On Thursday, April 18, 2013, OLC attended NY Enterprise Incubation’s event, Cracking the Enterprise Sales Challenge hosted by Mohammed Ali and Gary Chan. The event featured Mark LaRosa, a successful player in the enterprise sales market. He has founded or been an integral part of various companies and closed sales on major accounts. The event also featured Lee Zucker, who put together an entire enterprise sales program for SinglePlatform. SinglePlatform was purchased for $100 million by ConstantContact just last year.
The event started with the audience first asking for advice regarding enterprise sales. Victor Olex of SlashDB asked about price discovery. “How do you try to align price with company? Is there a rapidity formula to discover a fair price?” he asked. “What I would do is pitch as if they brought up a hypothetical question. Get their immediate feedback,” Lee Zucker said. “There’s no magic formula. Maybe you want to turn pricing on its head. Being able to do that after blanket pricing is something you might want to play around with. If you’re trying to get price perfect, you need to be okay with losing some money first and learning from the experience,” Mark LaRosa said.
The event moved to the moderator, Mohammed Ali asking both LaRosa and Zucker questions about enterprise sales.
“Why sales?” Ali asked. “A great develop with a set of APIs to teams growing social graphs to monetizing or funding through Angel List—a really good product team is necessary to succeed—what do you need to be a successful company?” he asked.
“Leave it to an investor to convince you to be dependent on them,” LaRosa joked. “You have a great product team and you’re not selling—I think it’s totally false to think that you can get away without selling,” he said.
“Why build a product that’s going to fail? Like Mark said, you spend tons of time and money on a product and its functions. The best way is to sell first,” Zucker said.
“We spent a lot of time figuring out what we needed to build first by talking to customers,” LaRosa added.
Ali asked when the two panelists think about sales. “A lot of people approach it differently. I understand the idea of talking to customers and selling before even building the product. Would you have an engineer-sales combination?” he asked.
“I think that you should have a sales guy right from the start. You need sales and engineers, of course, but sales should be first,” Zucker said.
“I think by definition, if you’re an entrepreneur, you have to be able to sell. You have got to convince investors and customers. You’ll have a big problem if you can’t convey your passion about the product to anyone. Right from the beginning, there should be someone of the team that can sell,” LaRosa said.
“I don’t think marketing is something you want to do early-stage. It’s all direct sales. It’s not brand awareness,” Zucker added.
“Certain things have definitely changed with the consumerization of enterprise. What else has really changed?” Ali asked.
“Definitely there’s a bigger focus on UX than ever before. You need to create a pleasing experience. If you really want a successful enterprise product, you need to have the end- user experience be great,” LaRosa said.
Ali asked how critical UX was for sales for SinglePlatform to Zucker.
“Getting it through the decision-makers and having something carry your flag to the finish line really helped us,” Zucker admitted.
“How did you get into sales?” Ali asked.
“I think it’s an innate ability. I’m a guy that likes to talk to people. It’s a personality, right? If you don’t like rejection at all and you’re introverted, sales isn’t for you. You’re not going to like sales. It helps to have a great mentor to help hone your skills,” LaRosa said.
“So what’s next for enterprise sales? There’s growth hacking where sales is approached differently,” Ali said.
“Throughout my sales process, we try to systemize our sales. It used to be wine and dine your clients and they’ll buy only your product. But we systemized our process to send email, follow up with clients, figure out when to connect; it’s very analytical. It’s very metrics-driven,” Zucker said.
“Customers expect you to know what they do. If you don’t, shame on you. They expect you to be educated about their company. Inside sales have become more important than ever before. Technology has made it more difficult to sell in some ways and easier in others,” LaRosa said.
An audience member asked LaRosa who he had talked to when he was starting his company. “I basically called every sales people I know and talked to them. Then I called people who weren’t in sales and asked them to introduce me to more sales people. Everyone knows someone in sales,” LaRosa said.