As a startup gains traction from initial prototype to credible sales, the founding team recognizes the critical need to bring onboard senior advisors and mentors to provide guidance as the startup enters the next phase of growth. While all startups require this guidance and mentorship, enterprise startups are the most in need.
In many respects, enterprise startups have a higher need for guidance and mentorship due to a number of factors in the enterprise space, including:
(1) Sales Process Duration: Unlike B2C startups where the sales process is short and requires less hand holding by B2C startups, enterprise startups endure the exact opposite. Sales processes are much longer (anywhere from six months to 12 months), and require a significant amount of startup sales resources to close an enterprise sale.
(2) Enterprise Complexity: Unlike B2C startups where only one decision maker usually needs to be sold on the purchase, enterprises, particularly multinationals, have multiple individuals and departments that are involved in the purchasing decision making. As such, an enterprise startup needs to have the patience and resources to work through the many corporate layers that go into enterprise purchasing decisions.
(3) Small Fish Within A Closely Held Network: As much as corporations have started to open up in the past few decades, selling to enterprise is like selling to an exclusive club. Sometimes opportunities are known to a few individuals with deep industry connections or are publicized to only a few select vendors making it difficult for an enterprise startup to penetrate without the right connections and personnel.
If enterprise startups have a higher need for guidance and mentorship to close enterprise sales, what are some characteristics that enterprise startups should look for in an enterprise grey hair? There are a number of factors that go into choosing the right enterprise grey hair, but of highest priority are the following characteristics:
(1) Deep Industry Experience: Deep industry experience doesn't constitute sitting behind the same desk and doing the same job for 20 years. For a truly effective enterprise grey hair, an individual should have extensive experience in a variety of senior leadership roles at a variety of companies within the industry or associated industries.
(2) Deep Industry Contacts: An enterprise grey hair should have sufficient senior level industry contacts that can provide direct insight and advice to assist the enterprise startup in its sales process. Preferably, these industry contacts should be across corporate function in order to provide the enterprise startup with the most relevant and practical insights and advice possible.
(3) Deep Industry Knowledge: As with most business transactions, it is the undocumented knowledge that truly helps startups effectively manage their dealings with enterprise. A truly effective enterprise grey hair will have the in-depth and detailed knowledge of the "real" factors that go into corporate and industry decisions and how they can be truly influenced to the benefit of an enterprise startup.
(4) Mountain Guru Patience: An enterprise grey hair needs infinite patience and wisdom when working with enterprise startups. Not only must the enterprise grey hair be able to communicate between diametrically opposed business environments (e.g. corporate versus startup), they must also have the ability to impart knowledge and expertise to the enterprise startup in a non-condescending manner.
Choosing the right enterprise grey hair is a make or break decision for an enterprise startup. Considering the high barriers that enterprise startups need to overcome in order to achieve traction, the right enterprise grey hair can either help with growth or completely destroy the ability of a startup to reach the next level of growth.