Article | 18 min read

What is enterprise sales? A guide to supercharge your strategy

Crush your sales strategy with our complete guide to enterprise sales.

By Emily Miels, Contributing Writer

Published August 24, 2021
Last updated October 26, 2022

Enterprise sales is a marathon, not a sprint. The goal is to pace yourself and cross the finish line, not to reach the first checkpoint as fast as you can.

Like the mental and physical gains earned from running a marathon, enterprise sales results in significant revenue and increased opportunities for your business.

That being said, you wouldn’t run a marathon without training first—so don’t jump into enterprise sales unprepared. To be successful, you need to understand what enterprise sales is, why it’s important, and how to close deals.

What is enterprise sales?

Enterprise sales is the process of procuring high-value deals with large companies. Also called complex sales, enterprise sales is just that: complex. It typically has a considerable business impact, includes a long sales cycle, involves multiple stakeholders, or comes with more technical aspects.

“Enterprise sales is the process of navigating the [prospective company]’s people and processes in order to figure out where your product fits in and how to make it successful,” says Coordinate CEO Rick Morrison.

Sales reps go beyond specific features and work with enterprise leads on long-term outcomes, customizing the product to meet their needs.

“Most large companies and deals are never won straightforwardly on the basis of your product’s features and functionalities,” says Krati Seth, associate director of sales enablement at Whatfix.

The 4 basic steps of enterprise sales

Basic steps of enterprise sales

Enterprise sales typically follows four stages, known as The 4 Ds:

  1. Discovery: Gather information about the prospect, their pain points, and existing gaps via meetings and research.
  2. Diagnosis: Understand the prospect’s problems and collaborate with your team to determine the best possible solution.
  3. Development: Work with the customer to tailor your proposed solution to their large-scale business needs. You might include additional enterprise-level security measures or specialized coding in your offer.
  4. Delivery: Implement the solution and close the deal.

Why invest in an enterprise sales strategy?

Enterprise sales are essential as you look to grow and expand into different markets. Building these relationships with large companies can result in significant ongoing revenue and business opportunities. Here are a few ways that investing in an enterprise strategy can help you thrive.

Increase revenue

While small and midsize business (SMB) sales do generate revenue, enterprise sales allow businesses to reach their revenue goals with fewer deals. Just one enterprise sale could result in more revenue than multiple SMB sales.

Once the deal is in the works, there’s additional sales potential. Enterprise companies often focus on long-term relationships, so you’re already laying the groundwork for future sales.

Perhaps you worked on a multi-million dollar deal that took more than a year to implement. During that time, you built rapport with the company so they continue the relationship with your brand—and even refer you to other enterprise-level businesses.

Build credibility

Having large-scale customers in your company’s portfolio can immediately provide recognition and clout for your brand.

Say you’re deciding between working with two relatively new tech companies. One boasts a really interesting case study with a reputable company and features logos from a few major brands on their website. The other has a list of previous clients but none that you’ve heard of.

Chances are, the name recognition will pique your interest and make you feel more comfortable picking the first company.

Scalability

New businesses trying to grow can leverage the relationships they’ve built by securing a testimonial or referral from an enterprise business and featuring it on their website. Companies like to emulate successful mega-companies by working with their vendors and partners, so displaying recognizable logos of name-brand businesses you’ve worked with will likely attract more large-scale accounts.

Sustainable growth means following an effective scaling strategy. Your strategy should define clear revenue targets, align with your business model, and support accelerated growth.

Develop repeatable sales processes, focus on manageable steps that help you achieve bigger goals, and implement supportive technology. A CRM platform that helps your team create great experiences for customers and employees can enable you to scale up.

Enterprise sales model vs. other sales models: What’s the difference?

For companies asking, “What does enterprise sales mean?” or wondering how it differs from other sales models, it’s simple: Enterprise sales targets the giant corporations. It’s the opposite of SMB sales or mid-market sales. SMBs are generally defined by their revenue and number of employees.

  • Small: fewer than 100 employees or under $50 million in business revenue
  • Midsize: between 100 and 999 employees or between $50 million and $1 billion in business revenue

SMB deals are usually more straightforward because they don’t involve as many decision-makers and aren’t as customized. As a result, implementation is easier. Here are a few types of sales models that can help you on your journey to enterprise sales.

Self-service sales vs. enterprise

If your company has a low-cost product with a low customer acquisition cost (CAC), then self-service sales could be ideal for your company. It’s typically a high-volume strategy that lets customers complete the transaction process quickly.

How does it work?

Your business provides a self-service platform for the customer. This is also where they sign-up, buy, and reorder the products they need at their own pace. A majority of the legwork is done by the customer and doesn’t involve as much involvement by sales and customer support teams as in other models.

Self-service tools can include knowledge bases, help centers, and integrated chatbots to guide customers through the sales process and help them find answers to questions on their own.

Enterprise vs. SMB sales

SMB sales means you’re selling to a small or medium-sized company. Most SMBs are looking for immediate solutions to their pain points rather than long-term effectiveness. Because of their smaller scale, SMBs generally have less red tape to cut through, resulting in shorter sales cycles.

How does it work?

Your company builds a product that solves a common problem for a market segment. Your sales team then tries to get customers in that segment to use it. Reps typically work with a single decision-maker or small team of stakeholders to close the sale.

Mid-market vs. enterprise

Mid-market sales are similar to SMBs but on a slightly larger scale. Like SMB sales, your strategy generally includes finding prospects who would get the most value out of your product or service. But because mid-market deals often fall in the gray area between SMB and enterprise, you may need to tailor your product to better meet their business needs.

How does it work?

Your business develops a product or service that resolves common pain points, and your sales team targets a larger customer segment that could find value in it. Your sales reps work with a bigger group of stakeholders to close the sale. This creates a longer sales cycle, as the customization requests and multiple stakeholders usually mean that more people need to sign off on the deal.

Roles in an enterprise sales team

When creating an enterprise sales team, it’s important to hire team leaders and sales agents who embrace the enterprise mindset. Prioritize hiring salespeople who have enterprise experience, show a solid history of success in sales, and are organized, personable, and optimistic.

Sales director: leads and directs a sales team and can build and execute a scalable sales plan.

Account executive: manages current customer relationships and continually identifies prospects to build new relationships.

Digital advisor: creates a plan that applies the latest digital technologies or processes to the deal.

Solution architect: demonstrates how to implement a solution in a customer’s unique IT environment.

Customer success team: provides a great customer experience and helps mitigate customer issues.

Business development representative: generates leads and new business opportunities through cold outreach.

9 metrics to measure your enterprise sales strategy and team performance

Metrics to measure your enterprise sales strategy

Enterprise sales metrics are data points that measure your team’s performance and success. Here are a few of the most common examples:

1. Total revenue: This is the average revenue generated for a particular customer over a given time (usually monthly, quarterly, or annually).

2. Win rate: This refers to the percentage of customers won versus open, lost, or stagnant opportunities. Win rate is also called an opportunity-to-win ratio or opportunity win rate.

3. Customer lifetime value (CLV): This is a prediction of how much money an individual customer will spend with your company over their lifetime.

4. Lead generation: This describes the process of attracting consumers to the company so they can become prospects.

5. Key performance indicators (KPIs): KPIs are measurements that reflect the performance of a business or individual employee. Common KPIs include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Annual growth
  • Number of cold calls made
  • Number of sales

6. Sales pipeline velocity: This is the speed at which your deals move through your sales pipeline.

7. Sales pipeline coverage: A ratio that measures how full the sales pipeline is compared to the quota goal at the end of a given time period.

8. Churn rate: This refers to the percentage of customers who stop buying from your company in a given time frame. You can calculate this metric by dividing the number of lost customers at the end of the time period by the total number of customers at the beginning of the period.

9. Net Promoter Score® (NPS): NPS is a metric that assesses customer loyalty. It’s collected and measured via a survey.

The cheat sheet to stay ahead of the competition

Download our 2022 State of Sales report to understand the most pressing issues facing sales organizations, the benefits of a conversational CRM, what it means for your tech stack, and how you can position your teams for success.

Supercharge your enterprise sales strategy: 8 expert tips

Enterprise sales strategy

Enterprise sales involves an in-depth sales process that takes a lot of time, effort, resources, and money. Our eight expert tips will help you supercharge your enterprise sales strategy.

1. Define your objectives

Don’t go into a client call unprepared. Before jumping on that call, clearly define your objectives. Make an outline of your end goals and consider how you will measure your progress. This will help you stay focused on what you want to accomplish and keep the conversation on track.

2. Address customer pain points

At the enterprise level, customer pain points are normally “big picture” issues related to their long-term goals. Your sales reps can put on their advisor hat and listen to the customer to gain insight into their problems. They can offer advice and try to proactively assess potential challenges that may arise down the road.

3. Identify your target enterprise customer

Having a clear picture of your ideal buyer is crucial with enterprise selling. These deals require a significant amount of time and effort, so you want a detailed customer persona that can help you determine whether prospects are the right fit.

Start by making a list of your offerings and identifying their benefits for enterprise-level companies. Once you have a deep understanding of what you’re selling, you can match that to exactly who you’re selling to. Craft buyer personas and develop an ideal customer profile based on those previously described benefits and scenarios.

These profiles should be descriptive and backed by data and research. Use tools like Google Analytics to hone in on important factors such as business size, revenue, geographic location, and more.

From there, focus on prioritizing leads and companies that align with your target customer details. As leads come in, you can conduct preliminary research and then ask questions during the initial sales conversations that help you decide if they’re a good fit as an enterprise customer.

4. Create a structured, repeatable sales process

You should have a list of enterprise-level businesses you want to target based on your ideal customer profile. Distribute these prospects evenly among the team so each sales rep knows who they should prioritize. Delegating keeps workloads consistent and helps create a sense of accountability among the team.

You should also set guidelines and responsibilities for each sales process stage. You might have a template for sales reps to use when they’re initially reaching out or submitting proposals. Or, you may have instructions on how often your team should follow up with prospects or when to discuss pricing. You may also want to dictate which internal stakeholders should be involved in meetings or looped in on communication throughout the process.

Here are a few components that your sales process should include:

  • Sales metrics (KPIs)
  • Clearly defined pipeline stages
  • Lead qualification criteria that correspond with your pipeline stages
  • Tasks for sales reps at each stage of the pipeline

When everyone knows what to expect at every touchpoint and what they’re responsible for, there’s less chance of confusion and misunderstandings.

5. Know the key players

Identifying key stakeholders at enterprise companies should take place near the start of the sales process. Do your research during the discovery phase using tools like LinkedIn and company employee pages to pinpoint which people are critical to a smooth sale.

Once the sales process begins, you can also ask your main point of contact to identify the decision-makers for this purchase. Take notes on who’s who in the company and their primary responsibilities. A sales CRM is a great way to document this type of information (but more on that later).

You should also try and find your “champions”—the stakeholders who are consistently engaged with you and seem excited about adopting your product or service. They can advocate for your brand when other stakeholders may be on the fence and keep the deal moving forward.

6. Communicate clearly and consistently

Enterprise sales can take months to finalize, sometimes even more than a year. Keeping your company top of mind during the lengthy process is essential. As you wrap up each interaction, establish the next steps and set expectations as to when and how you’ll follow up.

To simplify ongoing communication, one thing you should do early on in the sales process is to ask prospects about their preferred communication method. Some may prefer email, while others may prefer a joint Slack channel or text messages.

Your communication with potential customers should always steer away from being overly sales-focused. Remember, it’s about long-term solutions and relationship building. Do your best to treat buyers like friends or colleagues rather than prospects. Talk about kids, hobbies, vacations—topics that are fun and aren’t work-related.

Maybe a prospect mentioned they were taking a family trip to Disney World for the first time. You could share your best tips or ask them about the vacation on the next call. Those personal interactions help to establish trust.

7. Ask for feedback

Getting feedback straight from your customer can offer valuable insight into what you’re doing well—and where you can improve. It can be scary for some salespeople to get an honest opinion of their methods. But understanding where they fell short on one sale can prevent the same issue on the next one.

When it comes to selling, there’s only a small margin for error. Here are a few questions you can ask to collect feedback so you can further refine your skills.

  • How satisfied were you with the sales call?
  • Were all the benefits of our product fully explained?
  • Do you have any questions I haven’t addressed?
  • Would you recommend our brand to a colleague?

Compile as many relevant questions as you can to present to the customer. The more feedback they provide, the better your enterprise strategy can be in the future.

8. Implement an enterprise CRM

Enterprise sales software can keep you organized, strengthen your relationships with customers, and enhance the overall customer experience. The benefits of a CRM can enable your team to reach their sales goals consistently, helping you:

  • Engage in personalized conversations on your customer’s channel of choice.
  • Maximize efficiency with an all-in-one workspace.
  • Gain a full view of the sales pipeline across teams.
  • Customize your workflow with app integrations.

What features should you look for in enterprise sales CRM?

Enterprise CRMs can offer varying features. However, the best CRM solutions for enterprise sales should provide tools that empower your sales team to thrive and work more efficiently. Here are some of the CRM features that can help salespeople manage tasks, streamline workflows, and boost business growth.

Mobile access

Sales agents are constantly on the move. Being able to access the CRM from anywhere—even where there isn’t service—can help give your seller the edge.

For instance, the Zendesk Sell mobile app—available on Android and iOS—allows field reps to be completely mobile. Your sales team can update appointments, work on tasks, monitor nearby contacts, update deals, access reporting and analytics, log calls, and more.

Here are a few benefits of having mobile access to your enterprise CRM:

  • Higher quota achievement: Sales agents who use mobile CRMs are 12 percent more likely to achieve sales quotas than agents who don’t. The ability to sync information on the go gives teams better access to important information and ensures agents perform efficiently across the board.
  • Higher customer retention: Mobile CRMs let reps manage and access customer data from anywhere, so they don’t have to wait until they return to the office to assist their customer. Customers like fast service, and the ability to answer questions or resolve issues anyplace, anytime results in a great customer experience, leading to high retention rates.
  • Shorter sales cycle: 24/7 access to your sales pipeline, customer and prospect data, and deals in process boosts productivity. Managing tasks on the go enables your agents to assist customers faster, close sales sooner, and accomplish goals faster.

Team productivity tools

The best executive CRMs provide team productivity tools that help your team work efficiently and effectively. These features include:

  • One unified view: A centralized platform allows reps to view customer information and conversation history across channels. It also gives them the ability to track, prioritize, and respond to tasks from a single place.
  • Sales engagement tools: Sales agents can build automated email campaigns and targeted email lists.
  • Reporting features: Your sales team gains the ability to accurately forecast revenue, perform sales pipeline analysis, and create custom dashboards that provide actionable insights.

Other helpful CRM features include a marketplace for app integrations, API access to fit with your existing tech stack, and subscription visibility.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been on the rise in customer service, and buyers are embracing it. In fact, almost 70 percent of consumers say AI makes their lives easier. To better handle a growing customer base, enterprise teams should integrate chatbots into their online support. Not only are chatbots cost-effective, but they also help you scale by fielding common inquiries—which means your sales agents don’t have to.

AI chatbots learn from each interaction they have with customers and are able to send automatic responses and provide answers to basic questions. They also capture customer information via in-chat forms to better personalize their next interactions. Chatbots can even handle ticket requests and transfer customers to live agents, if needed.

Some benefits of AI include:

  • Sending customers alerts about sales, discounts, or new products
  • Providing 24/7 global support in all time zones
  • Automating follow-ups with conversational AI, like Answer Bot
  • Creating a better self-service experience
  • Helping customers connect with agents

Apps and integrations

When picking an enterprise CRM, ask yourself: Does it fit into my existing tech stack? Consider the systems you already use. Choose a CRM with a flexible platform that allows you to seamlessly integrate your existing apps and transfer customer data between platforms. Syncing your systems and customer data gives you a complete customer view and context to better understand your buyers.

Using a CRM like Zendesk Sell provides your sales team with the tools they need to make their jobs easier. Sell is developer-friendly and highly customizable, so your dev team can quickly and easily create CRM apps and integrations.

Complete customer view

Agent Workspace provides a centralized customer view—but supercharged. It houses all customer data in one location so agents don’t have to jump between apps or dashboards to grab important customer or sales information.

This saves valuable time and—because agents aren’t getting frustrated bouncing through a number of apps—reduces burnout. Agents have the entire customer interaction history in front of them, so customers aren’t repeating themselves or answering the same questions if they have to speak with someone else in another department. This leads to an improved customer experience and an increase in customer satisfaction.

Analytics and reporting

Analytics and reporting deliver the sales metrics you need to fully understand your sales performance and operations. Stay up to date with access to key metrics displayed on your dashboard. Meanwhile, automated reports show where your efforts are going, if they’re effective, and if you’re on track.

Here are a few reports you can generate with your enterprise CRM:

  • Sales funnel analysis shows exactly where prospects are in the sales pipeline.
  • Conversion reports reveal conversion rates for your sales team.
  • Forecasted sales predict expected revenue by analyzing the values of potential sales currently in your pipeline.
  • Activity overview reports display metrics for your team’s activities, including outreach stats, the number of emails sent, calls made, appointment data, and tasks details.
  • Goal reports track your team’s movement toward their revenue goals.

Other features include activity reporting, performance metrics, and custom and pre-built dashboards.

Your CRM for enterprise sales success

Holding magnets together

If you’re diving into the world of enterprise sales, the right tools are crucial to success—there’s typically a lengthy sales cycle, multiple decision-makers, and many moving pieces. CRM software can help you keep everything on track.

With a sales CRM like Zendesk Sell, you can keep all customer information organized and accessible to everyone on your team. By monitoring and analyzing the data effectively, you’ll be able to identify more valuable leads and continue nurturing enterprise deals throughout the longer sales cycle.

The cheat sheet to stay ahead of the competition

Download our 2022 State of Sales report to understand the most pressing issues facing sales organizations, the benefits of a conversational CRM, what it means for your tech stack, and how you can position your teams for success.

The cheat sheet to stay ahead of the competition

Download our 2022 State of Sales report to understand the most pressing issues facing sales organizations, the benefits of a conversational CRM, what it means for your tech stack, and how you can position your teams for success.

Read the free report