How to succeed in enterprise sales when you lack brand recognition.


A strong brand that is well known in the market can greatly improve your chances of getting your foot in the door as a salesperson.


However, this is a luxury that salespeople at smaller, newer startups rarely have.


I experienced this first hand in my career when I went from Yahoo! to Indeed… Yahoo! was a household name at the time. But Indeed was an unknown ‘new kid on the block’ with zero brand recognition (I was the first enterprise salesperson hired). 


To be successful, I had to take a completely different approach to the one I used at Yahoo! to get my foot in the door (and be invited in) with enterprise buyers.


Here’s exactly what I did to achieve that and how you can too, step by step.


1. Prioritize prospecting efforts ruthlessly.


When you’re first getting started, the temptation (especially if you’ve been in the SMB space previously) is to “spread the net wide.”


However, while it may seem counterintuitive, this is the complete opposite of what works best. Being more thoughtful about who you’re trying to reach and why will get you much farther, faster.


That’s because when you don’t have an established brand backed by results, you’re a lot more of a risk to prospects. Most of them will be wary to buy unless the need or opportunity is truly there in a big way.


So to make things easier for yourself, it’s best to focus only on those prospects where that’s the case.


Why spend all your energy selling to clients who won’t be quick to recognize the value you bring to the table when you could be working with those who do?


How to choose where to start first…


At a high level, this is how I’ve done it well:


  1. Research and know your TAM like the back of your hand. Understanding who is part of your market and who is not will give you the size of your fishing pond. This article breaks down how to do this.
  2. Understand the drivers of demand. A great place to start for this is existing accounts. If you have a few of those, model after them. If not, try point 3.
  3. Research companies in correlating sectors where you’re doing business currently. What are they trying to solve? What are they talking about? What are their objectives? Who’s growing the fastest in that sector?


The rest flows from there! I’ll dig into which tools I use to do this in the next section.


2. Immerse yourself in each prospect’s world


Enterprise sales is all about quality, not quantity. It’s about landing large, individual clients… not trying to close the most deals you can as fast as you can (if you care about revenue and sticking around for the long haul).


That’s why once you know who you’re going to be spending time engaging, the next thing to do is to get into their world and learn about what is important to them.


Not all of them in general… each individually


No two enterprise buyers are the same. And they get approached ALL OF THE TIME. So the only way to stand out among other sellers is to show each one that you understand them better than anyone else. 


The way you do that is through thorough research. Here’s how I do mine.


Where I go to learn about my buyer’s problems and goals.


I’ve gone into detail on my research process in this post on my favorite “sales hacks.”


But here is a high-level overview of what I’m thinking about while I research my buyers and where I look for the answers:


  • What are they talking about/publishing online? Check things like LinkedIn, Twitter, the company blog, industry blogs, where they’ve been mentioned/tagged and more.
  • What kind of story are their online reviews telling? Check things like G2Crowd, Capterra, etc. to see what kinds of things their customers are saying about them and how you could connect the dots.
  • Do they have investors? Investments often mean a new budget for growth. How you use this is everything and I’ll get to it in Hack #2 below. Stay on top of their exit and investment strategy with tools like Pitchbook, LinkedIn, and more.
  • What’s going on with their industry, marketplace, and competition? Industry blogs and news channels are great places to learn more about what’s on their mind.
  • Can you identify their business challenges? Tools like Owler, Crunchbase (for startups) and the like make it easy to see who the players are. Taking that and digging in further to identify goals they all have in common or how they want to stand out is a great way to do this. Set up alerts to see important events that give you insight into what’s going on.
  • Where do they go to learn and stay up to speed on their industry?  I want to be where they are and learn what they learn, not knowing this is a severe handicap.


Staying on top of these things regularly keeps you relevant. I recommend setting time aside each week to stay on top of each.


3. Get on their radar by making deposits


Since you’re lacking brand recognition, it’s safe to say that your buyers may not even know you exist yet. 


Don’t worry, it is possible to capture their attention. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.


Most people approaching enterprise buyers with an ask or a pitch, trying to “take” something from them or “sell them” on their services.


This doesn’t work… the purchase risk is too high and enterprise buyers need more time to fully consider what you’re offering and see if it’s worth trusting/investing in.


So instead, the better way to connect is to start by offering something of value to them first to start a relationship and conversation with them.


This video explains this concept really well:




My favorite ways to make a “deposit.”


If you’re immersing yourself in your buyer’s world, you should have a good sense of where you can connect.


Some things I personally like to do that almost always work include:


  • Engaging with their content and sharing it with my network to give them increased visibility while providing helpful insight
  • Connecting them with a person they would benefit from knowing
  • Sharing a piece of content they would find helpful and useful with them (whether it’s mine or not)
  • Connecting the dots with a well thought out email or call


However, I’ve even done things as creative as sending an airplane repair guide to a CRO who was pilot and had just bought a plane (it got me in the door after 6 months of knocking).


Anything is possible, so get creative! Just make sure whatever you do is thoughtful, authentic, and selfless (make that deposit count).


And of course, making sure it is exceptionally valuable to them.


4. Engage with a compelling reason.


If you’ve ever wondered what actually gets a response from enterprise prospects, you’re not alone.


Far too many people worry too much about optimizing their subject lines, working up the perfect copy, etc. thinking it will help them stand out.


Truth be told, the real problem is something much simpler – the entire idea behind the email isn’t compelling in the first place.


Here’s a great comparison between two emails that illustrates what I’m talking about. Which do you think gives a buyer a more compelling reason to respond?


Email #1


Email #2


If you chose email #2, you’d be correct. This is a real email I received from a salesperson who somehow read my mind… I was actually in the process of evaluating different solutions at the time I received this.


Furthermore, his entire approach (“You’re helping me so much, I’d love to do the same if and when you have the desire to.”) is much more compelling than #1’s weak attempt at rapport.


(For more on how to craft a great cold email or cold call to an enterprise buyer, this article illustrates what I sometimes refer to as the “Golden Nugget” concept)


5. Stay focused on customer success… and overdeliver!


The number one goal of your enterprise sales efforts when you don’t have brand recognition should be to build that brand recognition one client at a time. 


You do that by creating results and relationships that you can leverage later.


And you do that by focusing on your efforts on your customer’s success. If they’re successful, you’ll be successful. That’s the mindset of a winning enterprise seller.


“Good salespeople sell lots of product, but great salespeople make lots of customers successful.”


Mark Birch


That’s why from day 1 of your sales process all the way through a completed deal and beyond, your number one goal should be to over-deliver on every promise you make.


Babysit every single pilot, proof of concept, and deal to ensure it goes above and beyond what they expect!


And once the solution is in place, don’t leave them to their own devices. 


New clients are 5x to 25x more expensive to bring in than keeping the clients you already have So keep them close and keep finding new ways to make them even more successful.


Why start all over when you can keep those you already have satisfied?


6. Leverage your results with new prospects


Once you’ve created amazing results with your first client(s), your next task is leveraging those results with new buyers.


There are a couple of ways I like to do this:


  1. Building relevant case studies that show new clients how you’ve helped existing clients just like them
  2. Having current clients act as ambassadors and references for prospects who are considering your solution
  3. Asking current clients for referrals to others who may find your solution helpful


There are lots of ways I’ve done each of these over the years, ranging from something as simple as a written case study to something as complex as a round table lunch session with current and prospective clients.


The trick in every situation is to make sure that each of these three items acts as a deposit when you use them.


Final thoughts…


The key things here are prioritization, individual engagement, and creating lasting results you can leverage for later. Simply put, do the right work, with the right people, consistently and you won’t regret it. Treat every prospect as an individual and make them feel like the only one. And then overdeliver!