differently as well. For some companies, especially very early stage ones, the business may not have the runway to engage in longer term, indirect BD, as opposed to traditional sales.

Sales — Sales is the most traditionally defined function in the company. Sales receives leads from marketing and runs with them through close. Once the contract is signed, sales hands off the account (along with key information) to another function and moves toward closing a lead. Often we see sales getting dragged into implementation and account management. At a small company, this may be a necessity — longer term it means your most skilled closers are putting time and effort toward an activity that isn’t closing, which hurts the company’s ability to grow revenue and impedes the rep’s ability to hit quota.

Implementation — Not every product requires an implementation function, but many companies are funding that even SaaS products that could be used without any training or up-front work find better adoption when “implemented” properly. Implementation managers help work through IT and integration issues, where available, but largely focus on training users and, most crucially, planning the rollout of the product within an enterprise. It’s this buy-in from leadership and committed-to rollout process that often defines success or failure for a product.

Account Management/Client Success — I group these together because they are actually the same job, just different levels of difficulty. In either case, this is the team responsible for making sure that, once sold and implemented, the customer remains happy, usage remains strong, new feature requests get communicated and — ultimately — renewals happen. Account management and client success are therefore generally measured on renewal rate. The difference is that account managers are more for transactional products or accounts — simply making sure the customer is satisfied and resolving any problems they may have. Client success is a continuation of implementation for enterprise accounts — CSMs have to constantly be able to think through how to better improve penetration rates, increase utilization throughout the company, and generally make the product something that can’t be dropped. Client Success is a much more strategic and enterprise focused role than account management.