Selling enterprise software is a very different experience to selling consumer software. Selling consumer software by and large is a simple process. Generally speaking, you make a product and then put it out there. People who are interested in it or feel that a problem they are experiencing can be solved by it will start to buy it.
Enterprise software is considered to be a whole different ball game. You have to go to the “decision makers” and convince them to buy your product or service. There are two hurdles here:
- The “decision makers” will want a piece of software that is robust and highly scalable so that they can implement it in all of the relevant departments. Depending on the size of the organisation a small startup likely won’t even be able to deliver this without raising a few million pounds of venture capital.
- The “decision makers” are also likely to be far removed from the realities of the problems that the work place are experiencing. They may not believe that what you have created is relevant or addresses a real problem unless you can prove it with some real data. Which leads to the question: “How can I prove something when I can’t even get in?!”
I pondered about both of these points relentlessly until I took the leap of faith and started my enterprise software company. I have now come to the conclusion that neither of these points are relevant or true. I think both of these points are excuses we tell ourselves to not be courageous and execute on our ideas.
The reality is that you should always only be focused on the next step in your startup and not step 10.
In reality all you need to think about is “how can I get this software in somewhere or anywhere?!”. Don’t worry about the whole organisation or “decision makers”. There must be someone in the organisation who has no cash but will be willing to let you pilot your software in his or her department. If you can find someone with a little bit of cash then you can even make it into your first sale. If your product works then the person who made the decision gets recognition and a feather in their hat for being so innovative.
I haven’t heard of a single idea from any of the entrepreneurs that I know, that I wouldn’t be able to get in somewhere. But most entrepreneurs blame the “system” as an excuse to not make their software and hustle their way in somewhere. Another excuse I hear is: “But that’s not how I want my app to be used…”. Well, maybe the market is telling you that your idea sucks and you should actually make something they’ll be willing to use?
By choosing to worry about not being approved by “decision makers” or about not being in all departments or not having the app used in the intended way, startups do a huge disservice to themselves.
It is likely that if this is the first time you have launched your product, you won’t have hit product market fit just yet. You will likely need to keep developing your product and iterate as fast as possible. Being in a small controlled environment with a group of people who have bought into your idea and want you to succeed puts you in the amazing position of being super close to your actual customers. Most enterprise software companies that deal with large organisations are incumbents. They are even further removed from the gripes of the people who actually use their product than the big “decision makers” in the organisation. In this respect being small and unknown is an incredible advantage as you can talk directly to the people who will use the product and make something they truly love and want to use.
Once you get to this point, that’s when you can go to the big “decision makers” and heads of procurement and say: “Look what is already happening and look at these metrics. If you don’t buy it, I’m turning it off and leaving.” At this point you can take the money, develop your product further and keep growing.