Selling to enterprises: 🔥 insights from our Founders Event with Mastercard, NBC News Digital, & 97212 Ventures

Last week, Blue Seedling and 97212 Ventures hosted a Founders Meetup in NYC at the iconic One Vanderbilt building. It was a night of high-caliber networking with over 70 attendees, fantastic drinks & views, and an all-star panel of top executives, including: 

  • Bryan Davis, Sr. Dir., Audience Development & Engagement, NBC News Digital
  • Ankush Gupta, SVP & GM, Mastercard
  • Eyal Bino, Founding Partner, 97212 Ventures
  • Netta Kivlis, Founder and CEO of Blue Seedling
  • Tali Vogelstein, Founding Investor, Avid Ventures

The panel explored the ins and outs of B2B marketing, strategies for high-growth startups, and selling to US enterprises. Read on for exclusive insights from these industry leaders, or check out the recording here.

4 key insights from the panel

1. Treat the first sales conversation like you’re on an episode of Shark Tank. Executives don’t have the capacity for multiple first-time conversations. You need a tight pitch explaining your value prop and how you’ll solve their needs. Do your homework – read their LinkedIn posts and their press releases, know their pain points and focus areas. And make sure the strongest salesperson on the team (probably the CEO in early stage startups) comes prepared with very defined use cases, defined incremental, new opportunities, and good references to leave an impression. 

I prefer for the first conversation to be with the CEO. That way, you’ll be able to see in the first five minutes how the vision and value prop is articulated. Then you can really tell whether the company understands the pain points you’re trying to resolve. And that person also recognizes their own time is super valuable.
Ankush Gupta

When you’re coming in, if we’re gonna work together, we should be looking at this as a partnership, not as a sales opportunity.

– Bryan Davis, NBC News Digital

2. Focus on sustainable growth. The “growth at all costs” era of 2021 and 2022 is over. Startups now need to pivot to cost-effective marketing tactics that deliver sustainable growth on a budget, rather than overspending on things like Google/LinkedIn ads. Instead, creating valuable, educational, non-salesy content to organically attract potential customers will be more effective. 

One of my suggestions would be doing really good content marketing. SEO right now is more valuable than anything that you could do with a LinkedIn promoted post. I’m going out looking for solutions and if your content shows up and it actually speaks to what my industry is doing, that’s amazing.

– Bryan Davis, NBC News Digital

Knowing what you’re solving for and being able to effectively communicate that is the most critical thing.

Ankush Gupta, Mastercard

At Blue Seedling, we’ve always been of the mindset that the way to acquire enterprise customers is by understanding really well what problem you are solving and then producing intelligent, informative, educational, non-salesy content that’s relevant to your target buyer. Then find cost effective channels to get this content in front of them.

Netta Kivilis, Blue Seedling 

3. Diversify your early customer base between enterprises and SMBs. A lot needs to be proven between the Seed and Series A stages. And while you may need enterprise sales to deliver strong revenue, their sales cycles can be long and unpredictable. SMBs offer faster sales cycles and feedback loops, meaning you’ll be able to take them live faster, show product-market fit, and show the data and patterns you’ll need for Series A and beyond.

If you close 5 million in ARR and then go out to raise a Series A, that’s great. But if you just closed that deal, it’s going to be hard to know how happy your customers are and you’re not going to have meaningful cohort data, which I really like to see as an investor.

– Tali Vogelstein, Avid Ventures

4. Play the long game. Selling to enterprises requires patience – don’t expect to close deals immediately after your first sales meeting. Instead, bring your all to the first meeting and then focus on nurturing relationships authentically over time. Follow up consistently after meetings with valuable, relevant content like blog posts and webinars, networking opportunities and more. Build trust and rapport as a partner guiding them versus forcing a sale. 

The best guidance I can give is making the most of that first meeting by doing the fulsome research. If there’s a connection after that, the follow ups and the engagement can be limitless. But making the most out of that first conversation makes the runway for a true partnership very, very possible. And we’ve done that countless times at Mastercard.

– Ankush Gupta, Mastercard

You’re not gonna make the enterprise run any faster than it wants. One of our clients had a first meeting with Pepsi two years ago and only now does Pepsi have an RFP for the space they’re in and so they’ve finally reached out. In the interim period of two years, our client kept being top of mind, being in front of them with great content, webinars, and steak dinners (they’re still a thing).

– Netta Kivilis, Blue Seedling

đź’ˇBonus tip: Get off the fence about embracing generative AI because:

a. Enterprises want to see startups using cutting-edge tech. So showcase it prominently in marketing materials and product capabilities.

Essentially, it’s about adding gen AI features for your product. Are they going to be needle movers, and provide tremendous value for your customers? Probably not. Are they going to garner attention from press, prospects and customers? Absolutely. Your enterprise customers want to know you’re innovative and on the cutting edge of new technologies.

– Netta Kivilis, Blue Seedling

b. You’ll get more with less. GenAI can make for faster, more productive and efficient (and happier!) marketers that will create the valuable content you need.

If your marketing folks are not using Chat GPT or Claude or Bard or any of the dedicated generative AI marketing tools on a daily basis and can’t explain the differences between everything I just mentioned, then you should probably look for a different marketing team.

Netta Kivilis, Blue Seedling

Another successful Blue Seedling community event

This event was part of Blue Seedling efforts to provide value to the community of startup founders and CEOs by producing educational, informative, non-salesy events.

Watch the full panel below for more invaluable tips and insights. If you’d like to be invited to future Blue Seedling events, contact us here.

Lastly, thank you to our partners at 97212 VC, Eyal Bino, Eyal Peled, and everyone at Greenberg Traurig for helping us produce and host this event.

Annie Clymer is the Operations Manager at Blue Seedling and is usually found with a book, knitting needles, or a paintbrush within reach.

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