4 Tips for Selling Software to Businesses

Selling software to businesses (B2B) is very different from selling software directly to consumers (B2C). That's especially true if your goal is to sell software to enterprise (very large business) customers.

A business sale is usually more complex, with multiple stakeholders involved, and sometimes lengthy decision-making processes.

Keep reading for some tips on how to more effectively sell software to businesses.

1. Don't Sell Software - Sell a Solution

That's right:  I just said "don't sell software."  But that's what I'm selling, you say? 

No - the first rule of selling to businesses is to remember that they are looking for a solution to their problem. They aren't looking to buy software. In fact, if they can solve their need without having to buy and support another piece of software, they would love to do that!

So don't sell software - sell a solution instead.

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As a provider of software to businesses, focus first on listening, then on selling a solution to your client's problem. Give advice freely and honestly, even when it means that buying your software is NOT the best choice - you still benefit by nurturing a relationship that might lead to a purchase in the future.

If you determine that the best solution to their challenge IS your software... then still focus the conversation on the solution: HOW are you helping them solve their need? WHAT exactly should they do? Help them identify and work through all the steps of the solution, even if your software is only one component of it. That might be a great opportunity to partner with another solution provider on the deal, or offer some consulting services yourself.

Your goal is to become your prospect's trusted advisor, not just a vendor.

2. Target Some Enterprise Clients

Depending on your software, very large businesses may or may not be the bulk of your client base. But it's good to have at least one or two enterprise clients, if you can. Why?  If you can use their name or testimonials, they provide social proof to make it easier to convince other businesses to try your product.

Selling software to businesses that are very large and mult-national is very different from selling software to businesses that are much smaller. 

Tips for selling to large enterprises

  1. They are likely to be quite price-insensitive to typical small-software-vendor pricing of a few hundred or few thousand dollars or less.
  2. You will be required to follow their "standard" procurement processes and work with a specific procurement manager to make the sale.
  3. Even though they have procurement processes for you to follow, you will also have to "sell" to your business contacts and the actual users. Figuring out all the stakeholders and their needs/concerns is often the most challenging aspect of selling to the enterprise. The key is to find an internal champion who really NEEDS your product.
  4. Price your solution within the authorization limit of the highest-ranking manager who is "on your side". If your monthly or annual license fee is within their limit, they can simply put it on their corporate credit card and expense it. If your software is actually more expensive, then create a "bite-size" version that meets their immediate needs within the authorization limit as a short-term solution. Use the success of your "bite-size" version to upsell the full solution to the procurement or purchasing department.

3. Focus on Users, Needs & Your USP

The corollary of this is to not be afraid to go niche. Many of the most profitable small B2B software companies are those that serve a specific niche vertical segment really, really well.

Within your niche, make sure you fully understand your ideal customer targets and their needs, as well as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to them.

There are many benefits to "going niche":

  • You'll be able to get to know your users really, really well.
  • You can focus your limited resources on a smaller feature list.
  • You will have fewer competitors. In particular, the "big guys" will probably not be interested in specifically targeting your small segment - it is just too small for them to do so effectively.
  • You can optimize your USP to the needs of that specific niche, making it more compelling and thereby improving your lead conversion rate.

If you're just starting out selling software to businesses, the best approach is to find a small niche that is a sub-segment of your overall target market, where you can offer a truly unique solution. It is always possible to focus your niche to the point where you have no competition! Take a stepping-stone approach: Win that first niche, then use those case studies or testimonials to help you to reach the next small niche. Before you know it, you'll be able to sell successfully to the broader market, if that's what you want to do.

4. Use Both Inbound & Outbound Marketing

To be successful selling software to businesses you should use a combination of inbound and outbound marketing. Basically, inbound marketing drives awareness of your brand, and outbound marketing drives leads directly to sales.

Inbound Marketing

  • Passive
  • Drives traffic & brand awareness
  • More prospects visit website  
  • Content mktg, SEO, events, ads 

Outbound Marketing

  • Active
  • Generates leads
  • List of sales targets & prospects 
  • Cold calling / emailing / direct mail

Typically, if your software product is pricey and/or complex, you will rely more on outbound marketing to drive sales, while inbound marketing is used to generate brand awareness and credibility through case studies, etc. Your inbound marketing establishes your product as a viable option in the mind of your prospects, while the outbound marketing fills the funnel with actual leads.

Conversely, a low-end software product or SaaS subscription doesn't leave enough profit for much one-on-one lead generation and must rely more on the inbound marketing funnel for sales. However, outbound marketing should still be used to find partners to drive scale - each cold call to a partner prospect if successful could generate hundreds of new customers rather than just one. So in this case, your inbound marketing is what fills the sales funnel, while the outbound marketing drives scale.

Next Steps for Selling Software to Businesses

Now that you understand how to start selling software to businesses, use our Software Company Planning Package to develop your B2B strategy, and our Software Proposal Template to create your own custom sales proposal.

We can also help you develop your B2B sales strategy. Either contact us for more information, or learn more about our services here.